See David Irving's questions about this document to Canadian Holocaust expert Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt, in his letter of May 29, 1997 Pelt has not yet replied. [A second Auschwitz document of the same date, Jan 29, 1943].
According to The Holocaust History Project, this document of January 29, 1943 describes a problem with the equipment in the Auschwitz building known as Krema II.
The construction firm was encountering delays. Architect Karl Bischoff had hoped to complete Krema II by the end of the month. The forced-air drafts had just been installed, the compressed-air blowers for the cremation ovens were still being installed, the elevator would not arrive until early February, and the ventilation systems for the gas chamber would not arrive for another two weeks. (After testing, Krema II was declared operational on March 13.)
This memo is important to the Holocaust historians, because it states explicitly that cremation will be possible simultaneously with "special treatment," but only if the equipment is used in a limited fashion. "Special treatment", they argue, was the Nazi code-word for murder. It was important to the camp staff to be able to conduct both operations at once if necessary.
Das Krematorium kann lediglich aus lagernden, für andere Bauten bestimmten Materialien soweit fertiggestellt werden, dass eine Inbetriebsetzung frühestens am 15.2.43 erfolgen kann. Diese Inbetriebsetzung kann sich jedoch nur auf beschränkten Gebrauch der vorhandenen Maschinen erstrecken (wobei eine Verbrennung mit gleichzeitiger Sonderbehandlung möglich gemacht wird), da die zum Krematorium führende Zuleitung für dessen Leistungsverbrauch zu schwach ist. Für das hierfür erforderliche Freileitungsmaterial sind ebenfalls noch keine Eisen- und Metallscheine zugewiesen worden.
The crematorium can be completed to this extent, only if stored materials intended for other buildings are used, so that an initial start-up can take place at the earliest by February 15, 1943. However, this initial start-up can only cover limited use of the available machines (whereby a cremation with simultaneous special treatment is made possible), since the electrical wire going to the crematorium is too weak for its power consumption. Likewise, for the necessary overhead-cable material, there were still no iron-and-metal rationing notes allocated.
1. Pressac, Jean-Claude with Robert-Jan van Pelt, "The Machinery of Mass Murder in Auschwitz," in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Gutman et al., Eds., 1994, p. 226.
2. Ibid, pp. 227, 229.
3. Ibid, pp. 227, 232.
These are the edited comments of our resident Website expert on the document:
This is an Aktenvermerk concerning a telephone conversation between an electrician (from AEG) and an SS Unterscharfueher Swoboda (the Slavic surname is noted in passing). What it says is that AEG has been involved in the obtaining and installing of electrical supplies since the previous November, they have had problems obtaining materials, that there existed a great danger [grosse Gefahr] that these shortages will cause additional delays in the completion of the crematorium. It further states that therefore Krema II will not be ready by January 31, 1943, but will require a delay until at least February 15, 1943, and finally that the system that will be in use will be able to sustain only limited use "of the machines whereby simultaneous special treatment and incineration are possible".
It seems to me that Van Pelt and Dwork have made three unwarranted assumptions about this document. First, they assume that the ventilation system represents the "Maschinen." Second, they assume that "Sonderbehandlung" means murder. Third, they assume that the document is genuine.
Taking the first point, "Maschinen" must refer to something that is involved with both incineration and special treatment. The obvious connection would be between the electrically driven fans of the crematoria and the electrically driven fans of the morgues underground; but I don't see why it could not refer to, say, the operation of fans for the ovens above and the electric lights or some other electrical fixture below.
Therefore we are led to conclude that the "incineration" refers to the operation of the cremation ovens, while "special treatment" refers to something going on in the morgues.
If "Sonderbehandlung" refers to something going on downstairs while the ovens are incinerating above, and moreover, involved something electrical, it could involve (a) ventilating the gas chambers, (b) delousing and disinfecting prisoners, for which electricity would be needful for ventilation, electric lights, or even possibly experimental microwaves, or (c) operating electrical equipment, including the ventilation system, during an air raid.
Of these three possibilities, I consider (a), ventilating the gas chambers, to be the most unlikely. According to the standard narrative, the gassing process was purely mechanical and involved no electricity. Also according to the standard narrative, the ventilation of the gas chambers so that they could be safely entered by prisoners wearing gas masks to evacuate the bodies, required only about one half an hour, at most. Finally, there would be no need to use the sophisticated blower mechanisms for the crematoria ovens before the bodies of those gassed had been prepared and the morgue thoroughly ventilated. In other words, there would be no simultaneous burning and "Sonderbehandlung" in the first place, and therefore the shortfalls of the electrical system would never be apparent.
Furthermore, this document of January 29, 1943 is contradicted by at least two other documents, generated the same day. One of these is an Aktenvermerk from Kirschenek, which reviews the inspection of Crematorium II that ocurred on the 29th, and which specifies that the forced blowers of the ovens as well as the electrical system are fully operational. The document also states that the ventilation system (nowhere described as "Maschinen") will not arrive for several days and that it will not be operational until February 13, 1943.
The second document is the notorious "Vergasungskeller" note, marked "Abschrift" and with no signature, which also references the absence of the ventilation system (nowhere described as "Maschinen") and which states that the construction will not be completed until February 20, 1943.
[see Pressac, JC, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, NY:1989, pp. 214 and 432]
Neither of these two documents refer to any "danger" involved in the incompletion of the crematoria, nor do they give any urgency to the operation of the ventilation system per se (referred to throughout as "Anlagen"), nor do either suggest, in fact they argue just the opposite, that the ventilation system and the forced air blowers of the crematoria are in any way coordinated. Finally it must be said that none of the documents we are looking at here bear any kind of security classification.
Therefore I confidently reject the Van Pelt and Dwork interpretation.
But what does the document mean? I can think of several possibilities.
In other words, it is possible that this document is a forgery, and furthermore a forgery designed to incriminate Tomitschek and the AEG works in Kattowitz. There are two ways to test this assumption. First, where did this document come from originally? Second, was it ever used in a postwar trial, probably in Poland? If so, were either Tomitschek or AEG incriminated by this document? If the answer to this question is yes, we would have at least established a reason for such a forgery to exist. On the other hand, if no such usage of the document was ever made, we would be inclined to accept it as authentic, preferring one of the two explanations offered above.
The second document is a letter from Hans Kammler, dated January 11, 1943, stressing the need to hurry up and complete the three crematoria. The traditional interpretation is obvious, although a little strained: supposedly the Nazis could not carry out a campaign of mass murder without crematoria (even though the traditional view holds that exactly that was done at Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka.) Therefore they were in a hurry to have the crematoria completed so that they could begin killing in earnest.
However I believe the reality is much more prosaic. The winter months, particularly January and February, are difficult months for typhus infestations and epidemics, and I believe the urgency was simply related to the desire to have facilities to properly dispose of infected corpses in manner consistent with Western practices for some seventy years.