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Victor Brack testifies in 1947 about Euthanasia Gas Chambers

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At the Nuremberg military tribunal, the "Doctor's Trial," Viktor Brack conceded that gas was the sole method of euthanasia used, because it promised a merciful death with no premonition. In the Spring of 1947 he was examined thoroughly by Judge Sebring, from which the following extract is taken. Readers may draw their own conclusions about the credibility of the witness as well as the inherent likelihood of some of the matters described.

Title: "VII: Extracts From Argumentation and Evidence of Prosecution and Defense: (D) Euthanasia: (d) Evidence: Extracts From the Testimony of Defendant Brack: Examination: Part 4", in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 1: United States of America v. Karl Brandt, (Case 1: 'Medical Case'). District of Columbia: GPO, N.D. [1949]. pp.

Author: Department of the Army (USA)

Accession Number: AC 94X 10437 Publication Date: PD 19490101. Document Type: Government Document. Source Document Language(s): English See Also Related Document Supersets: Medical-Case; 1NMT; NMT; NWCT Country of Publication: USA

Q. Witness, I think you said yesterday afternoon that these six euthanasia stations were located at Bernburg, Brandenburg, Hadamar, Hartheim, Grafeneck, and Sonnenstein, is that correct?

A. Yes. That is correct.

Q. When were the gas chambers at these euthanasia stations built?

A. When the institutions were set up as euthanasia institutions.

Q. Can you remember the approximate dates?

A. No. I cannot remember the dates. I just know the years when the institutions became euthanasia institutions -- approximately. I know that Grafeneck and Brandenburg were the first institutions to become euthanasia institutions. It began at the end of 1939 at the earliest, the beginning of 1940 at the latest. Sonnenstein and Hartheim were set up in the early summer 1940. In the early summer or spring. The institution at Bernburg was established in the fall or winter of 1940, Hadamar, in the winter or spring of 1941. This is as accurate as I can give it.

Q. You said the winter or spring of 1941. Do you mean the winter of 1940 or the spring of 1941? You said the winter or spring of 1941.

A. If I say winter 1941, I mean 1/1941, but it might have been 3/1941 too, I don't know.

Q. And you think that Hadamar was the last one that was set up?

A. I am quite certain that Hadamar was the last one.

Q. Now, of what materials were these gas chambers built? Were they movable gas chambers, very much like the low-pressure chambers that Professor Dr. Ruff talked about, or were they something that was built permanently into the camp or installation?

A. No special gas chamber was built. A room suitable in the hospital was used, a room of necessity attached to the reception ward and to the room where the insane persons were kept. This room was made into a gas chamber. It was sealed, given special doors and windows, and then a few meters of gas piping were laid, or some kind of piping with holes in it. Outside this room there was a container, a compressed gas container with the necessary apparatus, that is, pressure gauge, etc.

Q. Now what department had the responsibility for constructing or building these gas chambers, what department of the Party or of the government?

A. No office of the Party. I don't understand the question.

Q. Somebody had to build these chambers. Who gave the orders and who had the responsibility of building them, was that your department?

A. I assume the orders were given by the head of the institution, but I don't know who actually did give the orders.

Q. In other words, were these chambers not built according to some specifications, plans and specifications?

A. I can't imagine that, every chamber was different. I saw several of them.

Q. Do you know what department gave the order for having the numbers built? Was that your department under Bouhler?

A. No. It was Bouhler himself.

Q. And he gave the order to the various heads of institutions to install this chamber, is that correct?

Q. Now, how would the heads of each of these institutions know how to install a gas chamber unless there were certain plans and specifications given to them?

A. I never saw any such plan. I don't know of any.

Q. Would you know how to go out and build a gas chamber unless some engineer or planner had told you? Certainly I wouldn't.

A. I don't know whether I would either. Presumably he called in an engineer.

Q. That's what I'm trying to say. What engineer or group of engineers was responsible for seeing that these gas chambers were built so that they would do the job they were supposed to do?

A. There was certainly no group of engineers. I presume there was somebody at the institutions who had enough technical ability to do it. I don't know.

Q. Then, so far as you know, someone at one of these institutions would be told by Bouhler to construct a gas chamber and he would call the head of the institution then would call on someone, you don't know whom, to go out and build the chamber Is that correct?

A. That is how I imagine it.

Q. Well, wouldn't it make a considerable difference whether the chamber was to be constructed for euthanasia by carbon monoxide or by some other means? Wouldn't there have to be some technical information available to the head of the institution so that he could give directions to his mechanic to build the thing to do the thing it was supposed to do?

A. I must say honestly I really don't know anything about that. I can't judge.

Q. Do you know whether or not any department of the government, under Bouhler, or under Brandt, or under anybody else, was responsible for seeing that the gas apparatus was installed properly?

A. I don't know, but I don't believe so because I would probably have heard of it.

Q. How large were these gas chambers?

A. They were of different sizes. It was simply an adjoining room. I can't remember whether they were 4 x 5 meters, or 5 x 6 meters. Simply normal sized rooms, but I can't tell you the exact size. It was too long ago. I can't remember.

Q. Were they as large as this courtroom?

A. No. They were just normal rooms.

Q. Well, a man of your intelligence must have some idea about the size of these rooms. The assertion "normal size" doesn't mean anything in particular.

A. By that I mean the size of the normal room in a normal house. I didn't mean an assembly room or a cell either. I meant a room, but I can't tell you the exact size because I really don't know it. It might have been 4 x 5 meters, or 5 x 6 meters, or 3.5 x 4.5, but I really don't know. I didn't pay much attention to it.

Q. Have you ever visited a concentration camp or a military camp of any kind?

A. I visited a concentration camp, and I was once in a military camp as a soldier.

Q. Have you ever seen a shower room or shower bath built into a camp of that kind where the inmates of concentration camps, or where soldiers in a military barracks, can take showers?

A. Yes, I have. In my own barracks.

Q. And would you say that this euthanasia room at the various institutions was about that dimension?

A. I think it was much smaller.

Q. Well, perhaps we can get at it this way. I thought perhaps you knew something about the mechanical construction that I supposed everybody knew something about. This room of yours that you talk about, how many people would it accommodate?

A. Yesterday I said that according to my estimate it might have been twenty-five or thirty people.

Q. And that is still your estimate today? I remember yesterday that you said that, and that is still your estimate today, it could comfortably take care of twenty-five or thirty people?

A. Yes. That's my estimate.

Q. Now, the carbon monoxide gas that was used for the purpose of euthanasia where did it come from? I know you said yesterday that it came out of tubes very much like oxygen came in, but where did the tubes come from? Do you know?

A. I don't know. They were the normal steel containers which can be seen everywhere.

Q. Do you know how they reached the camp?

A. That I don't know.

Q. Do you know whether any department of the government was responsible for furnishing the gas to the camp?

A. No. They were probably bought.

Q. You think then that perhaps the superintendent of the institution, if he wanted some carbon monoxide gas, would just walk down town and walk into a store and buy a steel tube of it and put it under his arm and carry it on back to the camp; pay for it out of his pocket?

A. No, not out of his own pocket but through the institution. The institutions bought them, I mean.square

In Nazi Germany, it seems "Ignorance was Bliss."

Commenting on this, "Samuel Crowell" writes on April 4, 1999 (edited text):

BRACK was Bouhler's deputy and played a role in, among other things, euthanasia. Brack, like Brandt, took the lead from Konrad Morgen's testimony at the IMT in the summer of 1946, and "confessed" that the euthanasia program was carried out using carbon monoxide, on the theory that it was painless and involved no premonition. All the hard evidence I have seen indicates that injections were used instead, although Brandt "confessed" to gassing way back in September, 1945, while the Belsen trial was going on.

These people had to portray themselves in the best possible light. They admitted to gassing because that is what the US interrogators were expecting, based on Morgen's affidavits and testimony and wartime and prewar rumors. By turning "state's evidence" they hoped to save their own lives: yes, we used poison gas, but it was the most merciful method.

It is obvious from this examination, by an increasingly exasperated judge, that Brack never saw a gassing in his life.

This becomes important because of the famous letter that Wetzel sent to Lohse in October 1941 (ND: NO-365), which refers to co-ordinating with Dr. Brack about setting up "Unterkünfte" with "Vergasungsapparate" in Riga in the context of putting labor-capable Jews to work; in a subsequent paragraph the letter talks about dealing with the Jews incapable of work by employing the "Brackschen Hilfsmitteln".

My interpretation is that the "Vergasungsapparate" have to do with fumigation vaults which were an integral part of processing people going into the labor service, while the "Brackschen Hilfsmitteln" is a reference to euthanasia in general terms, that is, mostly injections.

Sure enough, Brack would "admit" at this trial to the existence of gas chambers in Riga but would insist that he had nothing to do with them (no one today claims that there were gas chambers in Riga, the current interpretation is that the "Vergasungsapparate" were gas vans -- this theory was floated by Gerhard Flehinger [Gerald Fleming] in his book.) It certainly sounds bizarre why anyone would refer to either "gas vans" or "Vergasungsapparate" as "Brack's device" since the eponymous Dr. Brack clearly didn't know the first thing about gassing, and had never even thought of it until the judge asked him about it.

© Focal Point 1999 F e-mail: DISmall write to David Irving