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64 Years Ago: First Nazi Use of Poison Gas for Murdering People in Auschwitz | Print |
Contributed by PAP   
Tuesday, 30 August 2005
The basement of Block 11, where in the beginning of September 1941 the first attempt of mass killing by means of gas was perpetrated. Photo: jarmen The Nazis first used Zyklon-B gas to murder people in Auschwitz 64 years ago. The first test, on 20 to 30 Soviet prisoners of war, was carried out in the basement of Block no. 11, in the last days of August, 1941. This experiment was the beginning of the mass extermination that the Germans perpetrated in Auschwitz.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum historian Franciszek Piper says that using Zyklon-B to kill people was the brainchild of deputy camp commandant Hauptsturmfuehrer SS Karl Fritzsch, who also supervised the first poison gas operations.

Before the big gas chambers in Birkenau were built the German Nazis would kill people, among others, in the building of Crematorium I. Photo: jarmen The first experiment almost certainly took place in late August 1941, when Soviet POWs were killed in a windowless room in the Block no. 11 basement. Piper estimates that, in view of the small dimensions of the room, some 20 to 30 POWs were involved. Accounts by former prisoners support this figure. Another experiment was carried out before the end of August, with about 100 POWs being packed into six cells in the Block no. 11 basement.

The Nazis carried out the first experimental killing of prisoners on a mass scale on September 3. Immediately after evening roll call, they placed 600 Soviet POWs, 250 Polish patients from the camp hospital, and 10 prisoners from the penal company in 28 cells in the Block no. 11 basement. Soil was shoveled to block the basement windows. The Germans then introduced the gas. On the morning of September 4, SS man Gerhard Palitzsch checked and found that some of the prisoners were still alive. The Germans introduced more gas and barred the doors. By the night of September 4-5, all the prisoners were dead.

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