[back] Piper

[This was extracted from My Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 30-31, 1996  by D.D. Desjardins  Ten people per square meter is worse than a Japanese tube train, if possible at all, and how would you get people to pack in like that?  Absurd. There was no special heating to get the required temperature of 25.7 C for Krema I, warmth depended exclusively on body heat!  All it took was 20 minutes (although to kill lice it took 24 hours!), there were no ventilators. The doors were opened and the gas was allowed to ventilate by convection In both Kremas II and III, heating was achieved by placing bins inside the chambers full of hot coke!]

Interview with Franciszek Piper 30 May, 1996
Q: Regarding Krematorium I at Auschwitz, what was the average number of persons gassed with Zyklon B per application? Further, what total number of persons perished in this facility?

A: This facility operated between autumn 1941 and autumn 1942. Between 600 to 800 persons were exterminated per application. Phillip Müller, an eye-witness stoker, cited that several tens of thousands of persons were killed there, however French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac claims that roughly only ten thousand were killed in this facility. It was, after all, an experimental gas chamber.

Q: What is the floor space of Krematorium I?

A: 78 square meters.

Q: Regarding the foregoing, this would mean approximately ten persons could be forced into an area of one square meter?

A: Yes. You must remember that the victims included women and children.

Q: And what quantity of Zyklon B gas was employed by the Germans to effect the extermination of the 600 to 800 persons in Krematorium I per application? How was the gas introduced into the chamber?

A: According to Auschwitz kommandant Rudolph Höss, 6 kilograms of solid Zyklon B pellets were employed per 1,400 persons. At Krema I, the pellets were poured through four roof-ports directly onto the victims inside.

Q: Were the pellets poured simultaneously by four agents through each of the four roof-ports, or sequentially by one agent acting alone?

A: There was typically only one person on the roof, and this person poured the pellets in all four roof-ports, one roof-port at a time.

Q: By what means was heating effected in Krema I, particularly during winter, to insure a minimum interior temperature of 25.7 degrees Centigrade necessary for gaseous HCN?[7a]

A: There was no special heating for Krema I. Warmth depended exclusively on body heat.

Q: What was the total time per application that Zyklon B gas remained inside the chamber?

A: Twenty minutes.

Q: What were the means of removing the gas? Were there special ventilators?

A: In the case of Krema I there were no ventilators. The doors were opened and the gas was allowed to ventilate by convection.

Q: Regarding Krematorium II at Birkenau, what was the gas chamber floor area and number of persons exterminated per application?

A: 210 square meters; 1,000 - 2,000 persons were killed per application depending on the size of a given transport.

Q: And the quantity of Zyklon B gas employed was in the same ratio as per Krema I, that is, 6 kilograms per 1,400 persons?

A: Yes.

Q: How were the Zyklon B pellets introduced into Krema II?

A: As per Krema I, that is, through roof-ports and by pouring through one roof-port at a time, however, the pellets descended through a perforated spiral tube rather than free-falling directly from the roof aperture. This was also the means used in Krema III.

Q: Was there any special way by which heating was achieved in Krema II to maintain minimum necessary temperatures for gas-phase HCN?

A: Yes. In both Kremas II and III, heating was achieved by placing bins inside the chambers full of hot coke.

Q: Was the gas exposure time for Kremas II and III the same twenty minutes as per Krema I?

A: Yes. But for these Kremas the gas was removed via mechanical ventilation and was therefore much quicker.

Q: Was there any means of detoxifying the HCN gas before it was vented to the atmosphere?

A: No. It was vented directly to the atmosphere.

Q: Regarding Krematorium III, was its surface area and number of persons exterminated per application the same as for Krema II?

A: Yes. 210 square meters; 1,000 to 2,000 persons exterminated per application depending on transport.

Q: What were the total number of persons exterminated respectively for Kremas II and III?

A: There are no figures on this.

Q: Are there figures on the number of deaths associated with Krematoriums IV and V?

A: No. The total number of persons killed at Auschwitz and Birkenau as a whole is 1,095,190, which I cite in my book Auschwitz: how many perished Jews, Poles, Gypsies, based on transport figures from each of the German occupied territories.[6]

Q: And how many of these were exterminated by Zyklon B gas in Kremas I - V?

A: About 90%.

Q: Regarding Kremas IV and V, what was the respective surface area for these chambers and the number of persons exterminated per application?

A: Both were 270 square meters and both exterminated between 1,000 and 2,000 persons per application depending on transports.

Q: And was the quantity of Zyklon B gas used in these facilities the same ratio as cited for the other Krematoria, i.e., 6 kilograms per 1,400 persons?

A: Yes.

Q: How were the Zyklon pellets introduced to Kremas IV and V?

A: Unlike Kremas I through III, the pellets were introduced through small windows on the side of the buildings.

Q: What was the gas exposure time for Kremas IV and V and by what means were they ventilated?

A: Twenty minutes, as per the other Kremas. There were plans for mechanical ventilation of the Zyklon B, but these were not put into effect. Evacuation of the gas was instead achieved by convection, that is, by merely opening the doors.

Q: What about means of heating for these chambers?[7]

A: Open coke containers, as per Kremas II and III.

Q: In regard to Kremas I through V, were special building materials used for the inside surfaces of the gas chambers or were standard brick and mortar used?

A: Standard building materials.[8]

Q: Regarding the delousing facilities, what was the concentration of Zyklon B gas used for this purpose and what was the gas duration per application?

A: According to former prisoners, the process of disinfection lasted 24 hours. Clothes were left on hooks and the Zyklon was left on the floor. I am not sure as to the quantity.

Q: How often was a given delousing chamber used?

A: Delousing chambers were in near continuous use at the camps, both here at Auschwitz-Birkenau and at Majdanek.

Q: Regarding the above subject matter, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. recommended: Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas by Eugen Kogen, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolph Höss, and Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers by Jean-Claude Pressac. Are there any others you might recommend?

A: There are not many books which deal with this kind of information because it has not been until recently that the technical aspects were in question or of much interest. In addition to what the Holocaust Memorial Museum recommended, I do suggest the recent book by Gideon-Greif Publishers[9] dealing with testimony by six former Jewish sondercommandos now living in Israel who worked at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Shlomo Dragon is one of the six witnesses.

End of Interview
My Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 30-31, 1996