Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SS Eyewitness at Auschwitz?

Source: (HQ BAOR, interrogation reports from No. 1 Sub-Centre, 10 Dec 1945. (D) Taped conversation held on 3 Nov 1945 between Ernst von Gottstein and Eugen Horak - Document 13 in Interrogations: Inside the Minds of the Nazi Elite, Penguin, 2001, pp. 371-74)

Comment:  Ernst von Gottstein (Hauptbauleiter OT, Gauamtsleiter fur Technik, Gau Karnten) and Eugen Horak (interpreter in Gruppe VI/C of the RSHA).  If any subsequent information about Eugen Horak's service record and how he ended up in Auschwitz has come to light, I am not aware of it.  Department VI/C was responsible for espionage and counter espionage abroad, C was responsible for Russia and Japan.


HorakI was present in Vienna when they were loading up people for one of those mass evacuations.  Hundreds were crammed into wagons, which normally took a couple of cows.  And they were thoroughly beaten up as well.  I went up to a young SS man and asked if the beating up was really necessary.  He laughed and said they were only scum anyway.  You know the whole thing was so unnecessary and one could well have got on without it ... what was the purpose of all that beating up? I have nothing at all against the gas chambers. A time can come when it is useful to the race to eliminate certain elements. Extermination is one thing but there is no need to torture your victims beforehand.
I saw some incredible things at Auschwitz. Some SS guard personnel could not stand it any longer and had to be sent to a nerve clinic. When my party arrived we were divided into two sections: those who were really keen on the whole affair, and those like myself who were continually asking for something to distract us. .... One SS company actually mutinied and tried to get themselves posted to the front. But they had to carry out their orders. It was just at the time that Ogruf [sic] Dix gave the orders to increase the death rate.

Von Gottstein: The motto of the SS ought to have been 'Meine Ehre ist Gehorsam' (My Honour is Obedience).

Horak: You're quite right. .... These people lose all feeling. Roschke for example once told me quite callously that he had volunteered for duty in the crematorium because they got so much time off afterwards. This duty was absolutely repulsive. One had to stand the whole night in the crematorium. There was only one door and no windows. The two sentries had to go in, lock the door and pass the key through the peephole to the officer outside. They were only connected to the outside world by telephone. An NCO and a private were normally on duty, but in a concentration camp experience counts a good deal more than rank. The one with more experience generally had a pistol and the other a rifle. There were nine people on duty in the crematorium, themselves known candidates for the gas chamber. They knew too much and were eventually exterminated as opportunity arose.

There were four ovens on the left side of the crematorium and the gas chamber was on the right - a normal size room with a narrow door and no windows. They did not use gas but a powder which at a certain temperature gave off poisonous fumes. It must have been quite agreeable because the people never made a mess. The sentries had to see that the nine people on duty didn't escape through the ventilators. And they watched them pulling the bones and the pieces of flesh which hadn't burned out of the ovens, or dragging the bodies from the gas chamber and cramming them into the ovens. There was only room for one body in each oven. There was a horrible smell of lime and burning flesh, something like the strong smell of urine ... (both laughing). But you get so used to it that you could eat your sandwiches in there too.

Von Gottstein: It's a wonder that the guards were not exterminated as well.

Horak: They always had one foot in the grave.  After the wildest excesses the old SS people demanded that they should be 'racially examined'.  What a circus it was!  There was a Flamand who had volunteered for the SS, who was wounded at the front and posted for guard duties at Auschwitz.  I think his father was a Belgian minister and he had a row with him because he went to the SS.  He was eventually sent away and got a vacancy at the SS Cadet School with the help of my brother.  He went to Berlin, had another row, was flung out and returned to Belgium.  That was the kind of guard troop we got.  What a crowd they were!  If I saw Meister I would hand him over to the next soldier.  He was a serjeant [sic] with the Bavarian Gendarmerie and came to the Waffen SS as an Oberscharfuehrer,a  broad, thick-set beer swiller and a real swine.  He was like death incarnate, always thinking out new methods.  In June '41 I saw him chasing a Jew behind a dray until he was exhausted.  Then he asked him if he would like some water.  So he made him kneel down in front of a bucket and when he bent down to drink he pushed his head down under water with his foot and held him until he drowned.  What a swine he was.  Everybody knew about him.  I can't prove all I heard about him, but I actually saw this. Then there was Untersturmfuehrer Mueller, or some quite ordinary name, a grey-haired elderly man, who used to practice the most incredible obscenities on the corpses when he was drunk. He was generally known as the 'crematorium clown'. Another of them, Emmerich, if he didn't like anyone's face, just ordered the guard to eliminate them. One couldn't bear the cries and screams very long, and the smell used to remain in your nostrils for days.

Von Gottstein: The only really good thing about the whole affair is that a few million Jews no longer exist.

Horak: But those who were responsible are now in the soup. 

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