Extermination in Gas Vans in the Ukraine
(May 16, 1942)
Kiev, May 16, 1942
Field Post Office No. 32704
B. Nr 40/42
Reich Secret Document
To SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff
The overhauling of the vans of [Einsatz] Gruppe D and C has been completed....
I have had the vans of [Einsatz] Gruppe D disguised as house-trailers, by having a single window shutter fixed to each side of the small vans, and on the large ones, two shutters, such as one often sees on farmhouses in the country. The vans had become so well known that not only the authorities but the civilian population referred to them as the "Death Vans" as soon as one appeared. In my opinion the vans cannot be kept secret for any length of time even if they are camouflaged.
The brakes of the Saurer van which I took from Taganrog to Simferopol were damaged on the way... When I reached Stalino and Gorlovka a few days later the drivers of the vans there complained of the same trouble....
I also gave instructions that all personnel should stay as far away as possible from the vans when the gassing is in progress to prevent damage to their health in the event of gas leaking out. I would like to take this opportunity to call attention to the following: several of the special units let their own men do the unloading after gassing.
I pointed out to the commanders of the Sonderkommando (Special Unit) concerned the enormous psychological and physical harm this may cause the men, possibly later even if not immediately. The men complained to me of headaches that recur after each such unloading. Nevertheless there is reluctance to change the orders because it is feared that if prisoners are used for this work they might make use of a favorable moment to escape. I request appropriate instructions in order to save the men from suffering harm.
The gassing is generally not carried out correctly. In order to get the Aktion finished as quickly as possible the driver presses down on the accelerator as far as it will go. As a result the persons to be executed die of suffocation and do not doze off as was planned. It has proved that if my instructions are followed and the levers are properly adjusted death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as were observed before, no longer occur.
Today I shall continue my journey to [Einsatz] Gruppe B, where I may be reached for further instructions.
Source: Yad Vashem