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The “Final Solution”: Technical Alterations to Gas Vans

(June 5, 1942)

Excerpts of letter from Willy Just to SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Walter Rauff, 5 June 1942 ["Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945", Volume II, J.Noakes and G.Pridham, editors. Schocken Books, New York, (c)1988 by the Dept. of History and Archeology, University of Exeter. ISBN 0-8053-0973-5 (vol. 1), 0-8052-0972-7 (vol. 2). Document #913]

RE: Technical alterations to the special vehicles already in operation and those in production.

Since December 1941, for example, 97,000 have been processed using three vans without any faults developing in the vehicles. The well-known explosion in Kulmhof (Chelmno) must be treated as a special case. It was caused by faulty practice. Special instructions have been given to the relevant offices in order to avoid such accidents. The instructions were such as to ensure a considerable increase in the degree of security.

Further operational experience hitherto indicates that the following technical alterations are appropriate....

2) The vans are normally loaded with 9-10 people per square meter. With the large Saurer special vans this is not possible because although they do not become overloaded their maneuverability is much impaired. A reduction in the load area appears desirable. It can be achieved by reducing the size of the van by c. 1 meter. The difficulty referred to cannot be overcome by reducing the size of the load. For a reduction in the numbers will necessitate a longer period of operation because the free spaces will have to be filled with CO. By contrast, a smaller load area which is completely full requires a much sorter period of operation since there are no free spaces.....

3) The connecting hoses between the exhaust and the van frequently rust through because they are corroded inside by the liquids which fall on them. To prevent this the connecting piece must be moved so that the gas is fed from the top downwards. This will prevent liquids flowing in.....

6) The lighting must be better protected against damage than hitherto....It has been suggested that lighting should be dispensed with since they are allegedly never used. However, experience shows that when the rear door is closed and therefore when it becomes dark, the cargo presses hard towards the door....It makes it difficult to latch the door. Furthermore, it has been observed that the noise always begins when the doors are shut presumably because of fear brought on by the darkness.

Source: Shamash