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Belzec: Testimonies of Belzec SS-Men

(May 26, 1945)

Testimony of SS-Unterscharführer Schluch (Belzec-Oberhauser Trial)
Quoted in "BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA - the Operation Reinhard Death Camps", Indiana University Press - Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 70-71

After leaving the undressing barracks, I had to show the Jews the way to the gas chambers. I believe that when I showed the Jews the way they were convinced that they were really going to the baths. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the doors were closed by Hackenholt himself or by the Ukrainians subordinated to him. Then Hackenholt switched on the engine which supplied the gas...

I could see that the lips and tips of the noses were a bluish color. Some of them had their closed, other's eyes rolled. The bodies were dragged out of the gas chambers and inspected by a dentist, who removed finger rings and gold teeth...

Testimony of SS-Oberscharführer Kurt Bolender (Belzec-Oberhauser Trial)
Quoted in "BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA - the Operation Reinhard Death Camps", Indiana University Press - Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 76

Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharführer Michel made a speech to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression that he was a physician. Michel announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work, but before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection so as to prevent the spread of diseases... After undressing, the Jews were taken through the so-called Schlauch. They were led to the gas chambers not by the Germans but by the Ukrainians...After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors. The motor which supplied the gas was switched on by a Ukrainian named Emil and by a German driver called Erich Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the door were opened and the corpses removed....

SS-Untersturmführer Oberhauser (On Belzec Death Camp)
Quoted in 'The Good Old Days' - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 228-230

The camp of Belzec was situated north-east of the Tomaszo'w to Lemberg [Lvov] road beyond the village of Belzec. As the camp needed a siding for the arriving transports the camp was built about 400 meters from Belzec station. The camp itself was divided into two sections: section 1 and section 2. The siding led directly from Belzec station into section 2 of the camp, in which the undressing barracks as well as the gas installations and the burial field were situated...

The gassing of Jews which took place in Belzec camp up till 1 August 1942 can be divided into two phases. During the first series of experiments there were two to three transports consisting of four to six freight cars each holding twenty to forty persons. On the average 150 Jews were delivered and killed per transport. At that stage the gassings were not yet part of a systematic eradication action but were carried out to test and study closely the camp's capacity and the technical problems involved in carrying out a gassing...

At the beginning of May 1942 SS-Oberführer Brack from the Führer's chancellery suddenly came to Lublin. With Globocnik he discussed resuming the extermination of the Jews. Globocnik said he had too few people to carry out this programme. Brack stated that the euthanasia programme had stopped and that the people from T4 would from now on be detailed to him on a regular basis so that the decisions taken at the Wannsee conference could be implemented. As it appeared that it would not be possible for the Einsatzgruppen to clear individual areas of Jews and the people in the large ghettos of Warsaw and Lemberg by shooting them, the decision had been taken to set up two further extermination camps which would be ready by 1 August 1942, namely Treblinka and Sobibor. The large-scale extermination programme [Vernichtungsaktion] was due to start on 1 August 1942.

About a week after Brack had come to Globocnik, Wirth and his staff returned to Belzec. The second series of experiments went on until 1 August 1942. During this period a total of five to six transports (as far as I am aware) consisting of five to seven freight cars containing thirty to forty people came to Belzec. The Jews from two of these transports were gassed in the small chamber, but then Wirth had the gas huts pulled down and built a massive new building with a much larger capacity. It was here that the Jews from the rest of the transport were gassed.

During the first experiments and the first set of transports in the second series of experiments bottled gas was still used for gassing; however, for the last transports of the second series of experiments the Jews were killed with the exhaust gases from a tank or lorry engine which was operated by Hackenholt.

Professor Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Waffen-SS hygienist (On a Gassing at Belzec)
Quoted in 'The Good Old Days' - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 238-244

When I am asked about executions of Jews I must confirm that on 19 August 1942 I witnessed an execution of Jews at Belzec extermination camp. I would like to describe how I came to be there. During my conversations with SS-Brigadefuehrer Globocnik, he told me about the large spinning-mills that he had set up in Belzec. He also mentioned that work at this camp would considerably outstrip German production. When I asked him where the spinning materials came from, he told me proudly that they had come from the Jews. At this point he also mentioned the extermination actions against the Jews, who for the most part were killed at the the camp at Belzec...

During this first visit I was taken to around by a certain Polizieihauptmann named Wirth, who also showed and explained to me the extermination installations at the camp. He told me that the following morning a new transport of about 500 Jews would be arriving at the camp who would be channeled through these extermination chambers. He asked me whether I would like to watch one of these extermination actions, to which, after a great deal of reflection, I consented. I planned to submit a report to the Reichsarzt-SS about the extermination actions. In order to write a report I had, however, first to observe an action with my own eyes. I remained in the camp, spent the night there and was witness to the following events the next morning.

A goods train traveled directly into the camp of Belzec, the freight cars were opened and Jews whom I believe were from the area of Romania or Hungary were unloaded. The cars were crammed fairly full. There were men, women and children of every age. They were ordered to get into line and then had to proceed to an assembly area and take off their shoes...

After the Jews had removed their shoes they were separated by sex. The women went together with the children into a hut. There their hair was shorn and they had to get undressed... The men went into another hut, where they received the same treatment. I saw what happened in the women's hut with my own eyes. After they had undressed, the whole procedure went fairly quickly. They ran naked from the hut through a hedge into the actual extermination centre. The whole extermination centre looked just like a normal delousing institution. In front of the building there were pots of geraniums and a sign saying "Hackenholt Foundation", above which there was a star of David. The building was brightly and pleasantly painted so as not to suggest people would be killed here...

Inside the buildings, the Jews had to enter chambers into which was channeled the exhaust of a [100(?)]-HP engine, located in the same building. In it there were six such extermination chambers. They were windowless, had electric lights and two doors. One door led outside so that the bodies could be removed. People were led from a corridor into the chambers through an ordinary air-tight door with bolts. There was a glass peep-hole, as I recall, next to the door in the wall. Through this window one could watch what was happening inside the room but only when it was not too full of people. After a short time the glass became steamed up. When the people had been locked in the room the motor was switched on and then I suppose the stop-valves or vents to the chambers opened. Whether they were stop-valves or vents I would not like to say. It is possible that the pipe led directly to the chambers. Once the engine was running, the light in the chambers was switched off. This was followed by palpable disquiet in the chamber. In my view it was only then that the people sensed something else was in store for them. It seemed to me that behind the thick walls and door they were praying and shouting for help.

Sources: Shamash - The bracketed comments inside were written by Daniel Keren for the Shamash archives.