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The Nuremberg Trials: Testimony of Engineer Kurt Prufer on Crematorium Design

(March 5, 1946)

Q. Who apart from you participated in the construction of the furnaces?

A. From 1941-2, I constructed the furnaces. The technical drawings were done by Mr. Keller. The ventilation systems of the "Kremas" [crematoriums] were constructed by senior engineer Karl Schultze.

Q. How often and with what aim did you visit Auschwitz?

A. Five times. The first time at the beginning of 1943, to receive orders of the SS Command where the Kremas were to be built. The second time in spring 1943 to inspect the building site. The third time was in autumn 1943 to inspect a fault in the construction of a Krema chimney. The forth time at the beginning of 1944, to inspect the repaired chimney. the fifth time in September-October 1944, when I visited Auschwitz with the intended relocation [from Auschwitz] of the crematoriums, since the front was getting nearer. The crematoriums were not relocated, because there were not enough workers.

Q. Were you the sole Topf engineer in Auschwitz in spring 1943?

A. No, [senior engineer Karl] Schultze was with me in Auschwitz at the time. I saw personally about 60 corpses of women and men of different ages, which were being prepared for incineration. That was at 10 in the morning. I witnessed the incineration of six corpses and and came to the conclusion that the furnaces were working well.

Q. Did you see a gas chamber next to the crematoriums?

A. Yes, I did see one next to the crematorium. Between the gas chamber and the crematorium there was a connecting structure.

Q. Did you know that in the gas chamber and in the crematoriums there took place the liquidation of innocent human beings?

A. I have known since spring 1943 that innocent human beings were being liquidated in Auschwitz gas chambers and that their corpses were subsequently incinerated in the crematoriums.

Q. Who is the designer of the ventilation systems for the gas chambers?

A. Schultze was the designer of the ventilation systems in the gas chambers; and he installed them.

Q. Why was the brick lining of the muffles so quickly damaged?

A. The bricks were damaged after six months because the strain on the furnaces was colossal.

Sources: Kurt Prufer, senior engineer of Topf and Sohne, testifying in Erfurt, Germany. Quoted from the interrogation transcripts by Prof. Gerald Fleming from the University of Surrey, New York Times, (July 18 1993). The Nizkor Project