Gas van

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Burned-out Magirus-Deutz furniture mover van near Chelmno extermination camp, type used by the Nazis for suffocation, with the exhaust fumes diverted into the sealed rear compartment where the victims were locked in. This particular van had not been modified, as explained by Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946), nevertheless, it gives a good idea about the process. Chelmno Gas Van.jpg
Burned-out Magirus-Deutz furniture mover van near Chełmno extermination camp, type used by the Nazis for suffocation, with the exhaust fumes diverted into the sealed rear compartment where the victims were locked in. This particular van had not been modified, as explained by Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946), nevertheless, it gives a good idea about the process.

A gas van or gas wagon (Russian : душегубка (dushegubka); German : Gaswagen) was a vehicle reequipped as a mobile gas chamber. The gas van was invented in the Soviet Union in 1936, by Isay Berg, the head of the administrative and economic department of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast. The vehicle had an air-tight compartment for the murdered victims, into which exhaust fumes were transmitted while the engine was running. The murdered victims were gassed with carbon monoxide, resulting in death by carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation. The gas van was used by the Soviet secret police in 1930s. [2] During World War II Nazi Germany used gas vans on a large scale as an extermination method to murder inmates of asylums, Romani people, Jews, and prisoners in occupied Poland, Belarus, and Yugoslavia. [3] [4]

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or other animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used. Gas chambers were used as a method of execution for condemned prisoners in the United States beginning in the 1920s and continue to be a legal execution method in three states. During the Holocaust, large-scale gas chambers designed for mass killing were used by Nazi Germany as part of their genocide program. The use of gas chambers in North Korea has also been reported.

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Soviet Union

One case of gas van usage was documented in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. [2] A team of secret police officers was suffocating batches of prisoners with engine fumes in a camouflaged bread van while driving out to the mass graves at Butovo, where the prisoners were subsequently buried. [2] The use of gas vans was supervised by Isay Berg, the head of the administrative and economic department of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast. [2] Berg himself was arrested and convicted by the NKVD in 1937. [5]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

Mass graves in the Soviet Union were used for the burial of mass numbers of citizens and foreigners executed by the government of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. These mass killings were carried out by the security organisations, such as the NKVD, and reached their peak in the Great Purge of 1937–38.

Nazi Germany

In August 1941, SS chief Heinrich Himmler attended a demonstration of a mass-shooting of Jews in Minsk arranged by Arthur Nebe, after which he vomited. Regaining his composure, Himmler decided that alternative methods of killing should be found. [6] He turned to Nebe to explore more "convenient" ways of killing that were less stressful for the killers. Nebe decided to try experimenting by murdering Soviet mental patients, first with explosives near Minsk, and then with automobile exhaust at Mogilev. [7] Nebe's experiments led to the utilization of the gas van. [8] This vehicle had already been used in 1940 for the gassing of East Prussian and Pomeranian mental patients in the Soldau concentration camp. [9] Another source states that the vans were first tested on Soviet prisoners in Sachsenhausen. [10]

Heinrich Himmler High Nazi Germany official, head of the SS

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel, and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Germany. Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and among those most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

Arthur Nebe German general

Arthur Nebe  was a key functionary in the security and police apparatus of Nazi Germany and a Holocaust perpetrator.

Mogilev Place

Mogilev is a city in eastern Belarus, about 76 kilometres from the border with Russia's Smolensk Oblast and 105 km from the border with Russia's Bryansk Oblast. As of 2011, its population was 360,918, up from an estimated 106,000 in 1956. It is the administrative centre of Mogilev Region and the third largest city in Belarus.

Gas vans were used, particularly at Chełmno extermination camp, until gas chambers were developed as a more efficient method for killing large numbers of people. There were two types of gas vans in operation, used by the Einsatzgruppen in the East. The Opel-Blitz, weighing 3.5 tons, and the larger Saurerwagen, weighing 7 tonnes. [11] In Belgrade, the gas van was known as "Dušegupka" and in the occupied parts of the USSR similarly as "душегубка" (dushegubka, literally (feminine) soul killer/exterminator). The SS used the euphemisms Sonderwagen, Spezialwagen or S-wagen ("special vehicle") for the vans. [12]

Chełmno extermination camp German extermination camp in Chelmno nad Nerem in Poland during World War II

Chełmno extermination camp, built during World War II, was the first of the Nazi German extermination camps and was situated 50 kilometres north of the metropolitan city of Łódź, near the village of Chełmno nad Nerem. Following the invasion of Poland in 1939 Germany annexed the area into the new territory of Reichsgau Wartheland, aiming at its complete "Germanization"; the camp was set up specifically to carry out ethnic cleansing through mass killings. It operated from December 8, 1941 parallel to Operation Reinhard during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, and again from June 23, 1944 to January 18, 1945 during the Soviet counter-offensive. Polish Jews of the Łódź Ghetto and the local inhabitants of Reichsgau Wartheland (Warthegau) were exterminated there. In 1943 modifications were made to the camp's killing methods because the reception building was already dismantled.

<i>Einsatzgruppen</i> Nazi paramilitary death squads, part of the SS

Einsatzgruppen were Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary death squads of Nazi Germany that were responsible for mass killings, primarily by shooting, during World War II (1939–45) in German-occupied Europe. The Einsatzgruppen were involved in the murder of much of the intelligentsia, including members of the priesthood, and cultural elite of Poland, and had an integral role in the implementation of the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" in territories conquered by Nazi Germany. Almost all of the people they killed were civilians, beginning with the intelligentsia and swiftly progressing to Soviet political commissars, Jews, and Romani people as well as actual or alleged partisans throughout Eastern Europe.

The use of gas vans had two disadvantages:

  1. It was slow — some victims took twenty minutes to die.
  2. It was not quiet — the drivers could hear the victims' screams, which they found distracting and disturbing.

By June 1942 the main producer of gas vans, Gaubschat Fahrzeugwerke GmbH, had delivered 20 gas vans in two models (for 30–50 and 70–100 individuals) to Einsatzgruppen, out of 30 ordered from that company. Not one gas van was extant at the end of the war. The existence of gas vans first came to light in 1943 during the trial of Nazi collaborators involved in the gassing of 6,700 civilians in Krasnodar.[ citation needed ] The total number of gas van gassings is unknown. [13]

Krasnodar City in Krasnodar Krai, Russia

Krasnodar is a city and the administrative center of Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the Kuban River, approximately 148 kilometers (92 mi) northeast of the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. As of the 2010 Census, its population was 774,234. According to the Federal Statistics Service of Russia, Krasnodar officially reached a population of 1,000,007 on September 22, 2018, thus the city is the 16th most populated city in Russia, and also the country’s 16th city with at least a million inhabitants.

The gas vans are extensively discussed in some of the interviews in Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah .

Claude Lanzmann French journalist, film director, writer and screenwriter

Claude Lanzmann was a French filmmaker known for the Holocaust documentary film Shoah (1985).

<i>Shoah</i> (film) 1985 film by Claude Lanzmann

Shoah is a 1985 French documentary film about the Holocaust, directed by Claude Lanzmann. Over nine hours long and 11 years in the making, the film presents Lanzmann's interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators during visits to German Holocaust sites across Poland, including extermination camps.

See also

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Final Solution Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jews

The Final Solution or the Final Solution to the Jewish Question was a Nazi plan for the genocide of Jews during World War II. The "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" was the official code name for the murder of all Jews within reach, which was not restricted to the European continent. This policy of deliberate and systematic genocide starting across German-occupied Europe was formulated in procedural and geopolitical terms by Nazi leadership in January 1942 at the Wannsee Conference held near Berlin, and culminated in the Holocaust, which saw the killing of 90% of Polish Jews, and two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.

Extermination camp Nazi death camps established during World War II to primarily kill Jews

Nazi Germany built extermination camps during the Holocaust in World War II, to systematically kill millions of Jews, Slavs, Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs, political opponents and others whom the Nazis considered "Untermenschen" ("subhumans"). The victims of death camps were primarily killed by gassing, either in permanent installations constructed for this specific purpose, or by means of gas vans. Some Nazi camps, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, served a dual purpose before the end of the war in 1945: extermination by poison gas, but also through extreme work under starvation conditions.

Bełżec extermination camp German extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II

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Operation Reinhard Code name for the creation of German extermination camps in Poland in World War II

Operation Reinhard or Operation Reinhardt was the codename of the secretive World War II German plan to exterminate Poland's Jews in the General Government district of German-occupied Poland. This deadliest phase of the Holocaust was marked by the introduction of extermination camps.

Sobibor extermination camp German extermination camp located near Sobibór, Poland in World War II

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Operation Tannenberg

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Herbert Lange SS officer and commandant of Chełmno death camp

Herbert Lange was an SS-Sturmbannführer and the commandant of Chełmno death camp until April 1942; leader of the SS Special Detachment Lange conducting the murder of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto. He was responsible for numerous crimes against humanity including the murder of mental patients in Poland and in Germany during the Aktion T4 "euthanasia" programme.

Otto Ohlendorf German general

Otto Ohlendorf was a German SS functionary and Holocaust perpetrator during the Nazi era. An economist by education, he was head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Inland, responsible for intelligence and security within Germany. In 1941, Ohlendorf was appointed the commander of Einsatzgruppe D, which perpetrated mass murder in Moldova, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the North Caucasus. He was tried at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, convicted, and executed in 1951.

The Holocaust Genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and other groups

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Janowska concentration camp Nazi Germany labor and extermination camp in occupied Poland

Janowska concentration camp was a Nazi German labor, transit and extermination camp established in September 1941 in occupied Poland on the outskirts of Lwów. The camp was labeled Janowska after the nearby street ulica Janowska in Lwów, renamed Shevchenka after the city was ceded to the Ukrainian SSR at the end of war in Europe. The camp was liquidated by the Germans in November 1943 ahead of the Red Army's counteroffensive. According to Soviet prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Janowska was a pure death camp, although it also housed a factory. Modern estimates put the total number of prisoners who passed through Janowska at over 100,000. The number of victims murdered at the camp is estimated at 35,000–40,000.

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August Becker was a mid-ranking functionary in the SS of Nazi Germany and chemist in the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). He helped design the vans with a gas chamber built into the back compartment used in early Nazi mass murder of disabled people, political dissidents, Jews, and other "racial enemies," including Action T4 as well as the Einsatzgruppen in the Nazi-occupied portions of the Soviet Union. Generally his role was to provide important technical support, but on at least one occasion he personally gassed about 20 people.

<i>Sonderbehandlung</i>

Sonderbehandlung is any sort of preferential treatment, but is known primarily as a euphemism for mass murder used by Nazi functionaries and the SS, who commonly used the abbreviation S.B. in documentation. It first came to prominence during Action T4, where SS doctors killed mentally ill and disabled patients between 1939 and 1941, and was one of a number of nonspecific words the Nazis used to document mass murder and genocide. Another notable example was Sonderbehandlung 14f13.

Hans Bothmann SS officer

SS-HauptsturmführerHans Bothmann or Hans Johann Bothmann was the last commandant of the Chełmno extermination camp from 1942 on ; leader of the SS Special Detachment Bothmann conducting the extermination of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto and other places. He committed suicide in British custody in April 1946 while in Heide.

Tarnopol Ghetto

The Tarnopol Ghetto was a Jewish World War II ghetto established in 1941 by the Schutzstaffel (SS) in the prewar Polish city of Tarnopol occupied by Germany at the onset of Operation Barbarossa. Before the joint Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 Tarnopol was the capital of the Tarnopol Voivodeship in the south-eastern part of the Kresy macroregion in the Second Polish Republic. The invading Soviets annexed the city in 1939 to the Ukrainian SSR along with the entire province and renamed it as Терно́поль (Ternopol).

References

  1. "SS use of mobile gassing vans". A damaged Magirus-Deutz van found in 1945 in Kolno, Poland. World War II Today. 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2013. Source: Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression – Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Office, 1946, Vol III, p. 418;
  2. 1 2 3 4 Komsomolskaya pravda , October 28, 1990; this source has been cited by several other authors: (i) Catherine Merridale. Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia. Penguin Books, 2002 ISBN   0-14-200063-9 p. 200; (ii) Timothy J. Colton. Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis. Belknap Press, 1998. ISBN   0-674-58749-9 p. 286, (iii) Солженицын А.И. Two Hundred Years Together (Двести лет вместе), volume=2, Москва, Русский путь, 2002, ISBN   5-85887-151-8, p. 297, (iv) Yevgenia Albats, KGB: The State Within a State. 1995, page 101., (v) Е. Жирнов. «По пути следования к месту исполнения приговоров отравлялись газом». Коммерсантъ Власть, № 44, 2007. , (vi) Н. Петров. «Человек в кожаном фартуке». Новая газета, спецвыпуск «Правда ГУЛАГа» от 02.08.2010 № 10 (31). Archived 2010-08-06 at the Wayback Machine .
  3. Bartrop, Paul R. (2017). "Gas Vans". In Paul R. Bartrop; Michael Dickerman (eds.). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection. 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 234–235. ISBN   978-1-4408-4084-5.
  4. "Gas Wagons: The Holocaust's mobile gas chambers", an article of Nizkor Project
  5. The man in the leather apron (Russian), by Nikita Petrov, Novaya Gazeta
  6. Longerich, Peter (2012). Heinrich Himmler: A Life, p. 547, ISBN   978-0-19-959232-6.
  7. Lewy, Guenter (2000). The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, pp. 204–208, ISBN   0-19-512556-8.
  8. The path to genocide: essays on launching the final solution By Christopher R. Browning
  9. The destruction of the European Jews, Part 804, Volume 1 By Raul Hilberg
  10. Saul Friedländer. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 , HarperCollins, 2007, p. 234 ISBN   978-0-06-019043-9
  11. Ernst. Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess (1991). "The gas-vans (3. 'A new and better method of killing had to be found')". The Good Old Days: The Holocaust As Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. Konecky Konecky. p. 69. ISBN   1568521332 . Retrieved 2013-05-08.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. Patrick Montague (2012). "The Gas Vans (Appendix I)". Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler's First Death Camp. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. Appendix I: The Gas Van. ISBN   0807835277 . Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  13. "Gaswagen, from deathcamps.org, in German". 2006. Retrieved 2018-10-06.