The Auschwitz Gas Chamber

The gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, Oct. 2005

The Krema I gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, shown in the photo above, is a reconstruction which was done by the Soviet Union in 1947. The original gas chamber had been converted by the Germans into an air raid shelter in September 1944. A new entrance door, which can be seen in the background of the photo above, had been added. In September 1944, the original gas chamber had been divided into four small rooms. In the photo above, you can see the reconstructed opening into the oven room on the left hand side. This opening had been closed up when the gas chamber was converted into an air raid shelter. During the reconstruction, the opening into the oven room was moved a few feet.

The photo above was taken with flash; the room is actually very dimly lit and looks much darker. This YouTube video shows what a tour of this chamber is like today.

Original entrance into Auschwitz gas chamber, Oct. 2005

The photo above shows the original entrance door into the crematorium building at the Auschwitz main camp. This is the door that tourists now enter to see the gas chamber, and it is the same door that the victims entered. According to the detailed construction plans for the air raid shelter, the windows shown in the photo were added in 1944. A close-up of the entrance door is shown in the photo below.

Close-up of original entrance door, Oct. 2005

Entrance door as seen from the inside, Oct. 2005

Filip Müller, a prisoner who worked in the crematorium in the main Auschwitz camp, testified at the Auschwitz trial conducted by the German government at Frankfurt in 1964. A few years later, he wrote a book about the Auschwitz gas chamber, entitled "Eyewitness Auschwitz, Three Years in the Gas Chambers."

The door shown in the photo above was described by Müller, who wrote that after the victims were herded through this door, "two SS men slammed shut the heavy iron-studded door which was fitted with a rubber seal and bolted it."

In his book, Müller described how Max Graebner, the head of the Political Department, a branch office of the Gestapo, which was located next door to the gas chamber building, stood on the flat roof of the building and addressed the victims who had to assemble outside in the yard in front of the door shown above. He would tell the Jews that they had been brought to Auschwitz to work, but first they had to remove their clothing and then enter the building to take a shower, after which they would be given hot soup.

Max Graebner

At first, the victims were driven inside, fully clothed, by SS guards wielding clubs and whips, according to Müller, who was assigned in May 1942 to remove the clothing of the victims after they were gassed in the main Auschwitz camp. The victims had carried their luggage inside with them and Müller described how he ate some of the cheese that he found in a suitcase inside the gas chamber.

View of the cremation ovens from the door into gas chamber

The entrance into the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp is through an outside door which opens into a vestibule that is about 6 feet by 8 feet in size. Inside the vestibule, there is a door straight ahead, shown in the photo above, which opens into the oven room, and another door on the right, but out of camera range, that opens into a small room which was a "laying out" room when this building was used as a mortuary.

When the building was converted into an air raid shelter, the "laying out" room became the "surgery" room; it has a floor drain and was previously furnished with wash basins. According to the Auschwitz Museum, the "laying out" room "was used to store spare gratings" when the morgue was converted into a gas chamber in September 1941.

The photo below shows the door from the vestibule into the laying out room. Inside this room, you can see the door that originally opened into another small room which was used as a washroom. The wash room wall was removed during the reconstruction of the gas chamber in 1947, and the door from the laying out room now opens directly into the gas chamber.

Visitors enter the gas chamber through the "laying out" room

When the morgue room was converted into a gas chamber, the laying out room was not used as such and there was no morgue to store the bodies of prisoners who had died from disease. The interior door into the reconstructed gas chamber from the laying out room is shown in the background of the photo above.

Original Blueprint of crematorium and morgue in Auschwitz main camp

The photo above shows the original blueprint for the Krema I building in the Auschwitz main camp. The morgue, shown on the bottom right of the blueprint, has a door into the oven room and another door into the washroom. The gas chamber was in the same location as the morgue and it did not include the area of the washroom. Note the door from the vestibule into the washroom; this door no longer exists and the area of the former wash room is included in the reconstructed gas chamber.

According to a guide book sold at the Auschwitz Museum, the gas chamber in the main camp was only used from September 1941 to March 1942 and after that, the gassing of the Jews was done in "the little red house" and "the little white house" just outside the Birkenau camp. However, Danuta Czech wrote that the last victims were members of the Sonderkommando, who were gassed in Krema I in December 1942. The ruins of "the little white house," also known as Bunker 2, can be seen behind the Sauna building outside the Birkenau camp.

Filip Müller was among the first Jews brought to Auschwitz; he arrived in April 1942 and began working in the crematorium in the main camp in May 1942. Regarding the gassing of prisoners in the main camp, he wrote that "From the end of May 1942 one transport after another vanished in this way into the crematorium of Auschwitz."

The following quote is from Müller's book, "Eyewitness Auschwitz":

At the same time, the siting of the crematorium in the immediate vicinity of the camp was fraught with danger: there was the distinct possibility that The Secret Matter of the Reich could not remain hushed up forever, notwithstanding its top-secret classification. It was for this reason that the columns of deported Jews were conducted to the 'showers' either at daybreak when the camp inmates were still asleep, or late at night after roll call. On these occasions a camp curfew was declared. To break it meant to risk being shot. For that same reason those of us prisoners who had been forced to participate in preparations for the extermination of Jews as well as in covering up all traces of the crimes were divided into two groups. This was to prevent us from pooling our information and obtaining detailed knowledge of the extermination methods. Prisoners of the second working party, the crematorium stokers, turned up only after we had swept and thoroughly cleaned the yard. By the time they arrived the chamber had already been aired and the gassed were lying there as if they had just fallen naked from the sky.

Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Interior of Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Holes in ceiling of gas chamber

Holes on roof of gas chamber

Exterior of Gas Chamber

Door into Air Raid Shelter


Introduction to Auschwitz I

Back to Photo Gallery 2


This page was last updated on May 31, 2009