Ruins of Krema II at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Ruins of Krema II , October 2005

Ruins of Krema II, February 1945

Krema II at Auschwitz-Birkenau was the site of the largest mass murder in the history of mankind. It was here that over 500,000 Jews were gassed to death with Zyklon-B, an insecticide that was also used to disinfect clothing in the camp, according to Robert Jan Van Pelt, a noted Holocaust historian.

The old black and white photo above was taken shortly after Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Union on January 27, 1945. The photo at the top of the page shows the same view of the ruins of Krema II, taken in October 2005. The trees in the background are at the west end of the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau.

The two photos show the on-goning effort to preserve the ruins of the Krema II. Van Pelt calls Krema II the "Holy of Holies." It is a place that demands great reverence and respect for the thousands of innocent victims who perished here.

Ruins of Krema II gas chamber, looking north towards International Monument

The photo above shows the ruins of the Krema II gas chamber building at Birkenau, taken with the camera facing north. In the center of the photo is what appears to be a hole in the ruins of the concrete roof, made when the building was blown up with dynamite on January 20, 1945.

Krema II was a one-story brick building with an attic and two underground rooms, located on the south side of the main camp road in the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau. Krema III, located on the north side of the main camp road, was a mirror image of Krema II. The gas chambers in both Krema II and Krema III were in underground rooms situated in a north-south direction. The ground-floor brick buildings which housed the ovens in both Krema II and Krema III were situated in an east-west direction, forming a T-shape. The English word for Krema is Crematorium.

In the photo above, the collapsed roof of the underground gas chamber in Krema II can be seen in the foreground. The ruins of the undressing room, which is at right angles to the gas chamber, can be seen on the left. The International Monument, built in 1965, is in the background.

In November 2008, the blueprints of some of the Birkenau buildings were found in an apartment in Berlin, according to this news story. The blueprint for the disinfection building at Birkenau showed a gaskammer, which means gas chamber in English.

The blueprint for Krema II is shown in the photo below. Krema III was a mirror image of Krema II.

Blueprint of Krema II building, found in a Berlin apartment

On the blueprint shown above, the undressing room is on the right. To the left of the undressing room is the above-ground oven room with the ovens designated by 5 squares. The gas chamber is perpendicular to the undressing room. On the blueprint, the gas chamber is labeled L-keller which is an abbreviation for Leichenkeller, which means corpse cellar in English. The undressing room was also called a Leichenkeller on the blueprint.

There was an exterior entrance with a staircase on the north side of the building which led to the Vorraum of Krema II so that the SS men could enter Leichenkeller 1, the gas chamber, without going through Leichenkeller 2, which was the undressing room. In case of emergency, the gas chamber could be used as a bomb shelter for the SS men working in the area, since it had a gas-tight air raid shelter door.

The Krema II and Krema III buildings were originally planned to be built in the Auschwitz I main camp. The original blueprints showed a corpse slide which was located at the intersection of Leichenkeller I and Leichenkeller 2 so that dead bodies could be rolled into the two corpse cellars. When Krema II and Krema III were built at Birkenau instead, the corpse slide was replaced by stairs on the side of the building which faced the main camp road, which was the north side for Krema II and the south side for Krema III. These stairs, facing the main camp road, were for the use of the SS men; the gas chamber victims used the stairs which went down into Leichenkeller 2; these stairs faced the north-south road which intersected the main camp road. This intersection no longer exists because the International Monument was built on top of the main camp road at the west end of the camp.

For maximum effectiveness, the manufacturer's recommendation was that the Zyklon-B pellets, which were used for gassing the prisoners, should be heated to 78.3 degrees and that the poison gas should be circulated throughout the room by the use of a blower, but Krema II had no device for heating the pellets, nor for circulating the gas.

According to the testimony of survivors, Krema II did have a ventilation system with vents on the roof to air out the room after the gassing, since there was only one door into the gas chamber and the room could not be properly ventilated just by opening the door. The ventilation for both the undressing room and the gas chamber at both Krema II and Krema III was included on the blueprints and the ventilation system was mentioned in other documents pertaining to these buildings.

View of the ruins of Krema II oven room

Roof of Krema II gas chamber in the right foreground, 1943

The old photo above shows the Krema II building in 1943 when it was under construction; the roof of the partially-underground gas chamber, covered with about two inches of snow, is on the right. The ceiling of the gas chamber room was around eight feet high; the exterior roof was about three feet above ground.

There were four holes in the roof of the gas chamber in both Krema II and Krema III; the roofs were made of reinforced concrete, six inches thick. Through these four holes on the roof, an SS man, wearing a gas mask, lowered an open can of Zyklon-B gas pellets down into four wire-mesh columns inside the gas chamber. When the gassing was finished, the pellets were retrieved and sent back to the Degesch company so that they could be reused. Michael Kula, a survivor, testified as an eye-witness to the use of wire-mesh columns for the Zyklon-B pellets, but these columns are no longer in existence.

This YouTube video of the ruins of Krema II show what is purported to be "evidence of one of the holes" in the roof of Krema II where Zyklon-B pellets were put into one of the columns.

On January 18, 1945, the Germans abandoned the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, and on January 20, 1945, the Krema II gas chamber was blown up with dynamite. The 210-square-meters underground gas chamber room survived the blast and it is still partially intact. It is possible to climb down into the southernmost quarter of the Krema II gas chamber through a hole in the roof; a few people have descended into the ruins of the gas chamber without permission, including two revisionists who have written unofficial and controversial reports about the condition of the walls, which they claim do not show the blue stains caused by heavy use of Zyklon-B poison gas. However, the narrator of this video says "I have been under this gas chamber. The walls themselves look in the concrete absolutely lined with blue which suggests that this was cyanide."


Back to Photo Gallery 7

Back to Auschwitz II index


This page was last updated on February 24, 2010