Eyewitnesses to Dachau Gas Chamber
Many American soldiers and newspaper reporters, who were there during the liberation or shortly afterwards, wrote their eyewitness descriptions of the Dachau gas chamber, including the following:
"We were then shown a room which looked something similar to a reception room, and off it was another room with the marking 'Showers' on it. Actually it was a gas chamber used by the Germans to kill the prisoners." From Report on the Surrender of the Concentration Camp at Dachau by Lt. W. J. Cowling, III written on May 2, 1945
"Several newspaper people arrived about that time and wanted to go through the camp so we took them through with a guide furnished by the prisoners. The first thing we came to were piles of clothing, shoes, pants, shirts, coats, etc. Then we went into a room with a table with flowers on it and some soap and towels. Another door with the word showers lead off of this and upon going through this room it appeared to be a shower room but instead of water, gas came out." From a letter to his parents, written by Lt. William J. Cowling, III after the liberation of Dachau.
"It really was a gas chamber, a low ceilinged room about 30 feet square. After 15 or 20 persons were inside the doors were firmly sealed and the faucets were turned on and poison gas issued." From article in Chicago Daily Times, April 30, 1945 by Howard Cowan
"Inside as well as outside were gas chambers with adjacent crematory ovens. Sid Olsen of Time Magazine, Walter Riddler of the St. Paul Dispatch and I followed a fresh trail of blood into the brick building with a huge smokestack. Almost 100 naked bodies were stacked neatly in the barren room with cement floors. They had come from a room on the left marked "brausebad" for "shower bath." From the story in the News York Times, April 30, 1945 by Associated Press War Writer, Howard Cowan
"We next approached a large building, outside of which were racks of the striped pajama-like prisoners' uniforms. All were methodically sorted, jackets and pants, and hung apparently for future use. Nearby was a huge mound of this clothing that hadn't been sorted. When we entered this empty building, it appeared to be a large shower room with the usual fixtures near the ceiling. It came as a shock when our guide explained that these fixtures were gas jets by which countless men, women and children met their deaths in the Nazi extermination program." Written by Don Rodda, 3rd Infantry Division, who was brought to Dachau on May 1, 1945 to see the atrocities in the camp, on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The gas chamber, about 20 feet by 20 feet, bears all the characteristics of an ordinary communal shower room with about fifty shower sprays in the roof, cement ceiling and cement floor. But there is not the usual ventilation, and the sprays squirted poison gas. One noticed that the doors, as well as the small window, were rubber-lined and that there was a conveniently situated glass-covered peephole to enable the controller to see when the gas could be turned off. From the lethal chamber a door leads to the crematorium. We inspected the elaborate controls and gas pipes leading into the chamber. Behind the crematorium there was an execution place for those who had to die by rifle fire; and there were ample signs that this place had been in frequent use." From a Report on Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by C.S. Coetzee and R. J. Montgomery who visited the camp on or about 7 May 1945.
"GAS CHAMBERS: the internees who were brought to Camp Dachau for the sole purpose of being executed were in most cases Jews and Russians. They were brought into the compound, lined up near the gas chambers, and were screened in a similar manner as internees who came to Dachau for imprisonment. Then they were marched to a room and told to undress. Everyone was given a towel and a piece of soap, as though they were about to take a shower. During this whole screening process, no hint was ever given that they were to be executed, for the routine was similar upon the arrival of all internees at the camp. Then they entered the gas chamber. Over the entrance, in large black letters, was written "Brause Bad" (showers). There were about 15 shower faucets suspended from the ceiling from which gas was then released. There was one large chamber, capacity of which was 200, and five smaller gas chambers, capacity of each being 50. It took approximately 10 minutes for the execution. From the gas chamber, the door led to the Krematory to which the bodies were removed by internees who were selected for the job. The dead bodies were then placed in 5 furnaces, two or three bodies at a time." From a report by OSS Section, US Seventh Army, entitled Dachau Concentration Camp, Foreword by Col. William W. Quinn, 1945, p. 33.
"The new building had a gas chamber for executions... the gas chamber was labeled "shower room" over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents." Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945
"A distinguishing feature of the Dachau Camp was the gas chamber for the execution of prisoners and the somewhat elaborate facilities for execution by shooting. The gas chamber was located in the center of a large room in the crematory building. It was built of concrete. Its dimensions were about 20 by 20 feet, and the ceiling was some 10 feet in height. In two opposite walls of the chamber were airtight doors through which condemned prisoners could be taken into the chamber for execution and removed after execution. The supply of gas into the chamber was controlled by means of two valves on one of the outer walls, and beneath the valves was a small glass-covered peephole through which the operator could watch the victims die. The gas was let into the chamber through pipes terminating in perforated brass fixtures set into the ceiling. The chamber was of size sufficient to execute probably a hundred men at one time." From Document No. 47 of the 79th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Report (May 15, 1945) of the Committee Requested by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Congress of the U.S. relative to Atrocities and other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany. This document was entered into the Nuremberg trial proceedings as IMT Document L-159
"d. The Gas Chamber. This room measured about 15 x 15 feet with a door leading to the crematorium. The ceiling was studded with what appeared to be shower heads. These were perforated disks set in the ceiling but were attached to no plumbing. In the floor were grills for the admission of gas. There was an observation window in one wall. The victims were told to undress and were told they were to get a bath. They were given towels and sent into the gas chamber. Cyanide gas was admitted through the grills below and when the victims were unconscious or dead the room was ventilated and bodies delivered to the adjacent crematorium. The apparent purpose of the shower bath humbug was to make the task of getting the victims into the gas chamber easier and in a properly unclothed state. Using this subterfuge the victims cooperated in their slaughter." Official Report by Major Reuben Berman on 30 May 1945. Berman was an Army doctor who had been assigned to investigate German medical research installations.
"The grand tour must include the crematorium and the gas chamber, and our escorts lead us to the large concrete and brick building with the high smokestack. The smell here is stronger even than in the quarantined barracks. Outside is a small hill of bodies. In storerooms within, the corpses are piled high. Deaths have exceeded storage space. The technique used by the Nazis is explained. Prisoners scheduled for liquidation were marched to a point near the gas chamber and processed in the same way as those who were to serve prison terms. Then those to be executed were ordered into the building, told to undress, handed soap and towels, and directed into the Brause Bad (shower bath). That is what the black letters say on the sign that hangs over the door, and the prisoners believed it. The door through which they passed is made of smoothly fitting steel; when it is closed, the victims were sealed in. They stood beneath innocent-looking shower heads, evenly spaced on the ceiling; from them the invisible lethal gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide) flowed for ten to twenty minutes. I notice a thick glass window in the rear of the chamber: I am told that through this window a supervisor witnessed the executions so that he could decontaminate when they were over. After the gas had dissipated, special inmates wearing protective clothing entered the chamber after opening another airtight door, then, using grappling hooks, dragged the bodies into storerooms. Other workers cleaned and hosed the chamber. Our guide calls attention to the floor, gently sloped for proper drainage." Captain Marcus J. Smith, medical doctor with US Army Displaced Persons Team 115, who arrived on April 30, 1945. Quoted from his book "The Harrowing of Hell," published in 1972.
"Behind the furnaces was the execution chamber, a windowless cell twenty feet square with gas nozzles every few feet across the ceiling. Outside, in addition to a huge mound of charred bone fragments, were the carefully sorted and stacked clothes of the victims - which obviously numbered in the thousands." Letter to his parents, written by Henry Porter, 116th Evacuation Hospital in Europe, May 7, 1945.
"On our left as we entered, there was a one story brick building. As we faced it, there were two tall chimneys with dark gray smoke drifting upward. In front of this building was a pit about 25 feet square, 15 feet deep and surrounded by a strong wire fence about 10 feet high. On the wall of the pit, adjacent to the brick building were several small doors. Imbedded in this wall about 8 feet high were several meat hooks such as are seen in packing plants. We were told that in another camp, live prisoners were thrust on the hooks and starving dogs were set loose to devour as much of the prisoners as they could reach! Next we walked around the pit described above and entered the "shower" room. It appeared to measure about 30 feet square. It was neatly tiled and the ceiling was low with about 10 or 20 "shower" heads. The floor had a number of drains scattered about. The only oddity was the two doors, made of steel and diagonally opposite each other, constructed to make an airtight closure. The victims were headed (sic) into the room, instructed to remove all their clothing, then they were given a piece of soap and a towel. The doors were then closed and the gas was turned on. An observation window allowed the Nazis to watch the death struggles (in the interest of science, perhaps?)." Written in 1987 by Eugene Rinkey from St. Paul, MN, a Jewish American soldier who visited Dachua on May 2, 1945
"The first sight one sees is the row of small concrete gas chambers. These small rooms, about six feet square--could either be used for decontaminating clothes--and bodies--or put prisoners to death. The next room, large and with a low ceiling first gives the impression of a huge shower room. There are drains in the floor and shower spigots in the ceiling--but all fakes. Prisoner were made to take off all their clothes and enter the room, believing they were to take a bath. As many as 300 persons, I suppose men and women all in one group, were crowded into this room, the door sealed, and the gas turned on. In seven or eight minutes it was all over." Letter from Arthur J. Clayton to his family, July 29, 1945. Published in The Brunswicker, Brunswick, MO.