The Executive Office of the President through the War Refugee Board today made public two eye-witness reports of the horrible and barbarous events which occurred in the two notorious extermination camps — Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Brikenau — in Upper Silesia.
The sixty-page horror story, containing details and statistics of the murders in these camps, is released by the War Refugee Board "in the firm conviction that the reports should be read and understood by all Americans."
This official, Presidential confirmation of the worst horrors charged to the Germans is prefaced by a statement that it is now "beyond denial that the Germans have deliberately and systematically murdered millions of innocent civilians — Jew and Christians alike — all over Europe," as part of the campaign of terror and brutality, unparalleled in history which was "part of the German plan to subjugate the free peoples of the world."
The atrocities reported in detail are characterized by the report as "so revolting and diabolical" that "the minds of civilized people find it difficult to believe that they have actually taken place. But the governments of the United States and of other countries have evidence which clearly substantiates the facts."
The report is based on eye-witness accounts given by two young Slovakian Jews who escaped in April 1944, after spending two years in the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau and on a report of a non-Jewish Polish army major who is the sole survivor of one group imprisoned at Auschwitz.
DOCUMENT ESTIMATES 1,765,000 JEWS GASSED TO DEATH IN ONE CAMP
The report gives a "careful estimate" of the number of Jews gassed to death in Birkenau between April 1942 and April 1944 as 1,765,000, of whom 900,000 came from Poland; 300,000 from Polish camps for foreign Jews; 150,000 from France; 100,000 from Holland; 60,000 from Germany; 50,000 each from Belgium and Lithuania; 45,000 from Greece; 30,000 from Slovakia; 50,000 from Yugoslavia, Italy and Norway together; and 30,000 from Bohemia, Moravia and Austria together.
A dense netting of high-tension electric wires surrounded the camp at Auschwitz which electrocuted those who tried to escape. Those caught trying to escape were hanged in the presence of the whole camp. Although there were many attempts to gain freedom, the two Jews who give this eye-witness account state they were the only ones deported from Slovakia to Auschwitz or Birkenau who managed to get away.
Prisoners were kept in cubicles so crowded and cramped that a man could not lie stretched out nor sit upright. Working conditions were so brutal that 30 to 35 out of a working party of 200 men died each day. After a bitterly hard day’s work prisoners had to drag tools, heavy cauldrons and the bodies of those who had died during the day at a brisk pace. Those who lagged were knocked down or beaten to death. Food was so bad that stomach troubles as well as epidemics and foot diseases spread throughout the camps.
GERMANS DOCTORS PERFORMED "EXPERIMENTS" ON JEWISH GIRLS
Girls who worked at Birkenau were "beaten and brutalized and their mortality was much higher than among the men." Among the horrors described in the report is that of a "biological laboratory" in Auschwitz where SS, civilian and internee doctors performed "experiments" on Jewish girls and women. The prisoners were furnished filthy. patched and practically worn-out clothing. In 1940 when one of their number tried to
"Prominent guests from Berlin" were present at the inauguration of the first Birkenau crematorium in March 1943, when 8000 Cracow Jews were gassed and burned. The guests, both officers and civilians, used a special peephole to see the victims done to death and "were lavish in their praise of this newly erected installation." Himmler was reported as visiting Birkenau on May 15 or 16, 1944.
Four Dutch Jews who came to Auschwitz as an investigating commission in the summer of 1943 were treacherously murdered. In preparation for the visit of these "distinguished looking men" the Dutch Jews in Auschwitz received better clothes. as well as regular eating equipment and food. After having been politely received and shown over the cleaned-up camp buildings, the four Dutch Jews signed a statement that they had found everything in Auschwitz in good order. Then they asked to see the crematoria at which, they had been told, those who died in the camp were cremated. The four Dutch visitors were taken to Birkenau accompanied by the camp leader, Aumayer, and were there shot from behind. A telegram was sent to Holland reporting that the four men had been victims of "an unfortunate automobile accident."
Atrocities in the "infirmary" of Auschwitz included the killing by injections of phenol in the region of the heart of 80 to 90 percent of the Jews "hospitalized" there. Many sick Jews applied for admission to the infirmary with the intent of thus committing suicide instead of having to throw themselves on the high-tension wires to obtain the release of death. Among the prisoners murdered by phenol injections while lying ill in the hospital was the famous Polish actor Witold Zacherewicz.
"CONCERT PARTIES" CONDUCTED TO TORTURE JEWISH INMATES
During "concert parties" at the camp of Majdanek at Lublin (where one of the Slovakian Jews stayed briefly) camp inmates had to stand for hours after a hard day’s work singing to the conducting of a Jewish orchestra leader balancing himself on a rooftop, while the SS men laughed. Rabbi Eckstein from Sered was a few minutes late for roll call at one of these parties, as he suffered from dysentery. The group leader had him seized, dipped him head first into one of the latrines, poured cold water over him, drew his revolver and shot him.
The gassing of victims at Birkenau followed the ironical donation of a towel and a small piece of soap to each victim who was told he was going to bathe. The victims were then crowded into the gas chamber, shots were fired to make those inside huddle closer together, heavy doors were closed, the room temperature was raised, and SS men in gas masks climbed to the roof whence they dropped a poisonous cyanide mixture from cans labelled "Cyklon, for use against vermin." After three minutes all in the chamber were dead or at death’s point.
Life was held so cheap that if the prison recorder made an error and mistakenly listed a death, the mistake was simply straightened out by killing the bearer of the number listed as dead.
At least 30,000 Jews from Fiume, Trieste and Rome were immediately gassed in December 1943. At the end of February and beginning of March 1944, a transport of 3,000 Jews from Holland. Belgium and Vichy, France, were for the most part gassed immediately on arrival.
On May 15, 1944, the first mass transports of Jews arrived in Birkenau from Hungary. Some 14,000 to 15,000 arrived daily. A spur railroad track was hastily built to the crematoria where all but 10 percent were immediately gassed and burned. Corpses were burned day and night in great pits 30 meters long by 15 wide, dug in the "Birkenwald."
The facts in this report, according to the War Refugee Board, "tally with the trustworthy yet fragmentary reports hitherto received, and dates given with regard to transports to various camps agree with the official records. These statements can, therefore, be considered as entirely credible."
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.