Saturday, February 06, 2016

Statement of Maximilian Grabner

Here we publish for the first time the statement of Maximilian Grabner as it appears in GARF f.7021 (files of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission), op.108, d.34, ll.29-33.

Several preliminary remarks are necessary.

1. Completeness.

We're publishing the complete typed German text as it appears in the file (with most obvious typos corrected; name spelling irregularities are left intact), which is entitled "Copy of a record made by Obersturmführer Grabner by his own hand". This, however, was not the final version of Grabner's statement. In the files of the Auschwitz Garrison trial we see the same statement with several more pages of material after the last entry reproduced here (NTN 136, vol. 53a, pp. 111ff.).

Both versions stem from the files of the investigation of Grabner's crimes by the Vienna police. Although a typed copy, Grabner's statement in GARF has his signature on each page.

2. Where was it written?

The statement was written by Grabner in Vienna. This follows conclusively from several strands of evidence, of which I will mention the following:
  • There exists a list of materials gathered by the Vienna police during the investigation of Grabner (NTN 135, vol. 53, p.25). Our document (or rather its expanded version, which, however, automatically includes this complete text) is item 36 in the list.
  • The reference to the copy of the statement in BStU files identifies it as having been written in Vienna - see Konrad Beischl, Dr. med. Eduard Wirths und seine Tätigkeit als SS-Standortarzt im KL Auschwitz, 2005, S. 107n417.
  • In the Soviet file the statement is right in the middle of the materials sent to the Soviets by the Vienna police and constitutes a part of the set, being a document no. 13.
  • Dr. Heinrich Dürmayer, a Communist and a former Auschwitz prisoner (Jan.'44 until the evacuation), and, after the war the chief of Staatspolizei Wien for a time, testified during the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial that Grabner wrote the statement in Vienna at Dürmayer's behest.
3. When was it written?

The statement is not dated, therefore we must establish the possible time period of its creation from circumstantial evidence.
  • The statement was written by Grabner during his time in Vienna, therefore necessarily between Aug. 4, 1945 and July 12, 1947.
  • As mentioned above, the Viennese police supplied documents both to the Soviets and to the Poles (both sets have the reference no. 6268/45; GARF, op. cit, l.12; NTN, ibid.). A comparison of the two sets of documents shows that the Soviet file contains only materials from 1945, with the latest date being Sep. 26. The Soviet file itself has "1945" on the cover.
    Whereas the Polish file contains further materials stemming from the investigations far beyond September 1945: it contains statements made in October, November, December 1945, and numerous statements from 1946 up to the Abschlussbericht dated 14.08.46.
    That is, the Vienna police sent these statements to the Soviets quite early on. From all of the above we can conclude that the statement was written in late 1945. Quite probably in September.
  • The above-mentioned Dr. Dürmayer testified that the statement was written in 1945.
(I want to thank Nick Terry for the NTN materials and Hans for bringing Dürmayer's testimony to my attention..)

Grabner's statement
Translated excerpts
Grabner on the first gassings:
In 1941, I believe in September, a telex from Glücks in Berlin was secretly shown to me by an SS man from the commandant's office, from which I, as always, made me a copy. On it was written in a few words that a Dr. Schumann and a Dr. Müller would arrive at Auschwitz, that all the prisoners desired by them were to be shown with all the procedures,  and then all the selected prisoners should be made available. Höss knew the actual truth, as I would conclude later.  
The action, as far as I can remember, was the "Action concerning cripples, incurable, incorrigible, particularly professional criminals".

The selected prisoners were then taken by the troops and the preventive detention camp leader to the vicinity of Dresden by means of a transport and those were about 4-500 prisoners. The files, as far as I can remember, had to be passed along with them. Later I learned that they were gassed. After some time came the death notices from the doctor through the commandant’s office, on which was written a normal cause of death (faked). Their surviving relatives had to be informed, that their relatives had died in the camp.

And after about 2-3 months came supposedly yet another doctor with a secretary, who did the same, under the same guise of a telex from Glücks-Liebehenschel from Berlin.

Those were also about 300 prisoners and they should have been picked up by a bus. I could not find out the destination. This removal transport didn’t happen and so the gassings began. Here Höss undertook with the then SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Schwela an experimental gassing in the cells of the commandant's office’s detention block. The gassing I think with Blaugas [HCN] in 2 successive shifts, of the prisoners destined for removal. They worked with gas masks. These were then allegedly - I was for a few days on vacation - burned in the first crematorium at the former SS hospital in the main camp. They were transported at night from the camp.
On the gassings in crematorium I (and openings in the roof):
Since the gassings in the detention block 11 apparently went not so smoothly or were too cumbersome, and could be seen, Fritzsch, whether on order or acting on his own, had 3 rectangular openings made in the morgue of the mentioned crematorium in the main camp and then used the morgue as a so-called gas chamber for continual gassings.

The holes in the ceiling were then used for introduction of the gas. And so began the constant gassings. Leading in these gassings was Dr. Schwela under supervision of Höss. The medical assistants always had pour in the gas. Further on the doctor was the leader responsible for the gassings with medical assistants under supervision of Hoss and of the preventive detention camp leader as his representative.
On the origin of the Bunkers and on certain code words:
Because of the erection of the women’s camp first in the main camp and then in Birkenau, the crematorium in the main camp became too small due to the large death toll and Höss had, under the guidance of the physician Wirths, 2 vacant farmhouses * where Poles had been, whom Schwarz chased away on the orders of Hoess without any belongings, were built the so-called gas chambers by the construction office under the designation "Bathhouse". There, the large transports were ** from Slovakia, then from the Reich, former Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, as well as from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, I think also Norway, then, as I wasn’t in the camp any longer, came the transports from Greece, from the Russian regions and also from Hungary, mostly Jews, with the description "Due to the decree of the Führer" with the code word "relocation or separate accommodation" and this decree was to be treated as a most strictly secret matter of the Reich.
* From the German grammar here it is obvious that Grabner lost his train of thought because of all the following subordinate clauses and never finished the sentence properly; as is clear from the continuation, he meant that Höss had the houses converted into gas chambers.

** Here Grabner again writes an overly long German sentence and forgets to put a corresponding verb at the end; the verb is obviously “gassed” or similar.

On the burning of corpses at the Bunkers:
Returning to the gas chambers built from the farmhouses, I have the following to add: 
The burning of the bodies from the said gas chambers was first carried out, I think, by Höss personally, then by the trusty Hössler and helpers. 
It was [reportedly] a pyre arranged from wood, then doused with gasoline, then covered with corpses and then set on fire. 
Then the corpses were being thrown on it constantly, so the fire was burning continuously.
Prior to this incineration the corpses were being buried for some time in large pits, specifically near the mentioned facilities; later they had to be excavated again and burned on an open fire of the previously mentioned kind by Hössler and Moll on Höss’ order. The incineration was carried out, as mentioned, by Hössler and Moll, as well as, I think, by Palitsch with some SS men for the supervision of the Sonderkommandos (consisting of prisoners) which were necessary for this purpose. 
The prisoners allegedly received foodstuffs, and the SS men received Schnapps and foodstuffs as a so-called special allocation for the gassings and burnings. 
On the Birkenau crematoria (and wire-mesh columns):
Immediately Höss and Wirths went to Berlin because of the construction of large crematoria and gassing equipment - or had been ordered to go there - and it was, I think, in the spring of 1942. 
Then the company Topf & Söhne, I think from Erfurt, appeared, which immediately had to build in the camp, with the construction office, the large facility - 2 with 15 “heaters” [muffles] and 2 with 4 “heaters”. They were built next to the Birkenau camp and I think finally completed in the summer of 1943. 
They had a large gas chamber, I think 5 m wide and 10-12 m long, and a morgue of the same size, and an elevator to the ovens, and further in each room a ventilation and exhaust system. Furthermore, an operating room, a coal room with a rail track for the supply of coal to the “heaters” and a rail track from the elevator to the ovens, as well as a common room. 
Further, a gas chamber, [where], going down from its ceiling to the floor, [were] affixed four tubes grated with wire mesh. These facilities were not properly in operation during my time.
On the capacities of the crematoria and gas chambers:
According to calculations of Topf & Söhne the large crematorium facilities could burn 1000 corpses a day and the smaller two - each 400 corpses a day. I don’t know whether this happened. The capacity of the gas chambers was [reportedly] 1000 each, in the two smaller ones - 800 men each.
On the number of victims:
On Höss’ order the political department had to compile statistics and create a weekly or monthly report for the commandant’s office and for delivery to Berlin. As far as I know, the garrison doctor and the preventive detention camp director also compiled statistics and sent them daily to Berlin. All gassings, as long as I was in the camp, have likely amounted to 800,000 up to 1,000,000. To that belong the so-called camp cleansings by Wirths and Aumeier on wish or order of Höss.

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