Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Motor Pool and Fuel

Author: Hans Metzner
Mass Killing Unit of Warthegau

Sonderkommando Lange in German Documents:

Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents:
Part III: Body Disposal (Appendix)
Part V: Funding

Unlike the extermination camps in the Generalgouvernement, Kulmhof was not located next and connected to a main railway line. The victims were buried and disposed not on site, but some 4 km north in a forest. The Sonderkommando had to put considerable own effort in the transport logistics to get the victims to the killing site and the corpses to the burial site. Moreover, the belongings of the killed Jews had to be transported away again. Its motor pool and fuel supply - the latter provided by the State Economic Office of the Warthegau (Gerlich) via the Gestapo Posen (Lohse) to the Kulmhof commandants (Lange, Bothmann) - were thus essential for the smooth operation of the mass murder.

Some important documents for this topic made their way into the files of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration, albeit only because of a series of mistakes committed by some agency. Between December 1941 to July 1942, Sonderkommando Kulmhof had rented in total (but not simultaneously) six trucks from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza (Road Construction Office Inowrocław).

In April 1943, the Reichs Governor in Posen ordered the Ghetto Administration to pay the leasing costs of 27,327.36 RM, which carried out the transaction on 10 May 1943. On the same day, the Gestapo Litzmannstadt informed the Ghetto Administration that the amount claimed in the invoice had been 8.5 RM too high (small, but 1st mistake) and that the Reichsstraßenbauamt has been instructed to pay the difference on their special account 12300 used for settling financial issues of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in the Warthegau (see also Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Funding).

Perhaps at the hint of the Ghetto Administration, which was experienced in correcting notoriously false invoices from transport companies, the Gestapo checked the matter again and found a much more serious mistake. The Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza had included the costs for the fuel of 8,144.40 RM, although this had been provided by the Sonderkommando itself (2nd mistake). But instead of paying the difference to the special account 12300 as requested by the Ghetto Administration, it carried out the transaction to the postal cheque account 14551 of the "State Insurance Institution" Wartheland (3rd mistake).

Thanks to the sloppiness of the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza, otherwise lost, rare correspondence on the loan costs of the Sonderkommando motor pool, its fuel consumption and a cover up bank account of the Sonderkommando has become available (Documents 185, 187- 189 and Document 159 here; summary of monthly fuel consumption per vehicle in Table 3).

TABLE 3: Monthly fuel consumption of the trucks loaned by Sonderkommando Kulmhof from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza (Document 187)

Month P-35863
December 41 400 350 435 - 270
January 42 - 1010 1085 610 1005
February 42 - 670 825 - 685
March 42 - 1565 1545 - 885
April 42 - 1550 1440 - 1515
May 42 - 155 630 - 630
June 42 - - - - 935
July 42 - - - - 85

Historically most valuable are handwritten lists of the daily refuelling of the individual trucks, which allows to determine the active days of the Sonderkommando transport commando and thus to cross-check and improve the data of the deportation of Jews (Document 175, see compilation in Table 4 at the end of this posting). [1] For example, the lists shows considerable transport activity during the supposed gaps in the first three weeks of February and the 2nd half of April 1942. On the other hand, the data known so far includes weeks of excessive deportations far beyond the capacity of the extermination camp. Future research might use these lists to even out some extreme peaks and lows and to establish a more realistic distribution of the extermination activity of the camp.

The Sonderkommando Kulmhof apparently did not have its own suitable transport trucks and so rented the vehicles from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza. On 6 December 1941, the commando obtained three gasoline fuelled trucks with the registration numbers P-35863, P-35864 and P-35092 and on 8 December 1941 a forth one with the registration number P-43813 or P-43818 to exterminate the Jews summoned in Kolo (Warthbrücken),  Dabie (Eichstädt) and Dobra in the period 7 to 17 December 1941.

During the ten days lasting operation, the four trucks needed in average 1,000 liters of gasoline/week and covered a total distance of 4,150 km assuming an average consumption of 35 - 40  liters/100 km (Document 95 here on 35 l/100 km and considering that the Sonderkommando trucks were probably more heavily loaded). With 78 km, 26 km and 12 km round-trips to Dobro (700 victims), Warthbrücken (2,300 victims) and Eichstädt (975 victims), respectively, this corresponds to about 30 - 35 victims per truck load (compared to 20 - 80 people according to testimonial evidence [2] ).

The truck P-35863 was returned after the operation, while the remaining three stayed largely idle between 17 December 1941 to 8 January 1942, i.e. during Christmas and the deportation of the Sinti and Roma from Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof, and were only refuelled once, on 3 January 1942. Hence, most of the Sinti and Roma were not deported by the Sonderkommando, but the police and the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration. The latter had, in fact, rented a 3 tons Borgward truck (registration number P-19203) and a 3 tons trailer from the Warta Transportgesellschaft GmbH since 3 January 1942 for this purpose. The truck was returned on 6 January with a damaged oil pump and the trailer on 10 January with a destroyed canvas. [3]

A diesel truck with the licence plate number IM-97658 was obtained from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza specifically to support the deportation of 10,000 Litzmannstadt Jews, which lasted from 17 to 29 January 1942. The Jews were sent from Litzmannstadt to Warthbrücken by train, where they were forced on trucks to Kulmhof. In the two weeks period, the four trucks fuelled 2,370 liters and performed about 230 - 260 round-trips to Warthbrücken with 40 - 45 victims per trip. The higher loading compared to the estimation for December 1941 could indicate that further vehicles were employed for this action. According to Bruno Flis, the Litzmannstadt police had to provide trucks to Kulmhof at the request of the Gestapo Litzmannstadt. [3b] In any case, the diesel truck IM-97658 was returned after the operation.

On 3 and 4 February 1942, about 1,000 Jews from Sompolno were deported. The three remaining trucks from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza were sufficient for this action if the victims had been brought to Warthbrücken by the narrow gauge railway (else additional vehicles had to be employed).

Between mid-February to early April 1942, about 34,000 Jews were sent from the Ghetto Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof. The deportations supposedly started on 22 February according to the Ghetto chronicle and ended on 2 April according to train records (Documents 23 and 24 here). The vehicles rented from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza consumed 5,370 liters of gasoline during the operation.

From 22 February to 10 March 1942, the Sonderkommando received the Jews from Litzmannstadt in Warthbrücken. Since three transport trucks would have to load 40 - 45 persons each to cope with the 14,000 victims of this period, the Sonderkommando possibly acquired more transport vehicles. Since 11 March 1942, the Jewish people were brought with the narrow gauge railway from Warthbrücken to Powiercie, [4] which reduced the distance for the transport commando from 26 km to a 18 km round trip. On 23 March, P-43813 or P-43819 apparently broke down and was repaired or entirely replaced by the corresponding other truck on 31 March 1942.

The next deportation wave of about 11,000 Jews from the Ghetto Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof (via Warthbrücken and Powiercie) took place between 4 and 15 May 1942. [5] Some days earlier, the vehicle  P-35902 was damaged and taken out of service for three weeks. The two remaining vehicles from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza fuelled 730 liters of gasoline during the action and were probably supported by at least four other trucks.

The vehicles P-35864 and P-35902 were returned around 20 - 24 May 1942 after the granted extermination of around 100,000 victims was almost reached and the large scale deportations were paused (see Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - The Extermination of 100,000 Jews). Only P-43813 or P-43819 was kept in the motor pool and travelled 3,100 - 3,500 km between 25 May to 3 July, after which it was likewise returned to the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza. During this period, the Sonderkommando was mostly engaged in body disposal in the forest camp and the truck was probably employed for transporting provisions, construction material and fuel (see also Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Body Disposal).

Another truck operated by the Sonderkommando was the Saurer P-6357 rented from Fritz Lemcke in Posen. On 10 September 1942, the truck returned 20 liters of diesel to the tank station of the Ghetto Administration (Document 182; the last two digits of the license plate number were mixed up). In November 1942, the vehicle was sent to a repair garage in Litzmannstadt, where the pump elements of the Bosch injection pumps were replaced (Documents 183, 191). The Sonderkommando also employed the truck P-46345, which returned 50 liters of gasoline to the tank station of the Ghetto Administration on 8-9 September 1942 (Document 181). Both vehicles were apparently used for the deportation of Jews from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto to Kulmhof in the first two weeks of September 1942. It is unclear when exactly these vehicle were obtained by the Sonderkommando, possibly in July 1942 to replace the transport trucks from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza.

Furthermore, a passenger bus was operated at the Kulmhof camp to bring the Jewish working detail into the forest camp, to transport the police guards and sometimes also for the deportation of victims. [6] The omnibus IK-56 was leased from Max Kolmar in Beuthen (Upper Silesia). It is not known since when the bus was running for the Sonderkommando and if it is the same bus already used in January 1942. The remaining bill submitted after the Sonderkommando ceased to exist shows that the bus drove 1,415 km between 21 February 1943 to 21 March 1943, when it was taken out of service with a damaged spring. The Sonderkommando neither cared about the proper repair of the vehicle nor about its return to Max Kolmar and to inform about its whereabouts. After the bus was finally found and shipped back to Beuthen, the Ghetto Administration had to pay not only the repair, but also the leasing costs for the period 1 April to 31 December 1943 as well (Documents 186, 190, 192, 193).

The drivers of the transport vehicles were civilians or members of the paramilitary unit Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps (NSKK) mobilised by the Litzmannstadt Gestapo for the Sonderkommando and have been identified as follows for the first period of the extermination camp: Anton "Toni" Wörnzhofer, Gerhard Priebs and Hans Messingschlager; with somewhat less certainty Triebs and Gottlieb Gas(s)mann. [7] Wörnzhofer was a driver of the omnibus IK-56 as borne out by his signatures on the driver's logbooks cross-checked by the SS Sonderkommando members Bürstinger and Richter (Document 184).

According to the Polish Sonderkommando prisoner Henryk Mania, the first gas van employed in Kulmhof was killing with a carbon monoxide bottle and so would have been brought by the first commandant Herbert Lange from his mobile killing operations of mentally ills and Jews in 1941. It was soon taken out of service and may have been used for the disinfection or delousing of clothing. Presumably already in December 1941 (Document 28 here), Lange obtained two 3 tons gas vans killing with gasoline engine exhaust from the RSHA motor pool department. The gas van drivers mentioned Renault and Dodge as make of the vehicles, but the chassis could have been also based on the American make Diamond T, which was used for other gas vans of the same size according to RSHA correspondence. [8]

Around February - April 1942, a third gas van killing with engine exhaust based on a 5 tons French Saurer chassis was provided by the RSHA motor pool department. However, the new "death van" was disliked by the drivers in Kulmhof for its large size and - presumably - difficulties to manoeuvre especially in the forest camp, and was returned after some time. [9] The period of arrival can be inferred from the dispatch of Saurer gas vans since February 1942 and the reference to three gas vans employed in Kulmhof in a memo of the RSHA motor pool of 5 June 1942 suggesting that the Saurer had been sent to the extermination camp some time before (Document 28 here).

It appears that the two smaller gas vans were sent to Kulmhof with RSHA (?) drivers called Basler/Batzler [9b] and Walter, who were replaced in spring 1942 by Gustav Laabs and Oskar Hering. The gas vans were also operated by the head of the Sonderkommando motor pool Erwin Bürstinger and the commandant's driver Walter Burmeister. [10]

Curiously, at first Burmeister did not remember the presence of the two gas vans drivers before Laabs and Hering and testified that Bürstinger, nickname Bazi, was the permanent gas van driver assisted by himself and the Polish prisoners. If Walter had not been mentioned as surname by the Sonderkommando police man Alois Häfele and the local woman Zofia Fratczak, [10b] one could have thought that there was no second permanent gas van driver next to Basler/Batzler and that he was joined by Burmeister and Bürstinger when necessary until the arrival of Hering and Laabs. Another curiosity is that the police men Kurt Möbius and Karl Heinl, who arrived in Kulmhof in December 1941 or January 1942, stated that Laabs was already operating the gas van at the time; Möbius further mentioned "Toni" (the nickname of Anton Wörnzhofer) as gas van driver. [11]

There is no indication that the Saurer gas van was provided with a separate driver from the RSHA, probably because of the relatively short distances in Kulmhof and the number drivers trained in the operation of gas vans already there, the two permanent gas van drivers Hering and Laabs (supported by Burmeister and Bürstinger) were supposed to take care of the vehicle.

Aside these heavy vehicles, some cars were available to the staff of the extermination camp. The Waffen-SS driver Walter Burmeister drove the car of the commandants Herbert Lange (December 1941 - April 1942) and Hans Bothmann (April 1942 - April 1943). The deputy commandant and head of the transport Herbert Otto was assigned from the Umwandererzentrale Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof with a car and his driver Grebe. It stands to reason that a car was also available to the transport officers, Alfred Behm and later Herbert Hiecke-Richter, as well as to the later deputy commandant Albert Plate. Thus, the SS Sonderkommando was most likely a fully motorised unit with at least three cars at its disposal in Kulmhof. [12]

In May 1942, the Ghetto Administration purchased a Mercedes P-15601 in Eichstädt (Dabie) near Kulmhof (Document 168 and 171). The "Daimler-Benz passenger car" was run "in the interest of the Sonderkommmando" (Document 174) and was supposed to replace the damaged Opel Kapitän of the head of Ghetto Administration Hans Biebow. The car does not appear in the fuel records of the Ghetto Administration available since September 1942. It is unclear what happened to the vehicle and if it was ever put into operation by the Ghetto Administration. Since there is no indication in the files of the special account that it was sold (unless the revenue was paid on a Ghetto account), it may have been provided to the Sonderkommando.

On 15 August 1942, the Sonderkommando police man Benno Werner was involved in an accident with his motorcycle with side car POL-40320 on his way from Hohensalza to Kulmhof (Document 179).

The vehicles documented or considered to be in the motor pool of the Sonderkommando Kulmhof are summarised in Table 1.

TABLE 1: Motor pool of Sonderkommando Kulmhof (G = gasoline; D = Diesel; SK = Sonderkommando Kulmhof; UWZ = Umwandererzentralstelle; RSHA = Reichssicherheitshauptamt; RSB = Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza)

Type Chassis Fuel License
plate no.
Operation Owner Assigned
? ? ? 12/41? ? - ?

G POL-714.. 12/41-
RSHA - Walter?
American G POL-714.. 12/41-
RSHA - as above
Saurer G POL-714.. 2-4/42-? RSHA - ?
as above
Car ? G POL-.... 12/41-
Gestapo commandant Burmeister
Car ? G POL-.... 01/42-
Car ? G POL-....? ? Gestapo? transport
Car Mercedes G P-15601 ? Litz.
SK??? ?
? G POL-40320 ?-
police SK police Werner
Bus ? G IK-56 ? -
camp shuttle
Truck ? D IM-97658 16/1/42
RSB transport
Truck ? G P-43813/
RSB transport
Truck ? G P-35863 6/12/41
RSB transport
Truck ? G P-35902 6/12/41
RSB transport
Truck ? G P-35864 6/12/41
RSB transport
Truck Saurer D P-6357 ?-
Truck ? G P-46345 ?-
? transport

For the transport of effects from Kulmhof and the cleared Ghettos to the sorting site Pabianice since late April 1942, the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration employed a whole fleet of trucks, which had been mostly rented from local transport companies (for example Document 170, summary of the records in Table 2, see also Document 95 here).

In July 1942, the Sonderkommando ordered the Ghetto Administration to carry out an obscure payment of 20,000 € to the Reichs Truck Association in Posen (Document 177). The purpose of the payment remains unclear from the correspondence. It may have been the fee for fuel, a tank station, drivers, transport or - as favoured by the round sum - perhaps a fine for violating transport regulations.

TABLE 2: Trucks Employed by the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration in the interest of Sonderkommando Kulmhof

plate no.
Tons Owner Fuel Drivers
P-19204 3 Gerhard Krause diesel Kurutan
P-19216 ? Richard Schonborn ? ?
P-19229 3 Richard Jeske ? ?
P-19240 ? Ghetto Administration gasoline Zasada
P-19244 7 Adalbert Wenske diesel Reberger
P-19245 3 Hans Langer diesel Lankonz.
P-19248 ? Adalbert Wenske diesel Kauner
J. Zanind.
P-19249 4 Adalbert Wenske diesel Powld.
P-19285 4 A. Kohlmann diesel J. Pustag
P-19319 11 Hans Langer diesel Krampf
P-19320 4 Hans Langer diesel ?
P-19330 5 Jelin & Rudomin diesel Botunl.
P-19333 3 Gerhard Krause diesel Wonich
P-19345 3 Richard Kanwischer ? ?
P-19349 3 Ostdeutscher Lloyd diesel Jzuluger
P-19375 3 Eugen Liebich gasoline ?
P-19376 3 Hans Langer diesel ?
P-19384 3 Eugen Liebich ? ?
P-19393 3 Wilhelm Schwertner diesel ?
P-19459 ? Ghetto Administration diesel Kapica
P-19845 ? Adalbert Wenske gasoline Woietz
P-19846 6 Ghetto Administration diesel Jurtschak
P-19860 3.5 Gerhard Krause diesel Bind.
P-19887 4.5 A.Kohlmann diesel ?
P-19889 6 Wilhelm Oerthling diesel? ?
P-19892 7 Richard Jeske diesel? ?
P-19895 ? Ferdinand Torriani diesel Michalatsch
P-19901 3 Eugen Liebich gasoline ?
P-19909 5 Eugen Liebich diesel Nogener
P-19925 3 Ostdeutscher Lloyd ? ?
P-19971 11 Kurt Oerthling diesel Bryle
P-20002 5 Jelin & Rudomin diesel Strykowski
P-20016 5 Nordische Transport-
u. Speditionsgesellschaft
diesel Ziegler
P-20022 ? Böhm diesel Magatag
P-47177 3 Ostdeutscher Lloyd diesel Pojak
P-47504 3 Alfred Workert diesel Riebe
P-47552 ? Ghetto Administration gasoline Rübsam
P-47556 3 Wilhelm Oerthling diesel ?
? 3 Nordische Transport-
u. Speditionsgesellschaft
? ?
? 5 Nordische Transport-
u. Speditionsgesellschaft
diesel ?
? 4 Adalbert Wenske gasoline ?
? 3 Adalbert Wenske ? ?

In March 1942, the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration requested 2,000 liters of fuel for the removal of luggage (from a not further detailed location) of which apparently only 1,000 liters were permitted by the State Economy Office (Document 167). Later, the Ghetto Administration was no longer directly allocated with a fuel contingent for the transport of Jewish effects, but was depending upon the Sonderkommando providing the fuel. In May 1942, the  head of the Ghetto Administration Hans Biebow informed his deputy Friedrich Ribbe that "the Sonderkommando Lange was warned today to supply us with the fuel for the diesel cars, so that no slow-down occurs with the transport of the luggage" (Document 169).

In June 1942, the Ghetto Administration requested 25 tons of diesel and 15 tons of gasoline as "an estimated 370 wagons of clothing are stored at the Sonderkommando Lange, about 900 trucks with trailers are required for their removal" (Document 95 here). The fuel issue was escalated in Posen and to the distress of the Ghetto Administration, the Higher SS and Police Leader Wilhelm Koppe intervened for the Inspector of the Security Police and the Security Service Ernst Damzog to keep the fuel and vehicle allocation in the hands of the Sonderkommando. Biebow raged in an internal memo that "it is a fact that Posen does not know at all what tasks the Ghetto Administration has to fulfil in the context of this special action" (Documents 172 and 173).

Between late April to mid-July 1942, the fleet of trucks (3 to 15 vehicles per day) rented by the Ghetto Administration consumed about 10 tons of diesel and 3,000 liters of gasoline (if the Ghetto Administration also employed own trucks throughout the period, as it is documented in the fuel records for early May 1942 and early September 1942, one may add another up to 2.5 tons of diesel or 2,000 liters of gasoline per every additional vehicle). [13]

The fuel demands of the Ghetto Administration, which were exaggerated in the first place and anticipated a certain cut off, were not entirely granted in Berlin, but anyway 15 tons of diesel and 12,000 liters of gasoline were made available for their purpose in the first of half of July 1942. In accordance with Koppe's decision, the fuel was allocated to the Sonderkommando, which immediately held back 5 tons of diesel and 3000 liters of gasoline for its advance supplies and distributed another 5 tons of diesel and 5000 liters of gasoline to the Ghetto Administration (Document 53 here and Document 176).

The available files do not explain what happened to the remaining 5 tons of diesel and 4,000 liters of gasoline left from the contingent, whether it was retained by the Sonderkommando or consumed by the Ghetto Administration's own motor pool, which also took part in the deportation of Jews from the rural Ghettos both of those fit for work to Litzmannstadt and of those unfit for work to Kulmhof  [13b] (the rented trucks used only about 1,000 liters of diesel since mid July). In any case, the Ghetto Administration was already running out of fuel (especially diesel for the heavy trucks) in mid-August 1942, and Biebow alarmed Oberregierungsrat Herbert Mehlhorn in Posen that "the whole action will inevitably grind to a halt". Mehlhorn "replied that there is nothing one can do about is to be expected that the scarcity of fuel will increase in the near future" (Document 178).

Biebow did not want to put to rest the issue and requested further fuel directly from the State Economy Office, which likewise dismissed the demand as the contingent for the whole action was allocated to the Secret State Police. Regierungsrat Gerlich replied that he "completely left the distribution of this contingent to the Criminal [sic!] Police Headquarters" and "from my still available residual contingent of gasoline and diesel fuel, I can not give away anything for your tasks". At least, the Gestapo Litzmannstadt helped out the Ghetto Administration with 500 liters of gasoline (Document 180).

For the last deportation wave from Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof in the first weeks of September 1942, the Ghetto Administration provided 1-3 vehicles from its motor pool per day fuelling in total about 500 liters of diesel and 200 liters of gasoline for this "special operation". [14]

To sum it up, in the peak month of transport of Jewish effects, late April - late July 1942, the trucks rented by the Ghetto Administration fuelled about 3,800 liters of diesel and 1,000 liters of gasoline per month. In the absence of sufficient data how many vehicles owned by the Ghetto Administration took part in the action, one may suppose that in total 6,000 liters of diesel and 4,000 liters of gasoline were spent per month, i.e. the contingent granted to the State Economy Office of the Warthegau by Berlin for this purpose. 

There are no records known so far on the contingent of fuel available to the Sonderkommando. One supplier of fuel was the company Lauf in Warthbrücken (Kolo). According to two of its employees, the Sonderkommando obtained 5,000 liters of diesel and 2,000 - 2,600 liters of gasoline/month (Adam Swietek) and 16,000 to 20,000 liters of gasoline/month (Zygmunt Antecki), respectively. [15]

Based on the fuel consumption of the trucks rented from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza, one may estimate that 3 - 6 transport vehicles required 3,000 to 6,000 liters of fuel per month. The engine of a gas van operated for at least 30 min for about 50 victims. With an average extermination capacity of 650 victims per day until late May 1942 and taken into account the excessively high fuel consumption of the gas vans, it can be estimated that the gassings required 3,000 - 5,000 liters of gasoline per month. [16] Another 1,000 liters of gasoline may have been used for the bus, the cars and motor cycle(s). According to this estimation, the Sonderkommando needed monthly about 7,000 to 12,000 liters of fuel (mostly gasoline) for its motor pool (incl. the trucks requested from the Litzmanstadt police) in periods of large scale extermination activity (January - May and August - September).

During the so called summer break, which lasted from 22 May to 20 July 1942 with only sporadic mass killings in between, the fuel consumption of the Sonderkommando motor pool decreased drastically due to the limited operation of the transport trucks and the gas vans. Given the gaps of activity of the remaining truck P-43813 or P-43819 from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza, it may have been the only transport vehicle continuously operating at the time (using about 1000 liters of gasoline per month). Hence, the monthly fuel requirement of the motor pool may have been easily as low as 2,000 liters of gasoline at this time (as mentioned by Antecki for the last months of the camp when no large scale extermination and body disposal took place anymore, ref. 15).

On the other hand, the body disposal in the forest camp also found new demands of fuel: as combustible material for the open air cremations and for an excavator and a bone crushing mill. It is known that the cremation pyres were doused and soaked with liquid fuel (see Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Body Disposal), but there is no information on the amount of fuel employed per pyre and how many corpses were actually burnt.

Supposing a cremation capacity of 500 - 750 corpses per day for over six months of body disposal, the ovens in the forest camp would have cremated between 90,000 to 135,000 corpses. According to the estimation of Roberto Mühlenkamp, about 3,300 - 4,900 tons of wood or 620,000 to 900,000 liters of gasoline would have been needed as fuel (Mattogno’s Cremation Encyclopedia (Part 2, Section 4)). In practise, a mixture of solid (wood) and liquid (gasoline, petroleum) fuels was used. As amount to soak a pyre with liquid fuel one may assume 1 liter per corpse or 90,000 to 135,000 liters in total.

Another estimation can be based on the statement of the Lauf employee Zygmunt Antecki that the Sonderkommando received twice the amount or 32,000 to 40,000 liters of gasoline per month in summer 1942. Taking into account the motor pool, some 25,000 liters/month may have been available for the forest camp according to this approach, or 150,000 liters over a six month period. Since the Sonderkommando was able to obtain liquid fuels from other suppliers as well, the actual amount might have been, in principle, also higher than that. 

In conclusion, in the period December 1941 to March 1943, the Sonderkommando Kulmhof could have spent about 70,000 - 100,000 liters of engine fuel for its motor pool, about 30,000 liters for the transport of effects and about 90,000 - 150,000 liters or more for the body disposal in the forest camp (especially the latter figure should be taken with a pinch of salt given the lack of sources and its heavy dependence on guesswork). Thus, the total amount of liquid fuel received by the Sonderkommando Kulmhof in 1941-43 may have been at the order of 200,000 - 300,000 liters. While such use of strategic material for the killing of the Warthegau Jews may sound a lot, it corresponds to only 0.005% of the Third Reich's engine fuel consumption in 1942 [17] and alone for the complete destruction of Lidice a contingent of 150,000 liters of gasoline was provided. [18]

TABLE 4: Daily fuel consumption of the trucks loaned by Sonderkommando Kulmhof from the Reichsstraßenbauamt Hohensalza (Document 175) and deportation data from Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 185 - 187 (except for: Kolo from Gulczyzynski, Oboz Smierci W Chelmnie Nad Nerem, p. 61; Dobra from Pawlicka-Nowak, Swiadectwa Zaglady, p. 388; Lodz deportations in March/April/May 42 from train records; Pabianice from Document 30 here)
Date P-35863
Destination Number
40 50 Kolo 2,300
08.12.1942 60 40 20 Kolo
09.12.1942 50 50 70 60 Kolo
10.12.1942 60 35 60 30 Kolo
11.12.1942 70 45 30 Kolo
12.12.1942 40 35 40 60

13.12.1942 40 30 50 20 Dobra 700
14.12.1942 50 50 40 30 Dobra
16.12.1942 20
17.12.1942 30 70 40 40 Dabie 975
01.01.1942 Lodz
60 40 80 Lodz
50 60
50 Klodowa 1,000
60 60 50 Klodowa
12.01.1942 50 110 60 Klodowa
13.01.1942 40 70 70 Bugaj 600
14.01.1942 90 80 80 Izbica
15.01.1942 90 90 Izbica

16.01.1942 60 Lodz 10,003
17.01.1942 55 80 60 Lodz
18.01.1942 60 15 60 70 Lodz
19.01.1942 60 45 80 Lodz
20.01.1942 60 60 80 50 Lodz
21.01.1942 35 30 50 Lodz
22.01.1942 30 30 70 50 Lodz
23.01.1942 60 40 40 Lodz
24.01.1942 30 50 40 30 Lodz
25.01.1942 50 30 60 Lodz
26.01.1942 55 80 Lodz
27.01.1942 40 40 100 50 Lodz
28.01.1942 30 30 40 Lodz
29.01.1942 20 10 15 Lodz
30.01.1942 50 40 100 50
Sompolno 1,000
60 40 40
80 110 60
40 50 80
50 60
11.02.1942 50
12.02.1942 80 60
16.02.1942 60 60
19.02.1942 55 70 65
20.02.1942 10 25
21.02.1942 25
22.02.1942 40 30 60 Lodz 1000
23.02.1942 40 60 Lodz 1000
24.02.1942 30 70 Lodz 1000
25.02.1942 80
40 Lodz 1000
26.02.1942 60 75
Lodz 1000
27.02.1942 65 90 Lodz 1000
28.02.1942 60 90 60 Lodz 1000
01.03.1942 40 40 Lodz
(1st half)

02.03.1942 50 Lodz
03.03.1942 70 30 50 Lodz
04.03.1942 80 50 Lodz 660
05.03.1942 90 125 Lodz 801
06.03.1942 80 60 110 Lodz 812
07.03.1942 80 80 80 Lodz 801
08.03.1942 55 50 50 Lodz 851
09.03.1942 70 150 40 Lodz 785
10.03.1942 70 30 50 Lodz 790
11.03.1942 60 40 40 Lodz 780
12.03.1942 40 60 50 Lodz 701
13.03.1942 40 45 Lodz 651
14.03.1942 60 50 50 Lodz 602
15.03.1942 30 70 30 Lodz
(2nd half)

16.03.1942 50 50 Lodz 637
17.03.1942 60 80 50 Lodz 768
18.03.1942 30 Lodz 1001
50 40 30 Lodz 1000
20.03.1942 50 60 120 Lodz 1001
21.03.1942 70 80 Lodz 1041
22.03.1942 50 Lodz 303
23.03.1942 40 60 Lodz 797
24.03.1942 30 Lodz 1000
25.03.1942 40 35 Lodz 1000
26.03.1942 55 40 Lodz
27.03.1942 30 60 Lodz 1000
28.03.1942 85 75 Lodz 1001
29.03.1942 50 Lodz 1000
30.03.1942 40 40 Lodz 965
31.03.1942 40 60 Lodz 883
01.04.1942 35 60 30 Lodz 1049
02.04.1942 90 40 Lodz 1301
03.04.1942 50 65 55
09.04.1942 85 105 60
10.04.1942 80 55 70 Leczyca
11.04.1942 95 35 60 Leczyca
12.04.1942 175 95 50
13.04.1942 80 50
14.04.1942 70 40 70
15.04.1942 85 80 70 Brzesc/
(mid month)
< 550

16.04.1942 75 30 Gostynin
17.04.1942 50 150 140 Gostynin

18.04.1942 70 65 50
19.04.1942 120 115 120
21.04.1942 70 60 80
22.04.1942 70 45 120 Osieciny 300
23.04.1942 80 55
24.04.1942 110 135 180
25.04.1942 140 80
27.04.1942 85 50
28.04.1942 115 110
30.04.1942 Wloclawek 3500
01.05.1942 60 Wloclawek
02.05.1942 40 Wloclawek
04.05.1942 80 20 Lodz 1008
05.05.1942 Lodz 914
06.05.1942 75 50 Lodz 1000
07.05.1942 55 50 Lodz 952
08.05.1942 40 Lodz 954
09.05.1942 30 Lodz 952
10.05.1942 30 30 Lodz 1005
11.05.1942 45 30 Lodz 949
12.05.1942 15 50 Lodz 947
13.05.1942 Lodz 1000
14.05.1942 70 30 Lodz 706
15.05.1942 30 Lodz 606
16.05.1942 60
17.05.1942 Pabianice 3200
18.05.1942 50 Pabianice
19.05.1942 40 60 Brzeziny 3000
20.05.1942 30 Brzeziny
21.05.1942 35 30
22.05.1942 50 Ozorkow 300
25.05.1942 40
26.05.1942 60
28.05.1942 60
30.05.1942 70
01.06.1942 60
03.06.1942 60
05.06.1942 80
06.06.1942 40
08.06.1942 40
10.06.1942 60 Radziejow
11.06.1942 50 Radziejow

12.06.1942 55
16.06.1942 60
17.06.1942 60
19.06.1942 40
21.06.1942 40
23.06.1942 60
24.06.1942 60
25.06.1942 20
27.06.1942 60
29.06.1942 25
30.06.1942 65
01.07.1942 40
03.07.1942 45


APL = Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi
BArch = Bundesarchiv
YVA = Yad Vashem Archives
AIPN = Archiwum Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej

[1] cf. Klein, Die Gettoverwaltung Litzmannstadt, p. 390; it remains unclear why Klein considers one of the vehicles as a car, which is unlikely given their similar high gasoline consumption. Also, the vehicles are explicitly referred to as trucks in Document 189.

[2] interrogation of Alois Häfele 23 December 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p. 137: 'There were 3 trucks with 150 people in total.'; interrogation of Theodor Malzmüller of 27 June 1960, BArch B 162/3245, p. 55: 'There were approx. 25 - 30 Jews on every truck.'; interrogation of Rudolf Otto of 7 July 1960, BArch B 162/3245, p.88: '1. Transport of 3 trucks with about 120 Jews...3. Transport of 3 trucks with 90 Jews.'; interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 23 March 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p.70: 'On every truck there were perhaps between 20 to 30 persons, who usually also had a bundle of luggage with them.'; interrogation of Gustav Laabs of 29 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p.45: 'There were approx. 50 to 70 people with luggage on every truck.'; according to the driver of the Ghetto Administration Stanislaw Kapica there were 80 people on a truck, Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 122

[3] APL/221/29666, p.205-210

[3b] interrogation of Bruno Flis of 28 September 1960, BArch B 162/3361, p. 36: 'The State Police requested all the time vehicles, namely trucks, for alleged working details of Jews to Kulmhof. It was stated that this is an order of the commander of the orderly police...Every time we provided three to six vehicles. The orders for the trip were issued for Kulmhof (about 50 km distance).'

[4] APL/221/29665, p. 214

[5] APL/221/29665, p. 84

[6] interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 23 March 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p. 69: 'Dependning on the strength of the transport there were two to three or five to six, temporarily also a bus and heavy truck with trailer.'; interrogation of Wilhelm Schulte of 20 December 1961, BArch B162/3247, p. 141: 'We police men climbed on an omnibus and were driven to Kulmhof.'; interrogation of Michal Podchlebnik of 9 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 14 - 16, English translation in Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 114 - 119: 'About 30 workers including me were loaded into two vehicles - a truck and a bus - and driven to woods near Chelmno.'; interrogation of Zygmunt Szkobel of 25 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 2, p. 11: 'Initially they were transported by truck, later by bus and possibly by truck.'; interrogation of Michael Lewandowski of 4 July 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 2, p. 93: 'I once repaired the Sonderkommando bus'; interrogation of Jozef Piaskowski of 10 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 20 - 23: 'In the workshop where I worked, other cars 'Sonder Komando SS Kulmhof' were also repaired, including a bus.'

[7] interrogation of Fritz Ismer of 9 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p. 80, 82f.: 'Messingschlager, Hans, either NSKK man or civilian, who drove Jewish transports from Warthbrücken to the mill and Kulmhof...Gasmann or Gaßmann, first name not know, same work as Messingschlager...'Toni' was driver of a transport company. He was not a gas van driver... Triebs and Priebs were both civilians, who drove a truck used to transport Jews to Kulmhof. Triebs was probably called Gerhard'; interrogation of Gustav Laabs of 2 December 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p.60f.: 'The drivers of the three trucks, which brought the Jews from Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof were the following persons: 1.) Priebs: It is possible that his first name was Gerhard...2.) Triebs: possibly also Gerhard as first name...3.) Öhlschläger: First name unknown...These three persons were always dressed as civilians. I don't know if they were members of Gestapo and had ranks of the Gestapo. I assumed at the time that they had been mobilised by the Gestapo as civilians.'; interrogation of Karl Heinl of 27 January 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p.58: 'Gerhard Priebs, born about 1910, from Breslau. I have repeatedly seen that Priebs drove Jews with his truck to the Kulmhof palace. The same job was done by a driver called 'Toni', but I don't know his name. I can't remember the drivers Messingschläger, Gasmann und Ölschläger.'; interrogation of Friedrich Maderholz of 20 July 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p.120: 'When I'm asked about the drivers of the extermination camp Kulmhof, I remember Hans Messingschlager, Toni Wörnshofer and Priebs.'; interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 24 January 1961, BArch B 162/3246, p. 163: 'When the name Messingschlager is told me, I remember that he was a driver of a transport truck.'; interrogation of Andrzej Miszczak of 14 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 51-53, Pawlicka-Nowak, Chelmno witnesses Speak, p. 139 - 144: 'I remember that 'Toni' the driver one time (in January 1942) said 'polnisches Auto ist fertig'... driver called Toni and nicknamed 'Prig' by us.'; interrogation of Rozalia Peham of 26 & 27 June 1945,Witnesses Speak, p. 163 - 167: 'Among the members of the Sonderkommando Kulmhof I knew Gustaw Laps (a chauffeur of the 'black automobile'), Richter, Burmeister, Hans Rose, Gottlieb Gassman, who came from Stuttgart and escaped to Switzerland. He was Hans Mesingschlager’s chauffeur; also a chauffeur Hert, who came from Lodz...I received leather for shoes from Chelmno. Apart from this, I also bought from a chauffeur named Tonni a dress for a hen. Tonni very often sold dresses and other belongings to the locals for food products...Gassman, a chauffer, told me that apart from what Jews, 5,000 Gypsies had been murdered in Chelmno.'

[8] interview of Henryk Mania of 27 August 1962, Pawlicka-Nowak, Swiadectwa Zaglady, p. 114 ff.: 'They gassed them on the spot with gas from a cylinder, and at a later period directly with gas from the automobile engine. After killing a lot of prisoners they transported them to the forest, where they were buried in specially dug trenches. In the car-gas chambers were introduced as many people as they could accommodate. The camp had 3 such cars. Two of them were slightly larger, called 'old', and the third very large, similar to the size of a refrigeration truck.'; interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 23 March 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p.69, 75: 'The vans were medium-sized Renault trucks with gasoline engines...The clothes of the victims was delivered to [the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration] after they were desinfected in an old furniture truck.'; cf. Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 204; interrogation of Michal Podchlebnik of 9 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 14 - 16, Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 114 - 119: 'During my stay in Chelmno, two cars were used simultaneously. In addition, there was another van, the largest of the three, but it was out of order and remained in Chelmno in the yard (I saw it had had one wheel taken off).'; account of Szlama Winer of 1942, AZIH , ARG I 1115 (Ring. I/412), English translation in Chelmno witnesses Speak, p. 101 - 118: 'The gas pedal was in the driver's cabin. The driver, dressed in the uniform with a death’s head, was about 40 and was always the same. There were two such vehicles.'; interrogation of Gustav Laabs of 29 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p.44: 'Later I found out that these vehicles were American 3 t trucks. If I remember correctly, they were 'Dodge-vehicles', which had been painted in grey.'; cf. Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 204

[9] interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 17 April 1962, Hauptstaatsarchiv Hannover NDS. 721 Hannover Acc. 97/99 Nr.10/26, p. 201: 'Much later, we also received a Saurer van. It was used only for a short time though, since it was not useful for us. I think it was too big.'; interrogation of Josef Islinger of 26 February 1962, BArch B 162/3249, p. 151: 'There were three gas vans, two smaller ones and one big one.'; interrogation of Fritz Ismer of 9 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p.73: 'At the time [Winter 1941/42] two gas vans were used, later a third one was obtained.; interrogation of Alois Häfele of 20 December 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p.134: 'First there were two, then for some time three and then again two gas vans in operation.'; interview of Henryk Mania of 27 August 1962 quoted in ref 8

[9b] APL/221/29974, p.316 is a receipt of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration of 8 June 1942 on 22 RM obtained for "various ingredients" purchased by a certain "Herr Baszler, Litzmannstadt"; although members of the Sonderkommando were frequently shopping at the Ghetto Litzmannstadt warehouses, the date of the receipt is rather late and lacks a reference to the Sonderkommando that "Herr Baszler" can be identified as the replaced gas van driver

[10] interrogation of Gustav Laabs of 1 December 1960, BArch B162/3246, p.54: 'Oskar Hering. He drove a gas van all the time like I did...Franz Walter or Walter Franz. When I came to Kulmhof, he was still present for 3 or 4 weeks and then sent back to Berlin. As I heard he was a driver, I assume that he drove a gas van before my and Hering's arrival.'; interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 26 January 1961, BArch B 162/3246, p.160: 'It came to my mind that also during the time before Laabs and Hering were gas van drivers, there were one or even two SS men in Kulmhof with the permanent duty to drive the gas vans. According to my memory, one of them was called Baseler or Basler.'; interrogation of Alois Häfele of 20 December 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p. 134: 'drivers [of the gas vans] were a certain Walter, details not known, a certain Basler or Batzler, details not known, as well as Gustav Laabs and Hering.'; interrogation of Josef Islinger of 26 February 1962, BArch B 162/3249, p. 155: 'SS-Oscharf. Gustav Laabs...He was a gas van driver and I have seen in the forest camp numerous times that he arrived with his gas van...SS-Oscharf. Oskar Hering..he was a gas van driver, too...SS-Oscharf. Basler, further details not known. He was also a gas van driver.'; cf. Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 202, in particular the reference to a local Polish women identifying two SS men of the commando as 'Walter' and 'Pasler'

[10b] Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 202

[11] interrogation of Walter Burmeister of 25 January 1961, BArch B 162/3246, p.157; interrogation of Kurt Möbius of 8 November 1961 of BArch B 162/3248, 207: 'This was either driven by an SS-Unterscharführer called Toni from Bavarian, who was very tall and strong or by Oskar Hering. I remember exactly that Laabs was already in Kulmhof and drove the gas van when I arrived there shortly before Christmas; interrogation of Karl Heinl of BArch B 162/3248, p. 54: 'Laabs was already gas van driver when I was ordered to go there.'

[12] interrogation of Karl Heinl of 27 January 1961, BArch B 162/3248, p. 53: 'Furthermore, there were 2 or 3 cars available, which were used by Bothmann, Plate and the Gestapo men'; interrogation of Wilhelm Schulte of 20 December 1961, BArch B 162/3247, p. 147: 'According to my knowledge, the Jewish transports were organized by SS-Scharführer Richter, who drove ahead with a car...'; interrogation of Fritz Ismer of 9 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p. 72: 'Kurze Zeit darauf erhielt ich von [Krumey] den Befehl mit dem Obersturmführer Otto, der bisher in der UWZ gearbeitet hatte, dem Schar oder Oberscharführer Goede, Karl sowie einem Fahrer, der mit seinem PKW Otto zur Verfügung stand, eine neue Tätigkeit aufzunehmen.'; see document 17 in Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Origin and Foundation 

[13] figures estimated from APL/221/29666-29669, 29674, 30182, 30183

[13b] Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 121- 12

[14] APL/221/29666, p. 263

[15] interrogation of Zygmunt Antecki of 13 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 40: 'According to my calculations, the average Sonder Kommando SS Cuhlmhof received 4-5,000 liters of gasoline per week. I remember that in the summer of 1942, much more gasoline was provided for the Sonderkommando SS Cuhlmhof. [...] At the end of its operation, the Sonderkommando SS Cuhlmhof received up to 2,000 liters of gasoline a month.'; interrogation of Adam Swietek of 13 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 45: 'The Sonder Commando SS Cuhlmhof was assigned about 5,000 liters of crude oil per month. Gasoline was originally issued to them 2,000-2,600 liters per month - then (in the summer of 1942) they were given more gasoline.

[16] interrogation of Jozef Piaskowski of 10 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 20 - 23: 'After this incident, I heard the Strassenbauamt drivers talking to each other about that the engine of this car combusts 75 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers (normally it would have consumed less than 30 - 40 liters)'; interrogation of Zenon Rossa of 13 June 1945, AIPN GK 165/271, volume 1, p. 46-47: 'An engine of this type described by me for the van can consume around 75 liters of gasoline under high load.'; interrogation of Hermann Bothe (head of the motor pool of Einsatzkommando 8) of 26 August 1964, YVA TR.10/1118, p. 125: 'I know that the gas van driver had a very high gasoline consumption...'

[17] according to table 73 in Eichholtz, Geschichte der deutschen Kriegswirtschaft, volume 2, p. 355, the Third Reich consumed 6,483,000 tons of engine fuel in 1942

[18] Národní archiv 921 sg.110-783, p. 53

last updated:
3 January 2018

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