Sunday, November 06, 2016

Update of Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Becker Letter

Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans
Part IX: The Just Memo

This supplementary post to Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans Part IV compiles more sources supporting the reliability of the content of the Becker letter.

Saurer and Brakes

According to the Becker letter "the sleeve of the combined oil-air brake was broken" of Saurer gas vans. The following accounts report brake damages of Saurer gas vans. The gas van driver Wendl specifically testified on the failure of a rubber sealing of his Saurer upon cold temperatures.

Josef Wendl of Einsatzkommando 8:
"On my journey I rested again in Minsk. The brake was frozen there. The damage could not be repaired. So I drove to Smolensk with this damage."
(examination of 6 October 1970, YVA TR.10/9, p. 689)
"It was a French 'Saurer vehicle'...The vehicle was not in operation at the time, I think in January 1942, because the membrane of the brake device was not working. There was no corresponding spare part available."
(interrogation of  28 October 1963, YVA TR.10/1, p. 28)

Emil Le. of Einsatzgruppe D:
"Later in Rostov I had to repair the brakes of such a gas van. I can tell fore sure that one of these gas vans was a Saurer truck...Shortly after our arrival in Rostov a gas van came to us for repair from Stavropol. In my opinion the brakes of the vehicle had to be repaired. As far as I remember, me, my comrade Lipinski and some Russians have done the repair. The vehicle was in our repair garage for three days."
(interrogation of 29 August 1963, BArch B162/964, p. 1270f.)

Becker himself confirmed the episode in his report:
"The details on the production of the sleeves in the report are correct."
 (interrogation of 28 January 1960, BArch B162/5066, p. 49)

Saurer and Road Conditions

The following testimonies recount cases that a gas van was stuck in the terrain and had to be pulled out by other vehicles. 

Heinz Schlechte, gas van driver of Einsatzkommando 8:
"I had the misfortune to stuck with my vehicle in a water filled hollow....My vehicle was towed away by another gas van."
(interrogation of 7 November 1964, YVA TR.10/5, p. 599)

Walter Ve. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"The gas van was stuck on the way to the coal mine, before it reached the coal mine. We should have made the van going again with other vehicles. When we arrived, the van had already made its way to about 30 to 40 m from the mine and was already unloaded. Still, the gas van had to be pulled out of the dirt."
(interrogation  of 1 December 1961, BArch B162/1570, p. 229)

Paul Br. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"The following had happened in Stalino. They told that the gas van was stuck on its way to the execution. The exhaust gas could not be lead into the inside of the vehicle. But the people inside suffocated from lack of air."
(interrogation of 12 December 1961, BArch B162/1570, p. 280)

Camouflaging the Gas Vans

The camouflaging of some of the gas vans of Einsatzgruppe D with windows shutters mentioned in the letter has also been described in the following accounts.

August Becker, gas van inspector:
"The vehicles got two windows shutters on each side. I have ordered the camouflaging at the suggestion of the drivers...."
(interrogation of 28 January 1960, BArch B162/5066, p. 49)

Emil Me. of Sonderkommando 10a in Krasnodar:
"It had a box, like a furniture van, and was closed with two big doors at the back. There was a kind of windows shutter at the side, so that it looked like a trailer home..."
(interrogation of 24 July 1962, BArch B162/1220, p. 1590)

Georg We. of the Wehrmacht in Krasnodar:
"I noticed that the vehicle had some windows with curtains."
(interrogation of 23 May 1969, BArch B162/1236, p. 5048)

Vassily Tishchenko, helper of Sonderkommando 10a in Krasnodar:
"These vans were five-ton or seven-ton motor trucks, he said, with bodies built over them. These had double walls and false windows which gave them the appearance of motor buses."
(examination of 14 July 1943, The People's Verdict. A Full report of the proceedings at the Krasnodar and Kharkov German atrocity trials, p. 16f.).

Killing in Front-line Cities

Recall that Alvarez claimed that "German military front line units...most certainly would not have tolerated stirring up the civilian population by having gas vans driving around killing civilians" in the front-line city Taganrog. Yet, executions were carried out in the town by the Security Service already before the gas van arrived there, according to Arthur Am. of Sonderkommando 10a (interrogation of 21 September 1965, BArch, B162/1249, p. 5), Heinrich Gö. of Einsatzgruppe D (interrogation of 4 March 1965, BArch B162/1226, p. 2677) and Leo Ma. of Sonderkommando 10a (interrogation of 21 January 1969, BArch B162/1232, p. 4275). Either these were tolerated by the army or carried out in secret without consent. In any case, the Sonderkommando did apparently not bother about that Taganrog was a front-line city and refrained from liquidating people.

The presence of a homicidal gas van in Taganrog before Rostov was taken over is corroborated by several members of the German forces.

August Becker, gas van inspector:
"The gas van drove to Taganrog because it was requested by the local Einsatzkommando..."
(interrogation of 14 April 1962, BArch B162/1149, p. 1041)

Karl Od. of Sonderkommando 10a:
"End of March/early April [1942] we drove from Simferopol via Berdjansk and Mariupol to Taganrog. I made this trip in the box of a gas van."
(interrogation of 8 February 1965, BArch B162/1226, p. 2557)

Ewald Sc. of Sonderkommando 10a in Taganrog:
On the shown photograph, I cannot recognise Dr. Becker as the driver of the gas van with which we came back from Simferopol. It is apparently a very early photograph. Fact is that the driver of this gas van was a SS-Untersturmführer with red hair."
(interrogation of 28 June 1966, BArch B162/1230, p. 3754)

Otto Ohlendorf of Einsatzgruppe D:
"One van was sent to Taganrog immediately without my seeing it and never came back, and the other two vans remained in Simferopol"
(Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, Volume 4, p. 301)

Paul Ba. of Sonderkommando 10a in Taganrog:
"I also remember that I have seen the gas van in the yard of our accommodation and I know that some prisoners were occasionally killed in the gas van."
(interrogation of 13 August 1965, BArch B162/1228, p. 3251)

Karl Na. of Einsatzgruppe D:
"In Taganrog, it was the first and last time I have seen a so called gas van. It stood on the yard of our accommodation."
(interrogation of 11 February 1965, BArch B162/1226, p. 2585)

Unloading by the Perpetrators

The Becker letter explains that "various commandos unload after the gassing using their own men". The unloading of the gas van by members of the German paramilitary forces is best known for Einsatzkommando 6 in Stalino, which is also precisely one of the commandos Becker visited during his trip ("When I arrived in Stalino and Gorlowka some days later...").

Paul Br. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"I have experienced the gas van two times in Stalino. One day, I was driven to a closed down coal mine with 5-7 comarades.....The gas van arrived. It drove backwards to the coal mine. It stopped at a distance of 6-7 m. The doors of the vehicle were opened by the driver. A terrible smell advanced to us. There were about 25-30 dead persons. Among these were men, adolescents and female persons. All were dead. The corpses still displayed the death struggle they had gone through. This appearance was horrible. Some could not keep back their urine and excrements. I was ordered with my comrades to unload the vehicle and to throw the corpses into the coal mine."
(interrogation of 12 December 1961, BArch B162/1570, p. 280)

Reinhard Bu. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"The people were loaded onto the gas van and Sackenreuther drove to the mine. Sackenreuther handled at some pipe and kept the engine running for about 20 minutes. Sometime later the vehicle was unloaded and the corpses were thrown into the mine. It were each time about 50-60 persons in the gas van, including women and children. The people knocked against the walls of the van. When it was unloaded, the deaths were wedged together, the walls were smeared with excrements and the urine was leaking out. We had to help unloading the gas van about 3-5 times."
(examination of 25 October 1965, BArch B162/1580, p. 41)

Rudolf Ho. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"On another occasion I have taken part in the ordered cordoning of the unloading of the gas van...When the doors were opened, I saw that the van was full of corpses....among the corpses were women and children. It was no doubt an execution of Jews. That people doing the unloading, who certainly belonged to our unit, were wearing gas masks, rubber gloves and rubber boots, I did not notice." 
(interrogation of 12 December 1961, B162/1570, p. 274)

Franz We. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"Shortly afterwards, we vacationists were loaded on a truck and brought to a coal mine on a hill. After about 30 min the gas an arrived with its driver Sackenreuther....The van was driven backwards to the mine, Sackenreuther opened the back doors. A cloud of smoke came out of the inside of the vehicle. One could not approach the vehicle for the first 5 or 10 minutes. Before the van had arrived at the mine, Eugen En. said: "Now you will get your mouths stuffed! Take the gas masks." We also received rubber gloves and rubber boots. When the cloud was gone, we had to pull out the deaths from the van and throw them in the 8 m distant coal mine."
(interrogation of 29 November 1961, B162/1570, p. 250)

Walter Wi. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"I had to help with the unloading of the gas van. The corpses were thrown into a mine. I was ordered to unload the van because those, who were ordered to do the job previously, refused to do it anymore."
(examination of 25 October 1965, BArch B162/1580, p. 45f.)

Friedrich Z. of Einsatzkommando 6:
"When the gas van was unloaded, one could see the terrible death struggle which had gone on...We wore gloves during the unloading..."
(examination of 25 October 1965, BArch B162/1580, p. 82)

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