Sunday, January 01, 2017

German Document on Gas Van Blown up by Einsatzgruppe D

The available German records from the Third Reich contain a number of references to the infamous homicidal gas vans, which were used by the German paramilitary forces like the Einsatzgruppen to kill people, mostly Jews, without attracting attention and sparing the nerves of the executioners. The vehicles were disguised as special van or s-van in some of the correspondence. However, in the daily usage in the commandos, they were simply known as gas vans or g-vans (as common in this context, the term van is used to translate the more general German Wagen = wagon).

This quite open language was also maintained in a report of Einsatzgruppe B on its motor pool, e.g. "both smaller gas vans will be sent to SK 7a and SK 7b after completing the operation at EK 8", which was already featured in the posting Mattogno and the Activity & Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B on its Gas Vans.

Another case is a radio message from the head of Einsatzgruppe D to the RSHA, which reports a "g-van" in its motor pool and that another "g-van has been blown up and burned" upon the retreat of the group from Stavropol in the North Caucasus region to Rostov in early 1943. The destruction of the gas van was confirmed by several former members of Einsatzgruppe D in 1962 - 1970 in West-Germany, many years before the document became available to researchers and investigators after the German reunification. The independent corroboration is strong evidence on the existence of the German homicidal gas vans.

Attached below are extracts of the document and supplementary sources.

The Document

Radio signal from Walther Bierkamp to Ernst Kaltenbrunner of 18 February 1943:

"6 Pkw, 7 Lkw, 1 G-Wagen, 1 Tankwagen
Ein G-Wagen auf Marsch gesprengt und verbrannt."
"6 cars, 7 trucks, 1 g-van, 1 tank truck
A g-van was blown up and burned on march."
(transcription from Stephen Tyas here citing BStU ZR 920, Bd 51, pp 51-52; the document is also cited in Angrick, Besatzungspolitik. Die Einsatzgruppe D, 2003, p. 673f.)

The Meaning of G-Wagen

Wilhelm Ka., Security Police in Minsk:
"During my stay in Minsk, I became aware that Gaswagen - so called G-Wagen - existed and were used."
(interrogation of 3 February 1970, BArch B 162/3460, p. 48)

Johann Ha., Sonderkommando 7b:
"...the driver told me that it was a secret Gaswagen....When I learnt that this vehicle was a G-Wagen, I told Ott, whom I still trusted at the time, that I want to be relieved as driver of this vehicle."
(interrogation of 2 September 1966, BArch B 162/18154, p. 57) 

On the Blown up Gas Van

Helmut Du., Sonderkommando 11a:
"I have not seen the Gaswagen in Maykop. I have first seen it when it was blown up upon the beginning of the retreat. I don't know anymore if this was in Maykop or just after Maykop."
(interrogation of 21 March 1970, BArch B162/1067, p. 4012)

Herbert Sp., Einsatzkommando 12:
"On the way to Rostov, we were a pretty motley crew. I saw many strange faces. There were also parts of the group staff with us. One day, it was reported that the Gaswagen failed and broke down. I drove about 10 km back with some men and found the gas van. The vehicle was loaded with belongings from Volksdeutsche, who drove back with our commando. After unloading the vehicle, I have blown it up after pouring over two canisters of gasoline. According to my memory, it was a French or English vehicle. It was a 5 or 6 tons truck. The coachwork was of wood on the outside. On the inside it was probably lined with zinc sheet. There were two big swing doors at the back. As far as I remember, I have received the order to destroy the vehicle from Standartenführer Dr. Müller. I have not seen the driver of the vehicle."
(interrogation of 12 October 1962, BArch B 162/1151, p. 1353)

Werner Kl., Einsatzgruppe D staff:
"I know from hearsay that Einsatzkommando 12 had a Gaswagen upon its retreat from Stavropol, which was blown up because of damage on the march."
(interrogation of 2 May 1966, BArch B 162/1155, p. 2327)

Adolf Ar., Einsatzkommando 12:
"The retreat of EK 12 began at the end of December 1942. Orders were given and we travelled in one long column of vehicles. We spent at least one night en route. The column leader was Hersmann. In the vehicle column was also a truck of closed-construction and we all knew that it was a Gaswagen. This Gaswagen on the route from Stavropol to Rostov was blown up...Hersmann gave the order to blow up the Gaswagen"."
(interrogation of 13 March 1963, BArch  B 162/1153, p. 1954, translation based on Stephen Tyas' here)


  1. These 19 "G-Wagen" mentioned in other messages sent the same week as Bierkamp's.

    Clearly they weren't homicidal gas vans. Do you know what they were, and how the EG and police avoided confusing the two types? These ones were very common; I saw another decode in an earlier file that mentioned [IIRC] 40 of them being delivered.

  2. In the context of railways, like in the docs you posted, G-Wagen meant Güterwagen (goods wagon), R-Wagen should be Rungenwagen (platform wagon). In this radio message from EG D, Bierkamp was reporting on the group's motor pool on tyres, so that would not be confused with railway lingo by the RSHA.


Please read our Comments Policy