Monday, April 17, 2017

German Document on Chelmno Gas Van Driver Filling up Gasoline in Lodz

APL 221/30183, p. 11
A document from the Ghetto Lodz administration shows that on 2 September 1944 "Laabs" from the "SS police" refuelled his truck with the licence number "71449" two times with "45 liters" of gasoline at the tank station of the Ghetto Lodz administration. The driver "Laabs" of the "SS police" can be matched to the well known permanent gas van driver of the SS and police Sonderkommando Kulmhof Gustav Laabs (see testimonies in the appendix below). That this vehicle was indeed a homicidal gas van is supported by the fact that its license number of 71449 is close to those of other known gas vans 71457, 71462 and 71463 (see also How the convergence of evidence works: the gas van of Auschwitz, Mattogno and the Activity & Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B on its Gas Vans and Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Schäfer, Trühe & Rauff Telexes).

According to this memo of the RSHA Security Police motor pool of 23 June 1943, the Gaubschat company in Berlin had mounted coachworks on 20 chassis to be used as homicidal gas vans. This letter to Gaubschat of 30 April 1942 announcing the delivery of another 10 chassis and requesting changes implies that the 20 chassis had been finished and dispatched by the time and thus delivered to Gaubschat well before. They were likely registered in one or several batches with consecutive numbers (as indicated by the three known numbers of Saurer gas vans cited above) and the licence number 71449 of the truck fits to such series.

There had been two sizes of gas vans, a smaller type of about 3 tons dispatched earlier in December 1941, which was mainly based on American chassis, and a bigger type of 5 tons on Saurer chassis dispatched since February 1942. It seems not entirely clear yet how many smaller gas vans there had been (other than two for Chelmno, at least three for Einsatzgruppe A & B and one for Einsatzgruppe C), so that the gas van with the license number 71449 might have been either a smaller or bigger type depending on the actual number of smaller gas vans. 

Since Laabs filled up his gas van with gasoline, the document supports once more that the German homicidal gas vans were operated with gasoline engine exhaust (see also Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: Why the Diesel Issue is Still Irrelevant).

Why did Laabs go all the way from Chelmno to Lodz with a gas van, where he had to refuel the vehicle? The victims of Ghetto Lodz were brought by train and trucks to Chelmno in June - July 1944 and in August 1944 most of the remaining inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Quite possibly, on this 2 September 1944, Laabs was ordered to pick up a batch of victims directly in Lodz, who had been caught hiding from their deportation to Auschwitz, or he was transporting goods from Lodz to Sonderkommando Kulmhof.

Appendix: Testimonies on Laabs as Gas Van Driver of Sonderkommando Kulmhof (Chelmno)

interrogation of Gustav Laabs (Sonderkommando Kulmhof SS) of 2 December 1960:
"After some and H. received the order from Bothmann to pick up two gas vans from the train station in Kolo...In my opinion, it were the same gas vans we already drove in 1942/43.


One day in September or October 1944, me and H. received the order from Bothmann to load the gas vans on freight cars in Kolo and to go with them to Berlin to deliver them at a big motor pool in Oranienburg."
(BArch B 162/3246, p. 62f. & 65)

interrogation of Walter Bo. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police) of 20 June 1961:
"The gas vans were black-brown coated vans, like the type of Opel Blitz vehicles. One was driven by Hauptscharführer Laabs, the other by Hauptscharführer H.."
(BArch B 162/3248, p. 99)

interrogation of Walter Bu. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof SS) of 26 January 1961:
"I remember that also before Laabs and H. were the gas van drivers, there were one or two SS members in Kulmhof whose permanent duty it was to the drive the gas vans."
(BArch B 162/3246, p. 160)

interrogation of Karl H. (Sonderkommando Chelmno police) of 27 January 1961:
"SS-Oberscharf. Gustav Laabs. He was one of the gas van drivers."
(BArch B 162/3248, p. 54)

interrogation of Wilhelm H. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police)  of 30 November 1961:
"If I remember correctly, there were two gas vans operating in Chelmno, which were used to gas the the incoming Jews in turns. These vehicles were driven and operated by SS-Hauptscharführer Laabs and SS-Oberscharführer H.."
(BArch B 162/3247, p. 217)

interrogation of Josef I. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police) of 26 February 1962:
"SS-Oscharf. Gustav Laabs...He was one of the gas van drivers and I have observed in the forest camp numerous times that the arrived with a gas van..."
(BArch B 162/3249, p. 155)

interrogation of Friedrich M. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police) of 20 July 1961:
"As far as I remember there were two gas vans in operation driven by SS-Hauptscharführer Laabs and SS-Oberscharführer Oskar H.."
(BArch B 162/3248, p. 112)

interrogation of Hans M. of 24 October 1962:
" the agency were two gas vans driven by Laabs and H...."
(NHStA NDS. 721 Hannover Acc. 97/99 Nr.10/29, p. 53)

interrogation of Kurt M. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police) of 9 November 1961:
"In my memory there was only one permanently used gas van, which was driven by Gustav Laabs. A second gas van was used if bigger transport arrived in Chelmno..."
(BArch B 162/3247, p. 206)

interrogation of Wilhelm S. (Sonderkommando Kulmhof police) of 20 December 1961:
"As I learnt later, the gas van drivers were SS-Hauptscharführer Gustav Laabs and SS-Oberscharführer Oskar H.. There were only two gas vans in Chelmno, which were driven and operated by these two persons."
(BArch B 162/3247, p. 145)

19 April 2017: corrected first name of Wilhem H. (thanks to Patrick Montague)

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