Friday, May 19, 2017

Sonderkommando Lange in German Documents: Euthanasia 1940/41

Mass Killing Unit of Warthegau

Sonderkommando Lange in German Documents:

Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents:
Part III: Body Disposal (Appendix)
Part V: Funding
Part IX: Farewell (1943)

Herbert Lange (source)
Herbert Lange, born 29 September 1909 in Menzlin in the Province of Pomerania, worked as criminal investigator at the Gestapo in Aachen before the war and took part in the Polish Campaign as member of Einsatzgruppe VI, which settled as Security Police headquarters in Poznan [1] (click or hover over footnotes to see references). For a short period of time until 16 October 1939, he was commandant of the Übergangslager (transition camp) Fort VII in Poznan [2]. Lange became the leader of a special detail (Sonderkommando) founded by and named after him, which specialized in the killing of mentally ill people with poison gas. In late 1941, he moved on to establish Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination camp to wipe out the Jews of the Warthegau as well. He was replaced in Spring 1942 as commandant of the extermination camp by Hans Bothmann and employed as investigator in the RSHA. He supposedly died during the battle of Berlin at the end of the war.

Fort VII

Fort VII in Poznan; ref. 2, p. 13
The first Nazi gassings of people took place in Fort VII in Poznan in late 1939. Some experiments with the two most promising killing agents hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide may have been tried in casemates of the camp as early as October 1939. What seems like an experimental gassing with hydrogen cyanide soaked pellets (Degesch's "Zyklon") was mentioned en passant by the RSHA driver Wilhelm F. [3] :
"Right after the Polish Campaign I was sent with a group of officers to a town in Poland, I do not remember its name. There was a red haired Untersturmführer, who was called Becker as I now recall. This Becker made experiments with poison gas. A number of people were locked in a casemate and gas was introduced into the casemate through venting pipes. I remember exactly how Becker dropped something into the pipes."

"I have seen that Becker fetched a box with cans. He threw them [into the air shafts]."

From November 1939, mentally ill people were systematically killed with carbon monoxide gas in Fort VII [4]. Under the command of Lange the inmates of the asylums near Poznan were driven to the camp, locked in casemates and suffocated with carbon monoxide from pressurized steel bottles. The corpses were buried in mass graves in a forest near Oborniki, 30 km North of Poznan. The handling of the corpses was done by Polish prisoners of Fort VII assigned to Sonderkommando Lange, among those Henryk Mania and Henryk Maliczak, who testified on the killings after the war.

Henryk Mania: [5]
"The next stage of work under the command of the Sonderkommando Lange was the removal of the mentally ill. These people were brought with vehicles from asylums in Koscian, Dziekanka, Gniezno, Owinska. Patients were first administered an injection to calm them down, and they were then put into one bunker at Fort VII and were euthanized with gas introduced in special cylinders from Berlin. To seal the bunker, all the openings were pasted with clay."

Henryk Maliczak: [6]
"We were initially employed in transporting and burying the corpses of the mentally ill. The first victims came from the psychiatric hospital in [Owinska]. They were transported by truck to Fort VII and gassed in a bunker the door and window of which had been hermetically sealed. I saw how members of the camp staff and others, dressed in SS uniforms, observed the gassing through a window in the [door of the] bunker. A special group of approximately ten SS men, not Fort VII personnel, transported the mentally ill from the hospital in [Owinska] and gassed them. This group was commanded by an SS man named Lange [...]. The gassing occurred in this way two or three times over a period of several days. [...] The victims were calm; I suppose they had been tranquillized with injections. Our role in this activity consisted in carrying the corpses of the victims to trucks which transported them to forests near the town of Oborniki. Here we threw the corpses into previously dug pits."

On 12 or 13 December 1939, a demonstration gassing of mentally ill patients was conducted for Nazi leaders in Fort VII as described by Himmler's adjutant Joachim Peiper: [7]
"One day in Winter 1939/40 I accompanied Himmler on a trip. In course of this trip there was an Euthanasia action in Posen. The inmates of an asylum near Posen were killed with poison gas. This action took place with a number of invited guests. At that time, I had the impression that the audience should be shown that this was a painless death. The mentally ill were led into prepared casemates, the door of which was furnished with a plexiglas window. The mentally ill entered the casemates singing and laughing. After the doors were closed, the mentally ill were still laughing and conversing, and then they immediately sat down on the straw, and soon laid down under the influence of gas. They did not move any more. This ended the demonstration for the guests."
The method of carbon monoxide bottle gassings was subsequently implemented at the Euthanasia killing site Brandenburg in the Reich.[8]

Mobile Mass Killing Unit

In January 1940, Lange moved on from the stationary gas chambers in Fort VII to a motorized mobile homicidal gas chamber. The vehicle and its operation was again described by the  Sonderkommando prisoners Mania and Maliczak.

Henryk Mania:[8b]
"A special vehicle drove the ill near to the dug out pits. It was similiar to a moving van and hermitically closed. The driver's cabin was seperated. The van was lined with metal sheet in the inside I think. I don't remember an enscription. It was painted in dark color on the outside. There were benches inside. The capacity was corresponding to two trucks, so 50 to 60 persons, perhaps some more. The prisoners had to place the container next to the vehicle and they were connected with a hose (maybe two). The hose ended inside the vehicle under the bench. The container was operated by a SS man, who opened the valve. After 30 min the same SS man opened the back door of the  vehicle and ordered us to throw out the corpses."
According to this description referring to an early action, the gas bottle was either not yet mounted at the vehicle or empty, and it was more convenient just to place gas bottles next to the vehicle.

Henryk Maliczak: [9]
"This van was prepared especially for this purpose on the yard of the Soldier's Home (Gestapo in Poznan). 4 prisoners from our group...had to line the interior of the van with plywood. There was a gas bottle connected to the van, which was was opened when the van was loaded with the ill."

"The ill were brought to forest with a truck and sent into the moving van. Two full loads of a truck fit into the moving van. As soon as the moving van was filled, the gas bottles were opened. After 20 minutes, the vehicle drove to the pits, in which the corpses were thrown by the prisoners."
It seems that the Fort VII prisoners only reinforced the interior, but that the gassing mechanism as such was already in place. It stands to reason that August Becker, the red-haired gassing specialist mentioned by Wilhelm F. above performing the gassing experiment at Fort VII and who was also in charge of the technical issues of the Euthanasia gassings as well as the Kriminaltechnisches Institut der Sicherheitspolizei (Criminal Technical Institute of the Security Police) of the Reichskriminalhauptamt (RKPA) through which also the carbon monoxide bottles for the Euthanasia were ordered (see Contemporary German Documents on Carbon Monoxide Gas and Bottles Employed for the Nazi Euthanasia) were involved in construction and supply of the gassing device.

A tentative piece of evidence on the origin of the gas van is provided by the testimony of Gustav S., Arbeitsdienstführer of concentration camp Sachsenhausen, who testified that a gas van constructed in Sachsenhausen was sent to Stralsund in 1938 to kill mentally ill people (however, as far as it is known, the killings were made by the SS-Sturmbann Eimann in late 1939 by shooting [10]). According to Gustav S. gas vans were also sent to the "Umsiedlungsstab" (resettlement staff) and the "Bataillon Sauer" in Poznan until about June 1940 [11], which is a reference to the Umwandererzentralstelle (Central Emigration Office) in Poznan and its official Albert Sauer. As pointed out by historian Götz Aly, there was a close connection between the settlement of ethnic Germans from the Baltics and killing of mentally ill patients by SS-Sturmbann Eimann in Pomerania and West-Prussia and Sonderkommando Lange in the Wartheland in September 1939 - April 1940 [12]. There is no corroborative evidence for the construction of these gas vans in Sachsenhausen though (this is not to be confused with the much later experimental use of homicidal gas vans operating with engine exhaust in Autumn 1941 in Sachsenhausen).


Exemplary Kaiser's-Kaffee-Geschäft 
trailer (source)
Albert Widmann of the Criminal Technical Institute testified that "I knew that Kaiser's Kaffee transport vehicles with carbon monoxide bottles were used in the East" [13]. The RKPA driver Alfred B. observed a "vehicle with a box with the inscription 'Kaisers Kaffegeschäft' in Poznan, and the vehicle was supposed to be a gassing van" [14]. According to Erich W. of the Gestapo Posen "I once saw on the yard of our Stapo building a closed truck of the company Kaiser...a member of our office told me the vehicle belonged to the Sonderkommando [Lange]" [15].

Several other witnesses of cleared asylums, which are cited further below - Hans-Hermann Renfranz, Gwidon L., Szczepan B., Bogdan O. -, recalled that the sides of the vehicle brought by the SS Sonderkommando bore the inscription "Kaiser's-Kaffee-Geschäft" (without or without the possessive suffix).

Kaiser's-Kaffee-Geschäft was one of the leading shop sellers of so-called colonial goods at the time. Hence, it appears that Lange obtained a trailer from the company and that the inscription was kept for camouflage reasons or only poorly painted over.

Some authors suppose that Sonderkommando Lange had two or three different gas vans [16]. Multiple gas vans are tentatively supported by the testimonies of Gustav S. and Albert Widmann, but the absence of eyewitnesses sightings of more than one gas van simultaneously at the various asylums sheds doubt on this interpretation.

What follows is not an exhaustive overview of the Euthanasia killings by Sonderkommando Lange, but it is limited to those on which the sources on the use of a gas van could be examined. For further actions see Volker Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland 1939/40 (1995) & Patrick Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust (2012).


Lange's mobile gassing unit was reliably seen upon the clearing of the asylum in Kosten (Koscian) in mid-January 1940. The clearance of the facility is shown by contemporary German documents, such as a report entitled "take-over of the Provincial Asylum Koscian by the Wehrmacht" of 24 January 1940, where it reads that "it was ascertained that all buildings except for two in the old part of the asylum have been made available on the due date. The latter [two buildings] will be temporarily used for accommodating patient transports from Lauenberg and Treptow" [17].

According to the German male nurse Wilhelm H., the SS commando loaded the mentally ill - first the Kosten patients and after this clearing also those who had arrived since then from Lauenberg - on a vehicle "similar to a furniture truck, drawn by a tractor" and it was rumoured "that the engine exhaust is directed into the truck" [18]. The asylum doctor Gwidon L. remembered that "a pipe was mounted from the inside to the engine" [19]. The Polish male nurse Szczepan B. made the crucial observation that "the big vehicle was sheet metal plated without windows and a big iron door in the back. Below the vehicle it was mounted a container with pipes into the inside of the vehicle" [20].


The State Psychiatric hospital Kochanowka near Lodz was cleared in March 1940 [20b]. The testimony of Waclaw Berlowski on the alleged repair carried out by him, and the connection to the engine is dubious, as pointed out by the historian Patrick Montague. More convincing is the testimony of the Sonderkommando prisoner Henryk Mania that "[t]hey were loaded onto trucks which transported them under armed SS escort to the forest. [...] We were ordered to take the patients from the truck to the dugout in which they were gassed. I believe gas from a cylinder was used, but I can't remember how it was introduced into the interior".


In March/April 1940, mentally ill people were killed with the gas van at the asylum in Warta. The asylum director Hans-Hermann Renfranz described the action as follows: [21]
"It was a vehicle with a tractor, the vehicle was jacked up to it. It was a grey vehicle. Each time the commando forced 60 patients into it and transported them away. The Kommando was a few days in Warta. I estimate that more than 200 patients were transported away. They told me that the patients are brought into the General Gouvernement....The time between the individual trips was not enough to travel to the General Gouvernement."

"I learnt from a member of the commando that the patients had been gassed. He had approached me as doctor, because he became crazy. He told me that he is hearing the sound of the gas all the time. It was the person who closed and opened the gas valve."


The unit was so successful with its clearings of asylums in the Warthegau that the Higher SS and Police Leader of East Prussia Wilhelm Rediess requested the men to liquidate asylums in his province as well.  From 21 May to 8 June 1940, Sonderkommando Lange "evacuated" 1,558 "burdensome persons" plus 250 to 300 mentally ill people from annexed Zichenau, who had been deported for that purpose to the so-called Durchgangslager Soldau (Dzialdowo). The Higher SS and Police Leader of the Warthegau Wilhelm Koppe charged the operation of Sonderkommando Lange with 10 RM per person and demanded 15,580 RM from his counterpart in East-Prussia (documents 2, 4 and 5).

These mentally ill people were not transited through Soldau but killed at the spot as it is borne out by the files of the later SS internal investigation against the Soldau commandant Hans Krause. According to the interrogation protocol of Friedrich Schlegel of the Inspecteur of the Security Police and SD in East Prussia of 3 June 1943, Soldau was established as camp for the "liquidation of these persons [Polish intelligentsia]" and "the mentally ill prisoners, who had been sent on special order, were liquidated by a special Kommando of the Inspector of Posen, under the constant supervision of SS-Obergruppenführer Redies[s]" (document 11). His superior Otto Rasch confirmed in his interrogation of 16 June 1943 that "in the winter, 1939/40, I had established the Soldau transit camp especially for the purpose of carrying out unostentatiously the liquidations [of Polish intelligentsia]" and that "insane persons were transferred to the camp on special order and shot" (document 12).

Along shooting, as mentioned by Rasch, one may suppose that Sonderkommando Lange also employed its special technique to kill the victims. According to the Soldau resident (?) Kurt H., the victims were brought away with a closed truck bearing the inscription "Kaisers Kaffee Geschäft" [30]. The Sonderkommando prisoner Henryk Mania confirmed the use of the gas van in Soldau: [30b]
"We dug pits in the forest that could be reached by crossing a small river near Dzialdowo. [...] I believe the patients had been taken from the hospitals to the camp in Dzialdowo, from where they were transported the next day to the execution site in the forest. Here the patients were led to the special vehicle and gassed. If I remember correctly, gas cylinders were also used in this instance."

Following the killing of the mentally ill people from East-Prussia, Sonderkommando Lange celebrated a "farewell and comrade's evening" in Soldau with the Higher SS and Police Leader Wilhelm Rediess, who donated small boxes made of amber with dedication of the Gauleiter of East-Prussia Erich Koch to the members of the Sonderkommando (document 1 on Wendelin Seith; Lange is known to have received such gift from Koch, too [29]).

The Netherlands

Around the turn of 1940/41, the Sonderkommando could recover from its murderous activity and was sent to the Netherlands "as requested by its men. I know that the Reichsführer-SS has placed particular emphasis on the care of these men assigned to this burdensome task" as the Higher SS and Police Leader Rediess wrote towards Himmler's adjutant Karl Wolff in October 1940 (document 3). Their stay in the Netherlands cost more than 3000 RM (document 5).


Another killing site of the mobile gas chamber was the asylum in Srem in June 1941. According to its clerk, Antoni H. the patients were loaded on a "big hermetically closed trailer made of steel. Some pipes were running from the tractor mounted with a big container, probably for the gas, to the trailer" [22]. The location of the "container" at the tractor explains why some witnesses assumed that engine exhaust was directed through the pipes.


In June/July 1941, the gassing vehicle was spotted at Tiegenhof in Gnesen (Dziekanka in Gniezno) (note that the earlier victims in December 1939 and January 1940 were gassed at Fort VII or driven to the gas van, respectively [23]).

The Polish male nurse of the asylum Bogdan O. testified on an "entirely closed vehicle...with a tractor...the pipe from the engine to the box caught our attention" [24]. The gas van was also mentioned by several German nurses:
  • Maria L.: "a big vehicle with the SS men mentioned arrived...drawn by a small tractor. The vehicle was kind of a small furniture van" [25].
  • Klara W.: "a kind of furniture van without windows, but small roof lights. This vehicle had a small trailer with a hose connected to the big van...inside the vehicle, there were benches where we placed the ill people. There was some straw on the floor...The SS men closed the double doors and left the asylum" [26] (note the opposite arrangement of the vehicle as described by other witnesses).
  • Gertrud W.: the patients "were picked up with a big vehicle, inside it was dark, because there were no windows" [27].
The local SD man Georg U. noticed "a vehicle which appeared to me like a moving van" and was told from the asylum head that the ill were to be picked up by a "Kriminalkommissar...Lange or Langer" [28].


On 16 August 1941, Sonderkommando Lange was requested by the Higher Police and SS Leader Center Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski to his headquarter in Baranoviche in White Ruthenia (document 6). His follow-up message of 18 August 1941 "to get a personal demonstration of the L[ange]'s procedure...when he becomes available" (order of sentences reversed) suggests that the unit was busy at the time (document 7), possibly with killing uncurable Jews in the Warthegau [30b].

The day earlier, on 15 August 1941, Himmler attended a show shooting in Minsk and the visit the Novinki asylum near Minsk [31]. According to von dem Bach-Zelewski, Himmler ordered to clear the facility using a more human method than shooting[32]. In the light of the intercepted radio messages and that Himmler had to approve the actions of Lange (see next section), it seems plausible that von dem Bach-Zewelski, Himmler and the Einsatzgruppen B and RKPA head Arthur Nebe had discussed in Minsk the use of Sonderkommando Lange.

In mid-September 1941, Nebe called his expert on explosives and toxicology Albert Widmann from the Criminal Technical Institute of the RKPA to apply explosive and engine exhaust on mentally ill people in Minsk and Mogilev, respectively (see also German Footage of a Homicidal Gassing with Engine Exhaust. Part 4: Responsibility (II)). A similar gassing with engine exhaust in a provisional stationary gas chamber - as done by Widmann's team in Mogilev - was also carried out around the same time in the Novinki asylum near Minsk visited by Himmler the month earlier [33]. Although it stands to reason that Widmann's team performed the gassing in Minsk as well, none of the participants testifying on the Mogilev experiment mentioned another such action in Minsk. Therefore, it cannot be entirely excluded that Sonderkommando Lange has to be accounted for the Minsk gassing.


Extract from EG A report, ref. 35
The next known and perhaps last action to kill (non-Jewish) mentally ill people by Sonderkommando Lange was requested in October 1941 on advice of the Euthanasia official Hans Hefelmann by the senior physician Freyberg of the Army High Command for three asylums near Novgorod in Russia (cf. Gassing of Mental Patients by Sonderkommando Lange in Novgorod).

On 21 September 1941, the Quartermaster in General Eduard Wagner talked about the "policy towards inmates of asylums in the occupied territories", on 26 September 1941 about "mental institutions [in the sector of the Army Group] North. Russians regard the feeble-minded as holy. Killing nevertheless necessary" and on 1 October 1941 on the "Novgorod mental institutions" [34]. As Einsatzgruppe A rejected to carry out "clearings" of asylums merely "needed as quarters" by the army [35], Freyberg requested Koppe on 3 October 1941 "to sent Sonderkommando Lange with suitable repair [means: apparatus] for the clearing of three of their asylums near Novgorod" with a JU 52 provided by the army (document 8 and 9). Himmler granted the request and ordered that "the Sonderkommando is to be sent immediately" (document 10).

It is unclear whether Sonderkommando Lange actually ended up in Novgorod and if so, how the killings were made. The limited capacity of a JU 52 renders it unlikely that a gas van was supposed to be sent to Novgorod, while the reference to "suitable apparatus" suggests a more sophisticated killing than shooting the patients. They were quite possibly meant to bring carbon monoxide bottles and pipes to prepare provisional gas chambers in the asylums near Novgorod.


The deputy head of the Gestapo in Poznan since March 1940 and Lange's tennis partner Alfred T. admitted that Lange was a part-time mass killer, who "travelled with his Sonderkommando and the gas van in the Warthegau in the second half of 1940 and probably also in 1941 to exterminate people", but denied that his employer was anyhow involved in Lange's special work in the field and that in "[a] letter from Gruppenführer Müller (as secret state affair) it was said that the chain of order goes from Sonderkommando Lange via the RSHA to the chief of the Security Police" [36]. The German documents indicate that Sonderkommando Lange was subordinated to the Higher SS and Police Leader of the Warthegau Wilhelm Koppe (documents 2, 4-10), who requested the permission for its operation directly from the Reichsführer-SS Himmler, in contrast to Koppe's vehement post-war denial of his own responsibility [37] only admitting some economic support to explain away documents 2, 4 and 5.

The actual members of Sonderkommando Lange have remained mostly unknown. Other than Lange himself only Wendelin Seith from the Gestapo Samter has been definitely identified so far (documents 1 and 14). The historian Michael Alberti has compiled a pool of 15 candidates from the Security Polices Poznan and Lodz based on their appearance on a proposal list for the war merit cross II of 20 January 1942, which features two members (Lohr and Plate) of the stationary Sonderkommando Kulmhof who Lange might have taken with him from his earlier mobile commando [38]. Future research might lead to further identification of the members of this mass murder unit.

Literature on Sonderkommando Lange

  • Ernst Klee, "Euthanasie" im NS-Staat (2009, first edition 1983)
  • Zdzislaw Jaroszewski (ed.), Die Ermordung der Geisteskranken in Polen (1993)
  • Volker Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland 1939/40 (1995)
  • Michael Alberti, Die Verfolgung und Vernichtung der Juden im Reichsgau Warthegau 1939 - 1945 (2006)
  • Patrick Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust (2012)
  • Enno Schwanke, Die Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof (2015)


[1] Mallmann, Einsatzgruppen in Polen, p.28

[2] Letter of Hans Weibrecht to Helmut Bischoff of 6 December 1939, quoted in Olszewski, Fort VII w Poznaniu, p. 21

[3] Interrogation of Wilhelm F. of 29 September 1967, BArch B 162/18154, p. 77, cf. Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland, p. 297 and cross examination of Wilhelm F. of 30 December 1968, BArch B 162/17919, p. 98; on the date early October 1939 see also Rieß, p. 298ff

[4] Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland, p. 305

[5] Interview of Mania of 27 August 1962, Pawlicka-Nowak, Swiadectwa Zaglady, p. 114 ff.; see also another testimony of Mania of 1967 quoted in Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 19f.

[6] Testimony of Henryk Maliczak of 1967, quoted from Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 20

[7] Interrogation of Peiper of 2 September 1970, quoted in Westermeier, Himmlers Krieger, p. 152f., citing BArch B 162/16661; on the date see Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland 1939/40 p. 306f.

[8] Klee, Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 109f.

[8b] Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland, p. 342

[9] Schwanke, Die Landesheil und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, p. 75, citing BArch B 162/43459, p. 125

[10] Grasberger, Der Totenwald, DIE ZEIT Nr. 4/2011)

[11] Interrogation of Gustav S. 7 March 1962, BArch B 162/5066, p. 278

[12] Aly, "Endlösung". Völkerverschiebung und der Mord an den europäischen Juden, p. 114 - 126

[13] Interrogation of Albert Widmann of 15 January 1960, BArch B 162/5066, p. 139

[14] Interrogation of Alfred B. 3 March 1961, BArch B 162/4339, p.72

[15] Interrogation of Erich W. of 2 January 1962, BArch B 162/3249, p. 76

[16] Schwanke, Die Landesheil und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, p. 57, citing BArch B 162/43459, and Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland, p. 318

[17] BArch B162/15604, p. 78

[18] Interrogation of Wilhelm H. of 25 September 1962, BArch B 162/15611, p. 64f.

[19] Report of Gwidon L. of November 1945, BArch B 162/15604, p.57f.

[20] Interrogation of Szczepan B. of 20 August 1945, BArch B162/15604, p. 65 f.

[20b] Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 25ff.

[21] Interrogation of Hans-Hermann Renfranz of 10 October 1962, BArch B 162/15612, p. 19, cf, Refranz, Weil der Vater das Sagen hatte..., p. 66

[22] Interrogation of Antoni H. of 22 September 1945, BArch B 162/15603, p. 13

[23] Schwanke, Die Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, p. 71-77; Rieß, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens in Danzig und Wartheland, p. 311-323

[24] Interrogation of Bogdan O. 21 June 1971, BArch B 162/17388, p. 2074f.

[25] Interrogation of Maria L. 24 September 1962, BArch B 162/15611, p. 151

[26] Interrogation of Klara W. of 26 September 1962, in Schwanke, Die Landesheil und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, p. 86, citing BArch B l62/17402, p. 3952

[27] Interrogation of Gertrud W. of 24 April 1963, BArch B 162/15612, p. 152

[28] Schwanke, Die Landesheil- und Pflegeanstalt Tiegenhof, p. 84, citing BArch B 162/17401

[29] Interrogation of Alfred T. of 15 May 1961, BArch B 162/15612, p.116

[30] Interrogation of Kurt H. of 17 March 1964, summarized in BArch B 162/27213, p. 43, cited with archivial reference in Topp et al., Die Provinz Ostpreußen und die nationalsozialistische "Euthanasie", p. 21

[30b] Montague, Chelmno and the Holocaust, p. 29

[30b] Alberti, Die Verfolgung und Vernichtung der Juden im Reichsgau Warthegau, p. 369f.

[31] Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers, p. 195

[32] YVA, O.18/90, p. 55, see also Aufbau, volume 12, issue 34, p. 2

[33] Examination of N.N. Akimowa of 18 November 1946, quoted in Aly, Aussonderung und Tod, p. 88 f.

[34] Jacobsen (ed.), Generaloberst Halder. Kriegstagebuch, volume 3, p. 243, 252, 262 (English: War Journal of Franz Halder, volume VII, p. 115, 124, 133); cf. Kilian, Wehrmacht und Besatzungsherrschaft im Russischen Nordwesten 1941 - 1944, p. 502; see also the related testimony of the army pastor Bernhard Bauerle in Pöpping, Kriegspfarrer an der Ostfront, p. 164

[35] 1st Stahlecker report for the period up to 15 October 1941, RGVA, 500/4/93, p. 37, online available here via USHMM

[36] Interrogation of Alfred T. of 15 May 1961, BArch B 162/15612, p. 117

[37] Interrogation of Koppe of 2 February 1960, BArch B 162/3243, p. 143- 150

[38] Alberti, Die Verfolgung und Vernichtung der Juden im Reichsgau Warthegau, p. 330

Contemporary German Documents

1.) Letter of Wendelin Seith to Wilhelm Rediess of 18 September 1940:



(NARA/T175/R60, cf. BArch B 162/601, unpaginated)

2.) Letter of Wilhelm Koppe to Jakob Sporrenberg of 18 October 1940:




(NARA/T175/R60, cf. BArch B 162/616, unpaginated; translation based on NO-2908

3.) Letter of Wilhelm Rediess to Karl Wolff of 22 October 1940:



(NARA/T175/R60, cf. BArch B 162/601, unpaginated)

4.) Letter of Wilhelm Rediess to Karl Wolff of 7 November 1940:




(NARA/T175/R60, cf. BArch B 162/616, unpaginated)

5.) Letter of Wilhelm Koppe to Karl Wolff of 22 February 1941:



(NARA/T175/R60, cf. BArch B 162/616, unpaginated, translation based on NO-2911)

6.) Intercepted radio signal from Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski to Wilhelm Koppe of 16 August 1941:


(PRO HW 16/32, ZIP/GPD 325, traffic 16.8.41, item 20 [courtesy of TheBlackRabbitofInlé], cf. Witte et al., Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, p. 195)

7.) Intercepted radio signal from Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski to Wilhelm Koppe of 18 August 1941:



(PRO HW 16/32, ZIP/GPD 326, traffic 18.8.41, item 5 [courtesy of TheBlackRabbitofInlé], cf. Witte et al., Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, p. 195)

8.) Intercepted radio signal from Konrad to Werner Grothmann of 3 October 1941:




(PRO HW 16/32, ZIP/GPD 402, Traffic 3.10.41, item 22 [posted by TheBlackRabbitofInlé here]; cf. Gassing of Mental Patients by Sonderkommando Lange in Novgorod and Breitman, Official Secrets, p. 99)

9.) Intercepted radio signal from Konrad to Werner Grothmann of 3 October 1941:



(PRO HW 16/32, ZIP/GPD 402, traffic 3.10.41, item 23 [posted by TheBlackRabbitofInlé here]; cf. Gassing of Mental Patients by Sonderkommando Lange in Novgorod and Breitman, Official Secrets, p. 99)

10.) Intercepted radio signal from Heinrich Himmler to Wilhelm Koppe of 4 October 1941:



(PRO HW 16/32, ZIP/GPD 405, traffic 04.10.41, item 20 [posted by TheBlackRabbitofInlé here]; cf. Breitman, Official Secrets, p. 99)

11.) Interrogation protocol of Horst Schlegel of 3 June 1943:




(NARA RG 238, NO-1074; cf. BArch B 162/619, unpaginated and - according to Bialas, Ideologie und Moral im Nationalsozialismus, p. 339 - BArch NS 7/1187, unpaginated)

12.) Interrogation protocol of Otto Rasch of 16 June 1943:




(NARA RG 238, NO-1073; cf., BArch B 162/619, unpaginated and - according to Bialas, Ideologie und Moral im Nationalsozialismus, p. 339 - BArch NS 7/1187, unpaginated)

13.) Memorandum for the files of the SS central Office for Personell (undated):




(Archives of the Holocaust, volume 11 Berlin Document Center, part 2, p. 51)

14.) Curriculum vitae of Wendelin Seith of December 1944:



(BArch B 162/3251, p. 103)

23/12/2018: linguistic corrections, corrections of references


  1. As a side note, it's unlikely that any gassings of the mentally disabled took place in or near Novgorod.

    ChGK doesn't seem to know anything about such gassings. The 200 psychiatric patients who were murdered at the Kolmovo hospital in September were poisoned with scopolamine injections, the rest, apparently about 600, died later from starvation. Not sure what other hospitals are meant, but the starvation in Kolmovo is an argument that gassings did not take place there and by extension elsewhere near Novgorod, since the Kolmovo patients were the natural targets for such gassings.

  2. I would infer that the gas van proposal was based on an intention to kill all 800 at Kolmovo but this target was reduced to 200, hence the method was changed. Source:

    "Presentation by Boris Kovalyov

    For the first time, the historian and Senior Research Scientist of the History School in St. Petersburg Boris Kovalyov took part in this Conference. His report was addressed to the fact of demolishing of Kolmovo Psychiatric Hospital during the World War II: "Working in Germany I got some unique pictures from my German colleagues - single-frame photography of patients some days before their physical destruction... By the beginning of occupation, there were 800 patients. There was a question concerning their total physical destruction, even debates between SS and so-called Wehrmacht Christians. After all, a certain compromise was reached: 200 patients were killed with lethal injection; other 600 had an alternative - to die of starvation in the next several months."

    Maybe we could contact Kovalyov?

  3. Hans, this is excellent. You should consider publishing.

  4. It's about time Hans' excellent work was recognised and acknowledged by some of the professional historians out there. The same applies to the work carried out from the other HC bloggers too.


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