Sunday, April 07, 2019

Mattogno, his Einsatzgruppen book and the Gas Vans. Part VIII: Little More Than Hot Gas

 Mattogno, his Einsatzgruppen book and the Gas Vans
 Part VIII: Little More Than Hot Gas

In his Einsatzgruppen book, Mattogno explains away the Einsatzgruppe B report of 1 March 1942 on "Gaswagen" (gas van) as referring to producer gas vehicles. The term "Gaswagen" can describe a producer gas vehicle, but it can also describe a vehicle for transporting gas, a vehicle driven by liquefied petroleum gas, a delousing van - or as demonstrable in this context a homicidal gas van.

What Evidence Does Mattogno Offer for his Thesis? 

After his false claim that the meaning of Gaswagen as homicidal gas van was only coined after the war, Mattogno bothers his readers with one and a half pages of random and pointless quotes and references to producer gas vehicles (p.324-325).  The use of producer gas vehicles in the Third Reich is not in doubt, and none of the sources says anything about the matter at hand, the motor pool of the Einsatzgruppen.

Most of the docs deal with Auschwitz concentration camp, more precisely its construction office. Even if Mattogno knows disturbingly little about the Security Police in the East especially for somebody writing a book on it (e.g. he thinks that the KdS Minsk belonged to Einsatzgruppe B), it cannot have escaped him that the Central Construction Office Auschwitz and the Einsatzgruppen were operating under different authorities, in different areas, and with various tasks. 

The Einsatzgruppen were carrying out executive and intelligence operations in wide and ill-secured Eastern territories in the rear of the army. The Central Construction Office Auschwitz was, on the other hand, transporting building materials etc. in a relatively secure area. One could even argue that the fact that an agency without any executive and police measures did have only one single producer gas vehicle in July 1942 suggests that units carrying out police and intelligence operations would have had even less than that before that, i.e. none.

Two other documents on producer gas vehicles quoted by Mattogno are activity reports of the Einsatzgruppen - but none about their own vehicles.

Ereignismeldung UdSSR no. 189 of 3 April 1942 mentions that the Wirtschaftskommando (economy commando) pushes the conversion of tractors of the local population from liquid fuel to Holzgas in Ingermanland. The fleet of agriculture machinery in the occupied Soviet Union is precisely where one would expect the use of producer gas to compensate for limited contingents available for agriculture.

Ereignismeldung UdSSR no. 182 of 18 March 1942 is not even about German-occupied territory, but about Soviet producer gas vehicles in Leningrad. Given Mattogno's well-known limited skills in "text analysis", I would not be surprised if he did not understand this. What vehicles the population of a besieged Soviet city was using tells obviously nothing about the Einsatzgruppen motorisation.

The last document cited is an appeal by Albert Speer of 22 October 1942 to the owners of commercial vehicles to offer on their own initiative to install producer gas units (Kroll, Der Gasgenerator, p. 14). But instead of supporting Mattogno's hypothesis that the Gaswagen were producer gas vehicles, this source is challenging this notion. If, by 22 October 1942, the Third Reich was just at the point that a Minister appealed to commercial and industrial sectors to advance the conversion to producer gas vehicles in order to save fuel for the military, it is unlikely that mobile paramilitary and intelligence units attached to the gasoline supply of the Wehrmacht in the East would have been provided with such inferior performing technique more than 8 months earlier. 

Fuel Supply of the Third Reich

The Third Reich had access to a sizable amount of about 8 million tons of liquid fuels by 1941. The level was maintained throughout 1942 and 1943 and only collapsed in 1944 with the bombing of hydrogenation plants and the loss of Rumanian oil. 

According to experts in the field of supply of resources of the Third Reich, there had been no critical shortage of gasoline among the German forces at the time the gas vans were developed and dispatched to the Einsatzgruppen, i.e. from late 1941 to early 1942:

- there was "no shortage [of oil] affecting the war strategy until 1942" and "only since 1943 - with the military defeats on the Eastern front, the disturbed transport and strongly increasing needs of the Wehrmacht - the demands considerably exceeded the available amounts" (Petzina, Autarkpolitik im Dritten Reich, p.192). 

- "the supply crisis failed to appear" in 1942, which "was mainly due to the Romanian deliveries...further, the heavily reduced contingents of gasoline and Diesel assigned to the economy played a role that there was no crisis". Although "in 1943 there was the increasing constraint to adjust the operative plans to the available fuel", there was "no serious total crises among the German fuel supply until Spring 1944" (Birkenfeld, Der synthetische Treibstoff 1933-1945, p. 155f.). 

- "even in 1943 - the year of the highest consumption, but also the highest production - there was no dangerous shortage of fuel" and the Third Reich was "sufficiently supplied with fuel for the warfare until Spring 1944" (Eichholtz, Geschichte der deutschen Kriegswirtschaft 1939 - 1945, volume 2, part 2, p. 353 & 355).   

The large fuel consumption of an army operating in a vast territory over some years was, of course, only possible by severe restrictions on the use of vehicles and liquid fuels in the non-military areas. This was in part compensated by the use of alternative fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas and producer gas in commercial, industrial and civilian sectors. This conversion to alternative fuels was driven by political interventions, which also defined the exceptions.

Fuel Supply of the Einsatzgruppen

Before operation Barbarossa, the Gestapo offices had a monthly contingent of 380,000 liters of gasoline distributed by the RSHA office II D 3 a. This contingent was cut off by 30% after the attack against the Soviet Union, leaving some 250,000 liters per month. This reduction of gasoline was not as severe as it sounds, since about 600 vehicles, roughly 1/3, were pulled out from the Gestapo for the Einsatzgruppen anyway (BArch R 58 856, p. 81). The monthly supply was about 210 liters of gasoline per vehicle.

There is also a record of fuel supply by the German Civil Administration to the (stationary) KdS Reval. In December 1942, the agency consumed about 14,500 liters of fuel for its 70 vehicles or 205 liters per car. In Summer 1943, the value increased to about 220 liters because of fewer vehicles in the motor pool (Lagebericht of II D 3 of KdS Reval of 5 January and 7 June 1943, BArch R 70-Sowjetunion/11).

It stands to reason that the Einsatzgruppen were provided with a monthly contingent of way more than 200 liters of gasoline per vehicle, more than 133,000 liters of gasoline per month, quite possibly with extra fuel during the advance of the army.

By the way, after the assassination of the head of the Security Police and Security Service, Reinhard Heydrich, on 4 June 1942, the authorities requested 300,000 liters of gasoline for the subsequent police operations, of which 150,000 liters were granted. The removal of the rubble of the eradicated village Lidice alone was estimated to require up to 29,000 liters of gasoline.

The Einsatzgruppen were logistically attached to the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. An information sheet for its leaders issued before Operation Barbarossa mentions that "repairs, fueling, spare tires have to be early enough addressed to the Wehrmacht" (p.32). The activity and situation report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 April 1943 states that "fuel: supply takes still place by Heeresgruppe Mitte-Abtlg. Qu/K in Mogilev"  (p. 553).

The few existing complains of a gasoline shortage in the Einsatzgruppen documents were due to excessive use in the countryside...
"Because of the great distances, the difficult routes, the lack of motor vehicles and gasoline and the small forces of the Security Police and the SD the shootings in the countryside are possible only under tension of all forces. Nevertheless, so far 41,000 Jews have been shot."
(report of Einsatzgruppe A of February 1942, Deutsche Besatzungsherrschaft in der UdSSR 1941-1945. Dokumente II, p.275)

...or temporary logistic problems...
"The fuel situation is currently tense than ever. Due to the absence of several tank trains, it was not possible to get gasoline for several days in Smolensk and later only in quantities of 200-400 liters."
(report of Einsatzgruppe B for 16 to 31 January 1943, Deutsche Besatzungsherrschaft in der UdSSR 1941-1945. Dokumente II, p. 508)

...which were soon relieved:
"The current fuel situation of the group can be described as good. The iron reserve of the group staff could be increased to 5000 liters."
(report of Einsatzgruppe B for 1 to 31 March 1943, Deutsche Besatzungsherrschaft in der UdSSR 1941-1945. Dokumente II, p. 553)

As it is known from the report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942 and the radio message of Walther Bierkamp of 18 February 1943, the Einsatzgruppen were provided with their own tank trucks for storing and transporting the gasoline obtained from the Wehrmacht depots.

Regulation and Orders on the Vehicles of the Security Police

On  20 January 1942, concerning a Hitler order to restrict the civilian use of vehicles, Reinhard Heydrich requested from the offices of the Security Police and Security Service to use cars with less than 2 ccm engine size if possible. The order was only issued to the Security Police in the General Gouvernement, the Altreich, France, and Belgium, but not to the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied East.

On 7 September 1942, the RSHA motor pool department informed about a reduced supply of fuel because of the ongoing military operations and announced a 3% cut of its contingents. The order states that the Einsatzgruppen have to make sure that "vehicles commanded back to Altreich...are supplied with fuel from Wehrmacht agencies" as the RSHA no longer gives away fuel from its own contingent.

On 15 November 1942, the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler ordered that "the use of vehicles is permitted only for vital tasks decisive for the outcome of the war", that "private trips" are not allowed and that "large cars can only be used if medium and small-sized cars (up to 2.5 ccm cylinder size) are not available or that the number of people per trip requires a larger car", but excluded "all cars operating in the East".

On 12 February 1944, the RSHA issued an order that cars with more than 3.6 ccm engine shall only be used by the head of the Security Police and Security Service, cars with an engine size between 2.5 and 3.6 ccm only by units in areas of (military) operations and anti-partisan warfare and cars with an engine size of 1.7 to 2.5 ccm only by the heads of RSHA office, the commanders and inspectors of the Security Police and in case it is required by the task (BArch R 58/257, p. 139, 148, 153, 177).

The picture emerging is that the Security Police was a privileged agency still supplied with large contingents of liquid fuel during the war. It is most telling that in early 1942 the RSHA reacted on the heavy fuel restrictions in the Altreich merely with the symbolic request to use smaller engines if possible and the later 3% reduction of fuel was not exactly cutting in. The orders on the permissible engine size seem to have excluded the Einsatzgruppe either because they were "operating in the East" or engaged "anti-partisan warfare". It is noteworthy that none of the orders issued requested conversion to non-liquid fuels.

With a decree of 11 November 1941, the RSHA emphasised that the vehicles of the Security Police are excluded from any regulations of the Reichs Minister of Transports on the conversion to non-liquid fuels, especially because many cars are operating abroad the Altreich or will be exchanged for such in the future. Thus, the RSHA regarded the use of vehicles on alternative fuels in the East as impermissible at the time. Some Stapo offices in the Altreich did request to convert individual transport vehicles, mostly prison vans, for use with liquefied petroleum gas. In total, the RSHA granted the conversion of 10 vehicles, which corresponds to about 1% of the Gestapo vehicles

Only in 1944, the fuel situation became more serious even for the Security Police. On 27 May 1944, the RSHA office II C announced to the Stapo offices a 30% cut of the fuel contingent "because some hydration plants have been destroyed by the enemy and the oil deliveries from Rumania are scarce due to mining of the Danube and blockade of the rail road traffic". The document also complains that of 155 units for liquefied petroleum gas only 44 had been installed by the time (BArch R 58/257, p. 179).

These 155 units of liquefied petroleum gas obtained by the RSHA for Gestapo offices correspond to roughly 10 to 20% of the vehicles to be converted. Hence, even in 1944, the RSHA was only able or willing to convert a small fraction of the Stapo vehicles on liquefied petroleum gas, and only 30% of those had been actually utilised by the offices in mid-1944. The order does not even mention producer gas units further showing its low esteem by the Security Police and that it was regarded as inferior even with severely reduced amounts of gasoline available

Producer Gas

On 8 August 1944, the RSHA reported that it expects "a complete ban of the allocation of liquid fuels (Otto and Diesel fuel) at the home front" soon and finally ordered "the immediate conversion of vehicles on alternative fuels, especially producer gas generators". The order was limited to the area of the home front and hence excluded the vehicles of the Security Police operating in the rear of the army or retreating with the military.

The document was signed by a certain Josef Spacil, at the time head of the RSHA office II, who is "completely unknown" to our dilettante (BArch R 58/257, p. 183).

A reference to producer gas among the Security Police in the East can be found in the records of KdS Reval. A list of its vehicles (date unclear for now) mentions that a captured Volvo omnibus will be converted for producer gas at the order of the commander. A report of its motor pool department dated August 1943 provides a break-down according to fuel employed. There were 107 vehicles on gasoline, 2 trucks on Diesel and 2 producer gas vehicles - the already mentioned omnibus and another truck (BArch R 70-Sowjetunion/11).

(by the way, according to a radio signal of 12 December 1942 by Max Grüson of the SS-FHA, 6 producer gas units were made available at the vehicle depot in Prag for the SS and Police Leader of Lublin area, Odilo Globocnik; it is unclear for what unit, PRO HW 16/22, ZIP/GPD 325a, traffic 12.12.42, item 27)

In thousands of pages of interrogations on the Einsatzgruppen, there is no reference known to producer gas vehicles in their motor pools. There is no evidence in the documents of the Einsatzgruppen on producer gas vehicles in 41/42. None of the photographs of the vehicles of the Einsatzgruppen and their attached paramilitary units shows producer gas units, e.g.

Mattogno's claim that the Gaswagen in the report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942 were producer gas vehicles can be ruled out on several grounds:

Firstly, producer gas units were disregarded by the RSHA as a proper way to fuel its vehicles. At most, it permitted a few transport vehicles with liquefied petroleum gas for Stapo offices in the Altreich, but explicitly excluded vehicles from being deployed in the East from using non-liquid fuels. As a matter of fact, the conversion to producer gas meant "reduced performance, poorer efficiency, cumbersome handling, higher maintenance, and new supply provisions" (Eckermann, Fahren mit Holz, p. 126). It is evident that the RSHA would not have ordered any such vehicles for its mobile intelligence and executive forces operating in dangerous, vast areas in the occupied East. 

While the EG B report mentions that "as a result of the shortage of fuel in Smolensk, the allocations can only be made within the available stocks", it does not claim any operational restriction. The Einsatzgruppen were provided with large special contingents of fuel obtained from the Wehrmacht. They were receiving limited amounts only when the depots of the army were subjected to temporarily logistic problems. Because the Security Police and Security Service received special fuel contingents, they were also excluded from any official decrees, such as that of the Reich Minister for Weapons, Munitions, and Armaments Albert Speer on the conversion of trucks on non-liquid fuels of 24 September 1942 (Kroll, Der Gasgenerator, 1943, p. 131). 

Secondly, there is no evidence that Einsatzgruppe B used any producer gas vehicles. There is no indication to producer gas vans in contemporary German documents and numerous testimonies of group members and related witnesses in the investigation files (BArch B162/4338 - 4340, 2265, 3339, 3608-3610, 30896, 3275, 3297, 26742, 2264, 3314, 3315, 3298, 1817), especially that of the motor pool heads Johannes Mö. (Einsatzgruppe B staff), Heinrich Mü. (Sonderkommando 7b), Hermann Bo. (Einsatzkommano 8) and  Ernst El. (police battalion attached to Einsatzkommando 8).

Thirdly, the Einsatzgruppe B report does not break down the vehicles according to their type of fuel but their function. Any supposed trucks with producer gas units were likely to be listed among "trucks" instead of making up a new category, see the breakdown for Einsatzkommando 8:
"35 cars, 3 trucks, 1 ambulance, 1 gas van"
(activity and situation report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942, Deutsche Besatzungsherrschaft in der UdSSR 1941-1945. Dokumente der Einsatzgruppen II, p. 294)

This was also realised by the Holocaust denier Santiago Alvarez, who wrote that "the term 'gas van' is unlikely to refer to them potentially having such a gas generator, as the report appears to list the vehicles not by fuel source but rather by general vehicle type" (Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 93).  Even though Mattogno cites the book as a source for the report in his Einsatzgruppen book (p.323), he entirely ignores Alvarez' valid argument against his reasoning.

Fourthly, the report mentions that the smaller gas vans were carrying out an "operation at E[insatz]K[ommando 8", i.e. the Gaswagen were apparently engaged in intelligence or executive actions. Afterwards the four Gaswagen were to be equally distributed among the commandos of the group, which makes sense if they had a special function indeed, but not if there were just trucks on producer gas; in this case it would have made more sense to cluster them within one motor pool to facilitate maintenance and fuel supply.

Since the term Gaswagen was a functional description, the gas vans were meant to apply or transport some sort of gas. One of the main tasks of the Einsatzgruppen up to this time was to liquidate people. Thus, it is already for this most reasonable to consider that these vehicles were used to kill people with poison gas.

Fifthly, numerous testimonies of perpetrators, including the drivers, confirm that the Gaswagen were homicidal gas vans on liquid fuels.

According to the Einsatzgruppe B report, the two smaller gas vans were to be passed on to Sonderkommando 7a and b after finishing their task at Einsatzkommando 8. This is independently corroborated by the gas van driver Johann Haßler, who remembered that he had to transfer a small gas van he identified as Diamond T chassis to Sonderkommando 7b sometime after his arrival in Smolensk in February 1942:
"Before I resettled to Briansk, where Einsatzkommando 7b was located at the time, a closed box vehicle was given to me together with a document. I had to transfer this vehicle to Einsatzkommando 7b in Briansk. I cannot remember anymore if I already knew in Smolensk that it was a gas van or only later in Briansk...It was a Diamond van with a capacity of 25 persons."
(interrogation of Haßler of 12 September 1962, BArch B 162/5068, p. 639f.)

According to Haßler, the gas van was employed in 1942 in Baranovichi and Minsk on Jews deported by train and in Orel on partisans as well as in October 1943 on prisoners carrying out the destruction of mass grave sites ("Enterdungsaktion") in Barysaw. Another driver of Sonderkommando 7b confirmed that Haßler took over and drove a 3-ton gas van for Sonderkommando 7b (interrogation of Heinrich Mü. 27 March 1962, BArch B 162/18154, p. 44).

The Einsatzgruppe B report further states:
"The Gaswagen, which arrived in Smolensk on 23 February 1942, were allocated as follows:

EK 8: Truck Saurer Pol 71462
EK 9: Truck Saurer Pol 71457

Both vehicles arrived damaged in Smolensk and were given to the Einsatzkommandos after fixing of the damage."
(activity and situation report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942, cf. Deutsche Besatzungsherrschaft in der UdSSR 1941-1945. Dokumente der Einsatzgruppen II, p. 293)

The transfer of two Saurer gas vans from Berlin to Smolensk in February 1942 is independently corroborated by the testimonies of the gas van drivers Johann Haßler and Josef Wendl.

According to Wendl, both gas vans crashed into each other before Warsaw, later the brake of his van was frozen and damaged near Brest-Litowsk (interrogation of Wendl of 12 February 1969, YVA TR.10/1118, vol. 1, p. 40 etc). This was indeed a typical defect of the Saurer gas vans as confirmed by a letter of the gas van inspector August Becker to Walther Rauff of 16 May 1942 (see also Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Becker Letter). The damage of the vehicles is also consistent with the Einsatzgruppe B report, which noted that both gas vans had to undergo repairs upon their arrival in Smolensk.

Haßler, the co-driver of the Saurer assigned to Einsatzkommando 9 (Saurer Pol 71457), recollected the trip as following:
"It was in January or February 1942 that I received marching orders to Berlin...We were four drivers, who received marching orders to Smolensk. Two closed trucks of the make Saurer were given to us. Each vehicle was provided with a driver and co-driver...We drove with the two trucks from Berlin to Smolensk. As far as I remember, we went via Posen, Warsaw, Minsk, Orscha to Smolensk... In the beginning, I did not know it was a gas van. I only learned this on the trip from Berlin to Smolensk from the drivers...I know that that one of Saurer vehicles came to EK9 and the other to EK8."
(interrogation of Haßler of 26 September 1966, BArch B 162/18154, p. 56f.;)

The dating of the trip is confirmed by a telegram of the Stapo Vienna of 24 November 1942, which mentions that Wendl was ordered to the "duty in the East" on 31 January 1942 (BArch R 9361-III/222170).
The activity and situation report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942 was not known and available to West-German and Austrian investigators, who interrogated the drivers of the gas vans. The report is never mentioned or hinted to in the files, nor is it included in the collection of activity and situation report of Einsatzgruppe B obtained by the West-Germans (BArch B 162/21579). The source was only supplied to East-German investigators, presumably after March 1969, to assist in their case against the former Einsatzkommando 8 member Georg Frentzel (see also Grundmann, Georg Frentzel, p. 50). The report became available in the West by the opening of Russian and East-German archives after the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Wendl drove the gas van with the license plate Pol 71462 until September 1943. In September 1944, the vehicle was stationed with the so-called Sonderkommando Ruryk from Lithuania in Maczki, about 30 km north of Auschwitz concentration camp, according to Auschwitz resistance reports. It was driven by some Oberwachmeister Arndt and employed to execute convicts of the Kattowitz drum head court-martial (secret message of September 1944, reproduced in How the convergence of evidence works: the gas van of Auschwitz; a secret message of 21 September 1944, Nathan Blumental, Dokumenty i Materialy, vol. 1, p. 121). The gas van was brought to the so-called Praga-Halle of the Auschwitz motor pool for maintenance (see More evidence converges on the homicidal Auschwitz gas van). 

In conclusion, Mattogno's explanation of the Gaswagen as producer gas trucks is anachronistic (producer gas did not play any role among the Security Police until much later), unfounded (not by backed up evidence) and historically false (contradicted by virtually anything else that is known).

24.8.2019: linguistic corrections


  1. Has Deborah Lipstadt ever considered joining HC?

  2. No. I doubt she's heard of us; she does not write about the intricacies of the Final Solution (she's not a researcher on the policies of the Third Reich) and she refuses to directly engage deniers.


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