Draft on Auschwitz and the Kremer diary
Copyright 2005 © David Irving and Focal Point Publications
[no source-notes are provided here in the online version]
THE damage done by the camp's hasty design and sloppy layout now became evident. Typhus epidemics spread, carried into the camp by the lice infesting the prisoners, their hair, and their clothing. It was a fatal, awful disease, borne of filth, overcrowding, and the lack of adequate sanitation. The head doctor, Dr Popiersch, had died in April of the plague. A Warsaw doctor called in to care for Soviet prisoners of war, Dr Marian Ciepielowski, suffered the same fate. By July 1942 the crisis was so grim that on the tenth the camp was placed under quarantine.
The epidemic knew no frontiers, between race, religion, or uniform. The camp's staff were not immune. The wives of the SS officers died, though not on the same scale or in the same harsh conditions as their victims. Another doctor was laid low; his replacement, a 54-year doctor from Münster, Johann Paul Kremer, was soon also infected but survived. Emaciated victims dragged their ragged frames around the Birkenau slave labour camp, mockingly referred to as 'Muselmen' by their German captors because of their skeletal frames. Most of them were beyond care or recuperation. The doomed prisoners spoke a babel of languages, as one country after another willingly rid itself of its Jews and other unwanted peoples at Germany's invitation. One army doctor, Hauptsturmführer Thilo, described the camp to his incoming colleague Dr Kremer as the anus mundi -- anus of the world.
After Himmler's visit on July , conditions at Birkenau (Auschwitz II) worsened. The typhus plague compounded the dysentery, malaria, and other heat-related diseases [[stalking the region.]] The stench of cheap disinfectant, faeces, and vomit, and finally the corpses tossed out of the hutments awaiting collection as in the darkest days of the Black Death of London, the unwashed, diarrhoea-streaked clothes, etched indelible impressions on every visitor.
For eleven weeks Dr Kremer did duty at the camp, from August 30, 1942, shuttling between its infernal scenes, and the sanity of his room at the Bahnhof hotel in the town until November 18. As he had done for the last fortyyears, he kept a private diary recording the daily routine as he and his fellow medics fought the raging epidemic. September 1: 'In the afternoon was present at the gassing of a block with Zyklon B against lice.' It was a tedious, time-consuming ordeal, as twenty hours or more of ventilation and airing had to pass before a gassed building was declared safe to enter.
Sanitation steps were belatedly intensified. Arriving prisoners were put through a rigorous delousing routine -- undressed, showered, and issued louse-free prison garb, while their old clothing was disinfested in purpose-built fumigation chambers in which their clothing was impregnated with cyanide gas. All their personal property and valuables had of course been robbed from them &endash; the fiscal basis of Operational Reinhardt.
That autumn the rain poured down as the trainloads of fresh arrivals pulled into the ramp, some of them doomed to die almost at once; sometimes there were 'terrible scenes,' in one instance on a Sunday morning Kremer recording that three women, Dutch women, pleaded for their nacktes Leben, literally their bare lives, 'in front of the last bunker' &endash; evidently that of Building 11, at the far end of Auschwitz (not Birkenau), where executions by firing squad were held.
The guards were rewarded for their part in each Sonderaktion with special rations of liquor and cigarettes, which to their primitive minds made the risks of the contagion worth while. As the epidemic reached out to the surrounding area, the town of Auschwitz took to its beds, and brought its dead to the camp for cremation.
We have Kremer's ingenuous, intimate, frank, but often infuriatingly cryptic diary to thank for our better understanding of life and death at the camp. It is fortunate however that we also have his private wartime letters, as these help to amplify some of the more infuriatingly cryptic entries without the duress to which he was exposed in post-war Polish and German courts from 1946 to 1960. (Kremer was arrested, used as a witness, released, and charged again at age 80, his statements becoming more muddled and contradictory with each pass).
To a Miss Gla., evidently Miss Glaser, his housekeeper's daughter back home in Münster, Kremer would write at the height of the typhus crisis: 'Definitiven Bescheid habe ich allerdings noch nicht, erwarte jedoch, daß ich vor dem 1. Dezember wieder in Münster sein kann und so endgültig dieser Hölle Auschwitz den Rücken gekehrt habe, wo außer Fleck, usw., sich nunmehr auch der Typhus mächtig bermerkbar macht.' [[I have no definite word yet, but I expect that I can be back in Münster before December 1, and thus finally turn my back on this hell of Auschwitz, where, in addition to the typhoid and so on, typhus has once again made its appearance in strength.']]
This brief postcard [dated October 21, never quoted by the conformist historians] adequately explains the sinister entry made on September 2, reflecting all the horror of the transports relentlessly arriving in the midst of the ongoing typhus crisis. 'Zum 1. Male draussen,' he wrote, 'um 3 Uhr früh bei einer Sonderaktion zugegen. Im Vergleich hierzu erscheint mir das Dante'sche Inferno fast wie eine Komödie. Umsonst wird Auschwitz nicht das Lager der Vernichtung genannt!' (The draussen and exclamation point, usually omitted from more malevolent studies of the diary, should not be ignored; their omission or inclusion can be taken as a datum line, a Prüfstein, or benchmark for the objectivity of the writer). Frmom data supplied from cam p records, the Sterebebücher it seems unlikely that Sonderaktion was a mass execution: in the whole of September these death books list 1,654 deaths of female prisoners, with only 43 on September 2 and 24 on the 5th, the day of Thilo's 'anus mundi' comment - figures more indicative of the epidemic than a massacre.
On October 10, a general quarantine was imposed on the whole camp. [[ACCORDING to Aumeier: check? :]] Around mid-November 1942 the commandant started disposing of typhus cases by killing them by various means, including gas.
New crematoria were designed to cope with the rising tide of death. The contract labor of the Falck Company building the crematoria was held in quarantine for the whole month of December, which did not accelerate construction. The camp remained under typhus quarantine until January 1943.
[later in the book:]
Stories swept the occupied territories of what Himmler's men had done to the Jews. There were wild rumours of gas chambers and other atrocities. Dr Johann Kremer, the anatomist and surgeon from Münster who had himself been stationed for eleven weeks at Auschwitz, noted in his diary on March 1, 1943, with evident consternation, 'Went today to shoemaker Grevsmühl to be registered, and saw there a leaflet sent him from Kattowitz by the Socialist Party of Germany [an underground opposition party]. The leaflet informed that we had already liquidated two million Jews by shooting or gassing.' This was pretty sensitive stuff to confide to a private diary, and it makes it all the more remarkable that Kremer had not been more specific in its pages about what he witnessed while at the camp.