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June 1994


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Mark Ritchie <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Jun 1994 10:27:37 EDT
text/plain (69 lines)
On Tue, 14 Jun 1994 18:52:55 -0700 Abigail Miriam Feder said:
>> My impression was that the showers at the death camps were not connected
>> to water at all; they were for the exclusive use of gassing people.  (I
>> wish I could quote a source, but oh well...)  The inclusion of that shower
>> scene for dramatic purposes undercuts the fact of the death camps, in my
>> opinion. I assume there were "real" showers in the labor camps, but in
>> this film, which was not about the labor camps, they only cloud the issue.
>> Marti *** [log in to unmask]  ***  Film Studies Program
>I, too, was appalled by this scene.  But then I asked a survivor of Auschwitz
> and she told me that those who were not killed immdiately were showered and
> deloused.  This she said because the Germans abhored filth.  At the same time,
> I still think the scene left open a place for revisionists to say the gas
> chambers masking as showers did not exist.
>Abigail Feder Northwestern University
>      e-mail: [log in to unmask]
One of our Professors, Robert Jan van Pelt has been working with the
archives of the Architects' Office from Auchwitz.  When the Soviet Army
reached the camp the Germans tried to destroy the evidence but for some
reason forgot the architects' office files.  These files include the
blurprints for the camps, the barracks, crematoria, gas chambers, and the
industrial complex at Birkenau.  As well as the working drawings and
finished blueprints, there were weekly progress reports that have also
survived.  The gas chambers were originally designed as autopsy rooms
attached to the crematoria and built partly underground so that bodies of
people killed else where (mainly by shooting at that time) could be slid
down a ramp for processing (removal of gold teeth, hair, etc) before
burning.  When Himmler decided that shooting was too inefficent and too
hard emotionally on the executioners the SS looked for a 'better' way to
kill.  The Zyklon B gas that was used for pest control and delousing was
tested and adopted.  The autopsy rooms, because they had a good
ventilation system to extract the gas, were redesigned to become killing
chambers, the slide for dead bodies was replaced with stairs for living
victims, as well as other modifications.  The Zyklon B came as a pellet
that only became a gas at a certain temperature and was poured in through
hatches in the roof.  The pellets became gas due to the heat from the
prisoners bodies.  In winter more people had to be packed in to raise the
temperature high enough.  Those not scheduled for death were packed into
wooden barracks, there were real showers in buildings built for the
purpose.  You can tell which they were because they were built away from
the crematoria, amongst the barracks and had windows.  When the Germans
retreated they tried to destroy the evidence by blowing up the gas
chambers and crematoria, but with the blueprints you can see from the
remains how everything worked.  Dr van Pelt just finished a BBC HORIZON
documentary called THE ARCHITECTURE OF GENOCIDE and has just finished
shooting a segment for NOVA who are versioning the BBC program for
broadcast on PBS (probably for the fall season).  It is very fascinating.
He is just starting to work on the documents and plans relating to the
industrial complex, a synthetic rubber plant, pharmacutical plant,
synthetic fuel, coal mines.
Mark Ritchie                   | Tel: (519) 888-4070
Media Librarian                | Fax: (519) 888-6197
Audio-Visual Centre            |
University of Waterloo         | Internet: [log in to unmask]
"I was just out of college and still believed in classifications and
categories" - Jean Renoir