Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The one-man Natzweiler gas chamber

This photograph was taken at Natzweiler concentration camp, very probably in 1945, and shows four members of the French Resistance next to a steam disinfestation chamber similar to those in Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Mauthausen. A stretcher is being balanced on the entrance to the chamber purely to create the impression that the Germans stretchered people into this hygiene facility and killed them with poison gas.

Below is the reverse of the photograph, which shows that it was approved for propaganda purposes by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, although, interestingly, not in the U.S. or Britain.

This is Dutch political historian Dr. Hinke Piersma of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, and her 2006 book Doodstraf op termijn. Nederlandse Nacht und Nebel-gevangenen in kamp Natzweiler (Death in Instalments: Dutch Night & Fog Prisoners in Camp Natzweiler). I haven't looked at the book, so I don't know whether it features details of the one-man Natzweiler gas chamber, but I do know that on the website of her institution, on a page which promotes her book, the photograph does appear along with the caption: "French soldiers in front of an experimental gass [sic] chamber in Camp Natzweiler."

update: July 11, 2015:

Below is part of page four of the January 4, 1945, edition of the socialist British newspaper the Daily WorkerThe the four young men pictured by the Natzweiler crematory oven are clearly the same men in the photograph discussed above. Which means that the above photograph of the one-man gas chamber was taken prior to the paper's publication date.

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