A medical officer on the gassing of Jews at Belzec (1942)

Alfred Schluch was a German medic who had previously worked in the Nazi euthanasia program. In early 1942, he was reassigned to the concentration camp at Belzec. Here, Schluch recalls the gassing of Jews:

“After unloading, the Jews able to walk proceeded to the assembly place. At the unloading, the Jews were told that they were going to be resettled and before that had to be bathed and disinfected. The speech was given by Wirth and also by his translator, a Jewish Kapo.

Next, the Jews were then led to the undressing barracks. In one of the barracks the men and in the other the Jewish women and children had to undress.

After undressing the male Jews and the women with children were led separately through the tube… My position in the tube was quite near the undressing barracks. Wirth had installed me there because in his opinion I could have a pacifying effect on the Jews.

I had to direct the Jews along the path to the gas chamber after they left the undressing barracks. I believe that I made the way to the gas chambers easier for the Jews because they must have been convinced from my words or gestures that they were actually to be bathed.

After the Jews had entered the gas chambers, the doors were tightly closed by Hackenholt himself or by the Ukrainians assigned to him. Then Hackenholt started the motor that was used for the gassing.

After about five to seven minutes – and I only estimate the length of time – the peephole into the gas chamber was used to establish whether everyone was dead. Only then were the outer doors opened and the gas chambers aired out…

After the gas chambers were aired out, a Jewish Sonderkommando under the direction of a Kapo arrived and took the corpses out of the chambers. I was also occasionally assigned to supervise at this place. Thus I can exactly describe the procedures because I saw and experienced everything myself.

The Jews had been very tightly packed into the gas chambers. For this reason, the corpses did not lie on the ground, but all leaned in a jumble this way and that, the one backwards, the other forwards, one prone to the side, the other kneeling, each according to the space around.

The corpses were at least partially besmirched with excrement and urine, others in part with saliva. The lips and nose tips of some of the corpses had turned blue. With some, the eyes were closed, with others the eyes had rolled.

The corpses were pulled out of the chambers and immediately examined by one of the dentists. The dentist removed rings from the fingers and pulled out gold teeth. The valuables recovered in this way were tossed into a box that had been provided. After this procedure, the corpses were thrown into the large graves nearby.”