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The Gas Chamber at Brandenburg

Last Update 12 July 2006


Gas Chamber Building in the old Barn
Gas Chamber Building
Possible first Crematory at the Brandenburg Prison.
In 1938/39 a part of the prison in Brandenburg (near Berlin) was converted into the euthanasia killing centre "Landespflegeanstalt Brandenburg a. H.", located in the centre of the city!

A gas chamber (3x5 m) was installed in the former brick barn. The exact location of the gas chamber is unknown because only the foundations of the barn still exist. From the adjacent former storage building only the floor is still to be seen. The cells for working and sleeping do not exist anymore and only its foundations were discovered in 1996.

The killings took place in the same way as in the other euthanasia centres: Buses brought the victims to the site where they were registered, undressed, examined, and gassed. The gas chamber looked like a shower bath where carbon monoxide gas was used for killing. The bodies were cremated in two mobile cremation ovens at night. The crematory could have been situated in the adjacent building or near the former church. Since July 1940 the corpses were cremated outside the town at Paterdamm Street. The site was disguised as Chemisch-Technische Versuchsanstalt (Chemical and Technical Research Institute).

The first killing took place on 4 January 1940 when 18 to 20 insane criminals were gassed in this test, which contributed to the decision to use carbon monoxide gas for killing. Among several doctors from the Aktion T4 staff, the following persons were present: Dr Brandt (Hitler's personal doctor), Dr Conti (Reichsärzteführer), Philipp Bouhler (Reichsleiter / Chief of Hitler's Chancellery) and Dr August Becker (chemist and supplier for the gas cylinders). This gassing was carried out by Christian Wirth, who played a prominent role in the mass extermination programme in the Generalgouvernement (Poland), called Aktion Reinhard.
Dr Becker described it later:
"I was ordered by Brack to attend the first euthanasia experiment in the Brandenburg asylum near Berlin. I went to the asylum in the first half of January 1940. Additional building work had been carried out especially for the purpose. There was a room similar to a shower room which was approximately 3 metres by 5 metres and 3 metres high and tiled. There were benches round the room and a water pipe about 1" in diameter ran along the wall about 10 cm off the floor. There were small holes in this pipe from which the carbon monoxide gas poured out. The gas cylinders stood outside this room and were already connected up to the pipe. The work on this installation had been carried out by the SS Main Building Office in Berlin...
There were already two mobile crematoria in the asylum with which to burn the corpses. There was a rectangular peephole in the entrance door, which was constructed like an air raid shelter door, through which the delinquents could be observed. The first gassing was carried out by Dr. Widmann personally. He turned the gas tap and regulated the amount of gas...
As far as I can remember, among the prominent personalities who were there were: the doctors already mentioned, Professor Dr. Brandt, the Führer's personal physician, and a detective, Wirth, at that time head of the homicide branch in the Stuttgart police department and later head of the Hartheim asylum near Linz. For this first gassing about 18-20 people were led into this "shower room" by the nursing staff. These men had to undress in an anteroom until they were completely naked. The doors were shut behind them. These people went quietly into the room and showed no signs of being upset. Dr Widmann operated the gas. I could see through the peephole that after about a minute the people had collapsed or lay on the benches. There were no scenes and no disorder.
The final Crematory at Paterdamm.
Final Crematory
Memorial Site for the Location of the Gas Chamber.
After a further five minutes the room was ventilated. Specially assigned SS people collected the dead on special stretchers and took them to the crematoria. When I say special stretchers I mean stretchers specially constructed for this purpose. They could be placed directly on the ovens and the corpses could be pushed into the oven mechanically by means of a device without the people carrying them coming into contact with the corpse. These ovens and the stretchers were also constructed in Brack's department
Following this successful test, Brack - who was naturally also present and whom I forgot to mention - said a few words. He expressed satisfaction with the test and emphasized once again that this action must only be carried out by doctors according to the motto "syringes are a matter for doctors". Finally, Dr Brandt spoke and reiterated that doctors alone should carry out this gassing.

The last killing took place on 29 October 1940. Children from the mental home in Brandenburg-Görden were murdered.
More than 9,000 persons lost their lifes in the Brandenburg euthanasia centre within nine months. Among the victims were more than 400 Jews.

© ARC 2005