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The Gas Chamber at Grafeneck

Last Update 11 July 2006


Grafeneck Castle
The former medieval castle Grafeneck was built on a hill near Marbach.
On 24 May 1939, members of Aktion T4 visited the buildings in order to find out if it could be used for their killing programme. On 14 October Grafeneck Castle was duly confiscated. Between 10 and 15 manual labourers from nearby villages started to convert the castle into a killing centre.

Gas Chamber
300 m away from the castle several barracks were built, fenced in with a hoarding up to 4 m high. On the first floor of the castle the following facilities were installed: accomodations and offices for the doctors, a registry office, a police office, the office for the comfort letters and others. On the second floor, small living- and sleeping rooms for the personnel were installed. The main building of the killing facility was a barrack (68 m long and 7 m wide), which included several rooms. In one of them 100 beds were placed, covered with straw-bags. Three big buses for transportation of the victims and an ambulance car stood in a wooden garage. Two mobile cremation ovens were located in another wooden barrack. Because of the immense heat, generated by the round-the-clock cremation, the roof of the barrack was removed and after a short time the surrounding trees even blackened. The gas chamber, resembling a shower bath, could hold 75 persons.
A former horse stable (round, and 15 m in diameter) probably served as storage room for the corpses. At the bottom of the hill, at the access road, a high hoarding and a guardhouse were built. Fences with barbed wire surrounded the whole castle whilst armed guards with dogs patrolled these perimeters.

Grafeneck Map.
In mid-November 1939, SS men, typists and other personnel arrived and were supplemented during early January 1940 by approximately 25 nurses, some being male. In mid-January the cremation ovens were delivered. On 18 January 1940 the first transport of 25 handicapped men arrived from Eglfing-Haar near Munich, managed by the Grafeneck chief Dr Horst Schumann. He joined T4 since early October 1939, after a meeting with Viktor Brack in Hitler's chancellery. In early summer of 1940 he was ordered to the Sonnenstein euthanasia centre. Successors in Grafeneck: Dr Ernst Baumhardt and finally Dr Günther Hennecke.
Chief of administration became Christian Wirth, a detective superintendent and SS-Obersturmführer. He supervised the first gassings. Later he became inspector of all Aktion Reinhard extermination camps.

The killing continued until 13 December 1940. Then Grafeneck was no longer part of the euthanasia programme because, according to the plan, all handicapped persons from the Grafeneck operational area had been killed. Some of the personnel went on holiday while some were ordered to the Hadamar euthanasia centre. A few remained at the castle to cover up all tracks of the actions that happened there.
10,824 victims were gassed and cremated at this facility.

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