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The Gas Chamber at Hartheim

Last Update 10 July 2006


The Gas Chamber
In 1939 Hartheim Castle was converted into an euthanasia centre of the Aktion T4, with gas chamber and crematorium. At the western side of the castle a wooden annex was built, in which the victims left the busses, unnoticed by others.
During May 1940 the first 633 patients were gassed. Four drivers drove the large grey buses of the Gekrat organization which carried the victims to the castle, where they disappeared into a wooden annex. After they have been gassed, gold teeth were extracted from the corpses. After cremation, bones were still visible among the ashes. These were pulverized to dust with a bone mill. At least once a week a lorry left the castle and drove to the rivers Donau and Traun to scatter the ashes into the water.
Until August 1941 the death toll of the Hartheim killing centre had risen to 18,269. Later, during the Sonderbehandlung 14f13 operation, nearly 12,000 victims were killed. Also more than 8,000 inmates of the concentration camps Dachau and Mauthausen / Gusen were killed.

The population near Hartheim Castle became aware of the killings. Always, after the arrival of a grey bus, a dark cloud appeared from an invisible chimney. On days with low cloudbanks, the smoke spread over Hartheim town. It smelled of burned flesh and hair, causing the townsfolk to be physically sick. The fact that a lot of people were brought to the castle, but nobody left it, caused rumours to be spread. To calm down the citizens, the Hartheim authorities arranged information meetings. The townsfolk were told that used oil had been burned. A warning was issued against persons divulging any observations.
During December 1944 and January 1945 inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp had to dismantle and remove the gassing installations. Most of the documents were destroyed.

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