On my first day at Auschwitz
I witnessed the gassing operation.
An SS officer offered to show me the process
and explain the procedure.
When we arrived at the building
a group of prisoners were sitting outside.
They had not been allowed to enter
as their clothing was so filthy.
The order was given to undress.
I could see by their reaction
that they knew what was coming.
They pleaded piteously with the guards.
Once they were naked,
they were directed down some steps,
then through an underground changing-room
into the gas chamber.
An airtight door was bolted behind them.
There was a small round window
through which it was possible
to watch the gassing.
We had to wait a while
whilst the temperature inside rose.
Apparently this was a necessary factor,
as heat increased the efficiency of the process.
The lights were switched off.
Two SS Disinfectors, standing on the roof above,
emptied several tins of Zyclon B crystals into two tubes.
These tubes were perforated and ran down into the chamber.
Due to the darkness
it was impossible to see the gassing,
but when the crystals were exposed to the air
they began to vaporise and the screaming started.
Gradually the sounds died away.
After twenty minutes or so all was quiet.
The extractor fans in the ceiling were switched on
and after a further twenty minutes the door was opened.
Covered in their blood and excrement
the bodies were twisted together
to form a large pyramid,
the strongest on top.
Some Jewish prisoners entered the chamber
wearing rubber aprons and gas masks.
They prised the bodies apart
and hosed them down.
Metal bars with hook ends.
were inserted in the mouths
so that the bodies could be dragged outside
where they were piled up in the corridor by the lifts.
From there they were loaded
onto the metal platforms of the lifts
which carried them up to the next floor
for an examination before the cremation.
Orifices were searched for valuables.
Dentists extracted any gold teeth,
dropping them into jars of acid
to dissolved bone and tissue.
Finally the bodies were loaded onto trolleys
which ran directly up to the ovens,
allowing the crematorium staff
to slide them into the flames.
Cremation took about twenty minutes.
When the ashes had cooled
they were shovelled onto lorries
and driven to the river Vistula for disposal.
I found it a most disturbing experience
and I wrote in my diary that night
This must be the anus mundi.
The anal orifice of the world.