The “Topf und Söhne” Company builds a modern, two-chamber oven in the building of the former munition warehouse, later known as Crematorium I. The chamber (muffle) is meant for one body, and it has an assumed cremating capacity of 70 cadavers per 24 hours. In reality, one can cremate a higher amount if the bodies are emaciated, as more bodies can be placed inside at once. Thus, in a period of 24 hours, one two-chamber oven can cremate up to 140 cadavers.


By the summer, it is evident that one oven in the crematorium is not sufficient. This is why another two-chamber oven is requested. The request is granted, and the crematorium becomes more efficient. On average, it is able to cremate 230 cadavers in 24 hours.


The second experiment takes place in the morgue of the crematorium. The morgue had been previously equipped with a ventilation system that drains smells from the room and conversely ushers fresh air in. Currently, there are three square openings in the roof, which are covered with tightly fitted wooden lids. The deceived Soviet prisoners are told to completely undress under the pretences of disinfection, after which they are led to the morgue and gassed. The undertakings go through without much fuss, and are considered to be a success by the Nazis, as all 900 men die after inhaling the gas. This is the entire transport that arrives at the camp.
The morgue, now operating as a gas chamber, is 17 metres long, 4.6 metres wide and 2.86 metres high. It thus has a total area of 78.2 square metres.


The camp commandant requests that a third oven be constructed in the crematorium. This request is granted.


The third incinerator in the crematorium of Auschwitz I launches operation in order to increase its performance. After this alteration, it is possible to cremate 340 bodies in 24 hours.
Actually, the first small and stable Jewish Sonderkommando work unit is established and is housed in Block 11, isolated from the other prisoners. These inmates ensure the operations of the crematorium in two shifts. The Kapo is cruel twenty-two-year-old Polish inmate Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Morawa. He beats to death several Jewish prisoners with his bare hands. The stokers are two Poles, thirty-two-year-old Jósef Ilczuk and thirty-four-year-old Waclav Lipka, and the other eight members are Jewish prisoners. They are known as Fischl's commando according to their foreman's name. Twenty-three-year-old Goliath Fischl dies in August 1942 in the typhus epidemic.
One of the Jewish prisoners is also twenty-year-old Filip Müller, who serves in various crematoriums from May 1942 until January 1945; he survives the horrors of the camp and later serves as a key witness in court.
Twenty-one-year-old SS-Unterscharführer Hans Stark, who has been a member of the SS since he was 16, oversees the crematorium. He murders many people, including women and children, with his bare hands as they are driven into the gas chamber. After the war, he is sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.
It is tolerated if members of the commando take food or clothing, and later alcohol, cigarettes, and medicine from the belongings of the gassed. They must not, however, take any valuables. This rule remains in effect for all of the future Sonderkommandos. Despite of this interdict and the threat of death, the prisoners successfully “organise” such valuables and then do business with them. Bribery and barter trade also concerns the guards ranking among the SS.


Two families from around Katowice, numbering each about 20 members including children ageing from 5 to 12, gradually arrive at Auschwitz I. They must all strip bare in the courtyard of the crematorium, and are then led to the morgue, where SS-Oberscharführer Palitzsch kills them with a bullet to the head.
This method repeats itself several times throughout 1942. In the case that only a smaller amount of deported people arrive, gas is not wasted on them, but they are shot dead directly in the crematorium. This means groups of up to 230 persons; executions by shooting sometimes even take place three times a week. Aside from Palitzsch, the SS officer Quackernack also executes the deported. The crematorium attendants who are inmates are shut in the coal warehouse. At first, leading the people to execution and holding the victims during the shooting was the task of Kapo Morawa, or sometimes of his Polish colleagues working in the position of stokers. Later, some members of the Sonderkommando are forced to do this.


Another six men of the Sonderkommando escape. Two are caught and are executed on 17 December 1942, and the fates of the four remaining men is unknown. It is thus not clear whether they survive the war or are later killed.


The funeral commando in Crematorium I of Auschwitz I is expanded. It consists of 22 young Jewish men, and one of them is twenty-six-year-old Henryk Tauber, who survives and becomes a trial witness. They receive basic training in servicing the crematoriums in Auschwitz II – Birkenau. Twelve of them survive this period of initial training.


Crematorium I in Auschwitz I discontinues operations, and the last prisoners to serve there are transferred to the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz II – Birkenau. Two Poles and six Jewish prisoners arrive, among them is Stanislav Jankowski.

Pulling dead from gas chamber – by Jan Komski
Walter Quakernack
project of students of SSPŠ
Hans Stark