3.2. Pery Broad
The editors of the anthology Nazi Mass Murder presented SS Sergeant Pery Broad as the second most important Auschwitz witness among the SS men, immediately after Rudolf Höss (Kogon/Langbein/Rückerl 1994, p. 140). Broad, born in 1921 in Brazil as the son of a Brazilian merchant and a German woman, emigrated with his family to Germany at the age of five and joined the SS in 1941. In the beginning of 1942, he was at the front as a member of the Waffen SS, but was soon discharged for being unfit for active duty due to his nearsightedness. He was transferred to Auschwitz, where he initially served as a guard. On May 6, 1945, he was apprehended by the British. Due to his excellent command of the English language, he was employed as an interpreter. On July 13, 1945, he gave his employers a long “memorandum” about Auschwitz, which he confirmed with an affidavit in December of the same year. October 20, 1947, Broad once again issued a statement in Nuremberg. He was released from custody during the same year.
In the preliminary stages of the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, Broad was arrested in April 1959 but released on bail at the end of 1960. In August 1965, the Frankfurt court sentenced him to four years of imprisonment on account of his complicity in murder. Due to time already served, however, he didn’t have to serve another full four years. In 1966, he was released and not troubled by the authorities anymore. He died in 1993.
Titled “Reminiscences,” Broad’s text was made part of the collection KL Auschwitz Seen by the SS published by the Auschwitz Museum (Bezwińska/Czech, pp. 139-198). I will now quote several excerpts that appear to be particularly relevant.
“Auschwitz was an extermination camp! The biggest to exist in the history of the world. Two or three million Jews were murdered there in the course of its existence!” (p. 143)
I won’t comment any further on this death-toll propaganda. With regards to the crematory in the Main Camp, Broad reports:
“A stranger would not so easily have guessed that the rectangular mound, planted with many-coloured flowers, was in reality the crematorium. Unless he noticed the thick, angular metal pipe which projected from the roof and emitted a monotonous buzzing. But he would hardly know that it was the exhaust pipe [“Exhauster” in original] which made the air in the mortuary at least a little more bearable. The square chimney, which stood at some meters’ distance and was connected by underground flues with the four ovens, had also quite an ordinary appearance. But the smoke did not always rise above the chimney in transparent, bluish clouds. It was sometimes pressed down to the ground by the wind. And then one could notice the unmistakable, penetrating stench of burnt hair and burnt flesh, a stench that spread over many kilometers. When the ovens, in which four of [to] six bodies were burnt at the same time, were just heated, a dense, pitch-black smoke coiled upwards from the chimney and then there was no doubt as to the purpose of that mound. Or when at night a tall flame issuing from the chimney was visible from afar.” (ibid., p. 159)
“One day corpses of Russian p.o.w.’s were tugged out from a dark cell. As they lay in the yard, they looked strangely bloated and had a bluish tinge, though they were relatively fresh. Several older prisoners who had been through the World War I remembered to have seen corpses like that during the war. Suddenly they understood..... gas!
The first attempt at the greatest crime which Hitler and his helpers had planned and which they committed in a frightening way, never to be expiated, was successful. The greatest tragedy could then begin, a tragedy to which succumbed millions of happy people, innocently enjoying their lives!
From the first company of the SS Totenkopfsturmbann, stationed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the sergeant-major SS Hauptscharführer Vaupel selected six particularly trusty men. Among them were those, who had been members of the Black General SS for years. They had to report to SS Hauptscharführer Hössler. After their arrival, Hössler insistently cautioned them to preserve the utmost secrecy as to what they would see in the next few minutes. Otherwise death would be their lot. The task of the six men was to keep all roads and streets completely closed around an area near the Auschwitz crematorium. Nobody should be allowed to pass there, regardless of rank. The offices in the buildings from which the crematorium was visible were evacuated. No inmate of the SS garrison hospital was allowed to come near the windows of the first floor which looked on the roof of the nearby crematorium and on the yard of that gloomy place.” (p. 174)
The gassing procedure in Crematory I supposedly happened as follows:
“The first lines entered the mortuary through the hall. Everything was extremely tidy. But the specific smell made some of them uneasy. They looked in vain for showers or water pipes affixed to the ceiling. The hall meanwhile was getting packed. Several SS men had entered with them, full of jokes and small talk. They inobtrusively [sic] kept their eyes on the entrance. As soon as the last person had entered, they disappeared without much ado. Suddenly the door was closed. It had been made tight with rubber and secured with iron fittings. Those inside heard the heavy bolts being secured. They were screwed to with screws, making the door air-tight. A deadly, paralysing terror spread among the victims. They started to beat upon the door, in helpless rage and despair they hammered with their fists upon it. Derisive laughter was the only reply. Somebody shouted through the door, ‘Don’t get burnt, while you take your bath!’ – Several victims noticed that covers had been removed from the six holes in the ceiling. They uttered a loud cry of terror when they saw a head in a gas-mask in one opening. The ‘disinfectors’ were at work. One of them was SS Unterscharführer Teuer, decorated with the Cross of War Merit. With a chisel and a hammer they opened a few innocuously looking tins which bore the inscription ‘Cyclon, to be used against vermin. Attention, poison! To be opened by trained personnel only!’ The tins were filled to the brim with blue granules the size of peas. Immediately after opening the tins, their contents was thrown into the holes which were then quickly covered. Meanwhile Grabner gave a sign to the driver of a lorry, which had stopped close to the crematorium. The driver started the motor and its deafening noise was louder than the death cries of the hundreds of people inside, being gassed to death. Grabner looked with the interest of a scientist upon the second hand of his wrist watch. Cyclon acted swiftly. It consists of cyanide hydrogen in solid form. As soon as the tin was emptied, the prussic acid escaped from the granules. One of the men, who participated in the bestial gassing, could not refrain from lifting, for the fraction of a second, the cover of one of the vents and from spitting into the hall. Some two minutes later the screams became less loud and only an indistinct groaning was heard. The majority of the gassed had already lost their consciousness. Two minutes more and ‘Grabner stopped looking at his watch. There was complete silence. The lorry had driven away. The guards were called off, and the cleaning squad started to sort out the clothes, so tidily put down in the yard of the crematorium. Busy SS men and civilians working in the camp, were again passing the mound, planted with greenery, on the artificial slopes of which young trees peacefully swayed in the wind. Extremely few knew what terrible event had taken place there, only some minutes ago, and what sight the mortuary below the green sward would present. Some time later the exhausts [“Exhauster” in original] had extracted the gas and the prisoners, working in the crematorium, opened the door to the mortuary. The corpses, their mouths wide open, were leaning one upon the other. They were especially close to one another near the door, where in their deadly fright they had crowded to force it. The prisoners of the crematorium squad worked like robots, apathetically and without a trace of emotion. It was difficult to tug the corpses from the mortuary, as their twisted limbs had grown stiff with the gas. Thick smoke clouds poured from the chimney. – This was the beginning in 1942!” (pp. 176f.)
Broad also knows a thing or two about the gassings in Birkenau:
“At some distance from the Birkenau camp, which was growing at an incredible rate, there stood, amidst a pleasant scenery, two pretty and tidy looking farmhouses, separated from one another by a grove. They were dazzlingly whitewashed, were cosily thatched and were surrounded with fruit-trees of the kind that usually grew there. Such was the first hasty impression! Nobody would have thought it credible that in those insignificant little houses as many people had perished as would have filled a city. The attentive spectator might have noticed signs in many languages on the houses. The signs read: ‘To disinfection’. Then he might observe that the houses were windowless but had a disproportionate number of remarkably strong doors, made air-tight with rubber and secured with screwed down bolts, while small wooden flaps were fixed near the bolts. Near the small houses there were several unsuitably large stables, such as were used in Birkenau to accommodate prisoners. The roads leading to them bore the tracks of many heavily loaded vans. If the visitor discovered in addition that from the doors there led a van track to some pits, hidden by brushwood fences, then he certainly would guess that the houses served some special purpose.
The N.C.O. on duty crashed through the barracks of the commandant’s staff. A whistle sharply shrilled through the silent night. ‘A transport has arrived!’ Tired and cursing the SS men jumped from their beds, covered with the finest eiderdowns. There were the drivers, employees of the section receiving new transports, of the prisoners’ property stores, the camp leaders and disinfectors, who were that night on duty to recive [sic] arriving transports. ‘Verflucht nochmal [damn it, again]; these transports keep on arriving all the time, not a moment’s rest, where does this one come from?’ – ‘I think it is Paris. But there is one from Westerbork already in the station, we must push it quickly to the siding. A big transport from Theresienstadt has been reported coming early in the morning’. – ‘Hell! Those in Lublin [reference to the Majdanek Camp] do no work any more, it seems. Everything comes to us. Well, let’s hope the Frenchmen have at least brought plenty of sardines with them!’ – They had meanwhile dressed. Motorcycles were being started in front of the barrack and were driving away.” (pp. 177f.)
“The lorries had been driving back and forth several times in order to get all those who were condemned to die to the bunkers. The people had to undress in the stables and were then crowded into the gas-chambers. The inscriptions pointing to disinfection, the talk of the SS men and, above all, the pleasant look of the little farmhouses had many times made those, who were about to die, feel hopeful. They expected in fact to be employed at some less heavy work, suited to their physical condition. But it also occurred that whole transports were fully conscious of their impending fate. The murderers had to be very careful in such cases. Otherwise they could be shot with their own pistols, as it had happened in the case of SS Unterscharführer Schillinger.
From the moment when everybody had been locked in the gas-chambers and the doors had been bolted, the task of the majority of the SS men was over. Just as in the gassing in the old Auschwitz crematorium, the ‘disinfector’ had then to do his job. But motor noises of lorries were not considered necessary here. The SS authorities in question probably did not realize that the inhabitants of the small village Wohlau, situated not far from there across the Vistula, had often witnessed the scenes of terror at night. Thanks to the bright flames from the pits where corpses were continually burnt, they could see processions of naked people marching from the barracks, where they had undressed, to the gaschambers. They heard the cries of people, brutally beaten because they did not want to enter the chambers of death, they also heard shots which finished off those who could not be squeezed into the gaschambers which were not roomy enough. In the daytime Polish civilian workers were busy building new big crematoria in the vicinity of the farmhouses, used as gas-chambers. They worked within the camp area at a distance of several hundred meters only from the farmhouses, and so they were able to see how prisoners tugged some objects from their doors and how they loaded flat lorries and drove them to the pits, over which clouds of smoke were forever hovering. Specialists in this kind of work laid a thousand or more corpses, layer upon layer, in the pits. Layers of timber separated the corpses and then the ‘open air theatre’ (Freilichtbühne) was set on fire with methanol.” (pp. 180-182)
“Gossipy sentries were punished for talking; they were supposed to be guilty of betraying the secrets, hut [but] it was by reason of the unmistakable sweetish smell and the nightly flames that the nearest neighbourhood of Auschwitz learned about the goings-on in the camp of death. Railwaymen used to tell the civilian population how thousands were being brought to Auschwitz every day, and yet the camp was not growing larger at a corresponding rate.” (pp. 182f.)
Pery Broad is rather taciturn when it comes to the gas chambers in the new crematories:
“The building of four new crematoria was speeded up. Two of them had underground gas-chambers and in each 4.000 people could be killed at the same time. The two other and smaller crematoria had two gaschambers partitioned into three sections, which were built on the ground-floors. In each of those death factories there was an immense hall where ‘evacuees’ had to undress. The halls of crematoria I [II] and II [III] were underground, too. Stone stairs, about 2 meters wide, led down to them. But all the four crematoria were not yet finished when in one of them, which had already been in use, one of the chimneys burst due to over-exploitation and was in need of repairs. The crematoria I [II] and II [III] had fifteen ovens [muffles] each, and each oven was equipped to hold four or five corpses.” (p. 184)
Broad doesn’t find the gassing procedure in the new crematories worthy of a more-detailed description. At long last, Auschwitz Concentration Camp was coming to an end. Broad’s reminiscences conclude as follows:
“In front of all the administration buildings in Auschwitz piles of personal documents were set on fire and those buildings, in which the greatest mass murders were committed, the greatest in the history of mankind, were blasted. Somewhere among the ruins there lay a tin bowl from which some prisoner had probably eaten his watery soup. He had awkwardly scratched thereon a boat floating at the mercy of a raging sea. Above there was the inscription: ‘Don’t forget the forlorn man’ [in English]. On the back of the bowl an aeroplane was seen with the American star on its wings and in the act of letting a bomb fall. The inscription above that picture was: ‘Vox dei!’” (p. 198)
Broad – who, it cannot be denied, had a certain literary talent – portrays the gassing procedure in Crematory I quite elaborately. It is therefore remarkable that Pressac quotes the far-less-vivid Feinsilber Report as proof of the gassings in this crematory rather than the Broad Report. The reason for this is that to Pressac the form and tone of Broad’s statements appear “false”; they rather resemble those of an ex-detainee than of an SS man. Pressac explains this with Broad’s “rather too flagrant Polish patriotism” (Pressac 1989, p. 128). The reason why the son of a Brazilian and a German woman would feel Polish patriotism is certainly incomprehensible. Pressac is also not in favor of Broad’s statements about the bunkers of Birkenau; in his opinion they have been “rewritten by and for the Poles” (ibid., p. 162).
It is indeed evident that Broad doesn’t sound like an SS man. It stands to reason that he wanted to assure himself of mild treatment by his captors with his “memorandum.” He did succeed in this: As had happened to many of Broad’s former companions, the British could have readily hanged him, sentenced him to many years of imprisonment or extradited him to Poland: But no: as a trade-off for having provided them with conclusive “evidence” of mass extermination in Auschwitz, they released him in 1947 already. In order to obtain such an advantageous special treatment, Broad had adopted the parlance of the victors already at an early stage.
But let us turn to the core of the “memorandum” that contains the following improbabilities and impossibilities, among other things:
1. The “unmistakable, penetrating stench of burnt hair,” presumably noticeable over a distance of kilometers during the cremations in Crematory I, can only have been a product of the imagination. Those who don’t believe this should stand near a crematory and observe for himself if a stench is being spread.
2. The four to six simultaneously incinerated corpses in one muffle damages Broad’s credibility at an early stage already.
3. Enough has been said already in connection with the remarks about Henryk Tauber about the flames shooting from the crematory chimney.
4. The claim that the corpses turned blueish after the first test gassing points to the fact that Broad has never in his life seen a person poisoned by hydrogen cyanide.
5. The things Broad writes about the desperate attempts by the SS to keep the gas murders a secret sound completely absurd, for instance when they kept “all roads and streets completely closed around an area near the Auschwitz crematorium.” And in Birkenau “Polish civilian workers” (!) were allowed to construct crematories at a distance of a few hundred meters away from the bunkers! A mass murder of that magnitude couldn’t have been kept a secret anyway, but it is inscrutable why, when hushing up the crime is so important, it was allegedly conducted exactly in the middle of a congested industrial area such as Auschwitz, and moreover tasking Polish civilian workers with the construction of the crematories. Furthermore, as every visitor to the Auschwitz Main Camp knows, Crematory I is located in the immediate vicinity of other buildings. For instance, it was only some 30 meters away from the military hospital. In view of this, to still expect “secrecy” with regard to the gassings was more than naïve.
6. With regard to the gassing procedure in Crematory I: Especially out of touch with reality here is the duration of two minutes until loss of consciousness set in with most detainees and another two minutes until their death.
7. Note that Broad mentions six insertion holes in the roof of the morgue of Crematory I. Feinsilber claimed only two, and today’s visitor to this “gas chamber” sees four shafts in the roof.
8. Contrary to almost all other witnesses, Broad has given at least some thought to the ventilation problem by furnishing the gas chambers with “exhaust[er]s.” This offers the opportunity to discuss an extremely important question namely that of the ventilation of the gas chambers. According to the documents, the Morgue 1 of Crematoria II and III, allegedly used as a “gas chamber,” had a ventilation system of a lower (!) capacity than the one of Morgue 2, which is said to have served as an undressing room for the victims (cf. Rudolf 2016b, pp. 173-176). From an invoice dated May 27, 1943 by the Topf Company of the city of Erfurt, it can be seen that blowers of a capacity of 4,800 m3/h had been installed in Morgue 1. In Morgue 2, however, a blower with a capacity of 10,000 m3/h.96 Morgue 1 had a volume of 506 m3, Morgue 2 of 902.7 m3. Under these conditions, the blower installed in the “gas chamber” could perform 9.49 air exchanges per hour, the one in the “undressing room” 11.08 per hour. In a reference book about crematories it states that a morgue requires at least 5, under heavy use 10, air exchanges per hour.97 As the morgues of Birkenau were indeed heavily used, the capacity of the ordered and installed blowers is exactly what was to be expected. In comparison: For the Degesch circulation disinfestation device, a number of 72 air exchanges were mentioned in a World War II trade magazine.98 Had Morgue 1 of Crematory II and III been planned as a homicidal gas chamber, it would certainly have been equipped with a comparably strong ventilation system. These facts already suffice to show that the story about the use of Morgue 1 as a homicidal gas chamber is completely incredible.
9. The tomfoolery about the cremation pits is also present with Broad.
10. If it had beenpossible to cram 4,000 people intoeach of the 210-square-meter-sized Morgues 1 of Crematory II and III, then 19 people would have been standing on each square meter.
11. It’s remarkable that the quite-long report only briefly mentions the gassings in the Birkenau Crematories.
12. If the records had been burned before the evacuation of the camp, one wonders where the approximately 120,000 (after subtracting copies, maybe 80,000) documents of Auschwitz came from that have been available since the 1990s in the Moscow archives–not to mention the tens of thousands of documents in the Auschwitz Memorial Museum and other archives.