A group of 2,000 Jews arrives today in Auschwitz via train from the Krakow Ghetto. By evening, 1,492 have been gassed in the Birkenau extermination camp. The purpose of this mass gassing is to test the new ventilation and exhaust equipment in Birkenau's Crematorium II, just installed by J.A. Topf engineer Heinrich Messing.
J. A. Topf und Söhne (J.A. Topf and Sons) supplies ovens, ventilation, and exhaust systems for gas chambers at extermination camps throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
The engineers are fully aware of the purpose of these systems and some visit the camps regularly to check on their functioning. Even employees in the home office are made aware of what's going on, as demonstrated through written records of telephone conversations.
Heinrich Messing puts in 35 hours of overtime this week to get the systems fully operational for mass murder. He's even aware of exactly how the SS plans to kill people because he refers to one room as the "undressing room" - the room where victims disrobe before entering the main gas chamber.
Even with all this technical assistance, though, it's not enough for the needs of the SS. The four Topf crematoria, operating well above their designed specifications, can only incinerate around 8,000 corpses per day.
The Topf gas chambers are, however, capable of killing more than 9,000 people per day - and during the summer of 1944, the SS is frequently killing that many people. They have to start burning bodies in ditches around Auschwitz as a result.