I’ve heard and read this phrase over and over again; i.e. “Hitler sent millions of Jews into ovens” or “millions of Jews fell victim to the concentration camp ovens” or “95 year old Klaus Scumschidt has been accused of marching 30,000 Jewish prisoners into the ovens of Auschwitz.”
My understanding is millions of Jews were marched into gas chambers, then the camps burned the bodies in said ovens. I don’t recall they were marched and burned alive in actual ovens. Not that the cyanide chamber thing was a picnic either. But they were gas chambers, not ovens where victims were roasted to death.
Am I missing something here or is this phrase just more dramatic than “the Nazis marched Jews into gas chambers”. Or did the Nazi’s actually bake some of their victims?
As I understand it, the gassing wasn’t always completely effective and some victims were merely incapacitated, so were placed (not marched) into the ovens alive. There are also claims that babies and young children were thrown into the ovens alive (presumably to save time/gas, and because they would not be capable of resisting)
Their fashion sense was also impeccable. Military chic at its best. I mean, of course you have to be evil to wear white- and red-accented black uniforms adorned with various skulls but it’s a small price to pay.
Perhaps the crematoria were singled out because that was the last step in the killing process. Regardless of whether the victims were gassed or shot or worked to death or died of a disease, the bodies ended up being burned. So saying people were sent to the ovens serves as a metaphor for all the ways in which they were killed.
Your post is suspiciously semantic. It almost sounds like you are attempting to say that if the Jews were not in a proper military formation and didn’t lift their legs just so they weren’t “marching” and by extension the Holocaust didn’t happen since they didn’t “march into the ovens”.
But please, by all means tell us that you mean something else by parsing exactly how millions of innocent people were murdered in a systematic and industrial manner.
It seems like a fairly reasonable question to me. It does sound strange to state they marched people directly into ovens. I’ve read that phrase a few times and it always strikes me as being a silly way to say it.
The people murdered in the Holocaust were murdered in almost every conceivable fashion, actually. A great many never even made it to the camps; they were shot by SS killing units that roamed behind the front, rounding up and slaughtering Jews, Roma, communists and the like. This was the preferred method in the Soviet Union at first. As the war wore on, more SS were needed to actually fight people who could fight back, hence the greater emphasis on murdering them in a more organized fashion.
Of course, many more were murdered indirectly, by deliberately starving them to death, working them to death, allowing them to die of disease, and the like.
We do know of someone being thrown alive in the ovens at Birkenau, during the Sonderkommando revolt on the 7th October 1944 a Kapo was thrown into the furnace of Crematoria II;
*“The blazing roof of Crematoria IV was seen by the Sonderkommando of Crematorium II…In panic, the Russians seized the leading Kapo, a German, ‘and in a flash threw him alive into the burning furnace’” *
(The Holocaust, Gilbert)
In Auschwitz, initially victims were gassed and then buried. “Pressburger was forced to work in a special unit, burying the bodies gassed in the two cottages…‘We used to bury them the next morning. We put some powdered lime and soil over them.’”
(Auschwitz, the Nazis and the Final Solution, Rees)
However this method of disposal quickly proved inadequate;*
“…when the hot summer arrived, the bodies thrown into pits started to putrefy…‘The dead bodies were becoming alive. They were rotting and coming out of the holes. Blood and dirt was everywhere…’”*
So, the combined crematoria and gas chambers were constructed to cope with demand; “This “Krema” was to be built on the conveyor belt principle. That is
to say, the corpses must be brought to the incineration furnaces
without interruption. When the corpses are pushed into the furnaces,
they fall onto a grate, and then slide into the furnace and are
incinerated. The corpses serve at the same time as fuel for heating of
the furnaces.” Engineer Fritz Sander testifying on March 7 1946.
Even then the crematoria went over capacity and bodies were disposed of in a burning pit.
*"SPIEGEL: Did you see the corpses being burned?
W.: The crematorium chimneys weren’t very tall. Depending on the wind direction, it stunk badly. And starting in 1944, the crematoria weren’t able to keep up. Next to them was a ditch, perhaps three or four meters across. A fire was burning in the trench day and night. Two men were always carrying straps that they used to pull them (Eds. note: the corpses) out of the gas chamber, removed the straps and threw them into the fire. If you were standing in the area, it was impossible to look away."*
Although now it is known for its organised nature the to the Holocaust was very much an improvised affair in its early stages, eventually emulating the earlier killings of the disabled through use of gas.
On why the gassing was even necessary in the first place, why didn’t they simply throw their victims alive into crematoria, the answer is simply efficiency - it’s easier to kill victims en masse when they didn’t know death was imminent, rather than risk a struggle which slows things down;*
“The escorting SS-men tried not to be provocative, on the contrary dispelling fears with false information about the fate that awaited them…
…Upon arrival, the people were told of the baths and disinfection that awaited them and ordered them to undress in two huts reserved for this purpose, then they were led into the farmhouse.”*
They were really good at taking established symbols and naming conventions and tying the main mental image to Nazism. The totenkopf (death’s head) was one where they were less successful. It’s still part of the logo for the USMC Reconnaissance Battalions and the UK’s Royal Lancers among others. Renaming the early paramilitary wing using a term from the Storm Troop detachments of WWI absolutely trashed most of the related Sturm terminology though.
Like a famous evil cover band and almost nobody remembers the original songs.