AUGUST BECKER (17 August 1900 – 31 December 1967) was a mid-ranking
functionary in the SS of
* 1 Early life * 2 Early SS career
* 3 Action T4 killing program
* 4 Trial and conviction * 5 Notes * 6 References * 7 External links
EARLY SS CAREER
By September 1930 Becker had joined the
According to his 1960 testimony, Becker was then transferred to
Berlin, to the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt
or RSHA), Office (Amt)VI, foreign intelligence. This agency was on the
Bernerstrasse in the Grunewald. At this time
ACTION T4 KILLING PROGRAM
Olga Benário Prestes in 1928, later murdered at Bernburg
Euthanasia Centre Self-portrait by Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler
who was murdered at
Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre
Becker remained with RSHA Amt VI until December 1939, when, shortly before Christmas, he received an order by telephone to report to Oberführer Victor Brack in the Reich Chancellery (Reichskanzlei). Becker went to Brack's office that same day. Brack was part of the office of the Führer Chancellery (Kanzlei des Führers) . According to Becker, Brack told him the following:
* At the personal command of (Reichsführer-SS) Himmler , Becker was deputed to Brack; * Becker's assignment would be to carry out a "euthanasia" program to destroy all idiots and mental patients; * The killing would be done with carbon monoxide gas. This gas had already been studied by a chemist, Dr. Albert Widmann , with the Office of the National Criminal Police (RKPA) in Berlin to assess its utility. * Becker "didn't need to have any scruples with this thing, because the killing of these people would be made lawful by a Führer directive.
This program was known as Action T4 .
Becker participated in the first "test", gassing 18 to 20 mentally ill convicts in a former prison known by the euphemistic name of The Brandenburg an der Havel National Institute , which later became known to history as a Nazi killing center (NS-Tötungsanstalt). Among the Action-T4 personal, Becker was called "the Red Becker" because of his hair color and also probably to avoid confusion with the similarly named Hans Joachim Becker, director of the Zentralverrechnungstelle welfare and institutes for care. After the war, Brack was placed on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Brack named Becker among 24 main responsible people for the action T4 in a list Brack produced for the Allied occupying authorities.
SETTING UP THE FIRST GAS CHAMBER
According to Becker's testimony at the trial of Werner Heyde , the first medical director of Action T4 , in the first half January 1940, Becker drove to the Brandenburg institute, where buildings had been prepared specially for this purpose. An area resembling a shower room with showerheads was laid out, about 3 meters by 5 meters in floor size, with a ceiling about three meters high.
A pipe ran around the walls of the room, and in the pipe were small holes, out of which the carbon monoxide gas flowed. The gas bottles stood outside the area and were already attached to the supply pipe. The assembly of the plant was accomplished by a mechanic of the SS-principal office Berlin. The gas-tight entrance door (Gasdichttur) included an observation port through which the behavior of the delinquents (Delinquenten) could be observed during the course of the gassing. Gas chamber in Hadamar Euthanasia Centre
For the first gassing the maintenance personnel led about 18 - 20 persons into the disguised gas chamber. These men had had to undress in an antechamber (Vorraum), so that they were completely naked. The door was locked behind them. According to Becker, the victims went calmly into the area and showed no signs of agitation. As Widmann let in the gas Becker watched through the observation port. After about one minute, the victims fell down and lay on top of one another. Becker said he saw no scenes or tumult. After a further five minutes the area was aired out. At this point, using specially designed stretchers, SS personnel cleared the bodies out of the area and took them to the incinerators.
Becker's boss, Victor Brack, and his office had designed the stretchers and the incinerator equipment, which was intended to allow mechanical feeding of the corpses into the furnace. Brack was present at this first gassing to observe his system in operation. According to Becker, afterwards Brack appeared satisfied, and made some remarks, saying that "this action should be accomplished only by the physicians" and recited the saying that "the syringe belonged into the hand of the physician." Subsequently, professor Dr. Brandt spoke and stressed likewise that only physicians would carry out these gassings. At the same time, Widmann informed the institute physician Dr. Eberl and Dr. Baumhart, who later took over extermination efforts at Grafeneck and at Hadamar. The second gassing trial and later extermination measures were accomplished thereafter by Dr. Eberl alone and on his own authority.
ONGOING GASSING PROGRAM
The Brandenburg gassing, together with the gassings of Polish mental patients that the SS-Sonderkommando had carried out in the autumn 1939 gas chamber in Fort VII at Posen , led to the specification that the T4 victims should also be killed with CO gas. Becker was assigned to instruct the physicians, who were to set up six "institutes" for gassing, the first of which was at Grafeneck. According to Becker's later testimony, around the end of January 1940 he brought the gas bottles out from Brandenburg to Grafeneck Castle , to put the institute there "into operation", that is, to start the killing program there. Originally, a Dr. Schumann was to operate the CO valve, but Schumann let the gas flow too quickly, causing it to hiss loudly inside the "shower room." This caused the victims, whom Becker called, even years later, the "delinquents" to become agitated. Becker took over manometers from Schumann. He slowed down the gas infusion into the chamber, which caused the victims to calm down and die shortly thereafter.
Up to the end of
Action T4 in August 1941 Becker's job was to arrange
delivery of CO bottles from the
I.G. Farben plant in
In October 1941 Becker was used again in the Central Reich Security
Office and assigned to department II D 3 A under Friedrich Pradel .
This was responsible for the Kraftfahrwesen of the state police. The
director of department D (technical affairs), SS-Obersturmbannführer
Walter Rauff , assigned Becker in December 1941 the inspection of the
gas vans with the
Einsatzgruppen , a Nazi bureaucratic term which
technically meant "
GAS VAN OPERATIONS
A destroyed Magirus-Deutz van found in 1945 in Koło (Kolo), Poland, not far from the Kulmhof (Chelmno) extermination camp . The same type of van was used by the Nazis for suffocation, with the exhaust fumes diverted into the sealed rear compartment where the victims were locked in. This particular van has not been modified yet
To lessen the psychological impact on the killers of the one-on-one
style of killing that had characterized
Einsatzgruppen operations, the
SS, at the direction of
In practice, however, it was more difficult to carry out van killings
than the original theory had anticipated. Becker was assigned to solve
the problems. He later testified that when, in December 1941, he was
transferred to Rauff's command, Rauff explained to Becker that the
plan was to gas people rather than shoot them, because the
psychological burden of so many shootings could no longer be borne by
the killers. Rauff told Becker that the gas vans and drivers had
already arrived at the
Einsatzgruppe locations or they were on their
way. Rauff assigned Becker to investigate the gas van procedures used
by the Einsatzgruppen. Specifically, Becker was to ensure the mass
killings (Massentötungen) made in the gas vans were conducted
efficiently. In the middle of December 1941, Becker drove to
Becker worried however not only about the technology of the gas vans, but was also concerned about their camouflage as well as the physical and moral health of the SS troops carrying out the execution procedure. Thus he reported on 16 May 1942 from Kiev to Rauff:
I ordered the vans of Einsatzgruppe D to be camouflaged as house-trailers by putting one set of window shutters on each side of the small van and two on each side of the larger vans, such as one often sees on farm-houses in the country. The vans became so well-known, that not only the authorities, but also the civilian population called the van "death van", as soon as one of these vehicles appeared. It is my opinion, the van cannot be kept secret for any length of time, not even camouflaged. ... Because of the rough terrain and the indescribable road and highway conditions the caulkings and rivets loosen in the course of time. I was asked if in such cases the vans should be brought to Berlin for repair. Transportation to Berlin would be much too expensive and would demand too much fuel. In order to save those expenses I ordered them to have smaller leaks soldered and if that should no longer be possible, to notify Berlin immediately by radio, that Pol. Nr ............. is out of order. Besides that I ordered that during application of gas all the men were to be kept as far away from the vans as possible, so they should not suffer damage to their health by the gas which eventually would escape. I should like to take this opportunity to bring the following to your attention: several commands have had the unloading after the application of gas done by their own men. I brought to the attention of the commanders of those S.K. concerned the immense psychological injuries and damages to their health which that work can have for those men, even if not immediately, at least later on. The men complained to me about head-aches which appeared after each unloading. Nevertheless they don't want to change the orders, because they are afraid prisoners called for that work, could use an opportune moment to flee. To protect the men from these damages, I request orders be issued accordingly.
In this letter Becker criticized also the incorrect execution of the gassings:
The application of gas usually is not undertaken correctly. In order to come to an end as fast as possible, the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. By doing that the persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not death by dozing off as was planned. My directions now have proved that by correct adjustment of the levers death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as could be seen before, are no longer noticed.
Becker continued sending messages to Rauff regarding the efficacious use of the gas vans through the middle of 1942. On 5 June 1942 Becker reported that "for an example, since December 1941, three vehicles were used to process 97,000, with no down-time on the vehicles.". In September 1942, following his return to Berlin, Becker criticized the untidy means by which the murders were carried out to Rauff's deputy Pradel:
I described the function of the gas cars to Pradel in an hour long personal discussion and offered criticisms, because the subjects (people to be murdered) were suffocated and not gassed since the operating crew didn't follow proper instructions. I told him that the subjects vomited and defecated upon themselves prior to death instead of falling asleep first. Pradel thoughtfully nodded, without saying a word.
After his work as a gas van specialist Becker was employed at the Central Commercial Company East (Zentralhandelsgesellschaft Ost), a monopoly company for the agricultural products in the occupied east areas, and afterwards in the Foreign Defense Office (Auslandabwehr) of the Central Reich Security Office ( RSHA ). In 1943 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (SS-Obersturmbannführer).
TRIAL AND CONVICTION
Because of his membership in the SS, Becker was sentenced after end of war to a three years prison sentence. Afterwards he worked as a salesman and industrial worker. In 1959 he suffered a stroke and moved to a nursing home in the upper Hessian town of Laubach.
In 1959, the public prosecutor's office in
* ^ A B Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 210–211. ISBN 0-8078-4675-9 . * ^ A B C D (in German)Vernehmungsprotokoll der Sonderkommission des Hessischen Landeskriminalamtes Wiesbaden, V/1, vom 4. April 1960, see "Tötung in einer Minute". „Mitschrift der Vernehmung und Fahndungsschreiben von Dr. phil. August Becker“ * ^ A B Klee, Ernst (1986). Was sie taten – was sie wurden: Ärzte, Juristen und andere Beteiligte am Kranken- oder Judenmort (in German). Frankfurt am Main. pp. 152, 327. ISBN 3-596-24364-5 . * ^ A B C D E (in German) Heyde-Akte pages 293 ff., Generalstaatsanwaltschaft Frankfurt a.M. Ks 2/63, quoted from Ernst Klee : „Euthanasie“ im NS-Staat, pages 110-111. * ^ Widmann denied "personally" carrying out the gassing, see Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, page 110 * ^ The German article states that this was the I.G. Farben works in Ludwigshafen * ^ (in German) Judgment of 15 September 1967 Ks 19/62, quoted from Ernst Klee: „Euthanasie“ im NS-Staat, page 85. * ^ Ezergailis, Andrew (1996). The Holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944 – The Missing Center. Riga: Historical Institute of Latvia (in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 239–270. ISBN 9984-9054-3-8 . * ^ Reitlinger, Gerald (1989) . The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945. New York: Da Capo. pp. 117, 183, and 280. ISBN 0-306-80351-8 * ^ Nizkor Project. "Gas Wagons: The Holocaust\'s mobile gas chambers". Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-03. * ^ A B C (in German) Statement from 26 March 1960, Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg 9 AR-Z 220/59, Band I, pages 194 and following, quoted from Klee, Dressen, Rieß: „Schöne Zeiten“, pages 71 ff. * ^ A B Office of the United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, ("Red Series"), Volume III, pages 418-419, USGPO, Washington DC 1946 * ^ A Nazi euphemism for murder, similar to "special treatment" * ^ (in German) 13 Js 328/60, siehe "Tötung in einer Minute". „Mitschrift der Vernehmung und Fahndungsschreiben von Dr. phil. August Becker“ * ^ (in German) „Trauriges Bild“. „Spiegel“-Artikel vom 4. Dezember 1967
* (in German) Klee, Ernst , „Euthanasie im NS-Staat: die Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. 11. Auflage. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt/M. 2004, ISBN 3-596-24326-2 * (in German) Klee, Ernst , Dokumente zur „Euthanasie“. Frankfurt a.M. 1985, Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, ISBN 3-596-24327-0 * (in German) Klee, Ernst , Was sie taten – Was sie wurden, Frankfurt/M. 1986, ISBN 3-596-24364-5 * (in German) Klee, Ernst : „August Becker“ Eintrag in ders.: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Aktualisierte Ausgabe. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-16048-0 * (in German) Eugen Kogon , Hermann Langbein , Adalbert Rückerl u.a. (Hrsg.): Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas: eine Dokumentation, Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt 1986, ISBN 3-596-24353-X . * (in German) Ernst Klee, Willi Dreßen, Volker Rieß (Hrsg.): „Schöne Zeiten“ -- Judenmord aus der Sicht der Täter und Gaffer. S.Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a.M. 1988, ISBN 3-10-039304-X , English translation published in the USA under the title "The Good Old Days": The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, Old Saybrook, CT, Konecky and Konecky, 1991 ISBN 1-56852-133-2 * (in German) Volker Rieß: „Die Anfänge der Vernichtung ‚lebensunwerten Lebens’ in den Reichsgauen Danzig-Westpreußen 1939/40“. Frankfurt am Main 1995 * (in German) Henry Friedlander: "Der Weg zum NS-Genozid. Von der Euthanasie zur Endlösung"; Berlin Verlag, Berlin, 2002, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6 .