Gerstein Report was written in 1945 by Kurt Gerstein,
Obersturmführer of the Waffen-SS, who served as Head of Technical
Disinfection Services of the SS in World War II, and in that capacity
supplied the hydrogen cyanide-based pesticide
Zyklon B from Degesch
(Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung) to
Rudolf Höss in
Auschwitz, and conducted the negotiations with the owners. On 18
August 1942, along with
Rolf Günther and Wilhelm Pfannenstiel,
Gerstein witnessed the gassing of some 3,000 Jews in the extermination
Belzec in occupied Poland. The report features his eyewitness
testimony. It was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials.
Obersturmführer Kurt Gerstein, member of the SS, author of the
Gerstein Report, wearing SS2 "Germania" collar tab, World War II
When Gerstein surrendered to the French Commandant in the occupied
Reutlingen on 22 April 1945 he was sent to the town of
Rottweil where he was placed under “honorable captivity” and given
accommodation in the Hotel Mohren. There he composed his report, first
in French and then in German.
1 Personal details
2 Testimony regarding gas chambers
4 Use as evidence in trials
6 See also
7 Notes and references
8 External links
Main article: Kurt Gerstein
Gerstein was born on 11 August 1905 in
Münster where he lived until
1910, moving to Saarbrücken, Halberstadt, and
Neuruppin near Berlin
where he received his secondary school diploma in 1925. He attended
universities in Marburg,
Aachen and Berlin, receiving an engineering
degree in 1931. During his studies he was active in the Protestant
He joined the
Nazi Party in May 1933. As a committed Christian,
Gerstein resisted attempts by the Nazi state to control the Christian
youth movement, and ran afoul of state authorities. He was expelled
from the party in October 1936 after his arrest in September 1936 for
circulating anti-Nazi pamphlets. Released, he was arrested a second
time in July 1938, spending two months in a concentration camp.
Reportedly outraged by the euthanasia or
Aktion T4 programme, he
decided to join the Waffen SS: “to look into the matter of these
ovens and chambers in order to learn what happened there.”
Because of his technical education, Gerstein was placed in the
Waffen-SS technical disinfection services where he rose quickly to
become its head. It was in that capacity that he traveled to the
extermination camps of
Treblinka offering the supply of
hydrogen cyanide (Zyklon B).
Testimony regarding gas chambers
Location of Bełżec (lower centre) on the map of German extermination
camps marked with black and white skulls, occupied Poland
Gerstein stated that on 18 August 1942, he traveled to the
extermination camp at
Belzec where he witnessed the arrival of “45
wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were already dead on
arrival.” He described the gassing operation as it happened directly
in front of him:
Then the procession starts moving. In front a very lovely young girl;
so all of them go along the alley, all naked, men, women, children,
without artificial limbs. I myself stand together with Hauptmann Wirth
on top of the ramp between the gas chambers. Mothers with babies at
their breast, they come onward, hesitate, enter the death chambers! At
the corner a strong SS man stands who, with a voice like a pastor,
says to the poor people: "There is not the least chance that something
will happen to you! You must only take a deep breath in the chamber,
that widens the lungs; this inhalation is necessary because of the
illnesses and epidemics." On the question of what would happen to them
he answered: "Yes, of course, the men have to work, building houses
and roads but the women don't need to work. Only if they wish they can
help in housekeeping or in the kitchen."
For some of these poor people this gave a little glimmer of hope,
enough to go the few steps to the chambers without resistance. The
majority are aware, the smell tells them of their fate! So they climb
the small staircase, and then they see everything. Mothers with little
children at the breast, little naked children, adults, men, women, all
naked - they hesitate but they enter the death chambers, pushed
forward by those behind them or driven by the leather whips of the SS.
The majority without saying a word. A Jewess of about 40 years of age,
with flaming eyes, calls down vengeance on the head of the murderers
for the blood which is shed here. She gets 5 or 6 slashes with the
riding crop into her face from Hauptmann Wirth personally, then she
also disappears into the chamber. Many people pray. I pray with them,
I press myself in a corner and shout loudly to my and their God. How
gladly I would have entered the chamber together with them, how gladly
I would have died the same death as them. Then they would have found a
uniformed SS man in their chambers - the case would have been
understood and treated as an accident, one man quietly missing. Still
I am not allowed to do this. First I must tell what I am experiencing
here! The chambers fill. "Pack well!" - Hauptmann Wirth has ordered.
The people stand on each other's feet. 700 - 800 on 25 square metres,
in 45 cubic metres! The SS physically squeezes them together, as far
as is possible. The doors close. At the same time the others are
waiting outside in the open air, naked. Someone tells me: "The same in
winter!" "Yes, but they could catch their death of cold," I say. "Yes,
exactly what they are here for!" says an SS man to me in his Low
German. Now I finally understand why the whole installation is called
the Hackenholt-Foundation. Hackenholt is the driver of the diesel
engine, a little technician, also the builder of the facility. The
people are brought to death with the diesel exhaust fumes. But the
diesel doesn't work! Hauptmann Wirth comes. One can see that he feels
embarrassed that that happens just today, when I am here. That's
right, I see everything! And I wait. My stop watch has honestly
registered everything. 50 minutes, 70 minutes [?] - the diesel doesn't
start! The people are waiting in their gas chambers. In vain! One can
hear them crying, sobbing... Hauptmann Wirth hits the Ukrainian who is
helping Unterscharführer Hackenholt 12, 13 times in the face. After
two hours and 49 minutes - the stop watch has registered everything
well - the diesel starts. Until this moment the people live in these 4
chambers, four times 750 people in 4 times 45 cubic metres! Again 25
minutes pass. Right, many are dead now. One can see that through the
small window in which the electric light illuminates the chambers for
a moment. After 28 minutes only a few are still alive. Finally, after
32 minutes, everyone is dead! — Gerstein Report
The final part of the report describes Gerstein’s attempts to
circulate his eyewitness testimony. He reports on his chance encounter
with the secretary of the Swedish legation in Berlin, Baron Göran von
Otter, on the Warsaw-
Berlin train “Still under the immediate
impression of the terrible events, I told him everything with the
entreaty to inform his government and the Allies of all of this
immediately because each day's delay must cost the lives of further
thousands and tens of thousands.” Von Otter did talk with
high-ranking officials at the Swedish Foreign Ministry. However, the
information was not passed on to the Allies or to any other party.
He also reports on his unsuccessful attempts to see the Papal Nuncio
Cesare Orsenigo in Berlin. Gerstein wished to notify the Vatican.
Informed of the purpose of Gerstein's visit, Orenigo refused to meet
with him. Gerstein's message was eventually sent to the Vatican, by
the auxiliary bishop of Berlin, not the nuncio's office, where the
information reached a "dead end".. In addition to these attempts,
Gerstein also stated he reported these eye witness accounts to
“hundreds of personages.” Although not explicitly mentioned in the
1945 report, one of these attempts was via a Dutch industrialist, J.H.
Ubbink. In February 1943, Ubbink visited Gerstein in Berlin, wherein
With great indignation he told me how the gassings took place using
the exhaust gas from diesel engines. He gave me all the details and
told me that at that time there were 9000 deaths per day in the three
camps. — Letter from J.H. Ubbink to Erika Arajs, Department of
Justice in Nuremberg, dated September 14, 1949
Ubbink passed this information on to a member of the Dutch Resistance,
Cornelius Van der Hooft who, a few days later on March 23, 1943 wrote
“Tötunsanstalten in Polen” (English translation: Killing
Institutions in Poland), a four-page report in Dutch which apparently
remained hidden in the chicken coop of another member of the Dutch
Resistance and this version only came to light in 1996. The March
report however, does seem to have been sent to the Dutch
government-in-exile as on April 24, 1943, one month after the meeting
between Van der Hooft and Ubbink, another version of the report
inspired by Gerstein was written. Typed on paper without an official
heading, and with the simplified title of “Tötungsanstalten”,
this version circulated within the Dutch government-in-exile, via the
British government and eventually to the attention of the United
States Inter-Allied Information Committee. 
Use as evidence in trials
Gerstein's report has been used as evidence in a number of
high-profile cases. It was used at the
Nuremberg Trials against major
Nazi war criminals such as
Hermann Göring and Hans Frank. It was
also later used in the prosecution of
Adolf Eichmann by an Israeli
court. More recently in 2000 it was used by
Christopher Browning in
the Holocaust libel trial between
David Irving and Deborah
While some aspects of Gerstein's report include false statements
attributed to Odilo Globocnik, as well as inaccurate claims regarding
the total number of Jews gassed at Holocaust locations where he was
not an eyewitness, Gerstein's claim that gassing of Jews occurred at
Belzec is independently corroborated by SS-
Pfannenstiel's testimony given at the
Belzec trials, as well
as by the accounts of other witnesses that can be found in Gitta
Sereny's Into That Darkness, a biography of one-time Treblinka
commandant Franz Stangl.
Christopher Browning has written: "Many aspects of
Gerstein's testimony are unquestionably problematic. [In making]
statements, such as the height of the piles of shoes and clothing at
Belzec and Treblinka, Gerstein himself is clearly the source of
exaggeration. Gerstein also added grossly exaggerated claims about
matters to which he was not an eyewitness, such as that a total of 25
million Jews and others were gassed. But in the essential issue,
namely that he was in
Belzec and witnessed the gassing of a transport
of Jews from Lwow, his testimony is fully corroborated .... It is also
corroborated by other categories of witnesses from Belzec."
Robin O'Neil noted that Gerstein's data presented at face
value about the enormous capacity of the gas chambers i.e. "four times
750 persons" has no grounds in reality.
Gerstein Report has also been targeted by holocaust deniers who
claim that its author approached
Göran von Otter on behalf of the
Nazis. French historian, Pierre Vidal-Naquet in "Assassins of Memory"
considered such allegations preposterous.
Jäger Report, 1941
Einsatzgruppen reports, 1941–1942
Wilhelm Cornides Report of what he saw at Belzec, 1942
Wannsee Conference, 1942
Katzmann Report, 1943
Korherr Report, 1943
Riegner Telegram, 1942
Höfle Telegram, 1943
Special Prosecution Book-Poland, 1937–1939
Notes and references
^ a b Yahil 1991, pp. 356-357.
^ Friedländer, Saul (1969), Kurt Gerstein: The Ambiguity of Good. New
York: Alfred A Knopf, p. 112.
^ Friedländer 1969, pp. 211-212.
^ a b The
Gerstein Report (in translation). ARC 2006.
^ Hilberg, Raul (1985) The Destruction Of The European Jews, Student
Eds p241 Holmes & Meier, Teaneck
^ Phayer, 2000, p. 46.
^ Phayer, 2000, p. 46.
^ Phayer, 2000, p. 46.
^ Brayard, Florent (2000) An Early Report by Kurt Gerstein, Bulletin
du Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem [On Line], published on
line 19 May 2008, Accessed 10 March 2018. URL :
^ Kurt Gerstein, Nuremberg Trial Document PS-1553.
^ a b Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution:
Electronic Edition, by Browning, Christopher R.
^ HDOT : Irving v. Lipstadt : Defense Documents :
Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution: Electronic
^ Shofar FTP Archives: people/p/pfannenstiel.wilhelm/
^ Robin O'Neil, Rudolf Reder (2011). "Appendix 5: Rudolf Reder's
"Bełzec" with Introduction by M. M. Rubel". The Rabka Four.
Instruments of Genocide and Grand Larceny (Poland) By Robin O'Neil.
Spiderwize Publishing (digitized by JewishGen.org). p. 237.
OCLC 796270628. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
^ Pierre Vidal-Naquet (1987): "Assassins of Memory" (Note 63).
Ressources documentaires sur le génocide nazi / Documentary Resources
on the Nazi Genocide © Michel Fingerhut, auteurs et éditeurs,
1996-98. See also Lipstadt, Deborah E. (1993). Denying the Holocaust:
the growing assault on truth and memory. New York: Free Press.
p. 10. ISBN 0-02-919235-8.
Friedländer, Saul (1969): Kurt Gerstein: The Ambiguity of Good. New
York: Alfred A Knopf. OCLC 561888879
Sereny, Gitta: Into That Darkness. McGraw-Hill, 1974. Also available
as Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience, Vintage, 1983.
ISBN 0-394-71035-5 or ISBN 978-0-394-71035-8.
Kurt Gerstein: A German Spy in the SS
Kurt Gerstein, Conscience-Stricken SS Officer
Gerstein Report (in English)
Gerstein Report (in German)
Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 75- Mention of the Gerstein Report
Award winning short film about the Gerstein