Crematorium at Auschwitz I

Trolley used to shove bodies inside the ovens, 1998 photo

The crematorium in the main Auschwitz camp, later designated as Krema I, was first put into operation in September 1940; prior to that time, bodies were taken to Gleiwitz to be burned in the city crematorium.

Initially, this crematorium contained two ovens which each had two openings, called muffles or retorts. Bodies were shoved inside by means of a device shown in the photo above. The ovens were deep enough to hold two bodies, placed end to end. A third oven was installed at the end of 1941. Krema I was in operation until July 1943.

The photo above shows one of the two ovens which were reconstructed by the Soviet Union in 1947 when the main camp was turned into the Auschwitz Museum. The small doors at the bottom were for removing ashes.

The blueprints for the crematorium at Auschwitz I show that there were three ovens when the crematorium was in operation. The picture below shows another trolley which is in front of where the third oven used to be, behind the first two and in front of the window on the outside wall. According to the construction plans, the windows were added when the building was converted into an air raid shelter.

Trolley and switching mechanism where third oven once stood, 1998 photo

Outside window was added during construction of air raid shelter, 2005 photo

According to a book which I purchased at the Auschwitz museum, the ovens in Krema I had been removed by the Nazis before the Soviet Union liberated the camp, and the building was being used as an air raid shelter.

Cremation oven at Auschwitz main camp

The 2005 photo immediately above shows a view of the oven room, as seen from the vestibule just inside the exterior door through which the victims entered the gas chamber building. On the right side of the photo above, you can see the reconstructed doorway into the gas chamber. The gas chamber room was originally a morgue where dead bodies were stored until they could be cremated in these ovens. The original doorway was lined up with the track for the trolleys, which is shown in the photo below.

Metal frame used to rotate trolleys 90 degrees, 2005 photo

The 2005 photograph above shows the crematorium ovens with large metal trolleys on wheels in front of two of the muffles of one oven. These trolleys were used to shove the bodies inside; they were made of cast iron with a sheet metal part in front that was pushed inside the oven. Note the depth of the ovens, which allowed two bodies to be burned in each muffle.

The bodies were removed from the morgue and put on the trolleys shown in the photos above. The metal frame on the floor in the foreground on the left, in the photo above, is a switching facility which was used to rotate the trolley 90 degrees so that the bodies could be shoved inside the ovens.

The 1998 photograph below shows that the crematorium was located right next to the former mortuary room, which was converted into a gas chamber. According to Franciszek Piper, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, the morgue was 51 feet long by 13.8 feet wide; the ceiling was 9 feet high. On the right, you can see through the doorway into the former morgue, now a reconstructed gas chamber room, where people from a tour group are standing. The oven room is narrow, but wider than the gas chamber room.

Oven in crematorium room, gas chamber on the right, 1998 photo

The photo above shows the new doorway which was cut when the gas chamber was reconstructed in 1947; as you can see, there is no doorframe, nor any marks where a doorframe was removed. The original doorway was closed up when the gas chamber was converted into an air raid shelter. The reconstructed doorway is about two and a half feet closer to the ovens than the original doorway which was lined up with the trolley tracks.

The victims entered the gas chamber through a door on the right side of the small vestibule at the entrance, not through the oven room. However, the victims would have been able to feel the heat of the ovens and even to see the ovens if the door from the vestibule into the crematorium was open as they walked into the building, believing that they were being herded inside to take a shower.

Close-up of oven in Krema I, 2005 photo

The photo below shows Laura Bush putting flowers on one of the trolleys as President George W. Bush looks on. This is a press photo taken on the occasion of their visit to Auschwitz in May 2003.

President George W. Bush in the oven room at Auschwitz

According to a book entitled "Auschwitz" which I purchased at the camp, the three ovens had a capacity of 340 bodies in a 24 hour period, less than half the capacity of the gas chamber, which was 600 to 800 people. The gas chamber originally had no ventilation system, so it took some time to air out the room between gassings.

Before the air raid shelter was constructed in 1944, the crematorium was used to store urns for ashes, according to a book entitled "Anatomy of Auschwitz Death Camp," edited by Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum.

The photo below, taken in the Buchenwald crematorium, shows the type of urns used by the Nazis at all the concentration camps.

Urns used to store ashes in the Nazi concentration camps

Rear view of the cremation ovens at Auschwitz

The photo above shows the back side of the ovens. The top openings were used to put fuel in for burning. The bottom openings were for removing the ashes.

Reconstructed chimney is not connected to the ovens

The photo above shows the brick chimney that was reconstructed in 1947. Note that it is completely detached from the building and it is not connected to the reconstructed crematory ovens. The original chimney was round, according to Filip Müller, a prisoner who worked in the crematorium, but it had to be replaced and the new chimney was square shaped. Other witnesses say that the original chimney was square.

Start of Gas Chamber Tour

Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Interior of Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Holes in ceiling of gas chamber

Holes on roof of gas chamber

Exterior of Gas Chamber

Door into Air Raid Shelter

Introduction to Auschwitz I

Back to Photo Gallery 2


This page was last updated on August 31, 2007