Within the construction office of the administration building the engineers designed corpse-burning furnaces for the concentration camps in Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Gusen and the extermination camp Auschwitz. Moreover they designed deaerators for the gas chambers and the crematories in Auschwitz.
picture: engineers at work in the construction office (in the 1940s)
Thus the engineers of Topf & Soehne directly helped organize the mass extermination of the european jews. With their proposals for the improvement of the facilities the murderous techniques became more perfect and effective.
Kurt Pruefer, employed since 1911 and promoted to main engineer in 1935, developed corpse-burning furnaces for concentration camps beginning in 1939. In a patent application for a "continously working corpse-burning furnace for mass operation" from October 27 1942 Fritz Sander, the supervisor of Pruefer, wrote: "In the collection camps of the eastern regions, that are a consequence of the war, with their inevitable huge death rate, burial of the large numbers of deceased camp inmates is not accomplishable. [...] Therefore it is necessary, to remove the permanently incidental huge amount of dead bodies quickly, safely and hygenically through cremation." The engineers didn't seem to waste their time on thinking about why war was that self-evident, why such a "huge amount" of people were caged in camps and why their death was "inevitable".
Pruefer was in Auschwitz 11 times, participated in meetings of the SS construction management and so he learned firsthand about the intention to murder jews in Auschwitz with industrial methods. Again and again he designed bigger cremation furnaces, which were finally set up in all five crematories in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Pruefer inspected the construction and maintained the frequently defective facilities several times.
picture: construction office in 1998
His fellow worker Karl Schultze, head engineer of the "ventilation" department, designed aerators and deaerators for the five crematories of Auschwitz, though they were never installed. Some of the rooms originally designated "corpse cellars", were used later as gas chambers.
On May 30 1945 Pruefer was arrested by the american military police. He was interrogated and released on June 13. From June 14th to 20th he, together with the second director Ernst-Wofgang Topf, destroyed all contracts concluded with the SS construction management of Auschwitz.
Pruefer, Schultze, Sander and the director at the time Gustav Braun, were arrested on March 4 1946 by the soviet occupying authorities. As they were interrogated engineer Schultze, when asked for his motivation, stated: "We were dutiful to the SS, the company and the national-socialist government." Sander died on March 26 1946 in Karlshorst. Pruefer, Schultze and Braun were sentenced to 25 years of Gulag in the USSR. Pruefer died there in 1952. Schultze and Braun were released prematurely in 1955.