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The gas van or gas wagon ( ) was an extermination method devised by Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union to kill victims of the regime.

Gas vans in Nazi Germany

During trips to Russia in 1941, Hitler learned the psychological impact on the killers posed by the shooting of women and children. Hence, he commissioned Arthur Nebe to explore less stressful ways of killing. Nebe's experiments eventually led to the production of the gas van. This vehicle had already been used in 1940 for the gassing of East Prussian Pomeranian mental patients in Soldau, a camp located in the former Polish corridor.

It was a vehicle with an air-tight compartment for victims into which exhaust gas was transmitted while the engine was running. As a result the victims were gassed with carbon monoxide, resulting in death by the combined effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation.

Gas vans were used, particularly at Chełmno extermination campmarker, until gas chambers were developed as a more efficient method for killing large numbers of people. In Belgrade, the gas van was known as "Dušegupka" (Life-snuffer) and in the occupied parts of the USSR similarly as "Душегубка".

The gas vans are extensively discussed in some of the interviews in Claude Lanzmann's film, Shoah.

Gas vans in Soviet Union

Gas vans were already used on an experimental basis during the Stalinist purges of the late 1930's. Moscow NKVD section chief Isai D. Berg would suffocate batches of prisoners with engine fumes in a camouflaged bread van while on the drive out to the mass graves at Butovo, where they were subsequently buried.

Famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his two volume historical work Two hundred years together claimed that Isaiah Berg, the head of the administrative and economic department of NKVD of Moscov oblast, was the inventor of the gas van in Soviet Union in 1937. Solzhenitsyn wrote:

 According to the Russian researcher A. A. Milchakov, however, Berg's connection to the invention of the gas vas (already used in 1936) has never been conclusively proven, and Berg himself was summarily executed during the Great Purge in 1939.

Russian social-political newspaper Arguments and facts wrote in 1993 in an answer to a reader:

See also


  1. "Gas Wagons: The Holocaust's mobile gas chambers", an article of Nizkor Project
  2. Robert Gellately. Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Knopf, 2007 ISBN 1400040051 p. 460
  3. Catherine Merridale. Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia. Penguin Books, 2002 ISBN 0142000639 p. 200
  4. Timothy J. Colton. Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis. Belknap Press, 1998. ISBN 0674587499 p. 286
  5. The path to genocide: essays on launching the final solution By Christopher R. Browning
  6. The destruction of the European Jews, Part 804, Volume 1 By Raul Hilberg

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