Breathing through keyholes in the Flossenburg gas chamber

“I stayed in the hospital [At the Flossenburg camp] for three days and had good food and a rest. The S.S. would come in twice a day and take away some men. A few times they would come past my bed, but they would take the man next to me. Then one evening, a lot of S.S. walked into the room and they ordered us to follow them. They ordered us into a room and locked the door. I heard a noise like a snake hissing, and then I heard the slave laborers shouting, “They are gassing us!” I smelled an awful odor. Some of the men dropped dead. The rest of us ran around the room cursing the Nazis.

I couldn’t take it much longer and ran to the door and took hold of the knob and tried to open it. The door was locked. The smell of the gas got stronger. I coughed, and choked, and put my face to the keyhole and kept inhaling a little air from the outside.

We had been in the room for about five minutes when I heard them outside the door talking in German. “Let’s see if some of them are still alive.” I went away from the keyhole and the door opened. For some reason which I could never figure out, God had saved me from the gas chamber. The S.S. shouted for us to go out. There were only five of us still alive; sixty lay behind, dead.

As soon as we came outside and breathed the fresh air, the S.S. started to beat us. They chased us to a railroad station into boxcars and closed the doors on us. In the boxcar I lay down on the floor. I was bewildered. I couldn’t figure it out. Why hadn’t the S.S. murderers finished the job in the gas room? No, I couldn’t figure these things out”.

Source: ‘Death Was Our Destiny’, p. 49-50, by Arnold Friedman, Vantage Press, 1972.

Webmaster note: Pretty clever of the S.S. to allow Friedman to recuperate in the hospital for days before gassing him. It was also nice of the S.S. to allow the condemned room to walk and run around inside the gas chamber. Now we just need to find a gas chamber at Flossenburg that has five keyholes with a bunch of lip marks on them.