The form appeared to have once been diligently completed in pencil but then subsequently rubbed out, the contents now illegible. Could this really be what I think it is?by Cornelius Riethdorf / May 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
Going through my recently departed grandfather’s belongings was never going to be a casual experience, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the concentration camp report form. The top of the page proudly displays the name “Gas Chamber Firm Dr. Breymesser & Co.”—which operated, it is stated, in the Austrian camps of Strasshof, Graz, and Marburg.
Growing incredulity was accompanied by a sense of impending nausea as I read through column headings including “hour of gassing” and “number of people.” The form appeared to have once been diligently completed in pencil but then subsequently rubbed out, the contents now illegible. Could this really be what I think it is?
Having no scholarly experience of the minutiae of the Nazi machinery of death, I felt compelled to do some research. Googling the key terms on the form resulted in a dead end by way of many holocaust-denying websites that kept referring to an article on fumigation co-authored by a certain H. Breymesser.
As I thought the form might be of broader historical interest, and because I clearly needed expert help, I got in touch with the Wiener Library, a Holocaust archive in London, about donating the form.
A preliminary investigation has revealed that the company was probably involved in the disinfection of clothing using Zyklon B in camps such as Strasshof, which was used as a transit camp for forced labourers. Although innocent of gassing people, it seems that Dr Breymesser had no scruples about profiting from the Nazi labour camp system.
Further research threw up a Vienna-based firm by the name of Breymesser & Co., advertising its specialist services in fumigation which, according to its website at the time of writing, it has provided to clients for “more than 70 years.”
Upon confronting the firm, I was informed that there is no evidence in the company records or in official Austrian registers to indicate any links with “Dr. Breymesser & Co.” I was thanked for pointing out a “typographical error” on the website: apparently, the firm was founded in the 1970s and the text will be changed accordingly. I still don’t know quite what to think…