Autumn 1941

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In Germany, since October 1939, the Nazis had been murdering mentally and physically disabled people (the euthanasia programme). In the beginning doctors killed them by lethal injection. But this was not fast enough, so they developed the process of gassing them. Over 70,000 people were killed in this way.

The Nazis discovered that gassing was an effective and efficient way of killing people. In the summer of 1941 Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, received orders from Heinrich Himmler to begin experimenting with Zyklon B gas.

On 3 September 1941 the Auschwitz deputy camp commandant Karl Fritzsch experimented on 600 Russian prisoners of war and 250 Polish inmates by gathering them in the basement of Block 11 and gassing them with Zyklon B.

In October 1941 the Nazis began turning the concentration camp at Majdanek into a death camp as well. They then began the construction of killing centres at Belzec, Treblinka, near Warsaw, and at Sobibor.

The first mass gassing of Jews began in Chelmno on 8 December 1941, when the Nazis used gas vans to murder people from the Lodz ghetto.

The Nazis also ordered the expansion of the Auschwitz camp complex to increase the capacity for murder.

Consequently six factories of death were created in eastern Europe.