ARCHITECTS OF DEATH: The Family who Engineered the Holocaust

ARCHITECTS OF DEATH: The Family who Engineered the Holocaust

KAREN BARTLETT    Book Number: 88002    Product format: Hardback

At the centre of the Nazi Holocaust were the brothers Ludwig and Ernst Wolfgang Topf, who inherited the family business started by their grandfather in Erfurt near Weimar. Originally a brewery, Topf and Sons expanded into the heating business and by the 1930s they were leading manufacturers of cremation technology. A link with the nearby concentration camp at Buchenwald was initially created by their engineer Kurt Prüfer, who took a commission from the SS for designing crematoria located in the town. In the event, the public transportation of dead bodies drew unwelcome attention to their mutilated and tortured condition and with the full agreement of Ludwig Topf, Prüfer began to develop purpose-built crematoria for the camp itself. The single and double-muffle ovens developed by Prüfer contravened regulations for civil cremations and were designed to facilitate swift extermination, though a veneer of public service was maintained with the production of fake urns containing ashes. When Prüfer threatened to resign following a dispute, the Topf brothers retained him, making them complicit in mass murder. In 1942, five new three-muffle Topf-built ovens were commissioned to be installed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was both an extermination camp and a labour camp for the company I G Farben. Under Prüfer's supervision, a group of fat victims were chosen to assess the time taken for complete extermination. At his post-war trial Prüfer claimed that he was not aware of the true nature of the crematoria until 1943, and the Topfs made the standard claim of obeying orders. In fact all the employees must have been complicit. The story is partly told through the eyes of Hartmut Topf, the brothers' nephew, who courageously faces his uncles' guilt. 297pp, photos.
Published price: £20
Bibliophile price: £8.00

Additional product information

ISBN 9781785900426
Browse these categories as well: Crime, War & Militaria

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