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At least a quarter of the 389 Jewish men who were arrested in Amsterdam during raids in February 1941 did not die of exhaustion, illness, assault, or where shot while fleeing, as was believed. Instead they were gassed to death in a secret and experimental gas chamber, researcher and writer Wally de Lang discovered and revealed in a new book De razzia’s van 22 en 23 februarie 1941, Het Parool and Volkskrant report.

The men were gassed to death in Hartheim Castle, 35 kilometers from the Mauthausen concentration camp. This act, codenamed 14f13, was “the ultimate school for what later came to be called the Shoah”, according to De Lang. She discovered an SS administrative camouflage system, which aimed to cover up the murders to prevent unrest.

The 389 Jewish men between the ages of 19 and 35 mostly lived in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. They were arrested during the raids, taken to Kamp Schrool by trucks, and then moved to Buchenwald five days later. Dozens died from exhaustion during the heavy work in the quarries.

In May 1941, the remaining group of 340 men were taken to Mauthausen. De Lang found evidence that 108 of these men were murdered in Hartheim Castle, or in buses that had been turned into mobile gas chambers. For another 38 men, she has indications that they suffered the same fate.

De Lang found this out by comparing administrative lists, registration cards, and “Veränderungsmeldungen” – German for “change notifications” – with each other.

“In the first week of September 1941, 146 people suddenly appeared to have died. A remarkably high number. The dates and places of death were fictitious and spread over different days. Behind their names were various causes of death, such as illnesses or misleading terms like ‘Auf der Flucht erschossen’ or ‘Ertrinkung’,” she said, according to Parool. ‘Auf der Flucht erschossen’ and ‘Ertrinkung’ are German terms that translate to ‘shot on the run’ and ‘drowning’ respectively. “In reality they were killed in Hartheim”

De Lang listed the names of all 389 men in her book. Many of them were market traders, peddlers, traveling salesmen, shopkeepers, or worked in the textile industry as tailors or clothing presses. 172 of them were married, breadwinners, or heads of families. 23 of them had pregnant wives who were left behind when they were arrested.

One of them, Meier Vieijra, wrote a letter to his pregnant wife Blanche Nabarro from Mauthausen in August 1941. “Blanche, if you have a son, call him Jacob ben Meijer, if it is a daughter, call her Rachel,” he asked. Blanche’s reply was returned to sender. Her husband had been killed, on 17 September 1941. Blanche named their daughter Rachel.