Richard Böck (April 2, 1906 – May 13, 1973) was an SS-Unterscharführer of the Waffen-SS during World War II. In 1944, Böck was stationed at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, specifically to the motor pool. His duties performed were mostly the supply of goods and food, thus his direct contact with prisoners was limited.
Witness to Gassing
Böck became internationally known when he provided testimony of an actual gassing using Zyklon-B, which was then recorded and televised on The World at War documentary series. In his testimony, Böck describes how an SS friend named Karl Hölblinger gained admittance for Böck into the Sonderkommando area of Auschwitz where Böck witnessed an actual gassing. Böck described in detail watching over 1000 Jews be herded into the underground shower rooms of one of the Auschwitz gas chambers, sealed inside, and then observed Zyklon-B retrieved from an ambulance and poured through a roof grate. Upon the conclusion of the gassing, Böck references seeing a pile of bodies heaped into a great pyramid, which were then torn apart and moved to crematorium by Jewish members of the Sonderkommando. Per his testimony, Böck became physically ill, begging his friend Karl to take him away from the scene.
Validity of Claims
Böck's testimony, while graphic and detailed, has raised some speculation as to whether or not Böck actually witnessed the gassing himself or related a story told by someone else. The main argument against Böck's claim is that SS security in the gassing compound was extremely tight, and not even SS members were allowed inside the special action perimeter unless they were involved in the killings. Mainstream historians have often noted that it is highly unlikely Böck could have casually been brought to the gassing compound by a friend, and even less likely that he would have been allowed inside the gassing facility to personally witness the killing and disposal of the bodies.
However, in post war testimony, the SS soldier Böck mentions, Karl Hölblinger, was identified as a participant in the gassing operations and the testimony of other SS witnesses to gassing (such as Hans Münch) has confirmed that on occasion the SS did not check the credentials of those moving in and out of the compound. This was especially the case during the peak year of 1944 when the SS had rapidly accelerated its killing program and was murdering thousands per day.
After World War II, Richard Böck was cleared of crimes against humanity and in fact commended for helping Jewish prisoners survive Auschwitz. In the 1970s, he was made an honorary Auschwitz survivor as recognized by Jews and other survivors of the camp.
- Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Dr. Miklos Nyiszli)
- "Surviving the Angel of Death", Eva Mozes Kor & Lisa Rojany Buccieri, Tanglewood Publishing (2009)