Arthur Nebe (13 Nov. 1894 – 21 March 1945), SS Gruppenführer, became head of Germany’s Criminal Police in 1936. In 1939, one of Nebe’s subordinates, Christian Wirth, got involved in supervising the so-called euthanasia action, which is said to have consisted of killing severely mentally disabled patients with bottled carbon-monoxide gas. Hence, Nebe was probably aware of what methods were used to quickly carry out this “mercy killing.”
In June 1941, he volunteered to head Einsatzgruppe B, which he led from its inception just before the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union until October 1941, hence for some four months. As such, he approved several Einsatzgruppen reports sent to Berlin which documented the execution of thousands of Jews in the deployment area of his Einsatzgruppe B.
The current orthodox narrative has it that Nebe played a central role in the invention of gas vans in the second half of 1941. After Himmler had allegedly witnessed a mass execution in mid-August 1941 by Nebe’s unit, he is said to have ordered a more-humane mass-execution method to be developed, although no documental evidence exists either for Himmler attending such an execution or for him issuing such an order, other than a bogus post-war affidavit by Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.
A rumor spread by Albert Widmann has it that the idea to use engine exhaust to kill people in vehicles occurred to Arthur Nebe when he allegedly gassed himself by accident in his car after having driven home drunk. However, since remote-controlled garage doors didn’t exist back then, he or someone else must have closed that door, or else no accidental gassing could have occurred. Therefore, either Nebe wasn’t alone, then no accidental gassing could have occurred, or he was alone, but then had to get out of the car while leaving the car running, then close the garage door, then get back in the car and fall asleep with the car still running. This is hardly a credible scenario. Furthermore, considering that Nebe was familiar with the euthanasia killings and how they operated, and the toxicity of gasoline-engine exhaust was certainly known to this head of Germany’s criminal police, the claim that it took an accidental self-gassing while drunk to come up with this idea is also preposterous. Because Nebe died before the end of the war and never made a statement about any of this, this entire story is moreover based only on hearsay claims and thus completely unfounded.
After the war, the myth was created with a number of manipulative maneuvers by postwar investigators: that Nebe, together with Albert Widmann, a chemist at the German Institute for Criminological Technology in Berlin (Kriminaltechnisches Institut), went on a trip from Berlin to Minsk in order to do some tests to find out how best to mass-murder people. The two are said to have traveled a thousand kilometers east with 400 kg of explosives in their car to test whether it was feasible to blow up mentally ill people with dynamite. The story is so outrageously absurd that it boggles the mind why it ever found credence. Since this story is closely linked to investigations related to Albert Widmann, the issue is discussed in more detail in the entry dedicated to him.