According to the orthodox narrative, some 7,000 Serbian Jews are said to have been killed by German occupational forces in early 1942 in the Semlin Camp in Serbia, which is called Sajmište Camp by the Serbs. These murders are said to have been committed using a gas van that was specifically transported to that camp from Germany with two dedicated drivers. The bodies of the murdered victims were later allegedly exhumed and tracelessly burned within the framework of Aktion 1005.
The only witness who ever testified about this exhumation and cremation activity in front of Yugoslavian officials is a certain Momčilo Damjanović. However, his testimony contains numerous preposterous claims that make the witness untrustworthy. (See the entry on this witness).
In the fall of 1941, with partisan activities in Serbia escalating, the German authorities decided to crack down on the partisans by imposing extremely harsh reprisal shooting ratios of 100 executions of hostages for every German soldier or civilian killed in Serbia. Next to Serbian civilians held in prisons for various reasons, male Jews were picked as the primary victims of these reprisal shootings. Jewish women, children and the elderly were to be arrested and held in the Semlin Camp. On 2 October 1941, German foreign minister Ribbentrop cabled to Belgrade with respect to these women, children and the elderly:
“As soon as the technical means exist for the complete solution of the Jewish question, the Jews will be deported on the waterway [i.e., the Danube] to the reception camps in the east.”
No document is known which indicates that this instruction was ever revised or rescinded.
The Semlin Camp is not mentioned in any document connected with gas vans. A photostat copy (white on black) of a telegram exists, speaking of a Saurer truck being transferred to Berlin for repairs from Belgrade after completion of a “special order.” This document was presented as evidence for the deployment of a gas van in Serbia already during the International Military Tribunal (Document PS-501, in the set together with the so-called August Becker Document). But since Saurer trucks all had diesel engines, and because diesel exhaust gas is not lethal, this cannot have been a homicidal gas van.
The German court that put the writer of this telegram on trial in 1953 saw that differently, however. They strictly followed the path of what the Nuremberg Allied tribunals had “established.” Therefore, former SS Oberführer and Colonel of the Police Dr. Emanuel Schäfer, who was the superior of the men running the Semlin Camp, never had a realistic chance of defense. Two more trials held some 15 years later – one against the camp commandant Herbert Andorfer, the other against a former camp guard – followed the deep rut established by earlier trials. In none of these trials was any question ever asked as to how exhaust gas from a diesel engine could possibly kill. None of the suspicious features of the documents used ad nauseam to “prove” the existence and use of gas vans was ever addressed either. They were probably not even noticed by the prosecution, the judges or any of the defense lawyers. They all simply believed – or wanted to believe.
One witness, by the way, could even see things that didn’t exist, even from an orthodox point of view: During the Jerusalem Eichmann Trial, one witness claimed that the Jews in the Semlin Camp were murdered in stationary gas chambers rather than a gas vas.