Maria van Herwaarden was a young German woman who was incarcerated at Auschwitz and Birkenau from December 1942 to January 1945 for having had a sexual relationship with a Polish man. She testified as a witness for the defense during the Second Zündel Trial in Toronto in 1988.
Already on the way to Auschwitz, she stated, rumors spread that they would be gassed on arrival. Hence, during the admission procedure at Auschwitz, after having been shaved, van Herwaarden was “terribly scared” when entering the shower room because “they said gas would be coming from the top, but it was only water.”
During her stay at the camp, van Herwaarden used the camp’s sauna facility twice.
Van Herwaarden insisted that Jewish inmates at Birkenau were treated the same way as other prisoners.
When she became seriously ill, she was admitted to the infirmary and was nursed back to health.
She estimated that the smoking chimneys she saw were some 5 km away from the camp. This is roughly the distance from the Birkenau Camp to the Buna Factory of the I.G. Farbenindustrie, near the town of Monowitz. A lot of coke was burned there to generate electricity and produce process gas.
Whereas she saw many prisoners die in the camp from diseases, and several commit suicide, she never saw any prisoners killed. She was unaware as to how these dead inmates were disposed of, and could not remember seeing a crematorium. During the time she was at Auschwitz, she asserted that she saw nothing that pointed at a mass murder of Jews. While gassing rumors were bandied about at the camp, she personally never saw anything of the sort.
(For more details, see Kulaszka 2019, pp. 277-279.)