During measures to restore the crematorium in 1997, workmen found hundreds of capsules for crematory ashes as well as several dozen capsule lids bearing names in the attic of the building. The SS used these capsules as a way of feigning the proper handling of the victims. The Topf & Sons company of Erfurt – the builders of the Auschwitz ovens – had supplied the capsules.
The corpse incineration ovens developed in the wake of the first mass death in Buchenwald in 1939/40, however, were based on technology for the incineration of animal carcasses and refuse and did not provide for the separation of the ashes of individual persons. Topf & Sons’ unconditional collaboration with the SS is paradigmatic of civilian complicity in mass murder.