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June 3, 2015

Chelmno, the little known “death camp”

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:12 am

Jewish headstones stacked  against the wall of a Museum a Chelmno

Jewish headstones stacked against the wall of a Museum at Chelmno [photo credit Alan Collins]

Quick! Name the six Nazi “death camps.”  Most people can easily name the most famous death camp: Auschwitz. Many people could also come up with the name Majdanek [Maidenek in German].  Holocaust experts would have no hesitation in naming the three Operation Reinhardt camps: Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec.

But what about Chelmno?

The church where Jews were held overnight at Chelmno before being killed (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

The church where Jews were held overnight at Chelmno before being killed (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

Chelmno [Kulmhof in German] was the very first death camp, so it should be a household name, but it isn’t. Why does Chelmno get no respect?  The very first gassing of the Jews took place at Chelmno.

The Chelmno death camp has historical significance because it is the first place where the Jews were gassed in the genocide known as the Holocaust, which took the lives of six million Jews. According to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, the “Final Solution” began when 700 Jews from the Polish village of Kolo arrived at Chelmno on the evening of December 7, 1941 and on the following day, all of them were killed with carbon monoxide in gas vans. The victims were taken on 8 or 9 separate journeys in the gas vans to a clearing in the Rzuchowski woods near Chelmno.

In his book entitled Holocaust, Martin Gilbert wrote the following:

Begin Quote:

On 7 December 1941, as the first seven hundred Jews were being deported to the death camp at Chelmno, Japanese aircraft attacked the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Unknown at that time either to the Allies or the Jews of Europe, Roosevelt’s day that would “live in infamy” was also the first day of the “final solution.”  End quote

Wikipedia has a page under the title: Chelmno extermination camp

This quote is from Wikipedia: “It [Chelmno] was built to exterminate Jews of the Łódź Ghetto and the local Polish inhabitants of Reichsgau Wartheland (Warthegau).[4] In 1943 modifications were made to the camp’s killing methods, as the reception building was already dismantled.[5]”

The following quote is from a book by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland entitled “GERMAN CRIMES IN POLAND” (Warsaw, 1946, 1947):

The ashes and remains of bones [at Chelmno] were removed from the ash-pit, ground in mortars, and, at first, thrown into especially dug ditches; but later, from 1943 onwards, bones and ashes were secretly carted to Zawadki at night, and there thrown into the [Ner] river.

[…]

In the autumn of 1944 the camp in the wood [Chelmno] was completely destroyed, the crematoria being blown up, the huts taken to pieces, and almost every trace of crime being carefully removed. A Special Commission from Berlin directed, on the spot, the destruction of all the evidence of what had been done.

The word “extermination” is routinely used to mean the killing of the Jews, mainly by gassing them to death. All over the world, people have been murdered or killed, but not the Jews. The Jews were always “exterminated,” like bugs, with a poison gas called Zyklon-B, or with carbon monoxide.

You can read the official version of the Chelmno camp at http://www.theholocaustexplained.org/ks3/the-final-solution/the-death-camps/chelmno/#.VR2zL2Z9ut8

The Chelmno Schlosslager [Castle camp] had neither prisoner barracks nor factories; it’s sole purpose was to murder Jews and Roma [Gypsies] who were not capable of working at forced labor for the Nazis.

In 1939, there were around 385,000 Jews living in the Warthegau; those who could work were sent to the Lodz ghetto where they labored in textile factories which made uniforms for the German army.

On January 16, 1942, deportations from the Lodz ghetto began; records from the ghetto show that 54,990 people were deported before the final liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944.

The Jewish leader of the Lodz ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, compiled the lists of people to be deported, although he had no knowledge that they were being sent to their deaths at Chelmno.

The gassing of the Jews at Chelmno was carried out in two separate phases. In the first phase, between December 7, 1941 and April 1943, Jews from the surrounding area and the Lodz ghetto were brought to Chelmno and killed on the day after their arrival.

Although the Nazis destroyed all records of the Chelmno camp, it is alleged that around 15,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma, who were deported from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg, were brought to Chelmno to be killed in this remote spot.

The victims of the Nazis at Chelmno also included Polish citizens and Soviet Prisoners of War. The POWs were taken directly to the nearby Rzuchowski forest where they were shot.

Wall at the spot where Jews were buried after they were killed in the forest

Wall at the spot where Jews were buried after they were killed in the forest (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

Bodies of Jews were buried behind  the wall at Chelmno (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

Bodies of Jews were buried behind the wall at Chelmno (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

The Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem has a list of 12 names of children from Lidice who were sent to Chelmno, although other sources claim that the number of orphans from Lidice was far higher. These were the children whose parents had been killed when the Czech village of Lidice was completely destroyed in a reprisal action after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

The foundation of the Castle where prisoners were held at Chelmno

The foundation of the Castle where prisoners were held at Chelmno (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

The first phase of the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto began on June 23, 1944 and continued until July 14, 1944. Records kept by the Judenrat (Jewish leaders) in Lodz show that 7,716 Jews left the ghetto during this period of time.

Upon arrival at Chelmno, the Jews from Lodz were told that they were going to be taken to Germany to remove the rubble from the streets of German cities following the Allied bombing raids. Instead, they were loaded into vans and killed with carbon monoxide from gasoline engines. What a waste of manpower!  The German women had to remove the rubble.

In August 1944, the remaining Jews in the Lodz ghetto, except for a few who hid from the Nazis, were sent to either Chelmno or Auschwitz. A few who were sent to Auschwitz survived only because the gassing operation there stopped at the end of October 1944.

Monument to the Jews who were killed at Chelmno (Photo credit: Alan Collins)

Monument to the Jews who were killed at Chelmno (Photo credit: Alan Collins)

The Chelmno Granery (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

The Chelmno Granery (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

The Jewish workers, called the JudenKommando, who did the work of burning the corpses at Chelmno, were housed in the granary during the second phase of the killing at Chelmno. The granary is shown in the background of the photo above.

On the night of January 17 and 18, 1945, the SS men began taking the 47 Jewish workers out of the granary building and shooting them in groups of five, according to the two survivors, Shimon Srebnik and Mordechai Zurawski. The Jews defended themselves and two of the SS men were killed. According to the survivors, the SS men then set fire to the granary.

Monument to the Jews who were killed at Chelmno

Monument to the Jews who were killed at Chelmno (Photo Credit: Alan Collins)

May 24, 2015

Auschwitz — “the largest mass murder site in human history”

In my blog post today, I am commenting on a news article, in a British newspaper, which you can read in full at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/27/auschwitz-short-history-liberation-concentration-camp-holocaust

The Wannsee house dining room as it looks today

The Wannsee house dining room as it looks today. This is the room where the Wannsee Conference was held.  (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The article in The Guardian newspaper, cited above, begins with this quote:

On 27 January 1945 Soviet soldiers entered the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in south-west Poland. The site had been evacuated by the Nazis just days earlier. Thus ended the largest mass murder in a single location in human history.

The part of the article, which particularly caught my eye, is this quote:

In January 1942, the Nazi party decided to roll out the Final Solution. Camps dedicated solely to the extermination of Jews had been created before, but this was formalised by SS Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich in a speech at the Wannsee conference. The extermination camp Auschwitz II (or Auschwitz-Birkenau) was opened in the same year.

So what is the real story on the Wannsee conference and the “Final Solution”?

The dining room, as it looked in 1916 when the Wannsee house was built. This is the room where the Wannsee conference was held in 1942

The dining room, as it looked in 1916 when the Wannsee house was built. This is the room where the Wannsee conference was held in 1942

The photograph above shows the dining room [where the Wannsee Conference was held] as it looked in 1922. At the time of the conference in January 1942, the room was probably furnished much like this. Now the former conference room has been stripped of its Queen Ann chairs, Oriental rug, chandelier, and wall tapestry, and only a glass table and 15 stools are in the room.

Fifteen top officials of the Nazi bureaucracy and the SS attended the Wannsee conference, which was led by 38-year-old Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), on January 20, 1942 in an old mansion in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee.

A photo of the Wannsee mansion, taken shortly after it was built in 1916

A photo of the Wannsee mansion, taken shortly after it was built in 1916

The minutes or protocols of the Wannsee meeting, 15 pages in all, were written by 36-year-old Adolf Eichmann.

The copy of the minutes, that was found by the Allies in 1947, was undated and unsigned; it had no stamp of any Bureau. The copy appeared to be a draft report of the meeting.

The full title of the Conference was “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe.”

The original phrase, upon which the title was based, was “a final territorial solution of the Jewish question.”

The term “Jewish Question” referred to a question that had been discussed for years: Should the Jews have their own state within the country where they lived, or should they assimilate?

On the witness stand, at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, Hermann Goering said that the conference was about “the total solution to the Jewish Question” and that it meant the evacuation of the Jews, not the extermination of the Jews.

The full text of the letter from Goering to Heydrich, ordering the Final Solution, (Nuremberg Document PS-710) is quoted below:

Begin quote:

To the Chief of the Security Police and the SD, SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich

Berlin

In completion of the task which was entrusted to you in the Edict dated January 24, 1939, of solving the Jewish question by means of emigration or evacuation in the most convenient way possible, given the present conditions, I herewith charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational, practical and financial aspects for a total solution [Gesamtloesung] of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.

Insofar as the competencies of other central organizations are affected, these are to be involved.

I further charge you with submitting to me promptly an overall plan of the preliminary organizational, practical and financial measures for the execution of the intended final solution (Endloesung) of the Jewish question.

[signed] Goering

End quote

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings in which the famous Conference is discussed.

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings to discuss the Holocaust

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings to discuss the Holocaust  (Click on the photo to enlarge)