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July 31, 2016

the Manor house at Chelmno

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:10 am

One of the readers of my blog mentioned the Manor house at Chelmno in a comment.

The Chelmno Schlosslager had neither prisoner barracks nor factories; its sole purpose was to murder Jews and Roma 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.

Chelmno was allegedly a Nazi extermination camp. It was located in the small Polish village of Chelmno nad Neren (Chelmno on the river Ner), 60 kilometers northwest of Lodz, a major city in what is now western Poland.

Foundation of the Manor house

Foundation of the Manor house at the Chelmno transit camp [Photo credit: Alan Collins]

Location of Manor house at Chelmno

Location of the Manor house at Chelmno transit camp [photo credit: Alan Collins]

The site of another building at Chelmno Photo Credit: Alan Collins

The site of another building at Chelmno [photo Credit: Alan Collins]

Alan Collins, the photographer who visited the site of the camp, and took these photos, wrote the following with regard to the fate of the Jews at Chelmno:

Begin quote:

The [Jewish] victims were driven to the Castle Site during phase 1 which stared in December 1941, though the building is sometimes described as a Manor House. They were made to undress after being told they were going to be resettled in the east but required a shower before they left.

They were forced through the ground floor of the building and via a ramp into a specially constructed lorry which was waiting at the end of the building. The exhaust of the lorry could be directed into the rear of the vehicle.

The lorry was driven to the Forest Site in the Rzuchowski Forest, about 4km away and the victims disposed of. To add to the horror the Manor House was blown up by the SS on the 7th April 1943 with a group of victims inside the building. These people had arrived unexpectedly late and it was feared by the Germans that they had typhus so they were ordered to go to the first floor of the building which was blown up with them inside.

End quote from Alan Collins.

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

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 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 Chelmno camp, which was opened by the Germans some time in October or November 1941, was in the Warthegau, a district in the part of Poland that had been annexed into the Greater German Reich after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

Chelmno was called Kulmhof by the Germans and Lodz was known by the German name Litzmannstadt.

The Warthegau had been a part of the German state of Prussia between 1795 and 1871. After the German states united in 1871, the Warthegau was in Germany until after World War I, when it was given back to the Poles.

The Jews were brought on trains to the village of Kolo, 14 kilometers from Chelmno. Kolo was the closest stop on the main railroad line from Lodz to Poznan. At Kolo, the victims were transferred to another train which took them on a narrow gauge railroad line 6 kilometers to the village of Powiercie.

From Powiercie, the victims had to walk 1.5 kilometers through a forest to the village of Zawadka where they spent their last night locked inside a mill. They were then transported, by trucks, the next day to Chelmno.

You can see more photos, taken by Alan Collins, on this page of my website: