Chelmno Essay

Long Pham Mrs. Burnett U. S. History II block 8 27 January 2010 Chelmno “A large baseball stadium holds about 55,000 people. If everyone in that stadium were murdered, and if the stadium were filled up again five more times and all of those people were also murdered, what would still be less than the number of Jews killed at Chelmno alone. ” (Feldman 220) Chelmno is the first extermination camp and the leading camp in the in-vans asphyxiation killing method that killed hundreds thousands of people in the Holocaust during World War II.

Learning and understanding the holocaust, we would be able to know the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazi and to let it never happen again. Chelmno is a small village in the West Central German – occupied Poland. It was belonged to the Wartheland district and located pretty far from other city, which is a ideal place for the Nazis to practice extermination. Chelmno had been established 2 months before the Wannsee Conference convened in Berlin to arrange the “Final Solution” – The Nazi plan to annihilate all European Jews.

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This concentration camp was led by SS Captain Herbert Lange and later SS Captain Hans Bothmann, together with under 100 SS and police officials. There were also Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans volunteering to help the Nazis guard the camp. Chelmno was an advanced killing center included an unused manorial estate, called “Schilosslager” or manor-house camp and a nearby forest “Waldlager” or forest camp. It was established on December 7, 1941 and the gassing process began one day after that on December 8. The first victims were Jews in Chemlno and surrounding towns such as Kolo, Dabie and Klodowa in Wartheland district.

This open-stage lasted about 5 weeks from December 8, 1941 to January 16, 1942. Those Jews were transported from where they lived to the courtyard of Chelmno manor by truck. (Feldman) When the Jews arrived there, the killing procedure began. They were greeted by SS officials dressed in white coats with stethoscopes around their necks to make them believe that they were physicians. “The poor victims were explained as they were about to move to Germany as laborers but first they had to bathe and had their clothes disinfected. The Jews then got to the old mansion and undressed, anded over their valuables against receipts to a Polish civilian, who was employed by the special detachment. ” (Chelmno). The victims then walked through a cellar led to a ramp sloping to the back of a van. These vans were decorated to look like mercy trucks of the Red Cross. After the van was loaded full of people, the door was closed and sealed to let no air through. “The mechanic on duty attacked a tube to the van’s exhaust pipe and started the engine, pumping carbon monoxide gas into the space where the prisoners were crowded, killing them by asphyxiation” (Chelmno).

After the van arrived at the Waldlager forest, the tube was detached from the exhaust pipe and the bodies were unloaded and arranged neatly in excavated mass graves. Certainly, those who were still alive were shot by the guards and laid down just like others. (Bryers) After five months since Chelmno ran the operation, they began deportations from Lodz ghetto. On January 16, 1942, German officials transported Jews from Lodz to Kolo, six miles North West of Chelmno by train, then, they were transferred to another narrow gauge track to Powiercie, three miles North West of Chelmno.

After that, they were transported to the “Scholosslager” by truck and the SS and Police did the killing process over and over again. Decomposing bodies however started to spread bad smell. The SS and police built an open air oven made of rail track and began to burn all the corpses since then. The SS also ordered Jewish forced laborers to exhume the graves and burn previously buried bodies. (Chelmno) The Nazis repeated their process of killing until March 1943 when all Jews in the Wartheland district were annihilated, except Jews remaining in the Lodz ghetto.

On April 7, 1943, the concentration camp in Chelmno temporarily closed. They tried to erase all traces of their guilt by destroying the manor house and the open air oven. The SS and police of the Special Detachment were then transferred to Yugoslavia to engage in anti-Partisan operations; the Jewish forced laborers were shot. (1941 – 1945 Timeline) February 14, 1940, leaders of the Nazis called for reopening the killing center at Chelmno. The SS and police previously attending in the operation were assembled. The Germans then constructed two reception barracks and two open air ovens.

On June 23, 1944, the killing process is resumed with the deportations of Jews from the Lodz ghetto. Innocent people were killed either by shooting or asphyxiation. On July 14, 1944, transportations of Jews to Chelmno are halted and changed to Auschwitz camp instead. In less than a month from June to July 1944, the SS and police killed more than 7,000 Jews at Chelmno. (1941 – 1945 Timeline) On January 17, 1945 the SS and police ordered Jewish forced laborers to start cleaning all traces at Chelmno: “they exhume and cremate the corpses from the last of the mass graves at Chelmno and then kill half of them” (1941 – 1945 Timeline).

Chelmno is abandoned. In total, about 340,000 people were killed in Chelmno, including 5,000 Gypsies, about 100,000 Jews and thousands of others. (Feldman 219) The Holocaust during World War II executed about six million Jews in Europe. Work cited Bryers, Ann. The Holocaust Camps. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 1998. Print. Book provided detail information about the killing procedure. Feldman, George. Holocaust. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Print. Book provided the information used in the introduction and details about the killing procedure.