Janusz Gulczynski: "Oboz Samierci w Chelmno nad Nerem", Museum okregowne Konin 1991.

Death Camp: "Chelmno - upon - Ner", Summary (pages 107-108)



In extermination camp in Chelmno - upon - Ner was the first center for the mass extermination of Jews. It began functioning as early as December 1941. The decision to build the camp was greatly influenced by Heinz - Rolf Hoppner's letter from the governorship of the Third Reich in Poznan. The letter, which was sent to Berlin on July 16th, 1941, contained a proposal of "solving the Jewish problem" in tile so-called "Warta Country".

There are two main periods in the camps' history.

A part of the camp's personnel and a group of the last 45 Jews, imprisoned in a granary near the palace ruins, and remained in the village. The last execution took place on the night of January 17th, 1945. The Jews were killed by a shot to the back of the head. Only two men survived: Mieczyslaw Zurawski and Szymon Srebrnik, who had escaped from the camp in January 1942, bacame the eyewitnesses of this crime after the war. Two other fugitives "Szlamek" and Abraham Roj, died before the end of the war.

The post-war investigation conducted by Judge Wladyslaw Bednarz, revealed many details of the camp's history. Bednarz uncovered how the crematories and the "Spezialwagen" were constructed. The camp's personnel consisted of more than a dozen Gestapo officers and tens of policemen and military policemen from Lodz and Poznan. The camp's first commander was SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Herbert Lange and later from March 1942 until the closing of the camp - Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans Johann Bothman, who was a commissioner in the crime department of the SS.

After the war, two members of the Sonderkommando "Kulmhof", Walter Piller and Hermann Gielow, were sentenced to death by Polish court.

In the years 1962-1965, eleven criminals from the Chelmno camp were on trial in West Germany. For "accessory to murder", the court sentenced three criminals to 13 years, one to 8 years, another to 7 years, three to 13 months and 2 weeks in prison and three remaining defendants were acquired.

It is difficult to arrive at a possible figure for the number of victims of the Chelmno camp. Various publications contained different data. The highest estimated number was given by Bednarz approximately 350,000. The lowest "acceptable" number was presented at the trial in Bohn - 152,000 victims.

No important German documents survived, but according to the analysis of various publications and other sources of information, one may cautiously argue that there were 200,000 - 250,000 people killed in Chelmno. Most of the victims were Jews, but probably among the murdered were also groups of Poles, Soviet war prisoners, about 5,000 gypsies, children from the Czech village of Lidice.

These are shocking facts. This crime must never be forgotten!!!