"The Last Testimonies of the Last Prisoners of Chelmno": The Source of the Document

The Death Van inside which the deportees of Ghetto Lodz were suffocated to death by the gas discharged from the truck's engine.


 

This is a most unique document, which contains final testimonies of the last Jewish prisoners in the death camp of Chelmno. The testimonies were written on a notebook in Polish, which was handed over to the liberating Russian Red Army by a Polish peasant. The Russians gave it first to the anti-fascist Jewish Committee which was closed short time after the War and all its archive seized by the Soviet government. After 46 years, following the political changes in the USSR, this archive was opened and the document given to Yad Vashem. (1991).

The document belongs to the rare type of documents, the most appalling from the days of the Holocaust, which were written in the death camps themselves, near the gas chambers and crematoria, while the events themselves were taking place.

In the night of 17 January 1945, the Germans executed all the 47 prisoners who were left: they transported them by groups of five, from the cellar where they lived and shot them. But two out of the doomed, miraculously survived; The two survivors are Mordechai Zurawski and Szimon Srebrnik .
Szimon Srebrnik is the only survivor from Chelmno still alive.

The testimonies which contain also the victims' last requests and last regards to possible surviving relatives, were published in Hebrew, as a personal venture of Mrs. Ester Reiss from Jerusalem in a booklet named: "Chelmno - Death Camp For Total Extermination", Jerusalem, 1995. I translated them to English, together with the introduction of Shmuel Krakowski and Ilia Altman from Yad Vashem. Mrs. Bianca Shlezinger proofread the translation.

The booklet in Hebrew is available by the Publisher, Mrs. Ester Reiss, address:

12 Baal Sheiltot St.
Jerusalem
95465
ISRAEL

The original notebook is kept for eternity in the Archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.

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