08 December 2011

Today in Jewish History December 8 1941 - Gas Day in Chelm

December 8 1941 was the first time that the Nazi's used Gas to exterminate Jews.

On December 8, 1941 Jews of Chelmno (Chelm) were loaded into trucks (50-70 people per truck) and taken to the nearby forest, gassed with exhaust fumes along the way. Their bodies were dumped in deep pits, and then the gassing trucks returned to the mill for more victims.  Any Jews found to be still alive as the corpses were being unloaded were shot by SS and police officials on duty.

The SS and police conducted killing operations in Chełmno from December 8, 1941, until March 1943 and then again for a brief period in June-July 1944 in the forest camp.

A gas-van driver named Walter Burmeister  testified:  
The gas vans were large vans, about 4-5 metres [13-16 ft] long, 2.2 metres [7.2 ft] wide and 2 metres [6.5 ft] high. The interior walls were lined with sheet metal. On the floor there was a wooden grille. The floor of the van had an opening which could be connected to the exhaust by means of a removable metal pipe. When the lorries were full of people the double doors at the back were closed and the exhaust connected to the interior of the van... 

The commando member detailed as driver would start the engine right away so that the people inside the lorry were suffocated by the exhaust gases. Once this had taken place, the union between the exhaust and the inside of the lorry was disconnected and the van was driven to the camp in the woods where the bodies were unloaded. In the early days they were initially buried in mass graves, later incinerated... I then drove the van back to the castle and parked it there. Here it would be cleaned of the excretions of the people that had died in it. Afterwards it would once again be used for gassing.

In September 1944, a group of Jewish prisoners, presumably brought from outside the Wartheland District, was forced to exhume and cremate any remaining corpses from the mass graves at Chełmno as part of Operation 1005 and to obliterate any other evidence of mass murder operations. The SS and police shot about half of the 80-man detachment after this work was done in November 1944. The Germans abandoned the Chełmno killing center on January 18, 1945, as the Soviet army approached (which arrived at the camp two days later). The SS killed at least 152,000 people at Chełmno between December 1941 and March 1943 and in June/July 1944. (Note: a 1946–47 report places the number closer to 340,00).

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1 comment:

Juniper in the Desert said...

My family on my father's side were from near Lodz


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