If anyone has any info on the Chelmno Extermination Camp, can you please post it here, whatever you have.
The Chelmno Camp was established on the 7th December 1941, Gassings started the next day. Chelmno, also known as Kulmhof, was a small town roughly 50 miles from the city of Lodz. It was here that the first mass killings of Jews by gas took place as part of the 'Final Solution'. The murder process was set up by a 'Sonderkommando ', under the command of the first commandant Herbert Lange. He was transferred to Chelmno directly from duties in the T4 euthanasia program, murdering psychiatric patients in Posen. Lange and his unit had developed much experience in the use of gas vans. These early models were equipped to pipe carbon monoxide from cylinders in the driver's cab into the van in which the 'patients were locked. The camp consisted of two parts; administration section, barracks and storage for plundered goods; burial and cremation site. It operated three gas vans using carbon monoxide as Sonderkommando Lange. (The 3 drivers were Bürstinge, Laabs & Burmeister). Lange's unit comprised 15-20 men of the SIPO and about 80-100 men of the 'Schutzpolizei'. They took over a run-down castle in Chelmno and converted it into their base camp with barracks and a reception area for deportees. Each afternoon, Jews were brought under guard by train from Lodz via Kolo junction (where they transferred to open rail cars running on a narrow-gauge track), or from nearer locations by lorry, to the castle or schloss. They were gathered in the castle courtyard, subdivided into groups of 50 and told to undress. They were forced to hand over all valuables. They were then told they were about to be transferred to a work camp, but first they had be disinfected and showered. They were taken down into the castle cellar to a 'washroom' which actually led via a ramp into a waiting van. Vicious beatings ensured that none hesitated or declined to go inside. After 50-70 persons were jammed into the van's freight compartment, the exhaust pipe was connected to an opening in the compartment and the engine switched on. After about ten minutes those inside were dead. The driver, usually a member of the 'Schutzpolizei', then drove the van 2.5 miles into the nearby Rzuchow Forest, to the second camp the 'Waldlager'. Here the SS had prepared mass graves, dug by Jewish slave labor, and later cremation pyres. A team of 40-50 Jews, wearing leg-irons to prevent their escape, hauled the bodies out of the van and dumped them in the graves. Another team of Jews sorted the clothes and objects of those killed so that they could be made available to Germans in the Reich. No less than 370 wagon loads of clothing were supplied by these means. The technology was quite simple. The 'Sonderkommando' had three vans at its disposal. The only technical innovation was the specially constructed sealed compartments mounted on a Renault chassis. These compartments were lined with tin and had airtight, double doors. The floor of the compartment had a wooden lattice to facilitate the cleaning out of detritus. Beneath it was an aperture with a nozzle to which the pipe from the exhaust was connected. By the time Lange's unit came to use these vans, they had been tried and tested in the 'euthanasia program'. By these means, about 145,000 people were murdered at Chelmno in the first phase of its operations. Gassings started on December 7th , 1941. The first deportees were Jews from surrounding communities and about 5,000 Gypsies who had been incarcerated in the Lodz ghetto. 10'000 Jews were deported from Lodz to Chelmno and murdered between 16th to 29th January 1942. 34'000 were 'processed' between 22nd March to 2nd April 1942. 11'000 were deported and gassed between 4th to 15th May 1942, 16'000 between 5th to 12th September 1942 and in addition, 15'200 Jewish slave laborers from the Lodz region were also gassed.
By March 1943, most of the Jews of the Warthegau had been murdered. Only the 70,000 Jews in the Lodz ghetto remained. Himmler ordered the camp to be dismantled on the 7th April 1943, Chelmno camp was wound up and the schloss actually demolished. Operations continued on the 23rd June 1944, and the new Commandant arrived. Hans Bothmann, arrived to lead Sonderkommando Bothmann along with Hermann Gielow and Walter Piller. In this period, a further 25.000 Lodz Jews were murdered at Chelmno. Afterwards, a unit of 'Sonderkommando 1005' under Paul Blobel, labored to clean up the traces of mass murder. On the night of 17th January 1945 the work group, numbering 48 men, was to be shot, but the Jews revolted and in the ensuing melee, three managed to escape.
There were few survivors of the most intense phase of murder at Chelmno. In mid-January 1942, Yaakov Grojanowski escaped and made his way to Warsaw where he informed the ghetto leadership of what he had witnessed. As a result, fairly accurate information about the mass killings at Chelmno was transmitted via the Polish underground and reached London in June. After the War two Chelmno guards were executed by the poles, Gielow and Piller. From 1962 to 1965, several SS guards were put on trial and were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Both Commandants escaped justice, Lange was killed in action and Bothmann committed suicide in British captivity.