Chelmno was the testing ground for Aktion Reinhardt. It was an experiment to improve on the Einsaztgruppen's methods of mass shootings and occasional usage of mobile gassing vans. Therefore, although not offically designated a Reinhardt camp, it may be seen as the pre-cursor to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.
I do not think there is sufficient historical evidence for the notion that the killing centre at Chelmno was some sort of experiment.
The available documentary and testimonial evidence suggests that it resulted from a local initiative by Arthus Greiser, in reaction to the deportation of German Jews to the Lodz Ghetto.
In October 1941, Greiser was suddenly informed by Himmler that the deportation of Jews from Germany was about to begin, and that the deportees would be sent first to the Lodz Ghetto (situated in the Reichsgau Wartheland of which Greiser was the Reichsstatthalter, or Governor) for the winter, prior to being sent further east in the Spring.
Greiser protested on the basis that the Lodz Ghetto was already overcrowded (the Reichsgau Wartheland contained about 300,000 Jews, most of them stuffed into the Lodz Ghetto), but his protests were overridden by Himmler. It then appears that Greiser asked Himmler and Heydrich for permission to apply "Sonderbehandlung" to 100,000 Jews of Wartheland (ie about one-third of the total), presumably to create space for the incoming German Jews.
There are no extant documents in relation to the process of negotiation, but in a letter from Greiser to Himmler of May 1942, there is a reference to the permission given by Himmler and Heydrich for the "Sonderbehandlung" of 100,000 Jews, the advice that the action would soon be complete, and a request for permission to apply the same treatment to tubercular Poles.
It appears that the permission sought by Greiser was given in October 1941, since it was in that month that the Sonderkommando Lange began looking for a suitable location for a killing centre close to Lodz, according to post-war testimony from members of the Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommando was under the command of the HSSPF Wartheland, a certain Koppe, who testified after the war that he "lent" it to Greiser.
The question remains as to why the Sonderkommando Lange used gas vans as the killing methodology. It had previously been involved in the euthanasia of Polish mental patients, during which it had apparently employed a mobile gas chamber using bottled Carbon Monoxide, the same methodology used at the Euthanasia Institutes in Germany. Therefore, it had experience in gassing as well as in shooting.
Furthermore, the gas van using its own exhaust as the killing agent was being developed by the technicians of the Criminal Technical Office of the RSHA from September 1941 onward, and was operational by the end of that year. Apparently it was developed for the purpose of euthanasing mental patients in the occupied Soviet territories, so as to make the hospitals available for Wehrmacht use.
The most likely course of events is that Greiser applied to and received permission from Himmler and Heydrich to kill the 100,000 surplus Jews, and then turned to Koppe for the supply of a unit with experience in euthanasia. The Sonderkommando Lange, having been placed at Greiser's disposal for the above exterminatory task, then looked for a location for a killing centre and also a suitable killing methodology.
Exactly how the Sonderkommando Lange came to use the new gas vans is not known for certain. It may be that news of their successful use in the occupied Soviet territories spread within SS circles, and Lange applied to the RSHA to have a gas van or vans supplied to him. (Note that the Sonderkommando Lange was not itself part of the RSHA or under RSHA command; it came under the HSSPF Koppe, who reported directly to Himmler, not to the RSHA).
The crucial point is that the killing centre at Chelmno was a temporary expedient, set up for the specific task of reducing the number of Jews in the Wartheland. The process was as follows:
Jews from the Lodz Ghetto selected as no longer fit for labour were sent to Chelmno and killed, thereby creating space in the ghetto. At the same time, the smaller ghettos of the Wartheland were closed down; those of their inhabitants assessed as fit for labour were sent to the Lodz Ghetto to take the place of the unfit Jews removed from there, while those assessed as unfit for labour were sent directly to Chelmno.
By the above process, the Jews of the Wartheland unfit for labour were killed off at Chelmno, while those fit for labour were concentrated in the Lodz Ghetto, which thereby became a large production centre.
Chelmno was thus a temporary expedient, not related to other extermination initiatives. It remains unclear whether the disposal of the personal possessions of the Jews killed at Chelmno came under the control of Aktion Reinhardt, or whether it remained under the control of Lange and Greiser, ie who was ultimately responsible for accounting for it.
Odilo Globocnik was designated Commander and Leaser of Aktion Reinhardt(assisted by his head of Operations SS and Police Leader Lublin, Sturmbannfuhrer Hofle).
In point of fact, Globocnik was appointed administrator of Aktion Reinhardt only within the confines of the Generalgouvernement. he was required to account only for the property seized from the Jews who passed through the camps under his command.
I do not think Hoefle can have been SSPF Lublin, since that position was held by Globocnik himself. In that position, he was subject to the HSSPF for the Generalgouvernement, Krüger, but not in his function as administrator of Aktion Reinhardt in the whole Generalgouvernement.
It appears that Globocnik was very insubordinate, and refused to obey the overall command of Fritz Reinhardt and the Ministry for Finance, to which he was accountable for all the Jewish property seized at the camps controlled by him. He was suspected of corruption, ie of keeping for himself the proceeds of the sale of the confiscated Jewish property rather than handing it over to Reinhardt, and for that reason was eventually removed from his post and exiled to the Balkans. The extensive report he wrote for Himmler in 1944 was an attempt to disprove the charges of corruption against him.
Police Superintendent Christian Wirth singularly enjoyed direct access to Hitler(through the Reich Chancellery), bypassing his superiors Globocnik and Himmler for any operational matters regarding Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.
I would like to see some evidence that Wirth enjoyed direct access to Hitler, which would be extremely unusual for a mere captain of the Criminal Police.
I think you mean the Fuehrer Chancellory, rather than the Reich Chancellory. The Fuehrer Chancellory was Hitler's private office, originally set up to manage his correspondence, but also entrusted with special tasks. The Euthanasia Program in Germany was run by Philipp Bouhler, a senior official of the Fuehrer Chancellory, a person who certainly did have direct access to Hitler.
Wirth had been seconded to the Euthanasia Program as the person in charge of security at the Euthanasia Centres, and as such came under Bouhler, but I would be surprised if he himself had any sort of direct access to Hitler.
Fritz Reinhardt's(State Secretary of Finance) ministry first became involved in the Aktion over two months after the first known occurence of the code name.
I would like to get some more information on this. What was the date of the first documented use of the term "Aktion Reinhardt", and how was it used? On what basis is it determined when Fritz Reinhardt first became involved with Aktion Reinhardt?