Chelmno Death Camp

Immediately after the war, the provisional Polish government created the Central Commision for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, whose main task was to establish what had happened and prepare the evidence for the Nuremberg trial and for subsequent trials of German war criminals in Poland. The Commission collected documents and testimonies and began to publish them in 1946. The main report, published under the title German Crimes in Poland, gave the first general overview of the main concentration and extermination camps.

Little has been published on Chelmno (Kulmhof, in German) despite its significance as the first operational extermination camp, most likely because the Nazis managed to destroy most of the evidence about its existence. The Commission’s report remains one of the most thorough accounts.

Excerpt from German Crimes in Poland

The extermination camp at Chelmno was a typical death camp, i.e. a place designed exclusively for killing all who where brought there. The only ones to be saved were a small group of workers selected by the Germans for work connected with their criminal activities…

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Development of Operations

After the development of a mobile killing van in the fall of 1941, the device was tested on Soviet POW’s in Sachsenhausen, and found completely satisfactory – three more trucks were converted, and initially put to use in the Ukraine. There was, however, an urgent need for them in the Wartheland…

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Chelmo & Operation Reinhard

Before the Nazis developed the killing centers and extermination camps, they used the Einsatzgruppen to kill the Jews and other undesirables. But those massacres showed that there were glaring problems inherent in the extermination of masses of people, among them were the need of speed, efficient and complete body removal, secrecy, and disposal of belongings. Killing centers, however, provided both expediency and secrecy, and the later extermination camps made possible the full range of physical and psychological abuse that the Nazis wished to employ in the destruction of the undesirables…

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