Death by Gas Begins in Chelmno, using Mobile Gas Vans

chelmno2The small town of Chełmno, in northern Poland (known as Kulmhof in German) was just one site of extermination committed by the Nazis. Operations – and murder – began here on 8 December 1941. On this day, the Jewish and Gypsy populations of nearby towns and villages were taken to Powiercie by rail. They were then marched towards the river near Zawadki and forced to stay in a mill overnight, locked in, with no food or water. The next day they were loaded onto lorries and taken to Chełmno, where they were quickly transferred into vans. Exhaust fumes from the vans were pumped into the back, gassing all those inside to death whilst the drivers wore gas-masks; the vans then drove to the nearby forest where burial pits had been dug.

These mobile gas vans had been converted by the RSHA in Berlin to be used for the purpose of killing victims. Sealed compartments were installed on the chassis, where the gas was pumped in from a pipe. It was not the first time these vans had been used, however, as they were originally used in the killing of mentally disabled patients in the occupied Soviet Union from September 1941. Between six and nine vans were used on an average day at Chełmno, and by February 1942, almost 8,000 Jews and Gypsies had been gassed there.

Chelmno
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Chelmno (Kulmhof – Poland)
Jewish Gen

Chelmno and Operation Reinhard

Chelmno Death Camp
Dramatis Personae
The Commanders of Sonderkommando Kulmhof
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Chelmno (Kulmhof – Poland)
Jewish Gen

Gassing Victims in the Holocaust:
Background & Overview
Jewish Virtual Library

Excerpt from German Crimes in Poland: Extermination Camp Chelmno (Kulmhof)
Part I
Gombin Jewish Historical Genealogical Society

Origins of the Gas Vans

The Development of the Gas-Van in the Murdering of the Jews
Jewish Virtual Library

Gas Wagons: The Holocaust’s mobile gas chambers
The Nizkor Project

Gas Vans
Aktion Reinhard Camps

From Shootings to Gas Vans
Jewish Virtual Library

Difficulties with the Gas-Vans
Letter from Dr August Becker to SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff
16 May 1942

Nazi Correspondence Regarding Gassing Vans
Holocaust – A Call to conscience
Projet Aladin

Enquires on the Killing of the Gombin Jews, by Leon Zamosc
Gombin Jewish Historical Genealogical Society

Development of Operations
Gombin Jewish Historical Genealogical Society

Chelmno and Operation Reinhard
Gombin Jewish Historical Genealogical Society

CHELMNO EXTERMINATION CAMP Part 1
Dachau KZ

CHELMNO EXTERMINATION CAMP Part 2
Dachau KZ

CHELMNO EXTERMINATION CAMP Part 3
Dachau KZ

Chelmno Diary
“Szlamek Bajler recounts his time at Chelmno”
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Report by Untersturmfuehrer Becker
on the Operation of Gas Vans

Gassing Operations
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Documents Related to the Chelmno Death Camp
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Photos:
The “Death Truck” from the Extermination Camp Chelmno
Ada Holtzman Home Page

Photo:
A group of Jewish men awaiting death in a gas van at the Chelmno death camp.
Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust

Chelmno Image Gallery
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

 

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