Chelmno was the first Nazi camp where gassing was used to murder Jews on a large scale. It was located 47 kilometres to the west of the Lodz ghetto where many of the victims came from.
A total of 320,000 people were murdered at Chelmno. These included Jews from the Lodz ghetto and throughout the area, in addition to 5,000 Roma who had been previously sent to the ghetto.
Chelmno consisted of two sites, just two and a half miles apart. The first was located in a large manor house, known as ‘The Palace’. As there was no railway running through the village of Chelmno, the victims were taken by train to a nearby station. They then walked or were loaded onto trucks to the Chelmno camp reception area.
The first group of victims arrived at Chelmno on 7 December 1941. The following day the first exterminations took place. The killings continued throughout 1942. By March 1943 the camp was dismantled because all the Jews in the area had been murdered, except those in Lodz.
On arrival at the Palace camp, the victims were addressed by the camp commandant or one of his deputies, who was disguised as the squire of the estate, wearing a feather hat, jackboots and smoking a pipe. The Jews were told that they would be fairly treated and receive good food in return for working on the estate, in Austria or in the East.
They were then told that they needed to shower to become clean and that their clothes had to be disinfected. This was a huge lie. They were led to the undressing room, where they gave up their valuables and clothes. But, having been led up steps to the ‘washrooms’, they in fact found themselves in a gas van. The doors were closed and locked.
The driver then drove into the forest. After 10 minutes the gas fumes had suffocated all those inside the van. The victims were buried in mass graves. The possessions of those brought to Chelmno were given or sold to Germans living in the region.
In April 1944 the Nazis planned to liquidate the Lodz ghetto, so they reopened Chelmno. Those who had previously worked at the camp were brought back to resume their work and carry out the killings. Between 23 June and mid-July 1944, more than 7,000 Jews were murdered and disposed of in the newly-erected crematorium. The camp was then closed as the killings were moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Nazis destroyed Chelmno in September 1944. They tried to erase all evidence of mass murder. They ordered the digging up and cremation of all of the bodies from the mass graves.
On 17 January 1945, the Nazis murdered 45 of the last 48 Jewish prisoners as the Soviet army edged closer to the camp. These last few Jews at the camp had fought against the fleeing Nazis, but only three of them succeeded in escaping.References:
Easter Aquhorthies stone circle, located near Inverurie, is one of the best-preserved examples of a recumbent stone circle, and one of the few that still have their full complement of stones. It consists of a ring of nine stones, eight of which are grey granite and one red jasper. Two more grey granite stones flank a recumbent of red granite flecked with crystals and lines of quartz. The circle is particularly notable for its builders' use of polychromy in the stones, with the reddish ones situated on the SSW side and the grey ones opposite.
The placename Aquhorthies derives from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning 'field of prayer', and may indicate a 'long continuity of sanctity' between the Stone or Bronze Age circle builders and their much later Gaelic successors millennia later. The circle's surroundings were landscaped in the late 19th century, and it sits within a small fenced and walled enclosure. A stone dyke, known as a roundel, was built around the circle some time between 1847 and 1866–7.