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:
The Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc is a Baroque monument built in 1716–1754 in honour of God. The main purpose was a spectacular celebration of Catholic Church and faith, partly caused by feeling of gratitude for ending a plague, which struck Moravia between 1713 and 1715. The column was also understood to be an expression of local patriotism, since all artists and master craftsmen working on this monument were Olomouc citizens, and almost all depicted saints were connected with the city of Olomouc in some way. The column is the biggest Baroque sculptural group in the Czech Republic. In 2000 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The column is dominated by gilded copper sculptures of the Holy Trinity accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel on the top and the Assumption of the Virgin beneath it.
The base of the column, in three levels, is surrounded by 18 more stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs in elaborate cartouches. At the uppermost stage are saints connected with Jesus’ earth life – his mother’s parents St. Anne and St. Joachim, his foster-father St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist, who was preparing his coming – who are accompanied by St. Lawrence and St. Jerome, saints to whom the chapel in the Olomouc town hall was dedicated. Three reliefs represent the Three theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Love.
Below them, the second stage is dedicated to Moravian saints St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who came to Great Moravia to spread Christianity in 863, St. Blaise, in whose name one of the main Olomouc churches is consecrated, and patrons of neighbouring Bohemia St. Adalbert of Prague and St. John of Nepomuk, whose following was very strong there as well.
In the lowest stage one can see the figures of an Austrian patron St. Maurice and a Bohemian patron St. Wenceslas, in whose names two important Olomouc churches were consecrated, another Austrian patron St. Florian, who was also viewed as a protector against various disasters, especially fire, St. John of Capistrano, who used to preach in Olomouc, St. Anthony of Padua, a member of the Franciscan Order, which owned an important monastery in Olomouc, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a patron of students. His sculpture showed that Olomouc was very proud of its university. Reliefs of all twelve apostles are placed among these sculptures.
The column also houses a small chapel inside with reliefs depicting Cain's offering from his crop, Abel's offering of firstlings of his flock, Noah's first burnt offering after the Flood, Abraham's offering of Isaac and of a lamb, and Jesus' death. The cities of Jerusalem and Olomouc can be seen in the background of the last mentioned relief.