Documented History

Only a few documents about the Chełmno Camp itself seem to have survived the war. The most important of them, dated 11 May 1943, refers to the earlier delivery of iron material to the Chełmno Special Unit. This delivery included a “water reservoir,” “iron boiler pipes” with a total weight of 1,600 kg, as well as a disinfection oven weighing just over two metric tons. These items clearly prove that some major sanitary and disinfestation facilities were set up at some earlier point in that camp, probably to shower and disinfest Jews passing through (see Mattogno/Kues/Graf 2015, p. 877). Another document is an invoice for a used 18-HP stationary diesel engine, probably meant to drive an electricity generator (ibid., p. 750; Mattogno 2017, pp. 45, 156).

Although the orthodoxy insists that the camp was opened on 8 December 1941, this is not even supported by witness testimony. The purpose of the camp alleged by the orthodoxy – extermination of all Jews deported to it, with the temporary exception of a few slave-labor Jews – is not documented either. It furthermore stands in stark contrast to the well-documented German policy to deport and resettle the Jews further East into the temporarily German-occupied western areas of the Soviet Union. (For more on this, see the entry on resettlement, as well as Mattogno 2017, pp. 23-31)

A document with an indirect reference to the Chełmno Camp is the so-called Korherr Report of early 1943 by SS statistician Richard Korherr. This document outlines the demographic trends of Jews in German-occupied Europe (NMT Documents NO-5193 to 5198). In it, we find one line about Jews “led through [durchgeschleust] the camps of the Warthegau……145,301.” Since Chełmno was the only camp in that “Warthegau” area, this can be interpreted as indicating that 145,301 Jews had been transited through that camp by early 1943. (For more on this, see Mattogno 2017, p. 109; Graf/Kues/Mattogno 2020, pp. 311-330, esp. p. 315)

This is backed up by several German railway documents and also documents created by Jewish organizations in affected ghettos, showing that Jews – mostly those unfit for labor – were indeed deported throughout 1942 by rail. In these documents, these Jews are referred to as having been “resettled” (“ausgesiedelt”). Some documents indicate that the train went to Koło, the closest railway station to the Chełmno Camp (see Mattogno 2017, pp. 114-116)

A “document” which mentions Chełmno as a place where gas vans were allegedly deployed as a mass-murder weapon is the so-called Just Document, but this is clearly a forgery. (See the entry on the Gaubschat Company for more.)

Propaganda History

A report dated 25 March 1942 from the clandestine archive of the Warsaw Ghetto (also known as the Emanuel Ringelblum Archive) claims that Jews from the areas around Chełmno were concentrated. Men aged 14 to 60 and women aged 14 to 50 were subject to a medical examination, evidently to ascertain fitness for work, after which they were transferred to an unknown location and not seen anymore. It contains no mass-murder or gas-van claims.

Another document, presumably of 1942, stems from an unknown author commonly referred to as “Szlamek,” who supposedly escaped from Chełmno in late January 1942. Some orthodox scholars claim that the author was a man named Jakov Grojanowski, but others disagree. Whoever that person was, he wrote down his memories (or had them written down) after getting to Emanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw Ghetto. The text is structured like a diary, spanning some ten days in January 1942, is rich in detail, and even gives the exact time of events, although Chełmno inmates supposedly had to hand over all valuables on admission, including watches. It reports in detail about mass murder with gas vans, describes the two vehicles allegedly used, and reports about the work at the claimed mass graves. It stands to reason that this text was written after the one of 25 March, because the latter certainly would have included concrete information about mass murder, gas vans and mass graves, had that information been known to the Warsaw Ghetto underground.

The gassing vehicle supposedly operated as follows:

  • A gas-developing apparatus was located in the driver’s cab. However, the orthodoxy insists that the gas-developing apparatus was the truck’s engine, which would have been located beneath the cab, with no access to it from the cab.
  • The gas was piped directly from the driver’s cab into the cargo box with two pipes. However, the orthodoxy insists that the engine’s single exhaust pipe was connected to the cargo box, but certainly not by letting it run through the driver’s cab and from there, routed into the cargo box.
  • The gas was “switched on” by pushing a button in the driver’s cab. However, the orthodoxy insists that the engine-exhaust was redirected into the cargo box by some mechanism located outside the vehicle, letting the exhaust gas flow either out into the open or through some metal-hose-connection into the cargo box.
  • The victims supposedly looked normal, as if put to sleep. However, asphyxiation by carbon-monoxide poisoning would have resulted in corpses that would have had a very striking, distinctive pinkish-reddish complexion, something no real witness could have missed or forgotten.
  • Initially there were two gas vans, but then, their number was increased to nine. However, the orthodoxy insists that there were only two or three such vans at Chełmno.
  • The temperature in January was well below the freezing point. In fact, the diary mentions that it went as low as 20 degrees centigrade below zero (zero Fahrenheit). At the same time, it is claimed that inmates dug several deep pits with hoes and spades. However, the deeply frozen ground would have prevented any such endeavor.
  • The rotting corpses in the grave allegedly gave off a strong smell. But at freezing temperatures, they certainly did not.

Hence, this “diary” clearly is a propaganda text made up from scratch by the Jewish resistance fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto.

In May of 1945, SS Hauptscharführer Walter Piller, the deputy commandant of the Chełmno Camp in 1944, wrote a “confession” in Soviet captivity. He listed freely invented deportation figures for the summer of 1944, and following the script of the 1943 Kharkov show trial (see the entry on gas vans for details), he claimed that the Chełmno gas vans were operated by the driver opening a valve during the ride, which killed the victims within 2-3 minutes. However, no such lever-operated gas-release from inside the cab existed, if we follow the orthodox narrative, and the speed of execution was impossible, considering that suicides with gasoline-engine exhaust gasses – prior to the age of catalytic converters – took some 20 minutes (see the entry on carbon monoxide).

Starting in June 1945, Polish investigative judge Władysław Bednarz interrogated a number of individuals who claimed or were suspected to have knowledge about events unfolding at the former Chełmno Camp. All of these testimonies are characterized by improbable or impossible claims, and many were apparently influenced by the judge himself, looking for information that he wanted confirmed:

  • Walter Burmeister claimed that he drove and operated a Renault gas van with a fanciful, nonsensical piping system, none of which existed even according to the orthodox narrative. (See the entry dedicated to him)
  • Bronisław Falborski asserted to have repaired the exhaust system of a gas van, yet his description of the system is absurdly nonsensical, and he falsely identified a harmless Magirus truck at the Ostrowski factory grounds as the gas van he repaired. (See the entry dedicated to him)
  • Michał Podchlebnik also falsely identified a harmless Magirus truck at the Ostrowski factory grounds as one of the gas vans he saw in operation, and made up a string of other absurd claims, such as that the inmates, before climbing in the gas van, were handed towels and soap – a reflection of gas-chamber rumors going rampant in postwar Poland. (See the entry dedicated to him)
  • Szymon Srebrnik also misidentified a harmless Magirus truck at the Ostrowski factory grounds as one of the gas vans he saw in operation, and he filled his tale to the brim with absurd stories. (See the entry dedicated to him)
  • Mieczysław Żurawski gave the fewest details of all witnesses, but where he made specific claims, they are clearly wrong. He insisted that the Magirus truck at the Ostrowski factory grounds was merely a disinfestation van, but later, during the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem, he tried “correcting” this “mistake.” Żurawski claimed that he was one among some 7,000 to 10,000 Jews deported from the Lodz Ghetto to Chełmno in the summer of 1944. In this regard, his testimony is pivotal for the orthodoxy’s claim of a second phase of extermination activities at Chełmno. (See the entry dedicated to him.)

Compare this motley assortment of claims with Szlamek’s detailed tale of a gassing device inside the cab, activated by push button, and you get the idea that everyone was just making up stuff as they pleased, or as they thought it pleased their interrogator.

Finally, Judge Bednarz interrogated the defendant Bruno Israel in late October 1945, who had been assigned to the Chełmno police in July/August 1944. Similar to Podchlebnik, Israel claimed that the victims were persuaded to climb into the gas vans by being told that they were taking a shower in it, and they were even given some soap. Just like Podchlebnik, Israel must have gotten his wires crossed here, confusing the claims about stationary gas chambers camouflaged as shower rooms with the gas vans. Moreover, no SS man would have wasted any soap on such a fool’s errand of trying to convince inmates that they would take a shower inside the van’s cargo box. But at least Israel got the gassing method straight: “the exhaust pipe went through the floor to the center of the vehicle,” something the orthodoxy could later work with.

Months of postwar stories making the rounds in Poland about gas vans did not reach or convince everyone, though. On 27 October 1945, Polish veterinary surgeon Mieczysław Sekiewicz claimed that Jews rounded up in the Konin region near Chełmno were not brought to Chełmno and killed there in gas vans, but rather brought into some woods, placed inside a pit, and there killed by showering them first with water, then with boiling fresh lime, so they were cooked alive… (See Mattogno 2017, p. 49 for more.)

The propaganda about Chełmno ultimately solidified during the Chełmno Show Trial at Bonn, West Germany, in 1963 and 1965, where the final version of the orthodox narrative was cast in legal stone. Accused were eleven defendants who had been officials at the camp. None of the defendants denied the charges, while one of them tried to commit suicide when first confronted with them. They all claimed either that they had merely followed orders or that they acted under duress. One of the defendants argued that he was a philo-Semite, proving it by the fact that he had gotten engaged to a Jewess in Berlin in 1940. Yet still, he obediently followed the orders allegedly given him to kill all Jews. Another defendant stated that his father, an opponent of the NS regime who once had been tortured by the Gestapo, could not give him any advice either as to how to avoid this extermination activity. He got acquitted for the best theatric courtroom performance! The National Socialist’s skills at making even their fiercest opponents follow their orders blindly was truly remarkable. (For more details, see Alvarez 2023, pp. 195f.; for details about Chełmno’s propaganda history, see in general Mattogno 2017, pp. 47-72.)

Death-Toll Propaganda

As for almost all German wartime camps for which mass exterminations have been claimed, initial death-toll figures were grotesquely inflated, but were subsequently reduced step by step. Occasionally, media propagandists felt the need to promote somewhat higher figures:

Victim numbers claimed for Chełmno


Polish postwar commission, May 1945


Claude Lanzmann, Shoah, 1985
350,000 Laqueur, Baumel-Schwartz 2001, p. 231


Polish judge Władysław Bednarz, 1946


Polish historical commission, 1979


Jury Court Bonn, 1963/65
For sources, see Mattogno 2017, pp. 107-111.

Forensic Findings

Various Polish teams conducted forensic investigations on the former campgrounds in 1945, 1951, 1986-1987 and in 2003-2004. During those investigations, the remnants of what appeared to have been a field furnace were found, measuring some 6 m × 5 m. It was described in some detail by Polish investigative judge Władysław Bednarz in 1946. Such field furnaces are known to consume some 1.45 kg of coal per kg of combusted organic tissue (usually livestock carcasses).

A few soil-core samples were taken at scattered locations, some of which revealed the presence of a few percent of human ashes and bone fragments, while others contained discarded objects, such as soles of shoes, prosthetic fittings, buckles, cutlery, handbags, suitcases, clothes pins and buttons, dentures, casings of rifle cartridges, pistols etc. No foundation of any major building was located. From the scattered findings of small amounts of human ashes and bone fragments, the Polish investigators delineated huge mass graves by simply drawing large rectangles to include most of these scattered findings.

Chelmno, outline of alleged mass grave
One of the large areas near the former Chełmno Camp delineated by curbstones and covered with gravel, alleged to be former mass graves, because scattered human remains were found at a few spots in the area.

Air photos as well as historical data of the surrounding forest show that roughly one hectare (100 m × 100 m) of the surrounding pine woods was replanted in 1942/43, hence was probably felled during the early phase of the camp’s claimed existence. Since the woods in this area were only some 15-17 years old at that time, this hectare of pine wood could have yielded some 200 tons of fresh timber. Since fresh wood has only a third of the caloric content of coal, cremating an average body of 60 kg in the field furnace would have required some 260 kg of fresh wood. Hence, the 200 tons of fresh wood cut in the camp’s surroundings would have sufficed for some 770 bodies – not 152,000 of them. There is no evidence – not even anecdotal – that vast amounts of wood were cut and transported to the camp by anyone from anywhere.

(For more details, see Mattogno 2017, pp. 83-89, 95-105.)

Current Orthodox Narrative

Since the primary sources (forensic findings, documents, witness reports) do not suffice to draw a comprehensive image of what exactly happened at Chełmno, Judge Władysław Bednarz resorted to creative writing when laying out the timeline of events, using cherry-picked statements from various witness testimonies to flesh out his narrative (see Bednarz 1946). This narrative was later adopted by the German judiciary and also by orthodox historians (see Gutman 1990, pp. 283-287). It claims the following:

The camp’s first phase lasted from December 1941 to April 1943. During that phase, inmates were received at a mansion near Chełmno, where they had to undress and enter a gas van. That gas van was a Renault. (Other orthodox sources claim two small Diamond trucks and one Saurer truck, but there is no source pertaining to Chełmno sustaining that claim, except the fake Just Letter talking about a Saurer truck). The victims were then killed within ten minutes by the van’s exhaust gases, after which the dead victims were driven to the so-called forest camp, where they were dumped into mass graves. In the summer of 1942, two crematoria were built to cremate the victims. At the end of this phase, the mansion was demolished, the crematoria destroyed, and the forest camp dissolved.

In April of 1944, the forest camp was reactivated. Two new crematoria were built in order to process Jews deported from the Lodz Ghetto, some of whose inhabitants were sent to Chełmno between late June and mid-July of 1944. In August 1944, in conjunction with Aktion 1005, the old mass graves were exhumed, and the corpses burned. The camp was abandoned in mid-January with the approach of the Red Army. The total death toll amounted to 320,000 Jews.

However, as stated above, forensic excavation located only the leftovers of not four crematoria but only one primitive field furnace with a very limited capacity, and the history of the woods surrounding the camp prove that the amount of wood felled during that time was not even enough to cremate 1,000 bodies.

Furthermore, the claim of a second phase of extermination activities – after the camp’s infrastructure had been destroyed in 1943 – rests to a large degree on the unbelievable claims of the untrustworthy witness Mieczysław Żurawski (see the entry on him). His claim is simply implausible that skilled and experienced armament workers of the Lodz Ghetto were killed in Chełmno in the summer of 1944, rather than transferred to camps and labor sites in Germany, as documents clearly prove. (See the entry on the Lodz Ghetto.) In other words, there probably never was a second phase in the existence of the Chełmno Camp.

The claim that the gas van used at Chełmno was a Renault is unique to the testimony of Walter Burmeister, who gave a completely nonsensical description of its gas-piping system. Finally, ten minutes would not have sufficed to kill everyone in the van, as monitored suicides with carbon monoxide from gasoline-engine exhaust are proven to take some 20 minutes. Moreover, Walter Piller was the only witness who stated how long the gassings took: 2-3 minutes, not ten minutes, which is the value taken from the verdict of the Bonn Show Trial against former staff members of the Chełmno Camp.

In other words, the orthodoxy generously extrapolates beyond the little information contained in the few documental sources, cherry-picks what they need from divergent witness statements, hides from their readers the preposterous and nonsensical nature of these witness statements, and completely ignores the results of forensic studies.

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