Chelmno (June 8, 2016)

Chelmno was certainly one of the camps that I knew the least about before coming on this trip. It is also one of the last camps to be getting the attention and funding that it deserves. Auschwitz and Majdanek are the two most popular, and thus, well funded, sites. The museum at Belzec is fairly new and extremely well curated, and, while Treblinka’s museum is showing its age, the signage around the former camp is well done. Sobibor and Chelmno are the last two left.

Chelmno as a camp is two distinctly different places. One is the manor house where the gassing occurred and the other is the forest where the bodies were buried. Above is a photo of the memorial in the forest area where the mass graves were located.

The manor house was located in the actual town, and used the next door church as a holding place for the Jews before they were gassed. This map shows the layout of the manor house, of which the only thing remaining is the foundation. It is estimated that about 150,000 people were killed at Chelmno, with most victims being Jews from the Lodz ghetto. There is a museum in the works at Chelmno and hopefully it will allow for further explanation of the workings of the two sites.

As of right now, there really isn’t too much left to the site. A few markers here and there, mostly in Polish and a bridge over where some of the ash pits might be. While not as remote as Treblinka, the tree covered area around mass graves still feels oddly serene in a place filled with so much tragedy. But its proximity to the road, and the manor house’s placement in town are a reminder that people did really know what was happening. They just chose to pretend.

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