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A Survivor recounts his time at the Chelmno death camp!

Chelmno Diary

"Szlamek Bajler recounts his time at Chelmno"


Szlamek Bajler was a young Jew from the village of Izbica Kujawska, north of Kolo (German: Warthbrücken) and Chelmno (German: Kulmhof), in the annexed "Warthegau". Bajler was arrested in a round-up in Izbica in early January 1942, and forced to work in the Chelmno “Waldlager.”


He witnessed the destruction of most of the 1,600 Jews of his native village, included his own family, about a week later. Five days after the massacre Bajler escaped from the Waldlager. He managed to get to the Warsaw Ghetto where he told his story to Emanuel Ringelblum who urged him to write it down. Bajler did so under the pseudonym Yakov Grojanowski.


It should be noted that there is much confusion about his correct name, some sources claim it was Szlojme Fajner. We have used the name Bajler throughout this account, and in other places on the website.

This is an extract of his account, as contained in the Ringelblum archive:  


Bajler and his 28 fellow prisoners were taken in a truck, firstly in the direction of Kolo, it then took the road to Chelmno death camp. In Chelmno the truck waited on the road for about half an hour, then it drove into the palace grounds:

Modern photo of the station at Kolo

Tuesday, 6 January 1942:

“We arrived at 12:30 p.m. We were pushed out of the lorry. From here onwards we were in the hands of black-uniformed SS men, all of them high-ranking Reich Germans. We were ordered to hand over all our money and valuables. After this fifteen men were selected, I among them, and taken down to the cellar rooms of the Schloss (castle).


We fifteen were confined in one room, the remaining fourteen in another. Down in the cellar it was pitch dark. Some Ethnic Germans on the domestic staff provided us with straw. Later a lantern was brought. At around eight in the evening we received unsweetened black coffee and nothing else. We were all in a depressed mood.


One could only think of the worst, some were close to tears. We kissed and took leave of each other. It was unimaginably cold and we lay down close together. We spent the whole night without shutting our eyes. We only talked about the deportation of Jews, particularly from Kolo and Dabie. The way it looked, we had no prospect of ever getting out again."

Wednesday, 7 January 1942:

"At seven in the morning, the gendarme on duty knocked and ordered us to get up. It took half an hour till they brought us black coffee and bread from our provisions. We drew some meagre consolation from this and told each other there was a God in heaven; we would, after all, be going to work.

At about 8:30 we were led into the courtyard. Six of us had to go into the second cellar room to bring out two corpses. The dead were from Klodawa, and had hanged themselves. They were conscript grave-diggers. Their corpses were thrown on a lorry.


We met the other fourteen enforced grave-diggers from Izbica. As soon as we came out of the cellar we were surrounded by twelve gendarmes and Gestapo men with machine guns. We got on the lorry. Our escorts were six gendarmes with machine guns.


Behind us came another vehicle with 10 gendarmes and two civilians. We drove in the direction of Kolo for about 7 km’s till turning left into the forest; after half a kilometre we halted at a clear path. We were ordered to get down and line up in double file.

An SS man ordered us to fall in with our shovels, dressed, despite the frost, only in shoes, underwear, trousers and shirts. Our coats, hats, gloves, etc., had to remain in a pile on the ground. The two civilians took all the shovels and pick-axes down from the lorry. Eight of us who weren’t handed any tools had to take down the corpses.


Already on our way into the forest we saw about fourteen men, enforced grave-diggers from Klodawa, who had arrived before us. The eight men   
without tools carried the two corpses to the ditch and threw them in. We didn’t have to wait long before the next lorry arrived with fresh victims.


It was specially constructed. It looked like a normal large lorry, in grey paint, with two hermetically closed rear doors. The inner walls were of steel metal. There weren’t any seats. The floor was covered by a wooden grating, as in public baths, with straw mats on top. Between the driver’s cab and the rear part were two peepholes. With a torch one could observe through these peepholes if the victims were already dead.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/chelmnodiaries.html

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