Hamburg Deportation Transport to Litzmannstadt (Lodz)
© Wilhelm Mosel, Deutsch-jüdische Gesellschaft Hamburg.
Chapter 1. Evacuation Order to Litzmannstadt (Lodz)
Chapter 2. Deportation Assembly Point Moorweidenstraße
Chapter 3. Deportation Procedure in Hamburg
Chapter 4. Deportation from Hamburg to Litzmannstadt (Lodz)
Chapter 5. “Settlement” in Litznnstadt (Lodz)
Chapter 6. The History of the Litzmannstadt (Lodz) Ghetto
Chapter 7. The History of Lodz prior to 1940
Chapter 8. “Evacuations” from the Lodz Ghetto to Kulmhof
Chapter 9. The origin and operation of Kulmhof (Chelmno)
Chapter 10. The “Evacuation” of the Litzmannstadt (Lodz)
Ghetto to Auschwitz (August 1944)
1. “Evacuation Order” to Litzmannstadt
On 15 October 1941 the Jewish community in Cologne made
it known that during the course of the month 20,000 Jews were to be
‘evacuated’ (‘evakuiert’) from Germany to Litzmannstadt (Lodz). An immediate
inquiry by the chairmen of the Jewish Religious Federation Hamburg, Dr. Max
Plaut, to the Hamburg Gestapo received a negative reply.
Then on 17 October Plaut was called to the Gestapo by telephone where the
head of the ‘Department for Jews’ (‘Judenreferat’), Gestapo officer Claus
Göttsche, declared that 1,000 Jews were to be ‘evacuated’ to
Litzmannstadt the following week.
When Plaut requested more detailed information the Gestapo informed him:
All Jews who originated from German territory prior to 1918 (those lands and people lost
through the Versailles Treaty), all naturalized
east European Jews, all stateless Jews as well as all Jews who had been in
trouble with the Gestapo (‘missliebig’) and their families were first in
line. Relatives and those related by marriage not falling into these
categories could volunteer. Also Jews of Polish nationality, not already
deported on 28.10.1938, were included.
The Gestapo initially demanded that Plaut compile the lists. He refused
arguing that he was convinced nobody would be a party to such work. The
Gestapo officer (Gestapokommissar) suggested that if he co-operated by
simply putting some people on the list the Gestapo could be helpful in
future community affairs. Whereupon Plaut declared he could not play lottery
and destiny with human lives. He told them if they wished the Gestapo could set him at
the top of the list. The Gestapo then decided to compile the lists
themselves. Nobody was to be forced to do such work. This was the case in
Hamburg: It was not like that everywhere.
Those selected for the first Hamburg transport received an 'evacuation
order' (‘Evakuierungsbefehl’) by registered letter, in which they were
informed they were to present themselves in the Masonic Provincial Lodge of
Lower Saxony building in Moorweidenstraße the day before their
The order read: "You are to be ‘evacuated’ to Litzmannstadt. Your property
is seized with immediate effect; any disposal of property will be
There were exact instructions regarding luggage, provisions and cash. 50
kg luggage (underwear, clothes and blankets) and provisions for two days
were permitted. In addition the deportees had to make a list of property and
surrender this, together with their remaining cash, at the assembly
The keys to the abandoned apartment had to be deposited at the local police
station. The police then sealed the apartment. A ‘seizure order'
(‘Beschlagnahmeverfugung’) later enabled the President of the Regional
Finance Offices to sequester the property of the deported Jews to the
advantage of the Reich.
The majority that received a deportation order were given advice and
equipped when necessary by the Jewish community office. The well stocked
second-hand clothes store and the unparalleled helpfulness of other Jews was
The personnel of the Jewish soup-kitchen ensured that at the
Moorweidenstraße assembly point ample, warm meals were available. In
addition the community provided provisions for the journey for those in
need. Equipment was provided for the journey: buckets and cans for drinking
and washing water, dishes, toilet paper, towels and soap, sanitary articles
and medicines, reading material, etc.
Travel list (for females)
| In the suit-case and/or backpack. || In the handbag:
| face-cloth, soap, curd soap || handkerchiefs
| washing powder || eyeglasses
| hairbrush and comb || identification card
| clothes brush || envelope with papers, passport photo
| tooth and nail brush || tube of Phanodorm
|candle and matches || sodium, sleeping tablets, valerian
| sewing kit || Disperten, plasters, cotton wool
| safety pins || Veramon, Pyramidon
| 2 girdles (one worn) || Vaseline, medicines
| thick panties (one worn) || insect powder
| thin panties (one worn) || fountain-pen, pencils
| petticoat || postcards, note book
| skirt, blouses (2) || cologne
| comfortable outdoor shoes || flashlight
| slippers || pocket mirror, purse
| gumshoes || toilet paper
| smock || tea, matches
| stockings ||
| shirts, nightgowns || Sewing Kit:
| brassiere || black and white yarn
| bed jacket || black and white sewing-silk
| medicines || darning-wool in various colours
|cotton wool and bandages || linen tape
| scissors || rubber band
| towels || press-studs, hooks and eyes
| bed-clothes || thimble, needles and pins
| sheets || darning egg
| pillows || safety pins
| postcards ||
| international reply cards || food, travel provisions
| toilet paper || cutlery, spoons and forks
| emigration papers || enamel plates and cups
| certificates || small food container
| tax document || condensed milk
| eyeglasses || bread, crispbread, rusk, biscuits
| suspenders and belt || Dextropur
| gloves, scarf, handkerchiefs || soup-cubes
| paper handkerchiefs || thermos flask (filled)
| hair clips || butter
| nail file and scissors || can-opener
| pillow, blanket ||
| 2 light dresses || pack of cards, book
| rain hat or hood || clamp, small tool
| muff ||
| shopping bag ||
| shoe cleaning equipment ||
| umbrella ||
| raincoat ||
| cardigan ||
| woollens ||
2. Deportation Assembly Point Moorweidenstraße
The first consideration the Grestapo made when planning the ‘evacuation’
(‘eakuierung’)’ of approximately 1,000 Jews was whether there was a
suitable railway station available. After the Sternschanze cattle station
had been chosen (see chapter 3) the next consideration was finding short
term accommodation for a relatively large number of people. The Gestapo
chose the building at Mooreweidenstraße 36. It was large, situated quite
near the cattle station and the Gestapo had occupied it for years and
therefore knew the inside of the building well. The building had been
heretofore the 'Masonic Provincial Lodge of Lower Saxony'. This building was
built between 1907-1909 by the architects Leopold Strelow, Hermann
Schomburgh and Max Gerhardt. It was opened as a Masonic lodge on
Masonic Lodge, Moorweidenstraße 36
In 1935 the Lodge was seized with its entire contents. In 1937 the city
bought the property for an extremely small sum at the inducement of the
Reich Minister of the Interior. The change of ownership was not completed
until the beginning of 1941. After its seizure the building was occupied
firstly by the Gestapo, then by the SS. The latter searched for 'secrets' and
assumed there were hiding-places everywhere in the building. Consequently
the SS recklessly opened up all hollow sounding places in the walls,
loosened wooden floorboards, drove holes into the air ducts and damaged or sold
As the SS were not able to make use of space in the neighbouring university
after the war began a large camp was established in this building for
foreign workers and later for prisoners-of-war labourers. During the war an
air-raid shelter and a first-aid post were established in the cellar.
The former Lodge had therefore been used as a camp prior to its being
designated as assembly point in the ‘evacuation order’. A summarof Plaut's
The transport members were processed inside the Lodge by Gestapo officers:
luggage was controlled, money sequestered, the property lists collected.
Jewish community personnel had unlimited access. The Gestapo officers had
instructions to treat the Jews correctly and to refrain from 'harassment'.
Nevertheless, there were occasional 'ugly' scenes. Over 100 individuals
‘volunteered’ for this first transport wishing to escape e life of anxiety
experienced in Germany. A corresponding number on the list could thereby be
Plaut reports that regarding Jews who fell into none of the designated
categories (see chapter 1) the Gestapo indiscriminately picked out
individuals from Gestapo files. They made no luggage control for
the first transport. Some took up to 20 items of luggage. In all other
respects the Hamburg Gestapo was "very candid". Most had known the
destination of the transport. Many were "opposed to the method of the
extermination" and had provided him with much information, but were
powerless to prevent this.
A survivor of the first transport, M.R., describes the sequence of events
inside the lodge building:
" ... We were received by members of the Jewish community at the Provincial
Masonic Lodge in Moorweidenstraße. We were allocated rooms for the night.
There was only the bare floor to sleep on. It was impossible to sleep and,
with the exception of the sick, practically nobody slept as we did not know
when the deportation transport was to begin."
3. The deportation procedure in Hamburg
M.R. (survivor of the first Hamburg Transport, see chapter 2) reported the
following regarding the deportation sequence on 25 October 1941 in
"(...) the next morning - I am no longer sure of the exact time - we were
loaded onto lorries drawn up in front of the Lodge building and taken, (...)
in the direction of Sternschanze, to the slaughterhouse in Kampstraße to be
put aboard a passenger train. (...) The short distance from Moorweidenstraße
to the entraining still makes me assume that it was Sternschanze or the
slaughterhouse where the entraining took place. (...)."
It can be assumed that the ‘transport’ train w stationed between Kampstraße
and the cattle rail-station so as not to disrupt the normal
procedure of the slaughterhouse and central cattle market. At all events,
from the point of view of the Gestapo, the area around the cattle
rail-station was well suited for their purpose: it was situated close to the
main Jewish residential area, the Grindel quarter, and, despite its central
location, was relatively unobservable by undesired spectators. This was even
the case with passing trains.
Plaut gives a different report:
"(...) The next day the deportation took place with lorries to the
Hannoversche station from where all later deportations departed. A large
number of Gestapo officers but also helpers from the Jewish community were
present. Ample food and medicines as well as blankets were brought. A second
lieutenant and fifteen men of the Protection Police (Schutzpolizei), in
uniform, escorted the transport. (...).”
This statement does not necessarily contradict that of survivors as the
route of this first transport would take it via the Hannoversche station.
Plaut does not mention other stations or assembly points in his report which
play a role in the deportations reported by survivors.
The track led the deportation route to the Hannoversche station through
Dammtor station, Hamburg Central Station, and Oberhafen, from there - reversed - to
the departure station at Lohseplatz where goods wagons with the luggage and
food, etc. waited.
On 21.10.1941 Gestapo headquarters Hamburg sent a list of names of the ‘on
thousand’ Jews to beevacuated to the Regional Finance Office’. An
additional 200 Jews were listed in case of possible deficiencies.
The letter then read:
"The train departs Hamburg Hanover station at 10 o'clock on 25.10.1941
and should, according to schedule, arrive at Litzmannstadt at 11 o'clock on 26.10.1941."
In reality 1,047 Jews were deported of whom 1,030 did not survive.
Hanover (Goods) Station
The Hanover station was built in 1872 as a passenger railway station
for the Cologne-Minden Railway Company. It served as terminus for all trains
from Hanover and Bremen. The station was formerly known as Paris and
After Hamburg Central Station was opened in 1906 the Hanover station
became a goods station, with the exception of the First World War. In 1932 a
demolition firm bought half of the station. What remained after air-raids
during the Second World War was either blown up or torn down over a period
In 1980 the office for the protection of historical buildings and monuments
decided not to save the building. No importance was attached to the fact
that the building had been the departure point of Hamburg deportation transports.
4. Deportation from Hamburg to Litzmannstadt
In her book “From Ashes to Life. My memories of the Holocaust“, Lucille
Eichengreen-Landau reports the following regarding the course of the first
deportation transport from Hamburg to Litzmannstadt (Lodz):
"(...) the carriages were overcrowded, stuffy and hot, the people nervous
and edgy. Children cried, adults were short tempered with the exception of
our mother. Although my little sister Karin whimpered in her arms she
appeared calm. I had the impression that the resettlement to Poland was not
unwelcome to her even under these adverse conditions. Then despite
everything Poland was her homeland, the country in which she was born. (...)
After many hours, roughly one and a half days travel, we were suddenly
alerted to the sound of braking and the train came to an abrupt stop. The
doors were opened and we were blinded by the glare of the midday sun.
Already in 1939 instructions to Gestapo headquarters for the relocation of
Jews and the organising of deportation transports contained the
"(...) enough 3rd Class carriages to accommodate 1,000 persons, two 2nd
Class carriages for the escort and five to ten goods wagons for the luggage
are to be requisitioned in good time from the responsible transport office.
(At this time carriages can be requisitioned as goods wagons are urgently
required for military purposes.) The transport office is to declare the
transport’s destination so that all stations can be notified of the route.
The Gestapo is to be informed of the departure in good time so that the
supreme command of the Wehrmacht can be informed. (...)
The first 3rd Class carriage is to accommodate the Jewish transport leader
and some of the accompanying Jewish doctors. The remaining doctors are
to be accommodated at the back of the train. The Jewish community is to
provide a receptacle containing washing water and a receptacle containing
tea or coffee for each carriage. Hand baggage is to be taken into the
carriages, suitcases, chests and bags in the goods wagons. (...) The escort
is to be equipped with pistols and rifles with sufficient ammunition. (...)
Following the entraining no Jew is to leave the compartment apart from the
Jewish transport leader and the Jewish doctors. (...)."
Timetables of deportation transports, so-called timetable arrangements of
the Reich Transport Ministry, which would provide precise information about
the transport route no longer exist.
The documents which have survived in Lodz show that the "Jew transport" from
Hamburg to Litzmannstadt was the eleventh altogether and, like all the other nineteen,
was scheduled to arrive at 11 o'clock at its "destination station”.
The identical arrival time at Litzmannstadt-Radegast station for all
transports from Vienna, Prague, Luxemburg, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main,
Cologne and Düsseldorf indicates very precise planning by the Reich
Transport Ministry. The planned arrival time of 11 o’clock at
Litzmannstadt-Radegast was exceeded by all 20 transports - for Vienna and
Düsseldorf by as much as 8 hours - which is to be attributed to the fact
that Wehrmacht transports had priority over passenger transports.
From this it may be concluded that all deportation transport routes took the
main lines as military transports took the shortest routes to the front.
This entailed long periods of delay for the deportation transports,
confirmed by the following survivor’s (chapters 2 and 3) report:
M.R.: "(...) We received food and drink, (...) and as there were delays we
hardly knew where we were. When the train came to a halt it was encircled by
Survivors of the Hamburg transport only remember Posen and Kalisch or the
Marysin district of Litzmannstadt, where the deportation transport arrived. Thus this
transport travelled through the former Litzmannstadt-Kaliska Central Station
(today Lodz Kaliska) in the west of the city.
Four deportation transports were dispatched from Berlin to Litzmannstadt, two
of them prior to the Hamburg transport (on 19.10.1941 and 25.10.1941). We
know from a survivor of the second Hamburg transport to Minsk on 8.11.1941 that
Jews from Berlin were added to this transport. It can be assumed this also
occurred with the first Hamburg transport. Thus with all probability the route
took the main line to Litzmannstadt via Posen and Kutno, that took a
transport from Berlin-Friedrichstraße station in November 1942 approximately
10 hours. As prior to 1.7.1942 the line between Posen and Kutno was
single-track the travel time prior to this date may have been longer
(approximately 11 hours). It was in the interest of the Reichsbahn (German
Railways) to minimise the costs of fuel and personnel - Germany was at war -
even when these costs were reimbursed. This was also the case regarding the
route taken between Hamburg and Berlin and visa versa. The Berlin railway
timetable from summer 1939 displays two routes to Hamburg: via Ludwigslust
or Stendal-Uelzen. The route from Berlin Lehrter station via Nauen,
Wittenberge, Ludwigslust, Büchen, Hamburg Central Station was, at that time,
the main route, where passenger tains reached Hamburg in a minimum time of
approximately 2¼ hours and in a maximum time of approximately 7½ hours. The almost
parallel route from Berlin Friedrichstrasse via Berlin Charlottenburg,
Berlin Spandau, Stendal, Uelzen took up to 8 hours to reach Lüneburg. The
travel time to Hamburg Central Station from Lüneburg took over an hour, so
that over 9 hours were required for this route.
The first deportation transport was planned to reach its destination station
in approximately 25 hours (see chapter 3).
If one takes into account the above travel times then the following times
arise for the two routes:
1. Litzmannstadt Radegast to Berlin Friedrichstraße (approximately 11
Berlin Lehrter station to Hamburg Central Station
(approximately 7½ hours)
2. Litzmannstadt Radegast station to Berlin Friedrichstraße
(approximately 11 hrs)
Berlin Friedrichstraße to Harnburg Central Station
(approximately 9 hrs)
Travel times of approximately 18½ and 20 hours respectively.
The slower route via Stendal still allows sufficient time (approximately 5
hrs) for incalculable delays en route, e.g. delays due to the priority given
to Wehrmacht transports.
Usually the route Hamburg Central Station, Lüneburg, Stendal, Berlin
Friedrichstraße had connections to Frankfurt an der Oder and Posen. Even if
it had been possible to divert the route via Berlin Charlottenburg station
onto the metropolitan rail network - only later did the Lehrter station
become a terminus - there was no necessity at this time.
Because the deportation transport departed Hamburg from the Hanover
station the normal Reichsbahn route was Lüneburg, Stendal, over the river
Elbe bridges. Also the timetables for transports were centrally planned, to
a tight deadline, which may have led to the omission of stations in Berlin
and Hamburg. In Hamburg one would have otherwise had to shunt the
deportation transport at the Rothenburgsort marshalling yard in order to
bring it onto the route via Ludwigslust, which occurred later.
On the other hand the fact that none of three survivors of this transport
spontaneously remembered such a procedure argues against this. Such an
unusual event would certainly have remained in memory. Particularly with the
first transport everything was done in Hamburg (Gestapo, Reichsbahn etc.) to
minimise risks (e.g. the danger of escape through the train travelling at a
slow speed). Departure from the cattle rail-station met this condition.
There must also have been reluctance in Hamburg to shunt such a long train
of possibly 20 passenger carriages for the deportees, 2 passenger carriages
for the escort and 5 goods wagons, which was done later. The main route from
Hamburg to Berlin was not only affected by normal passenger traffic and
Wehrmacht transports but also by prisoner transports, for which the first
timetable was produced on 6th October. Other main routes, e.g. from Berlin,
Frankfurt an der Oder to Posen and Posen to Kutno were not affected by
It is likely that the first Hamburg deportation transport on 25th October 1941
travelled through the following stations:
Hamburg Hanover Station, Hamburg Harburg, Winsen (Luhe), Lüneburg,
Uelzen, Salzwedel, Stendal, Rathenow, Wustermark, Berlin Spanda, Berlin
Charlottenburg, Berlin Zoologischer Garten, Berlin Friedrichstraße, Berlin
Alexanderplatz, Berlin Schlesischer station, Fürstenwalde, Frankfurt an der
Oder, Reppen, Schwiebus, New Bentschen, Bentschen, Posen Central Station,
Wreschen, Konin, Warthbrücken, Kutno, Lentschütz, Brunnstadt, Görnau,
Litzmannstadt Central Station, Litzmannstadt South, Litzmannstadt Widzew,
Between 16.10.and 4.11.1941, 19,837 Jews from the "Altreich", Austria, the
annexed Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and occupied Luxemburg arrived
at Radegast station.
The following passenger trains arrived as special trains of the Reichsbahn:
| 5 transports from Vienna || 5,000 Jews
| 5 transports from Prague || 5,000 Jews
| 4 transports from Berlin || 4,187 Jews
| 2 transports from Köln || 2,007 Jews
| 1 transport from Luxumburg || 512 Jews
| 1 transport from Frankfurt am Main || 1,113 Jews
| 1 transport from Hamburg || 1,034 Jews
| 1 tansport from Düsseldorf || 984 Jews
5. "Settlement" in Litzmannstadt (Lodz)
There is no detailed report about so-called settlement of Hamburg Jews in
the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. Lucille Eichengreen-Landau (see chapter 4)
"German guards in uniform pushed and struck us while we detrained. We had to
wait by the train and for the first time saw a group of approximately thirty
men in black uniforms, black caps with an orange ribbon. Like us they wore
yellow stars on their jackets. Someone whispered, "Jewish ghetto police".
They ordered us to get into rows. We stumbled and complained but there were
neither lorries nor cars for the elderly or the children.
A ghetto policeman walked alongside my mother. She began to speak to him in
Polish. Although I did not understand I realised she asked him a lot of
questions. She sounded relieved and did not seem to apprehend the awfulness
of our new situation. I on the other hand saw only the dilapidated houses,
the huts and the dirt all around us. The shabbily dressed men and women of
the ghetto looked to us with dull eyes, eyes devoid of life. The old cobbled
streets were in urgent need of repair, evil smelling waste swam in the open
sewers. Four men and women came in our direction, pack animals, pulling
behind them a long metal barrel on wheels. Dressed in stinking rags they
spread an intolerable smell on their way. Later I learned you received a
double ration of bread for the emptying of the latrines.
After approximately two hours our column halted in Mlinarska street. The
building in front of which we stopped had a yard in front and looked like a
school building. The ghetto police informed us that we were to be
temporarily accommodated in classrooms until permanent dwellings could be
found for us. Our daily food ration would consist of a bowl of soup and a
piece of bread. We would have to sleep on blankets on the floor and cover
ourselves with our own coats. There were no wash rooms and the latrines were
down in the backyard."
Litzmannstadt Ghetto. Click to enlarge
1. "Polish Youth Detainment Camp"
2. "Gypsy Camp"
3. Ghetto Police
4. Criminal Police
6. Rembrandtstraße 16, "Clearance Commando"
7. Headquarters, Goods Reloading Point, Baluter Ring
8. Hospital Nr. 1, Lagiewnicka 36
9. Former Children's Hospital, one of the camps for "evacuees"
11. Cultural Centre, Schneidergasse 3
12. Central Prison
13. Faeces Pits
14. Jewish Cemetery
15. Old Jewish Cemetery
16. Radogoszcz (Radagast) Railway Station
17. Fire Brigade
Lucille Eichengreen-Landau continues:
"After six weeks we were allotted to different dwellings throughout the
ghetto. Five to eight people had to share a room. (...) The room was ice
cold, but there was no coal to feed the black iron stove. We wore one
article of clothing over another in order to keep ourselves warm but this
was of little help and only profited the typhus carrying lice. We had
constant hunger but the meagre ghetto rations were insufficient to satisfy
our grumbling stomachs. My mother, my little sister Karin and I shared the
room in the Pawia with two elderly couples. (...) There were three wooden
pallets in our room, one per family. My sister and I slept either side of
our mother (...)"
In a preliminary report from the Gestapo Litzmannstadt to the ghetto
administration of 24.10.1941 the composition of the Hamburg of transport was
given as exactly 1,000 individuals:
| Families: || 235 || (23.5 %)
|Persons (1-15 years): || 90 || (09.0 %)
| Persons (41 and older): || 660 || (66.0 %)
| Persons able to work: || 706 || (70:6 %)
| Sick: || 86 || (08.6 %)
| Nurses: || 14 ||
| Physicians: || 3 ||
| Business people: || 51 ||
| Craftsmen: || 71 ||
| Domestic servants: || 92 ||
| Other occupations: || 236 ||
An "empiric report" (“Erfahrungsbericht”) dated 19.11.1941 by the Protection
Police (Schutzpolizei) regarding the settlement or “allocation” of the
entire twenty transports to the Litzmannstadt Ghetto stated the following:
The Jews were almost without exception well dressed. Each individual brought
an average of 50 kg of luggage. The allocation papers, the money (per person
100 RM) were handed over to the Gestapo transport leader. The police
guarding and monitoring the entraining and marching of the Jews into the
ghetto were perfectly adequate because the ghetto station Radegast was
encircled by a wire fence and was therefore relatively easily secured. Each
time six carriages were detrained and assembled into a troop and accompanied
by two Protection Police to the ghetto entrance. The Jewish security police and
the Jewish labour service were also involved with each transport.
The security police led the separate groups to the reception
camps. The labour service unloaded the luggage and brought it to the ghetto
on lorries from the ghetto administration. A hackney carriage from the
ghetto was available for the weak, old and sick Jews. These Jews were
received by Jewish doctors. Despite unfavourable weather and the fact
that many railway carriages only had two doors which were frequently
obstructed with luggage the detraining and transport of the Jews to the
ghetto was completed quickly and smoothly. None of the special trains
arrived at the station according to the times stated in the special
instruction (schedule) of 14.10.1941. Apart from delays, which for mechanical
reasons could not be avoided, the late arrival of the special trains is
attributable to non verifiable causes at the Widzew station. Another cause
of delay was that the detraining track was occupied by goods wagons and had
to be made free by the locomotive pulling the special train. This sometimes
caused the detraining to be delayed until the oncoming of darkness. This
made the guarding and transfer of the Jews to the ghetto more difficult.
Werner Ventzki, mayor of Litzmannstadt, had already referred to the problems
at the Radegast station in a longer letter to the head of the provincial
government of the Litzmannstadt district:
“This station is equipped with a single feeder track lacking the possibility
of shunting. The line has a maximum capacity of 40 carriages. Detraining can
only take place on one side of the train because the other side of the track
is bordered by a barbed-wire fence. Over the past months the ghetto
administration has been constantly in dispute with the Reichsbahn because
more than 40 carriages have arrived per day and consequently “occupied th
station”. Yo know the Reichsbahn urgently requires all rail transport for
Due to, on the one hand, the station’s limited capacity of 40 carriages and,
on the other hand, the lack of transport and space in the ghetto, he did not
see the possibility of dispatching the arrival of the additional carriages.
Most carts in the ghetto are pulled by the Jews themselves due to the lack
of horses. As a result the pool of Jewish transport is entirely inadequate.
The Ghetto chronicle reports the following regarding the accommodation of a
group of Hamburg Jews:
On the evening of 20 November a part of the Hamburg ‘transport’ w
quartered in the building at 33 Franzstraße (Franciszkanska) which had
formerly housed the Bajka cinema. The following morning, Mordechai Chaim
Rumkowski, chairman (Judenälteste) of the Jewish Council (Judenrat)
welcomed the guests. They had slept on the bundles spread along the corridor
while the old people and women sat on chairs paced along the walls.
They rose to his greeting and the chairman held a short speech, perhaps the
shortest in the history of the Ghetto. It consisted of only a few sentences
but it was so cordial and sincere that not only the women had tears in their
In the evening the new arrivals organized a Sabbath service. Dressed in
their best clothes, with many lit candles, they prayed with an uncanny
tranquillity and ecstatic mood.
In a detailed footnote, regarding the ‘resettlement’ (‘Umsiedlung’ the
Hamburg transport at the beginning of May 1942, the Ghetto chronicle
When the Hamburg Jews arrived in long lines, in their elegant
clothing, their appearance was in sharp contrast to the local squalor. The
local Jews were struck by their elegant sportswear, their exquisite
footwear, their furs and variously coloured hats. They often gave the
impression of people occupied with winter sports as the majority of them
carried ski equipment.
Their reaction to the unhealthy conditions in which they were quartered was
of uncommon abhorrence. They screamed, were indignant and closed to all
argument. They were most impatient. They had been told they would be
travelling to industrial centres where they would find occupations befitting
them. They were therefore indignant when they found themselves in a
situation so completely different. Some even asked whether they might not
live in a hotel. There were individuals among them who behaved arrogantly
and badly but the reason was that they felt small and helpless.
At their departure they had been permitted to take only 50 kg luggage but
they had rarely adhered to this regulation. This meant the department for
transport was occupied for six weeks transporting their luggage.
Nearly all of them brought extra food. And those who had not been able to do
this found substantial amounts of bread, margarine and other products to
purchase from the local population. Prices shot up from one hour to the
next and within a short time the price of a loaf of bread rocketed to 25
Marks whereas under earlier conditions a price of 10 Marks seemed sky
The newcomers could see the poverty of the local population. They knew the
reason. Their financial advantage enabled them to acquire the last bites of
bread from the mouths of their brothers from Eastern Europe but this did not
disturb them. Many people sold them their rations in front of the butcher
stand for practically nothing, initially for 30 Pfennig or more.
They looked (at first) with disgust at the soup they were served and it was
rare for a newcomer, at least in the beginning, to be seen at mealtimes in
the community soup kitchens. They tended to offer their soup to the locals
in the exchange for various privileges and services.
The following individuals were on the Hamburg transport whose destination
Dr. Dorothea (Thea) Bernstein, born 10. 8.1893 in Tilsit, lived on
the ground floor of 11 Klosterallee and was a private teacher before her
deportation. In the summer of 1941 she left the "Jewish school in Hamburg",
the successor to the ‘Israelite Girls’ School’ at 35 Carolinenstraße. Until
her dismissal from service in the state education system she taught at the
girls’ six-form school in Lerchenfeld
She was a strict but excellent teacher. She was open-minded to the problems
of her pupils. Pupils were able to make remarks to her that other teachers
did not permit.
One day a former colleague received a call from Dr. Bernstein in which she
announced her deportation for the following day. She remarked she had wanted
to hear a warm, human voice once more.
On 1.5.1942 Dr. Dorothea Henrietta Bernstein left her apartment no. 17 at 25
Rauchgasse (Wolborska), reason: ‘evacuation’ (‘Aussiedlung’).
Alfred Gordon, born 24. 5. 1886 in Augsburg, preacher, last lived at
46 Breitstraße, in Altona.
Gordon was the last preacher, prayer-leader and teacher of the Harburg
Wilhelmsburg synagogue community until its enforced union with the Jewish
Religious Federation Hamburg (Jüdischen Religionsverband Hamburg) on
Gordon was a convinced humanist and pacifist as well as being extremely
good-natured and considerate, who sought to make no distinction between
saying and doing.
In 1936 Gordon escorted a transport of children to Palestine. Although he
probably foresaw what was to occur in Germany he returned. His son Carl
Alexander then made it possible for him to emigrate to Holland. His answer
to his nephew Heinz’s offer of emigration in 1937 was that his
responsibility was to remain with his community. He would be able to leave
only when the last member of the community had left Germany. Gordon’s wife
Jenny died before the deportation.
Alfred Gordon last lived in apartment 7 at 18 Cranachstraße (Zydowska, today
Bojownikow Getta Warszawskiego). There is no ‘notice of departure’. A
survivor of the first Hamburg transport reported that he had seen Gordon leave
the Ghetto with others on an open lorry. After some hours the lorry returned
empty. He later learned they had been taken to Kulmhof (Chelmno).
Gertrud Pardo, born 10. 7.1883 in Hamburg, last lived with her sister
Angelaam at 9 Rainweg in Eppendorf.
Ms. Pardo taught in Hamburg primary/secondary schools (Volksshulen) from
1906 to 1920, in vocational schools for girls between 1920 and 1933 and lastly
at the Schrammsweg School in Eppendorf. She was one of the first school
administrators in Hamburg and was chairman of their working group.
After her compulsory retirement (tenured civil servant law) in 1934 she led
the Domestic Science course of the Advice Centre for Jewish Economic Aid
(Beratungsstelle für jüdische Wirtschaftshilfe) and in 1937 the Jewish
Domestic Science School.
Ms. Pardo and her sister returned to Germany after visiting their brother in
Palestine in 1938 - from a feeling of obligation. A niece and a nephew
report that Ms. Pardo demonstrated self-discipline and concern for her
The Pardo sisters, Gertrud Henriette and Angela Rosette, left their
apartment no. 17 at 25 Rauchgasse on 1.5.1942, reason: ‘evacuatio (‘Aussiedling’).
6. The History of the Litzmannstadt (Lodz) Ghetto
On 8 February 1940 the local chief of police ordered the establishment
of a ghetto in Lodz.
The former northern boroughs of Stare Miasto, Baluty and Marysin, with very
poor living conditions, were chosen. There were many timber buildings within
the ghetto. There was only a limited gas and electricity supply. 95 percent
of all buildings were without toilets, water supply or sewer connection.
There were 62,000 Jews already living in this area before it became a
ghetto. All the resident non-Jews had to leave the area before 30.4.1940.
100,000 Jews living in other parts of the city and its suburbs had to move
into the ghetto. On 10.5.1940 the ghetto was closed. Jews were forbidden to
leave the ghetto on threat of punishment. Germans and Poles were not
allowed to enter the ghetto. The entire ghetto was enclosed with barbed wire
and guarded by police. Those who left or entered the ghetto without
permission or smuggled goods were shot without warning. The same fate
awaited anyone who approached the perimeter fence and who did not stop on
command. Even the self appointed Jewish police had to keep a distance of 15
metres from the fence. Those living near the fence or who had to be on
the street after curfew, 9 p.m.(for reasons of work) required a
Hans Biebow was head of the German ghetto administration. The administration
employed up to 400 persons. They ensured that everything that had to do with
the handling of the ‘Jewish question’ remained top secret.
The Security Police guarded the ghetto from outside. The Gestapo (Geheim
Staatspolizei) and Criminal Police (Kriminalpolizei - Kripo) enforced order
within the ghetto. Both had their offices within the ghetto. While the
Gestapo was responsible for the brutal persecution of the Jews in the
ghetto, the Criminal Police concerned itself with the seizure of Jewish
An ordinance from 30.4.1940 from the mayor of Litzmannstadt - on 11.4.1940
the Germans named Lodz Litzmannstadt (see chapter 7) - made Mordechai Chaim
Rumkowski, as ‘chairman of Jewish council in Litzmannstad,
personally responsible for adherence to the orders from the chief of police.
This entailed the execution of all measures that seemed necessary
for the maintenance of calm and order in the ghetto, in particular the
maintenance of economic life, the supply of food, the employment of labour
as well as for public health and welfare. He was also authorised to
establish a Jewish security police with police duties.
The former Jewish council (‘Judenrat’) became its own city administration.
With the growth in the number of tasks the number of the co-workers
increased markedly, between February and July 1941 alone from 550 to 7,316
persons. Such positions were very much in demand as they
brought a larger food ration and temporary protection from deportation.
The chance of ghetto survival depended primarily on the supply of food by
the German authorities. These permitted each individual to make their own
arrangements. They charged the Jews and thereby ascertained the net assets
still present in the ghetto. The Jews were supplied with ‘inferiorquality.
Secondly after 8.7.1940 the German Reichsmark (RM) was no longer accepted as
currency in the ghetto. That led to the surrender of Reichsmarks and other
currencies as well as of gold and silver coins. A ghetto currency
(worthless) was introduced that only represented a receipt for the
surrendered cash value.
The plan of the German ghetto administration to cover the cost of ghetto
maintenance and to supply the German wartime economy by compulsory labour
corresponded with the idea of the Jewish administration under Rumkowski to
make the ghetto indispensable through productive work and thereby to secure
the survival of as many Jews as possible. His slogan was: "Our only
possibility is work." Over the course of the years Rumkowski developed a
large, branched ghetto industry complex which had to work almost exclusively
for the German armaments industry. Nevertheless, it was not possible for
Rumkowski to secure the ghetto inhabitants with a permanent supply of food.
Shortly after the establishment of the ghetto the first conflict occurred. In
June 1940 Rumkowski had to introduce food coupons in order to guarantee a
controlled distribution. From autumn 1940 public kitchens were organized
where food was sold.
Occasionally the cost of food was more than the wages the ghetto workers
received. As early as August 1940 the first strikes and demonstrations took
place, others followed. The food rations were also constantly decreased. In
mid 1942 a worker received an average of 1,100 calories daily.
In April 1943 Biebow had to concede to the mayor of Litzmannstadt that the
production of the ghettos was endangered due to the inadequate nutrition.
Per day each Jew spent 30 Pfennig on nutrition. No other Jewish
‘Arbeitsgefangenenlager’ (work camp) or ‘Strafgefangenenlager’ (convict
camp) functioned with so little outlay for nutrition.
From the end of April 1941 a nine hour day, six day working week was
increased to a ten hour day. Shortly thereafter this was increased to a
twelve hour day. In addition the working places were small and
With a ‘settlement’ (‘Einsiedlung’) of almost 20,000 Jin the ghetto between
October and November 1941 Rumkowski had further problems because these arrivals
could not all be found work and burdened the already scarce dwelling space
and inadequate food supply.
As early as September 1941 the Litzmannstadt mayor Werner Ventzki considered
the hygiene situation in the ghetto to be ‘of concern’. There was
"insufficient toilet facilities", "lack of drains" and "insufficient pits
for night-soil". According to Rumkowski at this time there were 2,000
buildings with 25,000 dwellings with an estimated size of 8 to 12 square
metres each accommodating an average of 5.8 persons. All these conditions
had consequences for the general health situation. 60% the inhabitant had
acute tuberculosis. The lack of medicines made the situation more acute. The
number of deaths was accordingly high: between 1940 and 1944 over 43,000
people died in the ghetto.
In December 1941 Rumkowski was ordered to select 20,000 Jews for
‘resettlement’ (‘Umsiedlung’). From January to September 1942 altogether
more than 70,000 Jews were ‘evacuated’ (‘Ausgesiedelt’) to Kulmhof (Chelmno)
where they were killed, nearly all with gas. Among them were children under
the age of ten. When the instruction was issued for the deportation of
these children, Rumkowski held a speech in which he beseeched ghetto
inhabitants to give up the children before others implemented the order.
Again between June and July 1944 over 7,000 Jews were deported to Kulmhof
(Chelmno). On 2.8.1944 the order was given to ‘evacuate’ (‘Verlager) the ghetto.
Up until 30.8.1944 a further 60,000 Jews were deported - this time
Apart from a clearance squad (‘Aufräumkommando’) of apprimately 700 to 800
individuals only 30 Jewish children and 80 Jewish adults survived, who
had been able to hide themselves.
7. The History of Lodz prior to 1940
The village of Lodzia became established at the beginning the 15th Century;
in 1423 it acquired municipal law. Lodzia remained relatively unimportant
until the 19th Century. Agriculture was the main means of life. In 1821 the
building of a settlement of cloth makers began south of the old town.
Between 1824 and 1828 a further industrial settlement was built south of
this settlement. The industries were mainly linen factories, flax and cotton
In 1850 the Russian customs duties were abolished - reopening the Russian
market - furthering industrial development and in particular cotton
processing. The demand for labour was initially covered by Jewish immigrants
and, following the abolishing of serfdom in 1864, by the influx of Polish
In 1860 the city had a population of 32,000, whereby the German population
were in the majority (1864: 67%). Only in 1911 did the Polish population
represent 50% (Jews 32%, Germans 18%).
From 1870 to 1880 the population more than doubled, from 50,000 to
112,000. In 1897 the city had a population of 315,000.
Due to the lack of housing ever more immigrants were quartered in
provisional accommodation, e.g. in the suburb of Baluty. This northern
suburb developed into a slum with wooden shack development deficient in
basic facilities. In 1915 100,000 individuals lived in this suburb.
Following the First World War the political and economic conditions completely
changed. Significantly, the Russian market was lost
to industry, although the domestic market - through a newly constituted
Polish state - had more than doubled to a population of approximately 27
On 8 September 1939 Lodz was occupied by German troops as part of the German
invasion of Poland. In 1939 approximately 233,000 Jews lived here. The city
had thereby the second largest Jewish population of any city in Europe. On
18.10.1939 it was prohibited for Jews to trade in textiles and leather. Prior
to this - ‘deployment of labour’ (‘Arbeitseinsatz’) was decreed Jews.
Daily 600 workers had to present themselves for work.
The German authorities further decreed the dissolution of all Jewish
cultural and social organizations including the Jewish community itself. As
‘chairman of the Jewish councilthe Germans made’ Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
personally responsible to the German city administration for the
execution of all orders. He received full freedom of movement and was
allowed to inspect the assembly areas for Jewish forced labour. He
established a ‘Jewish council’ (‘Rat der Ältesten’) that substituted for the
former Jewish community.
On 10.11.1939, the anniversary of the Reich November Pogrom
(Reichskristallnacht) four large synagogues in the city were burned down. The
‘Jewish Council’ was arrested, and some members tortured and shot.
On 14.11.1939 the Lodz head of the provincial government Friedrich Uebelhoer
decreed Jews to wear yellow armlets. On 11.12.1939 the Gau leader and Reich
governor Arthur Greiser ordered the Jews in his ‘Warthegau’ to wear a yellow
Star of David on the right breast and back.
On instruction from Heinrich Himmler approximately 30,000 Jews were to have
been deported from Lodz to the ‘General Government’ before February 19. This was
not achieved because of general governor of occupied Poland Hans Frank's refusal.
On 11.4.1940 Greiser announced the renaming of Lodz to Litzmannstadt after a German
First World War general and subsequent National Socialist ‘high official’.
8. “Evacuations” (“Aussiedlung”) from the Lodz Ghett Kulmhof (Chelmno) (1942-1944)
With proclamation No. 374 from 18.4.1942 the Rumkowski’ had t make public
that a medical examination was to take place in the ghetto at 32 Mühlgasse
(Mlynarska). Excluded were persons deported from what was ‘Germany territor in 1918
(‘Altreich’), Luxembg, Vienna and Prague.
The ghetto had not regained its equilibrium following proclamation No. 380 from
29.4.1940 which affected this group. They were to be ‘evacuated’ (Aussiedlung’) on
4 May. They were permitted to take 12.5 kg of luggage per person. The
evacuation office was at 8 Fischstraße (Rybna) where all relevant
information, requests and complaints were dealt with.
This proclamation posted up over the following days in abridged forms
triggered a panic among those affected. This caused food prices on the free
market to rise astronomically. On 30.4.1940 a loaf of bread cost 180 Marks
and up to 3.5.1940 between 300 and 350 Marks. The ‘evacuees’ (‘Aussied)
desperately sought to sell their possessions in order to purchase food.
On 4 May 1940 the first transport with 1,000 West European Jews departed from a
siding of Radegast station.
A further order shook the ghetto: those departing had to give up their
luggage, rucksacks and even handheld things.
The 'evacuation' proceeded to plan: each day, beginning from 3.5.1940, the
following transports departed with the following inhabitants:
Berlin II, Vienna II, Düsseldorf, Berlin IV, Hamburg, Vienna IV, Prague I,
Prague III, Cologne II, Berlin III, Prague V, Berlin IV, Vienna II, Vienna
V, Prague II, Prague IV, Vienna I, Frankfurt am Main, Cologne I and
The office in Fischstraße worked together with a ‘Resettlement Commission’
housed together with the ‘registration point’ in Trödlergasse (Szklana).
This decided about exceptions. Deportation cards were not sent to the
following Jewish individuals:
1. those with the Iron Cross, First and Second
Class or those decorated because of their wounds, including some family
2. those employed, in particular skilled workers in permanent
positions, including their immediate family members.
The fate of the other workers was not precisely defined. Many of them
received deportation orders.
On 7 May 1940 a transport of former inhabitants of Hamburg and Düsseldorf
left the ghetto. Their belongings, even the smallest objects, were taken
from them. Only their bread was left them and a little other food.
The transport proceeded so:
In the afternoon the deportees made their way to the central prison at 14
Schneidergasse (Krawiecka) or to the small buildings in Trödlergasse which
was surrounded with barbed-wire. They remained the night there. The next
day, at noon, they were put into groups and accompanied under guard to the
camp in Marysin, where they were accommodated in the school building at 25
Bertramstraße (Dr. Jonschera) and in five small buildings in Buchdruckgasse
(Okopowa). At these assembly points they received a ration of bread, ersatz
coffee and soup. Each person was given a loaf of bread for the journey.
At 4 a.m. a special section of the Jewish security police transported the
deportees with the tram to the railway siding at Radegast station. A half
hour before departure, punctually at 7 a.m., the Gestapo, accompanied by
regular German police, arrived in cars.
Then the Jewish security police assembled the deportees in groups of ten in
front of the compartment doors at a distance of two metres from the train. The
deportees then took their places observed by the police. At this moment they
were instructed to give up their remaining possessions. The large items of
luggage had already been taken from them at the assembly points
by the security police. Later all things were sent to the office in
Fischgasse. Porters carried the ill and elderly into the train. There were
medical wards at the assembly points and a team of doctors was present at the
railway station. Apart from a few exceptions no one was struck. The train
comprised third class carriages, as with earlier 'evacuations'. Each person
was given a seat. The train returned the same day at 8 p.m.
Deportees on later transports were permitted to take small items of luggage
Oskar Singer's diary:
The ‘never-ending’ question as to where these
deportees were taken could not be answered at that time. Only rumours filled
the ghetto and again and again place names emerged such as Kolo, where
allegedly there was a transit camp.
Already by April 1942 Oskar Rosenfeld had made the following entry in his
If Rumkowski told him everything he knew he would be unable to sleep.
So Rumkowski was alone sleepless. During the summer of 1942 a Jew, who had
been deported to the ghetto, brought a letter from Jakub Szulman, a rabbi
from Grabow (northwest from Lodz), written on 19.1.1942. This letter, based
on an eye-witness report, stated:
The place where everyone is executed is called Chelmno, not far from Dabie.
They were killed by one of two methods, either shot or gassed. In the past
days thousands of Jews from Lodz have been brought here and murdered.
Israel Tabaksblat, a survivor of the ghetto, later confirmed the arrival of
the letter in the ghetto but left open whether Rumkowski had seen the
letter. The letter was then sent to Warsaw, without his or Rumkowski’s
knowledge, to warn the Jews there. According to another source, Jacob
Nirenberg, Rumkowski informed Tabaksblat that he had known about Chelmno for
Friedich Wilhelm Ribbe, deputy head of the German ghetto administration, in
a letter to Rumkowskat dated 16.7.1942 asked him to immediately ascertain whether
there was "a bone mill within the ghetto". The ‘Sonderkommando’ in Kulmhof
(Chelmno) was "interested in such a mill".
What Rumkowski may have experienced since 1942, can be illustrated in a few
sentences, taken from the conclusion of the speech he made to those
assembled on 4 9.1942, the so-called "“give me your childrenspeech":
"(...) What do you want? 80,000 to 90,000 Jews to survive or - God forbid -
to destroy them all? Do what you want! My obligation, however, is to
protect the remainder of the Jews (...) I have done everything and
furthermore will do everything in order to prevent rifles being brought into
the streets and that blood flows. The calamity cannot be averted only
reduced (...) Put yourselves in my place and think logically and you will be
persuaded that I cannot act differently because the number that can be saved
is much larger than the part which we give up."
Most Jews who were deported to the Litzmannstadt Ghetto did not die there
but were ‘evacuated’ (‘ausgesiedelt’) to Kulmhof (Che) and killed there.
In 1942 the following deportations from Litzmannstadt to Kulmhof (Chelmno)
| January || 10,003 Jews
| February || 7,025 Jews
| March || 24,695 Jews
| April || 2,353 Jews
| May || 10,914 Jews
| September || 15,700 Jews
There are no documents relating to the transports between October 1942 and
March 1943. On 30.3.1963 the Bonn court of assizes, in its grounds for
sentencing, assumed that during the first period of the Kulmhof (Chelmno)
camp (up until March 1943) at least 145,000 Jews were killed. This number
includes numerous Jews from other places in the ‘Warthegau’. In 1944 during
the second period of the Kulmhof (Chelmno) camp the following numbers of
Jews were deported there from the ghetto:
| June || 2,976 Jews
| July || 4,200 Jews
These figures for both camp periods conclude that at least 152,176 people
were killed in Kulmhof (Chelmno).
Other sources present a far higher number of victims of Kulmhof (Chelmno).
Thus Polish publications speak of approximately 300,000 (1946), 200,000
(1955) and 310,000 (1964 and 1979) victims. These numbers include non-Jewish
victims (Polish, Russian, Sinti and Roma as well as the children of
From the beginning of December 1941 Jews from near Kulmhof (Chelmno) were
transported there by lorry. Beginning on 16 January 1942 rail transports
departed from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. The Jewish ghetto administration had
to select those not fit for work for deportation, who were then taken by train
(Deutsche Reichsbahn) to Warthbrücken (Kolo).
The deportations started at Radegast ghetto station, initially in passenger
trains and later (September) in closed goods wagons, via Kutno to
Warthbrücken. First the train travelled to Widzew where, on a siding, the
locomotive was changed. Further stations were - due to the tariff distance
of 147/149 km - Litzmannstadt Main Station, Görnau, Brunnstadt,
Initially the people were marched through Warthbrücken to the synagogue,
where they stayed overnight, and in the morning taken by lorry to Kulmhof
(Chelmno). Later they had to march roughly 2 kilometres through Warthbrücken
to the market place where lorries awaited them. After protests by the
inhabitants of the town lorries took the Jews directly from the station.
Finally there were protests from the German inhabitants against the murder
of the Jews in Kulmhof (Chelmno). From then on the Jews were transported by
narrow-gauge railway. From March to May 1942 this route took the people to
Powiercie. They were detrained here and marched to the mill in Zawadka where
they stayed overnight. In the morning they were collected by lorries of the
Kulmhof (Chelmno) Special Commando (Sonderkommando).
9. The origin and operation of Kulmhof (Chelmno)
In 1941 Chelmno was chosen as a suitable place for the establishment of an
extermination camp in the Wartheland, which then received the German name
Kulmhof. It lies on the Ner river, a tributary of the Warthe river,
approximately 55 km northwest of Lodz and approximately 150 km southeast of
Poznan (Posen). Kulmhof was connected with Warthbruecken (Kolo),
appropriately 14 km away to the northwest, by a branch line of a light
railway and a highway.
Plan of Chelmno and surroundings with wooded area
At that time Kulmhof had approximately 250, mainly Polish, inhabitants.
There were 12 large farms worked by German settlers. There were also a
number of smaller farms which had been formed from an estate of a former
Polish province. North of Kulmhof, in a deserted park area near the Ner
river, stood the former manor house, known as the “Schloss”. Approximately
100 metres away stood an old granary. The church lay above the Schloss,
separated by a depression and a road.
About 4 km from Kulmhof in the direction of Warthbrücken, on both sides of
the main street, stood a larger wooded area with several clearings.
Approximately 9 km from Kulmhof, on the highway and light railway, stood
Powiercie. Approximately 1 km southwest of Powiercie, not on the light
railway, lay Zawadka with a two-storey mill with large rooms on both
Plan of Chelmno with Schloss, Church and Light Railway
1 Schloss, adjoining buildings and Schloss Park
3 Parish Hall (Commando leader's quarters)
4 School (from mid 1942 quarters for part of the Protection
5 Rectory (Administrative office and accommodation for the leader of
the Protection Police Commando and the accountant to the Special
6 Kitchen and Canteen for the Special Commando
7 "Deutsches House" ("Guard House" - quarters for part of the
Protection Police Commando)
8 Vehicle Shed
9 Inn and Grocery
In October-November 1941 the first members of the Special Commando
(Sonderkommando), assigned from Gestapo headquarters in Posen, arrived in
Kulmhof. Further assignments came from the Gestapo office in Litzmannstadt.
These members of the Gestapo, approximately 10 to 15 men, formed the bulk of
this Special Commando.
A squad of Protection Police (Schutzpolizei), approximately 80 men strong,
was ordered to Kulmhof in their support. Individual men were requested by
the Protection Police in the districts of Litzmannstadt and Posen. At their
arrival in Kulmhof all members of the Special Commando were instructed that
the camp procedures were secret orders from Hitler, which were to be kept
After arriving in Kulmhof the Special Commando took possession of the
Schloss and commandeered the church and other houses. The cellar of the
Schloss had a central corridor roughly 10 m long and 2 m wide from which
stairs led to the upper floor. This corridor led into the open. Here an
ascending wooden ramp, with walls that obstructed the view, was constructed.
There was a 4 metre opening on one side of the wall which corresponded to the width
of the open rear double doors of the utilised gas vans.
These gas vans were "(...) large grey-painted lorries of a foreign make with
a closed box structure around 2 metres wide, 2 metres high and 4 metres
long, separated from the driving cab. The inner walls were lined with
galvanised iron sheets. In the first phase two wooden duckboards lay over
an opening in the floor covered with a perforated iron sheet and later two
ducts with small holes. Under the floor of the van a pipe was attached to
this opening or duct. (...) The end of the pipe was inserted into the
exhaust. The two double doors (...) were sealed with a rubber seal (...)."
The Special Commando had three such gas vans.
Arriving at Kulmhof only one lorry was allowed to drive into the yard of the
Schloss at a time while the others had to wait outside the fence on the
road. An armed police guard stood at the Schloss entrance who opened and the
gate and closed it again behind the vehicle. He normally followed the
vehicle to prevent any attempt to escape.
After the people had alighted from the van it was explained to them in a
friendly speech that they were to be part of a work detail sent to Germany.
Therefore they would have to bathe and deliver up their clothes for
disinfection. This speech usually aroused a joyful prospect. Once in a while
individual members of the Special Commando wore a white smock with a
stethoscope so as to be regarded as doctors. Often the people were
assisted in descending the lorry.
Following the speech the people were led the Schloss, via outer stairs,
where they had to undress in a larger room at the back. Their valuables were
collected and registered.
Following undressing, which was supervised by police guards, the victims
were led to the cellar stairs, where a sign indicated "to the bath". From
here they continued along the cellar corridor to the exit where the ramp
was. An armed police guard was also posted in the cellar corridor.
The naked people entered the gas van over the ramp. The gas van was reversed
to the ramp opening which became completely closed after the double doors of
the van had been opened. After the victims had entered the van the doors
were locked and the pipe underneath the vehicle connected to the
The driver started the engine and accelerated. The fumes from the exhaust
were diverted inside the van. Within a few minutes these exhaust fumes,
mainly carbon monoxide but also smoke and irritant gasses, caused headache,
nausea, vomiting and trembling among those trapped inside. The victims
experienced panic expressed in groaning and crying. They struck the walls of
the van in their despair.
After approximately 7 to 8 minutes unconsciousness occurred and about two
minutes later death.
The driver waited 10 to 15 minutes after starting the engine. Then the pipe
connected to the exhaust was removed. The driver then drove the van to the
wooded area. Here police guards guaranteed security from all sides. Further
police guards were assigned to the clearings inside the wood who guarded the
squad of compulsory Jewish labourers. The latter had to unload the corpses
from the gas van and lay them, on top of each other in rows, in mass
graves. Prior to this they had to search the victims for hidden money and
valuables, pull out gold teeth and rings from fingers. After unloading the
corpses the Jewish labourers had to clean the interior of the van. The gas
van then returned to the Schloss. These journeys resumed for as long,
sometimes the entire day, until all the Jews arriving in Kulmhof that day
were killed. The collected valuables were sent to the German ghetto
administration in Litzmannstadt. The money collected through this
extermination action was estimated at 2,650,000 RM.
The Jewish work commandos used in Kulmhof constituted 50 to 60 men. They
were selected from the arriving transports and accommodated in the cellar of
the Schloss. At the beginning of 1942, following a successful escape, the
commando had their legs shackled.
The large number of these Jewish prisoners, around 30 men, worked in the
wood commando. About 8 to 10 prisoners worked as shoemakers and tailors at
the Schloss, in the so-called craftsman commando. A further 15 prisoners
were in the Schloss commando which removed the clothing from the undressing
room and sorted it and removed valuables in the park behind the Schloss. The
sorted clothing and luggage was then stored in the church and in stages
driven away by lorries.
The members of the Jewish commandos when debilitated by the hard labour were
selected and shot in the wood. This was almost a daily event. Then strong
Jewish men were selected from the new transport to supplement the labour
Between the end of 1942 and spring 1943 the buried corpses were dug out from
the mass graves and burned and the pits levelled. At the end of March 1943
the extermination camp was dissolved. The Special Commando blew up the
Schloss and as far as possible eliminated all traces of the extermination.
The last Jewish labourers were shot. At the beginning of April 1943 the
Special Commando moved out and were deployed as battlefield police in Yugoslavia.
One year later, in April 1944, in response to the decision made by Gau leader
Greiser and Himmler Hans Bothmann, head of the Special Commando, with some
of his men, returned to Kulmhof. With the help of Polish prisoners from
Posen, from the first camp period, and a Jewish work commando, of
approximately 60 to 70 men, picked up from the street in the Litzmannstadt
ghetto, the preparations for a new mass execution were begun.
In the wooded area two blocks and an incinerator were constructed. Connected
to one of the blocks, where signs were attached indicating "to the bath" and
"to the doctor", a walled passage was added which ended at a ramp.
On 23 June 1944 the first new transport of Jews left the Litzmannstadt
Ghetto by train. A further nine transports followed until mid July. At
Warthebrücken station the people were again transferred to the light railway
and, this time, taken to Kulmhof. This time the people were led into
the church where they spent the night. In the morning lorries took them to
the wood. In front of the two blocks, again they were told in a speech
that they were to be deployed as labour in the Reich and would have to bathe
and have their clothes disinfected. They were requested to undress to put
their valuables to one side and to take a towel and soap.
From each group some Jews had to write postcards, with a false address, to
their relatives in the Litzmannstadt ghetto relating their safe arrival in
the Reich and their well being. These people were afterwards shot with the
pistol. The other victims were led, after their undressing, along the
passageway over the ramp into the gas vans. They were killed in the same way
as in the first action, but this time their corpses were burned directly.
When in January 1945 Soviet troops advanced closer the order was issued
to dissolve the camp. The Special Commando began to shoot those Jewish
labourers still alive. After a row of prisoners had been shot the remaining
prisoners resisted. The Special Commando moved them to the granary and set
it on fire. The prisoners died in the flames.
10. The “Evacuation” (“Verlagerung”) of the
Litzmannstadt (Lodz) Ghetto to Auschwitz (August 1944)
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, chairman (Judenälteste) of the Jewish Council (Judenrat) in the
Litzmannstadt Ghetto in a notification dated of 6.8.1944 stated:
"“Evacuation of the ghetto"
This referred to two speeches to be made to labourers and their families the
following day by Hans Biebow, head of the German ghetto administration. In
his second speech, to ghetto labourers, Biebow explained:
He had made speeches in the past and hoped that what he had said had been
taken to heart. The situation in Litzmannstadt had again changed. All
“German” women and children were to be evacuated. All ethnic Germa would
have to leave. "All must leave and survive." 400 bombs had fallen near
Litzmannstadt. If they had fallen on the ghetto no stones would be left
standing. The “evacuation” (“Verlagerung”) of the ghetto was to be
accomplished in calm, order “and amicably”. He assured them that everything
would be done by the evacuation of the ghetto to “save their lives”.
Families would stay together and go to various camps where factories were
established. You want to live and eat, “that you will have”. If it shou be
necessary to use coercive measures then there will be “deadand wounded”.
There will be food provided for the journey which would last around 16
hours, and they could take up to 20 kg of luggage. He therefore
asked them to “listen to reason” and “heed” his words otherwhe had
“nothing more to add”. They would be paid in Reichsmarks in the camps and
the managers are Germans.
There was place enough in the carriages. Sufficient machinery has been
transferred. “Come with your families”. Pots, drinking vessels ancutlery
were to be taken, because they would not have these in Germany, since they
had been distributed to the bomb-damaged. He again assured them that they would
be provided for. “Pack and be ready.” If n then force would be used
and he would no longer be able to help them.
Between 2.8.1944 and 30.8.1944 over 60,000 Jews were deported from Litzmannstadt.
Even Rumkowski was among the last to be deported and was last seen as
he entered the gas chamber in Auschwitz.
All the transports went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There some thousands were
selected for labour and deported further to different concentration and
labour camps in the Reich where most died of starvation or debilitation. The
rest were murdered on the day of arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 500
Jews, who remained to disassemble the workplaces in the ghetto, were
deported, at the end of October, to Ravensbrück concentration camp and
Königs-Wusterhausen, a satellite camp of Sachsenhausen concentration camp,
where Biebow again set up production.
A so-called clear-up commando (Aufräumkommando) of approximately 600 men,
joined later by around 270 Jews who had succeeded in hiding, remained behind in
the ghetto. They were all quartered at 16 Jakubastraße and utilised to
assemble the articles left behind by the deportees for transport to the
When Soviet troops marched into Litzmannstadt on 19.1.1945 there were
approximately 870 Jewish survivors in hiding in the ghetto.
The day before the Red Army entered the ghetto the Gestapo murdered 2,000
Polish prisoners in the prison in Radegast, north of the ghetto.
Eye witness account 1
A wounded soldier on home-leave revisited his former school, the Wilhelm
Gymnasium, and observed the neighbouring Masonic Lodge building the day
before the deportation to Litzmannstadt.
On 20.11.1983, Herr H-P. S. reported:
“I reached the triangular shaped green, where we used to play footbal
illicitly, that adjoins the university campus in Moorweidenstraße. The
school had just opened and children were noisily streaming in. They had to
make way for people who turned into Moorweidenstraße from Grindelallee
towards the Lodge.
This was a large building that directly bordered our schoolyard. I do not
know why but when, as a small boy, I saw it for the first time I found it
repulsive. It had stood unused for the last few years. At least we had not
seen anyone in the building. This morning, however, a large grey mass surged
through the entrance. What dismayed me was the contrast between the mass of
roaring boys “storming” into school and this group of wretched individuals.
These were not unwanted strangers. Quite the opposite, nearly every one of
them was well dressed. Most were wearing their best clothes. No one spoke.
The silent mass entered the building. Even the SA men (Stormtroopers),
stationed either side of the entrance, were silent. The people were laden
with backpacks, blankets, bedding and bags, what was obviously their
remaining belongings. And then I saw what has remained with me my entire
life: The people were so crowded into the building that they seemed as
though they would burst out of the windows. The windows were open. On each
window sill lay quilts full of belongings regarded as most useful for a
journey of unknown destination. Ever more people pushed forward and the
large bundles threatened to fall from the window. Then arms reached hastily
for the bundle and for an instant a figure appeared in the window frame.
Suddenly I had the impression: The Lodge building, which I had always
disliked, was flagged, not with black-white-red flags (war flag), but with
white ones (surrender). The building now made a completely new impression on
People continued to pour into the building. And again it appeared as though
they were bursting out of the windows. I could not dispel this picture until
I asked one of the SA men standing around what was happening. Don’t you know
he asked? No, I have just arrived back on home-leave I answered. He told me
to look again, they are all Jews, he said. Dumbfounded, I looked again and
noticed the yellow stars they wore on their coats or jackets. It struck me
that the ordinance had been passed some weeks previously. I had not seen a
yellow star until now.
The SA man, who obviously wished to impart his knowledge, explained they
were to come here before travelling on to Litzmannstadt. I asked what they
were to do there. He replied that all Hamburg Jews were to be accommodated
in a housing settlement in Litzmannstadt. There they could live as they
wished, he continued. And to my further question as to what they desired, he
replied, they preferred to live in rags in old ramshackle huts.
I asked whether he believed this to be the case with a couple near us. Both
were about fifty years old. Despite the warm weather he wore an overcoat
with a black velvet collar. She wore one of Persian lambskin. They had
difficulty holding on to the many bundles they had brought with them. They
obviously had not thought of cramming everything into a large quilt like
most of the others. I noticed later that both wore mountain boots, a currious
Now ill-tempered, the SA man told me to leave him in peace, they were only
Jews. He pointed in the direction of Sternschanze and added that the train
was already waiting. He meant the large area with shunting track between
Sternschanze and the slaughter house. In the meantime the last people had
entered the Lodge building. Why did they enter in such a way, I asked
myself. It seemed as if the sought protection inside the building. Two SA
guards remained at the entrance.
I took the few steps to my old school. It was already nearly half past
eight, the school entrance already closed. After ringing, our old caretaker
opened the door delighted to see me again. Yes, I had been lucky, just a few
fractures, nothing serious. And for that a week’s home-leave, I addedand
rushed up the stairs (...).”
Eye witness account 2
A former meritorious helper of the Jewish community reports the following
regarding the night of 24/25.10.1941 at the Hanover Station:
On 21.10.1991, Mrs I.W. reported:
“Twice during the night of 24/25 October 1941 I drove to the Hnnove
Station in a Tempo three-wheel delivery van with Mr. Starke and a Mr. Jaffe.
There we loaded food, medicines, equipment - all the things that had been
collected or purchased by the Jewish community - onto a train standing
there. It was a raw October night. Due to the war everything was in
darkness. There were only a few electric torches and Reichsbahn employees
with individual lanterns. I could only make out, blurred, the typical
Romanesque arch of the station, but could see that the train constituted a
long line of passenger carriages with three or four goods wagons coupled
Eye witness account 3
The same witness (see eyewitness report 2) reports about a postcard which
she received from Litzmannstadt from a great-aunt who had been deported to
Litzmannstadt on 25.10.1941:
On 28.10.1991, Mrs I.W. reported:
“I think it was in January, when not already in December 1941, when we
received post from Litzmannstadt with the request for 10 RM. It was a
bitter-cold winter. Aunt Relchen, a great-aunt of mine, wrote us a postcard
that bread had become expensive. We immediately understood. The sender with
the full address in Litzmannstadt was given. The card was stamped with a
control mark. We sent the 10 RM in an envelope. Sadly we never got a reply.
I took this postcard to the Jewish community. But they were already
informed. Cards thrown from the deportation transport somehow continued to
arrive in Hamburg.
Eye witness account 4
In 1988 a non-Jewish Hamburger reported about her time in Litzmannstadt (April
1943 to March 1944):
On 2.12.1988 Mrs A. K. reported:
“Following my Abitur in March 1943 (school exams for university entry), not
being suitable, on health grounds, for the compulsory Reichsarbeitsdienst
(Reich Labour Service) I had to do the so-called Studentischen
Ausgleichsdienst (alternate service for students). I arrived in
Litzmannstadt, as an auxiliary teacher with ten other girls, as Lodz was
called following the Poland campaign and occupation. After a short training we
started a 36 hour week in Volksschulen and additionally asked for private
tuition and German lessons by Poles. We were in so much demand that we had
little time for ourselves. On the journey from the station to the student home,
our first accommodation, we got an impression of the city and saw that the ghetto
lay in the old part of the city. It was fenced with barbed-wire, you could
not enter. I am not sure whether we learned directly or only later that two
trams travelled through the ghetto. One had sealed doors, the other line
travelled between high barbed-wire fences and stopped, in order to let
ghetto personnel on and off.
I think I was first made aware of the ghetto by nocturnal shooting. The wind
direction may have favoured this but nevertheless we lived only 20 minutes
away from the ghetto fence. When several girls caught infectious diseases
and were admitted to a special hospital on the other side of the ghetto this
forced visitors to take the tram through the “street of barbed-wire”. It was
summer, sunny and warm. Driving past one saw men, women and even children
wearing the yellow star. Some women wore pretty clothes and were even made
up. At that time it was said that German woman did not use makes up. At the
crossing, where the tram stopped, stood some soldiers armed with rifles. We
saw no scenes of violence. What I saw caused me suffering. I tried to
reassure myself that it was not so bad, passengers occasionally laughed and
frequently read on the way to make use of the time.
After the summer holidays - our house had been burned down in the “Hamburg
catastrophe”' in the summer 1943 - I helped my head master and twoother
colleagues draw up time tables. It became late, and the head master
and I worked on alone. He had a Nazi party position in Germany. I was a
leader of the Nazi girls’ organization (Jungmädel). Nevertheless he openly
expressed his horror of the ghetto and the violence against Poland from
which he was deeply affected. “If only the Führer knew!” he said, white with
rage. We asked ourselves where it would all end but felt powerless. There
was no further occasion for such an open discussion but occasionally I
exchanged looks with this man.
In the autumn we were allocated another dwelling because the student home
was so bug-ridden. In order to protect the parquet floor from our rubber
soles, and because of the cold, we were to be given rag carpets. As
spokeswoman for the group I was assigned by the mayor’s office to ordersuch
carpets from the ghetto administration. I put on my uniform. I wanted to ask
questions. An SS man dealt with me. My order was quickly written and
A plan outlining the ghetto and particular buildings hung on the wall. It
gave me the opportunity to ask questions. I remember: there was a hospital
where Jewish doctors worked. There was an X-ray apparatus and medicines.
Children were born but because of the food shortage they did not live longer
than six weeks. All manner of things were manufactured in the ghetto, even
the rag carpets from textile waste. I could do no more than ask but what I
heard caused me enough suffering.
Soon after I caught scarlet-fever. The hard winter began. When travelling
through the ghetto the misery was now manifest: Many Jews did not have warm
clothes, no footwear for the high snow. In the evening you saw only a few
illuminated windows. They were heavily blacked out. How many people were
huddled together there in order to get a little warmth? Or were they
required to do night work? I saw that in some buildings there were windows
without glass. They appeared particularly disconsolate in the harsh
Our burden of work together with the concern about the situation at the
front and the air-raids at home left us little time for thought. I do not
remember having spoken in great depth in our group about the ghetto
particularly after palliated statements started circulating. I knew nothing
of murder, deportation and gassings and all these terrible things that happened
scarcely two kilometres away. Since particularly along the tram routes the
houses appeared to be little inhabited - as far as could be ascertained
while travelling past - the reality was also disguised.
When later, after my teacher training, I learned a colleague’s betrothed had
shot himself in 1943 or 44 because he could no longer endure his situation
as guard in the Lodz ghetto, memories arose in me again.
The terrible conditions in the concentration camps and the extermination
were now made public and we learned what had taken place in the Lodz ghetto.
© Dipl.-Pol. Wilhelm Mosel,
Deutsch-Jüdische Gesellschaft, Hamburg.