The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/chelmno/burmeister-testimony.kulmhof

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/chelmno kulmhof.001
Last-Modified: 1994/01/11

Testimony of gas-van driver Walter Burmeister
[Quoted in 'The Good Old Days' - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The 
Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 219-220]
As soon as the ramp had been erected in the castle, people started
arriving in Kulmhof from Lizmannstadt in lorries... The people were
told that they had to take a bath, that their clothes had to be
disinfected and that they could hand in any valuable items beforehand
to be registered...

When they had undressed they were sent to the cellar of the castle and
then along a passageway on to the ramp and from there into the
gas-van. In the castle there were signs marked "to the baths". The gas
vans were large vans, about 4-5 meters long, 2.2 meter wide and 2
meter high. The interior walls were lined with sheet metal. On the
floor there was a wooden grille. The floor of the van had an opening
which could be connected to the exhaust by means of a removable metal
pipe. When the lorries were full of people the double doors at the
back were closed and the exhaust connected to the interior of the

The Kommando member detailed as driver would start the engine right
away so that the people inside the lorry were suffocated by the
exhaust gases. Once this had taken place, the union between the
exhaust and the inside of the lorry was disconnected and the van was
driven to the camp in the woods were the bodies were unloaded. In the
early days they were initially burned in mass graves, later
incinerated... I then drove the van back to the castle and parked it
there. Here it would be cleaned of the excretions of the people that
had died in it. Afterwards it would once again be used for gassing...

I can no longer say what I thought at the time or whether I thought of
anything at all. I can also no longer say today whether I was too
influenced by the propaganda of the time to have refused to have
carried out the orders I had been given.

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