Saved from hell - history of three prisoners from Kulmhof
Szymon Srebrnik, Mordechaj Żurawski, and Mordechaj Podchlebnik were three prisoners of the German extermination camp in Chełmno nad Nerem who survived the camp. It is estimated that 150,000 to 250,000 people died in the camp and only 7 survived!
Szymon Srebrnik avoided extermination in the camp as he was selected from the transport and forced by the SSmen to work in a commando dealing with burning corpses and grinding bones and debris that were not burned as part of Action 1005 – destroying evidence of genocide.
When on January 18, 1945 it was decided to get rid of the last 47 living prisoners by shooting them in groups of five, Szymon Srebrnik was in the first group. The prisoners were led out and shot in the back of the head with handguns. The bullet that hit Srebrnik flew through the nose, without seriously damaging the internal organs. Thirteen-year-old Szymon Srebrnik survived lying in a pile of corpses. A local farmer found the injured boy.
After moving out the first five prisoners, people who were staying in the so-called the Granary already knew what awaited them and took up melee combat with the SSmen (using a knife stolen from the kitchen and other items that were at hand). During the confusion, Mordechaj Żurawski managed to escape. The remaining people were barricaded in the Granary, which was then set on fire at the behest of Commandant Hans Johann Bothmann.
The third person who survived the camp was Mordechaj Podchlebnik. He escaped from the camp in January 1942. His story became inspiration for the story by Zofia Nałkowska "The man is strong" from the series "Medallions". He was a witness in the trial of Arthur Greiser and Herman Gielow, and in 1961 in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. He also testified at the German trial of the SS-Sonderkommando Kulmhof crew in 1963. He died in 1989.
Chełmno nad Nerem - SS-Sonderkommando Kulmhof - was the FIRST extermination camp created in autumn 1941, operating until spring 1943 and for a short time in 1944. The main place of mass extermination of the Jewish population from the Reichsgau Wartheland and prisoners of the Łódź ghetto. The estimated number of victims varies between 150,000 and 250,000. Due to the fact that only seven people survived, we have very little information about this extermination center.