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January 17: Surviving Chelmno

January 17, 2015
Szymon_SrebrnikAmong the three survivors of the Chelmno extermination camp in Poland was Mordechai Zurawski, who gave the following testimony about this night in 1945 at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961:
Q. In January 1945, they put all of you, all who remained there, to death? A. Yes. On 17 January, at night, we heard trucks coming in, and two SS men came in. Lenz came in. I recognized him. He came in with a flashlight and took five men outside. When they led out the five men we heard five shots. Then they came in and again called five men outside. This way, they led out three times five, that is fifteen men. Of those fifteen men, there is one who remained alive, Srebrnik, who was lying on top of the dead men.... When they were coming in for the fourth group of five I was standing with a knife behind the door, and I threw myself upon the SS men who came in. I knocked out the light and swung with the knife right and left and escaped. Q. And you made it to the forest? A. I was hit in the leg, but I ran into the forest.
Szymon Srebrnik (shown in the photograph), another of the three, gave this testimony in Lodz in 1945:
When the Soviet Army was advancing quickly, one night we were ordered to leave the granary in groups of five... Lenz ordered us to lie down on the ground. He shot everybody in the back of the head. I lost consciousness and regained it when there was no one around. All the SS men were shooting inside the granary. I crawled to the car lighting the spot and broke both headlights. Under the cover of darkness I managed to run away. The wound was not deadly. The bullet went through the neck and mouth and pierced my nose and then went out.
"Szymon made his way to a Polish farm nearby, and the farmer agreed to hide him in his barn until the Russians came two days later. A Soviet Army doctor treated his wound, and he made a complete recovery.... In September 1945, Szymon went to Israel, one of the first Holocaust survivors to arrive there. He met his future wife en route." —