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Chelmno Death Camp


Dramatis Personae


The Commanders of Sonderkommando Kulmhof




    Lange, Herbert



SS – Hauptsturmführer


 Born in Menzlin, Pomerania on 29 September 1909. He studied law, but failed to obtain a degree and he joined the   NSDAP on 1 May 1932, with the party number 1159 583. He then enlisted in the SA (Sturmabteilung) three months later and the following year on 1 March 1933 he joined the SS, and his SS Number was 93501. 

In 1938 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer and in August 1939 he went to Frankfurt – on – Oder the assembly point for Einsatzgruppe Vl, commanded by SS-Oberführer Erich Naumann, prior to the invasion of Poland. On 12 September 1939 Einsatzgruppe Vl was stationed in Poznan (Posen), in the Warthegau. A Sonderkommando ( special command) of the above unit was formed under Lange’s leadership. He received orders from Arthur Greiser, the Gauleiter, to create a concentration camp in Poznan.


The KZ Posen  was established at Fort Vll (Fort Colomb) one of the bastions belonging to the huge Prussian built fortifications that encircle Poznan. Lange was only the Commandant of Fort Vll for only a short time, his role being to select the site, recruit the camp staff, and admit the first prisoners. Immediately Lange was involved as the head of “Sonderkommando Lange” , which was responsible for carrying out a series of “Euthanasia Aktions”, in the Wielkopolska region, using mobile gas vans, and shootings.

His accomplishments in the “Euthanasia Aktion” in Poland was highly regarded and as a result of this he was promoted to SS- Obersturmführer.


Later Lange was responsible for mass killing activity in the Konin region, but officially from the end of November 1940 to late 1941 he was head of the Economic Crimes department of the Criminal Police. Lange was the first Commandant of Chelmno which received its first transport in November 1941.


In February 1942 he was ordered to serve in the Reich Main Security Office, where he served under Artur Nebe, as a Criminal Investigator (Kriminalrat) and in 1944, he assisted in catching the conspirators of the attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944. For his work on this he was promoted to SS- Sturmbannführer.


Lange was killed in action during the Battle of Berlin in 1945



    Bothmann, Hans 



SS – Hauptsturmführer and Kriminalrat


Born in Dittmarschen (Holstein) on 11 November 1911, He stood 187 centimeters tall, thin blond hair, characteristic high- pitched voice, blue eyes.


Commanded Chelmno death camp from March 1942 to April 1943 and after the unit was dissolved in mid- April 1943, served in the “Prinz Eugen” division, until he was recalled in 1944 to become Commandant of Chelmno death camp for the second time. Bothmann was a brutal figure personally killing 300-400 people during his time at Chelmno.


When the commando was ceased Bothmann reported to the Poznan Gestapo, where he served as a liaison officer of the security police to Heinrich Himmler in Walcz

Bothmann hanged himself in a British internment camp at Heide, April 1946.



Lower Ranking SS and Police who served in the Chelmno Death Camp


Bartel, Wachtmeister         - No further details known

Blench, Wachtmeister        - No further details known

Bock, Heinrich.                  - Acquitted in the 1965 Bonn trial.  No further details known

Boge,  Wachtmeister   -The Hauptmann of the Polish Worker squad  Photographed with the Kommando in the courtyard of the palace. No further details known

Bollman,  Unterwachtmeister  -No further details known

Burmeister, Walter,   -SS – Scharführer  and Kriminalangestellter

Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 39, married 168 centimeters tall, born near the town of Swinoujscie by the Baltic Sea, dark hair, false top and bottom teeth. In the unit he was responsible for sorting confiscated valuables, as well as distributing vodka, and cigarettes among officers. He stood in for the canteen manager when absent, he also stood in for the driver. Sentenced to 13 years imprisonment as accessory to the murder of more than 150,000 people.

Burstinger , Erwin,   SS – Scharführer  and Kriminalangestellter    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 38, 170 centimeters tall, thin dark hair, married born somewhere in Austria. He belonged to the SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann as of 1942. After the unit had been liquidated in 1943, he was transferred to the secret field police in the Balkans. While in the Sonderkommando, he was the transport manager, responsible for all the vehicles. Moreover, together with Polizeimeister Lenz, he advised Bothmann on special issues. Burstinger stood in for the drivers when they were ill.

Daniel, Oberwachtmeister    -No further details known

Gielow, Hermann,   SS – Hauptscharführer   Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Driver, 170 centimeters tall, married, thin dark hair, aged about 48, born and lived in Berlin. He was transferred as a driver from the Wetterkommando Legath to the SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann. He drove a truck and transported Jews from Chelmno to the Waldlager.

Gorlich, Wilhelm,  

SS – Sturmscharführer and Kriminal- Sekretär   Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Served in the Gestapo in Poznan, and earlier in Inowroclaw, as an administrative official. 162 centimeters tall, married, born in the Sudetenland, stocky figure. His responsibility in the SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann , in 1942 and 1944, was the safekeeping of confiscated valuables, such as gold, precious stones, rings, banknotes, coins and other items, and transporting them at regular intervals to the ghetto authorities. He also paid the soldiers and gave them food stamps entitling them to receive certain food rations. Gorlich was wounded in the fighting for Poznan.

Hafele, Alois    SS – Sturmscharführer and Polizei- Leutnant  Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. He was with the SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann in 1944 when the unit was visited by Gauleiter Greiser and a party delegation. Hafele was about 50 years old, married, had partly grey, parted hair, lived in Kassel. He supervised and provided goods to the Jews forming the Jewish unit. He had gold front teeth and spoke with a Swabian accent. Just like Kretschmer, he went by truck from Poznan to Frankfurt –on – Oder.

Hannes, Oberwachtmeister    -No further details known

Heider, Polizeimeister           -No further details known

Heinl, Karl,    Sentenced to 7 years imprisonment at the 1965 Bonn trial, for assisting the murder of Jews at Chelmno.

Hensen, Friedrich  Polizeiwachtmeister   Hensen was born on 29 November 1920 in Hagen Westfalen, married with two children. In July 1942 he was assigned to the SS- Sonderkommando Chelmno  and was employed there till December 1944. Captured by the British in Hagen on 15 April 1945, he provided a detailed statement on 13 July 1945.

Heukelbach, Wilhelm    Sentenced to 13 months 2 weeks in prison for having assisted with murder at Chelmno.

Bruno, Israel    Oberwachtmeister   Born in Lodz, to Lukiusz and Linda Koenig. Before the war he worked as a dyer in the “Leber & Lewandowski company. He signed the Volksliste in 1940 and started working for the Hilfspolizei in 1941. in 1943 he was drafted into the gendarmerie as Wachtmeister.  In July or August 1944 he was transferred to SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann at Chelmno, where he took part in escorting transports to the Waldlager. He left Chelmno in January 1945 and went to Poznan with other members of the Sonderkommando.

Karzer, Mois    Oberwachtmeister    -No Further details known

Kretschmer, Erich   SS- Scharführer and Kriminalangestellter    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 40, born in Saxony. 172 centimers tall, with a gold tooth, in 1942 he belonged to the SS-Sonderkommando Bothmann. He was responsible for transporting Jews to the narrow gauge railway in Chelmno. He also transported Jews in trucks from Chelmno (the church) to the forest. Kretschmer went from Chelmno to Poznan in a truck with all the luggage of the SS- Sonderkommando, and from Poznan went to Frankfurt – on – Oder.

Kraus, Oskar   Oberwachtmeister    - No further details known

Laabs, Gustav    SS- Hauptscharführer and Kriminalangestellter    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 40, married, blond parted hair, born and lived in Szczecin, also belonged to the SS- Sonderkommando Bothmann in 1942. He was responsible for driving the gas-van from the barracks to the furnace. He left Chelmno in a truck for Poznan, and then onto Frankfurt- on -Oder.

Lenz, WiIli    Polizeimeister   From Silesia. Lenz was in charge of the Waldlager, a very brutal killer. Lenz was killed on the night of 17 January 1945, as he entered the Granary, to remove the Jews in group of fives. Lenz was overpowered and dragged into the Granary. The Jews inside called out that Lenz had hung himself, but more than likely they killed him. The Granary was set on fire, with Lenz inside.

Loscheck, Freidrich   Polizeiwachtmeister   -No further details known

Malzmuller , Theodor   Polizeiwachtmeister   Served in Police Guard Battalion XXl in Lodz, and then at SS-Sonderkommando Kulmhof.  No further details known

Meier, Kurt   Polizeiwachtmeister   -No further details known

Michalski, Paul     Polizeiwachtmeister   -No further details known

Mobus, Kurt       Polizeiwachtmeister                In 1941 Schutzpolizei, in the Police Battalion in Lodz, and in 1942 transferred to SS-Sonderkommando Bothmann.  In 1965 sentenced to 8 years imprisonment as accessory to the murder of at least 100,000 people.

Ostermeier, Josef    Polizeiwachtmeister    - No further details known

Piller, Walter    Polizeiwachtmeister      Born on 14 December 1902 in Berlin- Spandau (Falkensee) as the son of a foreman – who died in 1942, Albert Piller. From the age of 6 –14 he attended a primary school in Spandau, from he was expelled in the final year. During the three years that followed he mastered the trade of a turner in an artillery workshop in Spandau. 

After losing his job, he applied for job in the Berlin police department. He was accepted and graduated from the police academy in Brandenburg- on – Havel Piller was accepted into the Gestapo as a criminal officer, and at the end of 1937 he worked in the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. 

On 20 August 1939, Piller  was assigned to Einsatzkommando 11 of the Security Police, and after serving at Modlin Fortress, he was transferred to Poznan, and then onto Inowroclaw, where he was given a permanent position, and his family moved from Berlin to Inowroclaw.  

At the end of 1943 Piller was transferred to the Lodz Gestapo office, and he served in the Sonderkommando Legath, and when that unit was dissolved in the middle of 1944. This unit was employed in obliterating the evidence of mass murder in the forests in the vicinity of Poznan. 

Piller was transferred to SS-Sonderkommando Bothmann at Chelmno, after first attending a course for SS Leaders in Bad Rabka, near Cracow, which he did not complete. Bothmann appointed Piller as his deputy, until the Sonderkommando was dissolved in January 1945. He was responsible for the barracks at the Waldlager, and various administrative tasks such as leave, and ensuring the Jewish working commando in the palace courtyard.

Plate, Albert  SS- Hauptscharfuhrer and Kriminalsekretar     Deputy Commandant to Bothmann. Born on 31December 1903 in Baut- Rustringen. Died on 4 October 1944 in Yugoslavia.

Raudzus, Freidrich     Polizeiwachtmeister   - No further details known

Reissner, Sepp    Polizeiwachtmeister          - No further details known

Reiblinger, Anton     Polizeiwachtmeister     -No further details known

Richter, Herbert        SS – Hauptscharführer   Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 37, married, dark slightly grey hair. 172 centimeters tall, long face, he had his own house in Poznan. His job was sorting confiscated clothes and valuables, as well as standing in for the drivers of the gas-vans. He was probably wounded in the battle for the Citadel in Poznan.

Rombach, Erich        Polizeiwachtmeister     - No further details known

Ross, Wachtmeister    -No further details known

Runge, Johannes      SS- Hauptscharführer and Kriminalangestellter    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 40, married, 176 centimeters tall, thick, dark blond hair, characteristic low forehead, used to live in Poznan. He built the crematoria in the Waldlager, and was in charge of one of the crematoria. He was last seen with Herman Gielow in the combat unit under the command of Hauptmann Kohler after fighting in the Hugger Brewery in Poznan.

Ruvernich, Wachtmeister    -No further details known

Schefler, Wilhelm    Wachtmeister      -No further details known

Schmidt, Erwin    SS- Hauptscharführer and former Oberwachtmeister    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. Aged about 35, married, 180 centimeters tall, thick dark-blond hair, born in the Sudetenland, lived for a while in Lodz, had a gold front tooth. Managed the canteen, and supplied the unit with goods. He was a Hauptscharfuhrer in the Waffen-SS in the Balkans, and as of 1942 he was a member of SS-Sonderkommando Bothmann. He was wounded in the fighting for Grollman’s Fort and apparently he was killed during the fighting for the Citadel in Poznan. 

Schneider,  (first name unknown)   Oberwachtmeister    -No further details known

Schonbeck, Heinz     Polizeiwachtmeister     - No further details known

Schulte, Wilhelm    Sentenced to 13 months 2 weeks in prison for assisting in the murder of Jews at Chelmno death camp at the Bonn trial in 1965.

Seidenglanz, Stefan   SS- Hauptscharführer and former Oberwachtmeister   Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. A driver and a member of the NSKK (Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrer Kommando) – National Socialists Drivers Corps, in the resettlement headquarters in Lodz. About 170 centimeters tall, married, born near Vienna, he belonged to the SS-Sonderkommando Bothmann in 1942. He spoke with a Viennese dialect – he had the same duties as Gielow and Thiele.

Sliwke,  (first name unknown)    Wachtmeister      -No further details known

Steinke, Alexander      Acquitted of war crimes at the Chelmno death camp, at the Bonn Trial in 1965.

Thiele, Ernst    SS- Hauptscharführer    Based on testimony by Walter Piller in 1945. A driver aged about 48, 175 centimeters tall, married, born in Berlin, lived in Inowroclaw, thin, dark-blond, parted hair, had the same duties as Gielow. Later he transported chopped wood to the cremation sites, as well as food to the Waldlager, and took away the ashes to be disposed of in the Warta River.

Zimmermann, (first name unknown)     Wachtmeister      -No further details known






Chelmno Witnesses Speak – The District Museum in Konin 

Klee, Ernst – The Good old days

The Extermination Centre for Jews in Chelmno –on- Ner in the Light of Latest Research – The District Museum in Konin 2004



Other Sources

Chelmno Museum

Artur Hojan

Zdzislaw Lorek





Copyright SJ H.E.A.R.T  2007



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