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Rusted pocketknife recovered from Chelmno killing center

Object | Accession Number: 1989.308.20

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    Rusted pocketknife recovered from Chelmno killing center


    Brief Narrative
    Pocketknife, likely recovered from a temporary pit furnace at Chelmno killing center in German-occupied Poland, during an archaeological excavation in 1986 and 1987. Killing operations at Chelmno commenced on December 8, 1941. Prisoners were taken to a camp at a manor house (Schlosslager) in the village to undress and relinquish their valuables. They were then loaded into a gas van where they were killed. The van was then driven 2.5 miles northwest of the village to a camp in the Rzuchowski forest (Waldlager), where the bodies were dumped into mass graves. The large number of corpses created a threat of disease and discovery by Allied forces, so the bodies were exhumed and burned in seven primitive pit furnaces. In the fall of 1942, the furnaces were replaced with two open-air crematoria consisting of concrete foundations topped by a grate of train rails. In March 1943, transports to Chelmno stopped, and the manor house and open-air crematoria in the forest were demolished. Deportations to Chelmno resumed from June to July 1944, to facilitate the liquidation of the Łódź ghetto. In this second phase, the entire killing process was carried out in the forest camp (Waldlager), necessitating the construction of new buildings. The Germans abandoned the camp on January 17, 1945, having killed over 172,000 people. The excavations of 1986-87, and later work have identified additional furnaces, crematoria, and mass graves at the site.
    use:  before 1942 September
    recovered:  1986-1987
    recovery: Chelmno (Concentration camp); Chełmno (Koło, Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Muzeum Okręgowe w Koninie

    Physical Details

    Tools and Equipment
    Cutting tools
    Object Type
    Pocketknives (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Flat, corroded, folding pocketknife with long, straight edges and rounded ends. The knife handle consists of two, thin metal sides held together by short, flat-headed, cylindrical pins at four points along the length of the handle: one at one end, one in the center, and two at the opposite end. These pins would have anchored up to four blades or attachments within the handle, and acted as hinges. The blades or attachments were designed to swing out from within the handle for use while extended. The heavily corroded, iron remnants of the tools protrude from the interior of the handle as orange-brown accretions. The surface of the handle is covered by a layer of green-brown corrosion. The end of the handle with a single pin is pinched inward from use.
    overall: Height: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Width: 3.250 inches (8.255 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    overall : metal, iron

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The pocket knife was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 by the Muzeum Okręgowe w Koninie.
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-12 10:54:12
    This page:

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