News of death camp killings becomes public for first time - HISTORY
Year
1942

News of death camp killings becomes public for first time

On this day in 1942, a Warsaw underground newspaper, the Liberty Brigade, makes public the news of the gassing of tens of thousands of Jews at Chelmno, a Nazi-operated death camp in Poland—almost seven months after extermination of prisoners began.

A year earlier, the means of effecting what would become the “Final Solution,” the mass extermination of European Jewry, was devised: 700 Jews were murdered by channeling gas fumes back into a van used to transport them to the village of Chelmno, in Poland. This “gas van” would become the death chamber for a total of 360,000 Jews from more than 200 communities in Poland. The advantage of this form of extermination was that it was silent and invisible.

One month before the infamous Wannsee Conference of January 1942, during which Nazi officials decided to address formally the “Jewish question,” the gas vans in Chelmno were used to kill up to 1,000 Jews a day. The vans provided the “Final Solution” for Adolf Eichmann and other Wannsee attendees. The mass gassings were the most orderly and systematic means of eliminating European Jewry. Eventually, more such vans were employed in other parts of Poland. There was no thought of selecting out the “fit” from the “unfit” for slave labor, as in Auschwitz. There was only one goal: utter extermination.

On June 1, 1942, the story of a young Jew, Emanuel Ringelblum, (who escaped from the Chelmno death camp after being forced to bury bodies as they were thrown out of the gas vans), was published in the underground Polish Socialist newspaper Liberty Brigade. The West now knew the “bloodcurdling news… about the slaughter of Jews,” and it had a name—Chelmno.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

De Gaulle reassumes French leadership

During a French political crisis over the military and civilian revolt in Algeria, Charles de Gaulle is called out of retirement to head a new emergency government. Considered the only leader of sufficient strength and stature to deal with the perilous situation, the former war ...read more

Helen Keller dies

On June 1, 1968, Helen Keller dies in Westport, Connecticut, at the age of 87. Blind and deaf from infancy, Keller circumvented her disabilities to become a world-renowned writer and lecturer.Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, on a farm near Tuscumbia, Alabama. A ...read more

Crete falls to German forces

During World War II, Crete, the last Allied stronghold in Greece, is captured by German forces at high cost to both sides.In late 1940, the Greek army, reinforced by the British air force, decisively repulsed an Italian invasion of their nation. In April 1941, these triumphs ...read more

Nissan Motor Company founded

On this day in 1934, the Tokyo-based Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha (Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in English) takes on a new name: Nissan Motor Company.Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha had been established in December 1933. The company’s new name, adopted in June 1934, was an ...read more

CNN launches

On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon ...read more

Top U.S. officials meet in Honolulu

Top U.S. officials concerned about the Vietnam War gather for two days of meetings in Honolulu. Attendees included Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Gen. William Westmoreland, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, and CIA Director ...read more

George Mikan dies

On June 1, 2005, Basketball Hall of Famer George Mikan dies at age 80. The first true gate attraction in professional basketball, Mikan drew fans to NBA games at a time when the league’s success was far from assured.George Lawrence Mikan was born June 18, 1924, in Joliet, ...read more

John Wesley Hardin arrives in Abilene

John Wesley Hardin, one of the deadliest men in the history of the Old West, arrives in Abilene, Kansas, where he briefly becomes friends with Marshal Wild Bill Hickok.Hardin revealed a tendency toward violent rages at an early age. When he was 14, he nearly killed another boy in ...read more

Coleridge begins to publish The Friend

On this day, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who helped establish the Romantic school of poetry, begins to publish his own periodical, The Friend. The essays that Coleridge published in The Friend are later collected into a book.Coleridge led a turbulent, tragic life. Born in 1772 in ...read more

Marilyn Monroe born

Norma Jeane Mortenson–who will become better known around the world as the glamorous actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe–is born on this day in 1926, in Los Angeles, California. She was later given her mother’s name, and baptized Norma Jeane Baker.After a tumultuous ...read more

Coal mine explosion kills 236 in Japan

A coal mine explosion kills 236 workers at the Yamano mine near Fukuoka, Japan, on this day in 1965. The tragic disaster might have been avoided if the operators of the mine had taken even the most basic safety precautions.Only six years before, seven miners lost their lives and ...read more

Soviets charge Shcharansky with treason

The Soviet government charges Anatoly Shcharansky, a leader among Jewish dissidents and human rights activists in Russia, with the crime of treason. The action was viewed by many in the West as a direct challenge to President Jimmy Carter’s new foreign policy emphasis on human ...read more