WALKING beside his father, 11-year-old Walter Chmielewski witnessed a man emaciated on death’s door being dragged towards the crematorium.
It was an astonishing sight, but an ordinary one for Walter, who grew up in a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, in which his father was Karl Chmielewski – a German SS officer destined nicknamed “Devil Gusen” – is the commander.
More than 35,000 prisoners, mostly Poles, Spanish Republicans, Soviet citizens and Italians, were massacred at Gusen – a sub-camp of Mauthausen – during Holocaust.
The prisoners suffered starvation, hard labor and mass executions and had a life span of only six months.
Chmielewski, who ran the camp from 1940 to 1942, was known for his brutality, extreme brutality, and was said to beat prisoners with horse-whips, burn them with buckets of boiling water, and make leather wallets for himself. surname.
But Walter sees the prisoners as his friends – as does his mother, who angers her husband by feeding them the same food as the rest of the family when they come to work from home.
Walter, now 92, never accepted his father’s Nazi beliefs, despite his insistence that the prisoners were “criminals, traitors, Jews, parasites” who wanted “destroy Germany and don’t deserve anything else”.
As a child, he was often brought into the camp to see a doctor or get a haircut, always under the care of the prisoners.
He told The Sun: “I saw some terrible things as a kid… half-naked prisoners standing on the square at the camp, in the freezing cold.
“I remember an experience, when I wanted to go see the manufacturing plant, so my father took me there, and on the way there was a prisoner and he was throwing up.
“Obviously he’s not in a good shape. My father then shouted at the security guard who was traveling with us, “It’s obvious he returned to work immediately!”
“Then the guard hit him in the back with a rifle and shouted, ‘Sloth, get back to your work!’ But then the prisoner collapsed and lost consciousness.
“The SS guard called two Kapos (prisoners responsible for favorable treatment) and then he was dragged by hand in the direction of the crematorium.
“I don’t know if he was actually taken to the crematorium. And I don’t know if he died there. It’s 100 meters away. But he was certainly pulled in that direction.”
Walter was only allowed into one side of the camp, where the prisoners were in slightly better condition, because that was where the doctors were.
Only when he turned 16 and briefly served in the German Army did he witness the full extent of his father’s brutality.
Walter is forced to bury the bodies of the dead prisoners in the area of the former camp.
“There were six or seven of us and we were taken to a large pile of bodies next to the crematorium,” he said. There are many bodies. They were all naked and often covered in excrement.
“It was terrible. We had to take off their shirts then put the bodies in a mass grave.
“Given that I was young, it was really terrible. It has plagued my dreams for years and I can still remember every detail of it. In the few days I was there, I had to bury several thousand corpses.”
There were so many bodies, all naked and covered in faeces… it had been hindering my dreams for years.
What made things worse for Walter, who appeared in the Sky documentary Mauthausen: Camp of No Return, was the fact that he became close to some of the prisoners as a child and consistently treated them with them respectfully.
“Perhaps the closest relationship I developed with a prisoner was Monolo, a Spaniard,” he recalls. He is a special friend of mine.
“We put on swimming trunks and wade into the water and often cut reeds together – he had to but I wanted to because I enjoyed it.
“He would curl the reeds and then I would cut them, and I really enjoyed doing that.”
In the end, Walter accidentally saved Monolo’s life by facilitating his escape.
“It was lunch break and my mother made a small buffet outside where we were working,” he recalls.
“We sat down for a snack, then Monolo was taken on a little mission, and I left my bike there.
“When he saw it, he simply jumped on it and dashed down the road in the direction of the Danube. He escaped!
“Of course, the SS chased him as soon as they found out about it, but then he was long gone.
“My father was angry but I am happy for Monolo because he is a friend and we talked and laughed together.”
My father is angry because Monolo escaped but I am happy for him because he is a friend
Walter tells how his father “went crazy” when he found out his wife was taking care of the prisoners.
“He said, ‘You can’t give prisoners the same food you give the SS,’ and she just told him, ‘What I do here is none of your business. To me, they are ordinary people like everyone else. ‘
“He took a step back because at home he didn’t have much of a say.”
Walter’s father’s decision to join the Nazi party shocked the extended family, which were liberal voters.
Before the war, Chmielewski joined the SS, and upon arriving at the Munich apartment his family shared with his wife’s parents, he was told to leave and never return in uniform.
His rejection split the family, and saw Walter and his mother move out to live with Chmielewski.
Within a year, Chmielewski rose through the ranks and worked for Empire leader Heinrich Himmler, a chief architect of the Holocaust.
Chmielewski was first appointed commander at Sachsenhausen, where many concentration camp commanders were well prepared, most of which would run Auschwitz or Malthausen.
As a child, Walter barely witnessed his father upset, except when he wore a uniform to work in the camp.
It was a real Jekyll and Hyde situation. Even just standing in the kitchen before he left, his whole tone of voice was quite different. He really has two faces
He recalls: “He suddenly changed, he even had a different facial expression – a real Jekyll and Hyde situation.
“Even just standing in the kitchen before he left, his whole tone of voice was quite different. He really has two faces. ”
In 1940, Chmielewski was promoted to build and operate the Gusen concentration camp, bringing his family to live just 3 km from the site.
After the war, Walter severed ties with his father, who disappeared and took on a new identity.
Chmielewski was arrested by West German police in 1959 and in 1961 experiment he was branded a “masochist” and received a life sentence.
He died in 1991 after being released from prison in 1979 for mental health reasons and spent his last years at an institute in Chiemsee, Germany.
Mauthausen: Camp Of No Return airs on Sky History at 9pm on January 23.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/4509211/concentration-camp-nazi-holocaust-walter-chmielewski/ I grew up in a Nazi death camp run by my sadistic father who made wallets from the skins of prisoners.