Corroded metal heel plate recovered from Chelmno killing center
overall: Height: 0.875 inches (2.223 cm) | Width: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm) | Depth: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm)
The heel plate was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 by the Muzeum Okręgowe w Koninie.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Muzeum Okręgowe w Koninie
Metal heel plate, 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.
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Small, flat, crescent-shaped corroded metal heel plate, with four small nails piercing through the bottom. The outside edge of the plate is an even curve, while the inside edge has two scalloped curves with the peak in the center. Near the outer corners are small, slightly bent nails with pointed tips. In the center peak is a nail with a partial shank and missing tip. At the base of this nail is the pointed tip of the fourth nail, which is bent in a triangle shape to the center of the plate. The entire surface is covered in a heavy, orange-brown corrosion, obscuring the original finish.