Michał Podchlebnik was a Polish Jew who, during his interrogation by Judge Bednarz on 9 June 1945, claimed to have been deported to the Chełmno Camp in late December 1941 or early January 1942, depending on which of his statements we believe, and escaped from there after just a few days. He is one of only three Chełmno inmates who have testified about their alleged experiences. The other two are Szymon Srebrnik and Mieczysław Żurawski.
Here are some of the peculiar claims he made in them:
- The victims of gas-van asphyxiations allegedly carried out at Chełmno looked normal. However, asphyxiation by carbon-monoxide poisoning would have resulted in corpses that would have had a very striking, distinctive pinkish-reddish complexion, something no real witness could have missed or forgotten.
- The victims were persuaded to climb into the gas van by being told that they were taking a shower in it, and they were even given towels and soap, which Podchlebnik had to collect after the deed. No sane SS man would have wasted any soap and towels on such a fool’s errand of trying to convince inmates that they will take a shower inside a van’s cargo box. And in any case, no one takes towels into a shower.
- When the van’s door was opened, dark smoke came out. However, lethal gasoline engines merely produce light, bluish smoke, while Diesel engines can produce dark smoke, but are not lethal within realistic timeframes.
- On opening the van door, the Germans ran away from the vehicle, presumably in fear of the gas inside. That would never have happened, because the gas inside the cargo box would not have been more dangerous for people standing outside than any exhaust pipe of a running vehicle.
- Podchlebnik identified a third gas van that allegedly was out of order, standing in the camp yard with a wheel missing. Interestingly, that describes a photo of a damaged moving truck at the Ostrowski factory in Koło, which was shown to all witnesses interviewed by Judge Bednarz. Some of them identified it as one of the alleged gas vans, even though that vehicle was not a gas van at all, as Judge Bednarz himself concluded.
- Instead of alarming the world about what he allegedly had witnessed, Podchlebnik remained totally silent for more than three years.