Church-run “hell hole” children’s homes in Ireland were like Nazi concentration camps, a former resident claimed.

 St Joseph's Home in Termonbacca in Londonderry.

St Joseph’s Home in Termonbacca in Londonderry.

He was in a chain gang polishing floors, bathed in detergent as punishment and sexually assaulted by a woman aged five or six, the witness told the UK’s largest ever inquiry into child abuse.

The Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns oversaw St Joseph’s Home in Termonbacca in Londonderry and used to bath the children in Jeyes fluid.

The witness claimed: “It was kind of like a Zyklon B gas chamber.”

The alleged abuse happened in the 1950s and 60s. He was later transferred to a home in Galway in the Irish Republic owned by the Christian Brothers.

“Essentially a Gulag, a child’s prison,” he claimed.

He added: “The comparison was two hell holes. Which is better? It is difficult to describe when things are bad, you are on a race to the bottom. Salthill (Galway) was Auschwitz, Termonbacca was Treblinka.”

The treatment of children in church-run residential homes is a key concern of the investigation being held in Banbridge, Co Down. It is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart and is considering cases between 1922, the foundation of Northern Ireland, and 1995.

The Nazareth House Children’s Home and St Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca, were run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Londonderry. Those allegedly abused there will give evidence later this week. The religious order has already issued a public apology.

Public hearings are due to finish in June 2015, with the inquiry team to report to Stormont’s power-sharing Executive by the start of 2016.