The Last Days Of Treblinka
In the last days of Treblinka, the Germans were preparing to eradicate not only all the prisoners but the site at which the camp was located so that nobody would ever find out what happened there. The Germans had gone so far as to have dug up 70,000 corpses which had been gassed and buried.

Images of children executed at Treblinka, click for larger image
Those corpses were being cremated at the rate of a thousand a day. While doing this, the Germans were bringing in fertilizer and planting grass on the areas that had been trampled down by 800,000 pairs of feet; they were preparing to plow under other places so as not to leave one speck or shred of evidence that a killing ground had ever existed.

Distant view of smoke from the Treblinka extermination camp

During this time the Jews were kept in line with a whole fake town being erected. The Jews participated in sports; orchestras were assembled; women were brought in so that"marriages" could take place. The extermination camp became a false village that burst with normal activity"while the killings went on at the rate of 1,000 every day."

Awaiting execution at Treblinka

As the streets of the so-called"town" were laid out, they were equipped with signs. A fake train depot was erected with a fake lot and dressing rooms. Shops showed up;"bars and bath rooms" were installed in the SS buildings to make the place look civilized. The only problem was that a thousand people a day were still being shot to death, gassed to death, burned to death, beaten to death, buried alive, and injected with poison.
source - Dr. Peter S. Ruckman


Holocaust - The Treblinka Death Camp
Disguised As a Railway Station

"Initially we did not know the purpose of building the branch track, and it was only at the end of the job that I found out from the conversations among Germans that the track was to lead to a camp for Jews. The SS men and Ukrainians supervising the work killed a few dozen people every day. So that when I looked from the place where I worked to the place where the Jews worked, the field was covered with corpses. The imported workers were used to dig deep ditches and to build various barracks. In particular, I know that a building was built of bricks and concrete, which as I learned later, contained people -- extermination chambers" - Lucjan Puchala, worker and eye witness at the Treblinka camp
Destination: death

The death camp in Treblinka was located in the northeastern region of the Generalgouvernement. The camp was erected in a sparsely populated area near Malkinia Gorna, a junction on the Warsaw - Bialystok railway line, 4 km northwest of Treblinka village and its railway halt, and about three km westnorthwest of Wolka Okraglit village. The site chosen was heavily wooded and well hidden from view. In 1941, a penal camp known as Treblinka I had been established nearby. Poles and Jews were imprisoned in this penal camp, working in quarries from which they extracted materials used in the construction of fortifications on the German -- Soviet border.

Jews being forced onto the trains that would take them to the gas chambers of Treblinka

The extermination camp was established as part of Aktion Reinhard; work on it began in late May / early June 1942. The contractors were the German construction firms Schonbronn (Leipzig) and Schmidt-Munstermann. The barbed wire was delivered by the Deutsche Seil- und Drahtfabrik (Freiberg in Saxony) Treblinka was ready to receive transports from 22 July 1942. Jews from Warsaw and neighbouring towns, as well as inmates from Treblinka I, were used to complete the construction. In charge of the building work was SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Richard Thomalla, the Aktion Reinhard construction expert. Rudolf Hoss, Auschwitz commandant, visited Treblinka in spring 1942.

The railway station that was really a death camp - Treblinka

The witness Lucjan Puchala recalled: "Initially we did not know the purpose of building the branch track, and it was only at the end of the job that I found out from the conversations among Germans that the track was to lead to a camp for Jews. The work took 2 weeks, and it was completed on 15 June 1942. Parallel to the construction of the track, earthworks continued. The SS men and Ukrainians supervising the work killed a few dozen people every day. So that when I looked from the place where I worked to the place where the Jews worked, the field was covered with corpses. The imported workers were used to dig deep ditches and to build various barracks. In particular, I know that a building was built of bricks and concrete, which as I learned later, contained people -- extermination chambers."
The camp's first commander was the Austrian SS-Obersturmfuhrer Irmfried Eberl who had served in Bernburg, one of six euthanasia killing centres. In August 1942 he was replaced by SS-Obersturmfuhrer Franz Stangl, the former commander of the Sobibor death camp. 20-30 German and Austrian SS men (most of whom had served in the euthanasia programme) were assisted by 90-120 Ukrainian guards. Some of the Ukrainians were given other duties, including the operation of the gas chambers. Amongst these were the infamous Ivan Marchenko and the lesser-known Nikolay Shaleyev. Most of the Ukrainians were Soviet prisoners of war, who had volunteered to serve the Germans and had been enlisted and trained for their duties at the Trawniki camp. Some of them were of German extraction, the so-called Volksdeutsche, who were appointed platoon or squad commanders in the main. Between 700-1,000 Jewish inmates performed the manual labour, including work that was part of the extermination process. In addition, they attended to the personal needs of the SS staff. Groups of Jewish specialists were employed on construction work, which even continued during the extermination activities. Inmates were also employed in cutting pine branches for use as camouflage for the barbed wire fences. The prisoners were selected for labour from incoming transports. After some days they were killed, and replaced by new arrivals. In September 1942 Stangl introduced a permanent command of Jewish prisoners. Some had to unload the wagons ("Station Command"), others worked at the "Undressing Square", the "Sorting Square", the gas chambers and at the mass graves.
A death camp disguised as a railway station

At Christmas 1942, Stangl ordered the construction of a fake railway station: A clock with painted numerals permanently indicating 6 o'clock, ticket windows and various timetables and arrows (including some indicating train connections "To Warsaw", "To Wolkowice" and "To Bialystok"), were painted on the facade of the sorting barracks. The purpose of this was to lull the arriving victims into believing that they had actually arrived at a transit camp. To make the SS living quarters as pleasant as possible, a zoo and a beer garden were also constructed. In addition to the camp structures, a branch railway track was created, leading from the camp to the nearby railway station, led by the station master Franciszek Zabecki. Huge pits, to be used as mass graves, were dug inside the camp.

Click image to see a full-size version of the Treblinka death camp layout

The camp was laid out in an irregular rectangle 400 m wide by 600 m long, surrounded by a barbed wire fence with intertwined tree branches to block any view into the camp from outside. A second outer fence consisting of barbed wire and anti-tank obstacles (Spanish Horses) was also constructed at a later stage. Watchtowers (8 m high) were placed at each of the four corners of the camp, and additional towers were built in the extermination area. The camp was divided into three zones of nearly equal size; the SS and Ukrainian living area, the reception area (Auffanglager) and the extermination area (Totenlager). The living and reception areas were called the "Lower Camp", whilst the extermination area was known as the "Upper Camp". The living area was in the northwest section of the camp. It comprised the living quarters for the German SS and Ukrainian personnel as well as other administration buildings, which included offices, an infirmary, stores and workshops. The entrance gate to the camp was in the northwest section, near the railway line. A more elaborate gate was later built, consisting of two wooden pillars, each decorated with a metal flower and crowned by a small roof which rested on the pillars. At night floodlights lit the entrance. Ukrainians and SS men were posted at the gate and at the guardhouse. At the entrance a sign read "SS Sonderkommando Treblinka".

A 100 x 100 m square was separated from the rest of the camp by a barbed wire fence. It contained three barracks forming a "U" shape. Here the Jewish prisoners who worked in the "Lower Camp" spent their nights. At the far side of the roll call area of this section was the latrine, covered by a straw roof. The transports arrived at the reception area in the southwest section of the camp. This area included the railway track and station platform with the ramp (200 m) and the fake station building. At the rail entrance on the spur was a wooden gate wrapped in barbed wire intertwined with tree branches. The Lazarett, a small execution site, was also in the reception area. Those too ill or too weak to continue to the gas chambers, together with unaccompanied children and those who had been injured in transit, were taken to a fenced-in area with a small wooden building, from which flew a Red Cross flag.

"The victims come into Camp 2 already naked and shorn, and are immediately squeezed into the cubicles. There is no more division: men, women and children are all pressed together in the small cubicles so tightly that this alone would be enough to suffocate them. The doors are hermetically sealed, the motors start to work. The air from inside is sucked out and fumes from burnt gasoline forced in. The cries from inside can be heard for about for about ten minutes and then it becomes quiet." Treblinka survivor Oscar Strawczynski

After undressing in the "waiting room" they were shot in the neck and thrown into a pit in which a fire constantly burned. Alongside the ramp were two large barracks where the victims' belongings were sorted and stored. North of these storerooms was the "Station Square". East of this section was a fenced-in area called "Undressing Square", (Entkleidungsplatz). At this place the men were separated from the women and children. Two large barracks were situated here: the northern barrack, utilised by the women to undress and for the cutting of their hair, and the southern barrack, used in the early phase of the camp's existence for male prisoners' sleeping quarters. This latter barrack was later used as a storage depot for goods. Male victims undressed in the open air between the barracks.

The extermination area (approximately 200 x 250 m) where the mass murders were carried out, was in the southeastern part of the camp. This area was completely isolated from the rest of the camp by a barbed wire fence camouflaged with tree branches, as well as by high earth mounds, all of which prevented observation from the outside. The gas chambers were located inside the extermination area in a long brick building. During the camp's initial phase there were three gas chambers, similar to the first gas chambers constructed at Sobibor. A room attached to the building contained a motor, which introduced the poisonous carbon monoxide gas through pipes into the chambers. It also contained a generator which supplied the electricity to the entire camp. Carrying Corpses East of the gas chambers and close by them were huge ditches for burying the corpses. A number of these ditches were approximately 50 m long, 25 m wide and 10 m deep. They were dug by an excavator brought from the quarry at the Treblinka I work camp. Initially the bodies were brought from the gas chambers to the ditches by trolleys pushed by the Sonderkommando on a narrow-gauge railway. However, this system proved to be impractical and was replaced by the carrying of corpses on stretchers. Southeast of the gas chambers, two combined barracks enclosed by a barbed wire fence were erected for the Sonderkommando, The barracks included a kitchen, a toilet and later a laundry. A watchtower and a guardroom were built in the centre of the extermination area.

Mass grave site at Treblinka death camp

The "Undressing Square" in the "Lower Camp" was connected to the extermination area by the "Tube". This pathway, 80-90 m long and approximately 4 m wide, was enclosed with 2 m high camouflaged barbed wire fences. The Germans called it Himmelfahrtstra?e ("The Road to Heaven"). It commenced behind the women's undressing barrack and continued east and then south to the gas chambers. The naked Jews were driven along this path to the building containing the gas chambers. The incoming deportation trains generally consisted of 50-60 cattle wagons containing six to seven thousand people in total. After passing through Malkinia Gorna junction, the trains crossed the Bug river and came to a halt at Treblinka village station. Each transport was divided into sections of twenty wagons, which were pushed by a locomotive onto the siding leading to the camp. The remaining wagons waited at the station. As each section of the transport was about to enter the camp, Ukrainian and SS men took up positions on the camp railway platform and in the reception area. When the wagons stopped, the doors were opened one at a time by the "Station Command" (Kommando Blau) and the SS men ordered the Jews to leave the wagons.

An SS officer then announced to the arrivals that they had arrived at a transit camp from which they would be sent on to various labour camps, but that first they had to take a shower for hygienic reasons, and to have their clothes disinfected. Any money and valuables in their possessions were to be handed over for safekeeping and would be returned to them after they had showered. Following this announcement, the Jews were ordered to the "Deportation Square". Schei?meister At the entrance to the "Undressing Square", the men were ordered to the right for undressing, and women and children to the left. Supervised by the "Red Command", this had always to be done at a running pace and was accompanied by shouting and beating by the guards. Commencing in autumn 1942, the women's hair was shorn behind a partition at the end of the undressing barrack. Afterwards the naked victims entered the "tube" that led to the gas chambers. Some sources suggest that women and children were gassed first, whilst the naked men had to wait at the "Undressing Square". Other sources propose that the men were gassed first. It is possible that the first group to be gassed was dependant on the nature of the transport.

Aerial photo of the remains of the Treblinka Death camp taken in September 1944. This is 11 months after the dismantling of
the camp and attempts at disguising the site as a farm. One of the hallmarks of the Nazi regime was that they were all quite
cowardly. When they lost the war and had to face their crimes, they all denied their involvement in the death camps, or tried
to cover up thier deeds. Vengence is mine, saith the Lord...remember that.

Once the victims were locked in the gas chambers, the motors were started and the carbon monoxide gas was pumped in. Within 20 - 30 minutes, all of the victims were dead. Their bodies were removed from the chambers and taken to the burial or cremation ditches. In the initial phase, a section of twenty wagons containing 2,000-3,000 people could be liquidated within 3-4 hours. Later the Germans "gained experience" and reduced the duration of the killing process to an hour and a half. Even as the first batch of Jews was being murdered, the railway wagons in which they had been transported were cleared and cleaned. Some 50 prisoners undertook this task. Then the wagons were pulled out of the camp to make room for the next section, with its human cargo.

The extermination programme at Treblinka began on 23 July 1942. The first transports came from the Warsaw Ghetto. By 21 September 1942 254,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto and 112,000 from other places in the Warsaw district had been murdered in Treblinka. Among the victims was Janusz Korczak, the noted director of a children's orphanage in Warsaw.

By the winter of 1942-43, 337,000 Jews from the Radom district had been killed, as well as 35,000 from the Lublin district. In total, an estimated 738,000 Jews from the Generalgouvernement and more than 107,000 from the Bialystok district were slaughtered between July 1942 and April 1943, always accompanied by the camp orchestra. Jews from outside Poland also perished at Treblinka: 7,000 Jews from Slovakia, (who had first been deported to ghettos in the Generalgouvernement) were murdered in summer and autumn 1942. Between 5 October and 25 October 1942, five transports brought 8,000 Jews from Terezin (Theresienstadt). From Greece over 4,000 Jews (who had first been deported from their homes in Thrace to Bulgaria) arrived in the latter half of March 1943. 7,000 Macedonian Jews were murdered between March 1943 and April 1943.

At least one transport of 2,800 Jews was dispatched from Salonika at the end of March 1943. 2,000 Romanies were also murdered in Treblinka. The extermination programme continued until April 1943, after which only a few isolated transports arrived.
source - Death

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