Concentration camp Treblinka

The extermination process

Most trains consisted of 50 to 60 cars, containing a few thousand people. The train stopped first at the station of Malkinia. There, some 20 cars were uncoupled and driven to Treblinka itself. That way the guards could maintain control. In Treblinka II the Jews got off the train, assisted by the Arbeitsjuden from the Kommando Blau, also known as the Bahnhofkommando.

At the end of 1942, Stangl ordered the so-called railway station to be built. The building looked like a normal station, including counters, train schedules, signs pointing to train connections, even a clock with a painted face plate and hands that never moved. That fitted the idea to mislead the Jews as long as possible and leave them unaware of their eventual fate. They were made to believe they had arrived in a transit camp.

Arriving Jews were told they had arrived in a transit camp and that they were to take a shower and have their clothes disinfected for hygienic reasons. Men, women and children were separated from each other. The women and children were marched into the left shed, the men into the right. In these undressing barracks they were received by the Red Command. Joe Siedlecki was one of them:

    "We had to supervise the undressing in the barracks. We were to shout: ‘Ganz nackt, Schuhe zusammenbinden, Geld und Dokumente mitnehmen (completely naked, tie your shoes together, take money and documents with you). That way the people were kept ignorant. They thought they were going to take a bath and would be deloused and that they could keep their money and documents for their own safety. That put them at ease. In a later phase, the men had to undress outside. Their shed was used as an assembly depot for goods. The women continued undressing inside. There, their hair was shaved off as well."

The elderly, the sick, the wounded and others too weak were taken to the Lazarett immediately because they would slow the extermination process down too much. This building, disguised as a hospital, was nothing less than an execution site. The victims were to undress and sit on the rim of a cremation pit and shot. Their bodies were cremated on the spot.

From the dressing rooms, a path led directly to the gas chambers. This path, the Schlauch (hose) was fenced in with barbed wire and heavily camouflaged. The SS called this path cynically the Himmelfahrtstraße (Ascension road). The extermination zone measured 200 by 250 yards and was located in the southeastern part of the camp. It was completely sealed off from the outside world with an earthen embankment and surrounded by barbed wire. Initially, there were only three gas chambers. After Stangl’s arrival, 10 new chambers were built. An engine, providing the toxic carbon monoxide that was fed into the chambers through tubes, stood in an adjoining shed. Treblinka II did not make use of Zyklon-B.

The deportees were rushed through the Schlauch naked. Meanwhile, Arbeitsjuden classified the clothing and possessions left behind in the dressing rooms. These possessions were sorted and sent back to Germany from the SS depots in Lublin.

After all prisoners had entered the so-called shower room, the doors were locked and sealed. The nearby engine was started and blew the toxic carbon monoxide gas into the chamber. In about 30 minutes all occupants were dead. In the early stage, some 2,000 Jews could be gassed within three to four hours. Later on, in particular after the ten new gas chambers had become operational, the whole procedure was completed in an hour and a half.

Two to three hundred Jews worked in the Totenlager. They made up the Sonderkommando, tasked with emptying the gas chambers and dragging the bodies to the pits. They also extracted gold teeth and molars from the dead. Initially, the corpses were buried in mass graves but from the winter of 1942-1943 onwards, these graves were opened and the remains cremated. In the spring of 1943, a new method of cremation was tested. Two enormous grates, made from train rails and called roasting spits, were installed. On each grate, dozens of corpses could be cremated simultaneously. Cremation of corpses matched Aktion 1005, the operation in which the Germans attempted to erase all traces of the mass murder.

The extermination program in Treblinka II started on July 23, 1942; in May 1943, the last transports arrived although afterwards, for some isolated transports Treblinka was still the final destination. Between July and September 1942, some 265,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto arrived in Treblinka II. Between August and November, some 346,000 Polish Jews from the Radom district arrived along with 33,000 Jews from Lublin. In October Theresienstadt was being evacuated and five transports brought 8,000 people to Treblinka II. In the same period, the deportation of over 100,000 Jews from the Biyalistok district started. Furthermore, transports arrived from countries like Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovakia and Romenia.

It is impossible to say exactly how many people have been murdered. The so-called Höfle telegram, discovered in 2000, gives an idea. This document, sent by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, was a message to SS-Oberststurmbannführer Adolf Eichmann (Bio Eichmann) and SS-Oberststurmbannführer Heim (Bio Heim) in Krakow. It contained an overview of transports up to December 31, 1942 to the extermination camps of Aktion Reinhard. As to Treblinka, it mentioned 731,555 Jews deported and gassed. After that date, Treblinka II remained operational for a little over six months but did not receive as many transports as it in 1942. Today, the number of Jews and non-Jews who have been murdered is estimated at between 870,000 and 925,000.

Definitielijst

Aktion 1005
German secret operation to cover up the traces of mass extermination in the east. The bodies of the victims of the Einsatzgruppen and extermination camps were dug up from the mass graves and then burned. The operation was under command of SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel.
ghetto
Part of a town separated from the outside world to segregate Jewish population. The establishment of ghettos was intended to exclude the Jews from daily life and from the rest of the people. From these ghettos it was also easier to deport the Jews to the concentration and extermination camps. Also known as “Judenviertel” or Jewish quarter.
Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.
Theresienstadt
City in the Czech Republic. Here the Nazis established a model concentration camp.
Zyklon-B
Poison gas that was systematically used in German extermination camps, primarily to murder Jews.

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Afbeeldingen


Deported Jews in the station of Siedlce on their way to Treblinka.


The station of Treblinka.
(Source: USHMM)


Station master Franz Zabecki witnessed many trains carrying victms on their way to the extermination camp.


Human remains found in Treblinka.
(Source: www.deathcamps.org)

Informatie

Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Gerd Van der Auwera
Published on:
04-11-2017
Last edit on:
22-11-2017
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