Treblinka, the largest and most perfectly organized of the three extermination camps as part of "Operation Reinhardt" was from July 1942 to August 1943 an operational murder site. During this time, some 900 000 Jews and thousands of Gypsies were killed there, so that Treblinka was measured at its short existence, with its personnel of about 25-35 men, German and Austrians from the "Euthanasia"-T4 and 100 to 120 "Trawnikis" of Ukrainian nationality, usually as their assistants, the most efficient killing machine the world has ever seen. At the end of April and early May 1942 the site was established and in mid-June the facilities were ready for use. On July 23, 1942 Treblinka began the cynically rationalized mass murder. On August 19, 1943, the last convoy drove on the ramp. On 17 October, all the traces had been be erased
Selected as a place that was built up for the sole purpose, where hundreds of thousands of lives perished , there is no other expression as a "Death factory" or "killing center", as they signal the helplessness in the face of organized technocratic, bureaucratic system the Holocaust machinery could have managed. All functions in a confined area of the extermination camp were so co-ordinated that the highest efficiency seemed assured in the murder on a massive scale.
|Location of Extermination Camps|
FROM HOSPITAL KILLINGS TO KILLING OF JEWS: Operation Reinhard.
The methods carried out in Treblinka incorporated the experiences of medical murder, which were performed under the cipher T4 since October 1939 with poison gas in six hospitals and nursing institutions in the German Reich. More than 300 doctors, technicians and administrative staff worked there as a "front"organizations under the "National Committee for Scientific Detection of Hereditary Illness" and caused severe suffering, controlled by the main office II of the Chancellery and legitimized by a letter on Hitler's personal stationery. After the official end (but not real )[Göring had a handicapped sister and apparently told Hitler to have the killings stopped sic] of Operation T4 in August 1941, over 120,000 people were killed with disabilities, the expertise of these murderers was not used again until action 14f13 came into effect, thus the sick camp inmates fell victim which was used in the Operation Reinhard. About100 men from the euthanasia program were evaluated and transferred to the Generalgouvernment(General Government) who should prepare and perform the mass killings of vegetative Jews from the ghettos on Polish soil. The destruction should be done in purpose-built camps, in the first place at Belzec and Sobibor, with the murder of patients with the tested method of poison gas in place of the shootings, as they had been previously been carried out.[The shootings had a demoralizing effect on Einsatzgruppen especially when it came to children sic] Responsible for the Action Reinhard was the SS and Police Leader of Lublin, Odilo Globocnik. Himmler ordered him to organize the resettlement of Jews in the Generalgouvernement, this would eventually entail the death from 1.75 to 2 million people in total.
|Deportation from Siedlce, Jews entering cattle wagons on their destination to Treblinka|
The campaign had a dual purpose, which was the establishment of the camp and the confiscation of assets: The murder of the Jews was connected with the exploitation of their property. The stolen funds were realized and credited to a special account at the Finance Ministry, it also financed projects of the SS. Globocnik in Lublin established a department which recovered the stolen property of the murdered. For the economy of the Holocaust this was the responsibility of the Economic and Administrative Main Office of the SS, the relevant department was also involved with the Reichsbank, which acted as money laundering for foreign currency amounts, cash, savings accounts, and custody deposits of the victims. The proceeds of all valueables, which, included jewelry and dental gold, was credited to an account at the Finance Ministry under the cover name "Max Heiliger" of the Reserve Bank fund of the German Reich. The Aktion Reinhardt should have been terminated at the will of Himmler at the end of 1942. Globocnik reported its completion in the fall of 1943, the yield from the murdered amounted to 180 million Reichsmark, not counting what the murderers had misappropriated into their own accounts.
|Treblinka Stamp of the "Generalgouvernment SS-Sonderkommndo, der SS und Polizeiführer im Distrikt Lublin" which the appropriate Commander used.|
Near the village of Treblinka there existed already a Forced Labor Camp, but which had intentionally nor organizationally anything to do with the extermination camp. The sometimes referred to and called "Treblinka I" Forced Labor Camp, which was two kilometers away and stood under the command of the SS and Police Leader in Warsaw, which initially held up to 1800 Poles, and later interned Jews. It was established in July 1941 and disbanded in August 1944. The labor of these prisoners of this camp were used for the construction of the extermination camp. For pragmatic reasons only, there were connections between these two groups. After investigation through the Düsseldorf public prosecutor office, this camp was run by SS Captain van Eupen, he was killed shortly before the end of the war by guerrillas. Functioning as director of labor deployment was an SS Sergeant, who was sentenced in Vienna in late 1966 to ten years in prison, the leader of the SS guards who had also held the rank of Sergeant, committed suicide.
Treblinka, the third largest extermination camp of the "Aktion Reinhardt", northeast of Warsaw was built near the border of the General Government in the summer of 1942. The name derived from the village four kilometers further removed. Probably decisive for the choice of this location had been the remoteness and the convenient links to the railway links . The Warsaw-Bialystok line ran north of Treblinka, arrived from the south in the direction to the route Malkinia-Sokolow Polaski. From there, a six-kilometer-long track was leading to the station of the town and further into the camp of Treblinka. The surrounding area was densely forested and sparsely populated. The camouflage of the death camp was therefore perfect, if one ignores the fact that the ramp in the camp, the terminus of the deportation trains was too short. Only 12 to 15 cars could be placed, but the trains were made up to 60 freight cars and were divided during discharge. The trains were waiting at the station of Treblinka or on the open track until they could be ranked on the loading dock.
(Reference (4) In the first Treblinka process, estimated by the expert Helmut Kraus Nick the death toll to at least 700,000, the second Treblinka process historian Wolfgang Scheffler called the number of over 900.000.)
|Turn-off near Treblinka Station towards the Camp. The former sidetrack has been dismantled|
|The Sleepers. The former railway track through the forest is still visible. Today the railway track is marked by symbolic concrete sleepers.|
The Treblinka camp covered an area of approximately 17 Hectare on a wooded hill. It was surrounded by two barbed wire fences. The outer fence was flanked by five watch towers, with "Spanish Riders" ( barbed wire nailed onto portable wooden blocks, constructed as barriers) for additional security. The area between outer and inner fence was 40 to 50 meters deep. The inner fence was interwoven with branches and three to four meters high. The camp was divided into three functional areas (named Camp I, also called"lower camp") next to the ramp the new arrivals would put down their bags and headed for the undressing barracks, from where they were rushed through the "tube" (Schlauch), a narrow alley, into the death camp (camp II). Within the (Auffangslager) reception compound the sorting site was housed, with the barracks A and B, where work teams recovered and assessed the belongings of the deportees. Also, the "hospital" (Lazarett) and a pit for the dead bodies that had perished during the transport was positioned here in the detention center near the ramp.
|Plan of the Extermination Camp Treblinka|
1.Small wooden sign at the gate, indicating the direction to Bialystok and Wolkowysk.
> 2.A large oblong hut with a false inscription OBERMAJDAN and false Clock at the outside, the doors with inscriptions "Cashier","To the first class waiting room", "To the second class waiting room" and "To the third class waiting room". The hut was used as storage room for valuables from the possession of of the victims.
> 3.Shack used as a storage room. It served temporarily as a night's lodging for "working Jews".
> 4.The women undressing barrack (Frauenauskleidebaracke). At the end of th this barrack behind a partition worked the hairdressers.Behind the women's barracks was a sorting station for bottles and cooking utensils.
> 5.The Barracks: Accommodation of Ukrainian women. Dental clinic and hospital for the SS and Ukrainian guards, sorting room of the "Jews gold".
>6. Living quarters and Lounge for the SS,connected by a corridor to the Ammunition store.
>7. Guard Room for Ukrainian Guards.
>8.Kitchen,Kapos and Special List for Domiciled Jews (Hofjuden) Taylor shop and Dermatologist(Pelting),Carpentry and Engineering,Blacksmith.
>9. Barrack is divided in Latrines, Washroom and (on the sides) prisoner accommodations.
SS Sergeant Willi Mentz had been in civilian life a milker during 1940 at the Euthanasia Institution Grafenek looking after cows and pigs, then he worked in the nursery of the Hadamar Institute, after that he enlisted in summer 1942 and was transferred to Treblinka. He was called the "shooter" and also "Frankenstein", for his task was to kill with a firearm. Mentz field work was the "field hospital"(Lazarett) in the arrival area of the camp. Mentz, described later, in court, the function of the"hospital": "This so-called hospital was one located in the lower camp area, which was fenced off and protected against access and visibility, camouflaged by pine branches, in this area was a large mass grave The grave was dug out by an excavator and may have been excavated to a depth of 7 meters deep. In addition, next to the mass grave was a small wooden shack. This place was for the sole use of the two members of the Jewish Arbeitskomando(work detail) that were on duty at the "hospital" to carry out specific duties. These Jews did wear armbands with the sign of the Red Cross, this had been arranged by SS Sergeant Fritz Küttner, who was responsible for the lower camp (unteres Lager). When the transports arrived there were always sick and frail people. It did happen also that wounded were among the newcomers, because the transportation attendants, members of the SS, police officers, Latvians mainly, tended sometimes to shoot at random into the crowded transport wagons. These sick, frail and wounded people were brought by a special work detail to the hospital. In the hospital area these new arrivals were sat down or laid down on the edge of the grave. If no more sick and wounded were expected, it was my job to shoot these people.
This happened when I shot them through the neck with a 9mm pistol. The dead individual person then fell together or to the side and the two hospital-working Jews carried them down into the grave. The bodies were then covered with chloride of lime. Later they were burned by order of Wirth in the grave itself. The number of people I would shoot was different after each arrival of a transport. Sometimes there were 2 or 3 victims but there were also 20 or maybe more. There were men and women, old and young, even children were present. If I am asked how many people I shot in this way, I can not answer this more precisely today."
The so called "Lazarett" (Drawing by Samuel Willenberg)
In August 1943, along with his superior Odilo Globocnik, Stangl was transferred to Trieste. There he helped to organize the campaign against Yugoslav partisans and local Jews. Due to illness, he returned to Vienna in early 1945, where he served in the "Alpine Fortress" (Alpenfestung).
At the end of the war, Stangl concealed his identity and fled. He was detained by the American Army in 1945 and was briefly imprisoned pending investigation in Linz, Austria in 1947. Stangl was suspected of complicity in the T-4 euthanasia programme. But on May 30, 1948, Stangl escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobibor, SS officer Gustav Wagner. The Roman Catholic Bishop Aloïs Hudal, a Nazi sympathizer forced in 1952 to resign by the Vatican, helped him to escape through a "ratline" and to reach Syria using a Red Cross passport. Stangl was joined by his wife and family and lived in Syria for three years before they moved to Brazil in 1951. After years of other jobs, Stangl found work at the Volkswagen plant in São Bernardo do Campo with the help of friends, still using his own name.
Arrest, trial and death:
Although his role in the mass murder of men, women and children was known to the Austrian authorities a warrant was not issued for Stangl's arrest until 1961. In spite of being registered under his real name at the Austrian consulate in São Paulo it took another six years before he was tracked down by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and was arrested by Brazilian federal police on 28 February 1967. He never used an assumed name during his escape, and it is not clear why it took so long to apprehend him. His ex-son-in-law may have informed Wiesenthal of Stangl's presence in Brazil.
After extradition to West Germany by Brazil, he was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people and sentenced to life imprisonment. He admitted to these killings but argued, his conscience is clear.He died of heart failure in Düsseldorf prison on June 28, 1971.sic]
To build the new gas chambers Jewish craftsmen were brought from Warsaw. One of them was the carpenter Yankel Wiernik. On the 23 August 1942 he arrived at Treblinka, he was one of the few survivors who could later testify: "The construction of the new building took five weeks but to us it seemed an eternity, the work started from sunrise to sunset, under lashes of whipping.and rifle butts. Woronikow, one of the guards beat and abused us mercilessly, every day several workers were killed, the degree of our physical exhaustion surpassed all human imagination, but mentally we were still more affected, every day new shipments arrived, the deportees were ordered to undress , and then they brought them to the three old gas chambers, the path led past the construction site. Several of us discovered their children, wives and relatives among the victims. If someone ran into his state of torment to his family, he was shot on the spot . So we built the death chambers for ourselves and our brothers! "
|Panorama with old Gas chambers. A combination of three photos taken by former commander Kurt Franz. On the left you can see the old gas chambers. On the right the large burial site with sand heaps.|
Prisoners of the Punishment Work Detail ("Straflager") preparing pyre for the burning of the victims.
The residential camp (camp area III) was inhabited by the Jews who had been recruited as working details from arriving prisoners. The total strength of these "working Jews" was up to 1000 men, they were liquidated from time to time and replaced by new workers. The residential camp, also called the"ghetto", contained accommodation huts, washrooms, a kitchen, workshops, and magazines, a complex for latrines and the assembly ground. One could call it, as it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, as a concentration camp within the death camp. Next to it, on the other side of a road, were the barracks of the Ukrainian SS guard the ("Max Biala Kaserne"), and the "zoo" in which the SS kept for their own amusement native animals such as foxes and deer.In this area, next to the "zoo", the Sorting Room of the "Gold Jews" was housed. Separate accommodation for Polish and Ukrainian girls in one of the barracks was provided which included (banks, dentist and hairdresser) on the "Kurt Seidel Street", which after the barrier arm (main gate) ran parallel with the the railway track leading into the camp. North of the road was the Kommandantur (Head Quarters), south of this were the residences of the SS members, between that the ammunition bunker and swimming pool. The accommodation of the barracks were the Trawnikis were housed was called the "Max Biala Kaserne". SS Sergeant Max Biala was on 11 September 1942 on the parade ground at a selection process stabbed to death by a Jew Meir Berlin from Warsaw. Berlin and two other prisoners were beaten to death on the spot and at least ten other prisoners were on the orders of the Deputy Commandant shot immediately, the execution of another 80-100 on the following day as "retaliation" took place in the Lazarett
Further torment of prisoners
Kurt Franz reviewed the prisoner roll call and participated in meting out punishments. For instance, when seven prisoners attempted to escape the camp, Franz had them taken to the Lazarett and shot. He ordered a roll call and announced that if there were further attempted escapes, and especially if they were successful, ten prisoners would be shot for every escapee. Franz enjoyed shooting at prisoners or those still in the rail cars with his pistol or a hunting rifle. He frequently selected bearded men from the newly arriving transports and asked them whether they believed in God. When the men replied “”yes””, Franz told each man to hold up a bottle as a target. He would then say to them, “”If your God indeed exists, then I will hit the bottle, and if He does not exist, then I will hit you.”” Then Franz would shoot at them with a gun.“Undoubtedly, [Kurt Franz] was the most terrifying of all the German personnel in the camp… witnesses agree that not a single day passed when he did not kill someone. ”Kurt Franz also had experience as a boxer before arriving at Treblinka. He put this training to sadistic use by victimizing Jews as punching bags. On occasion he would “”challenge”” a Jew to a boxing duel (of course the prisoner had to oblige), and gave the prisoner a boxing
When the former commander of the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka, Kurt Franz, was arrested in 1959 a search of his home yielded a scrapbook with horrific photos of the holocaust titled “Beautiful Years.”
After the war
Following the war, Kurt Franz first worked as a laborer on bridges until 1949, at which point he returned to his former occupation as a cook and worked in Düsseldorf for 10 years until his arrest on 2 December 1959. A search of his home found a photo album of the Treblinka horrors with the title, “”Beautiful Years””. At the Treblinka Trials in 1965, Franz denied having ever killed a person, having ever set his dog on a Jew, and claimed to have only beaten a prisoner once. On September 3, he was found guilty of collective murder of at least 300,000 people, 35 counts of murder involving at least 139 people, and for attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in 1993 for health reasons. Kurt Franz died in Wuppertal in 1998″
Continued ARRIVAL AND EXTERMINATION as Part 2