Monday, March 26, 2012

BELZEC Extermination Camp part 5

  On 1 August 1942 arrived a new camp commandant at Belzec. SS-1st Lieutenant Christian Wirth became "Inspector of the extermination camps of "Aktion Reinhardt"while at the same time he was commander of the sub-camp Lublin-Lipowastraße in the former aircraft factory "Plage  Laskiewicz" in Lublin. This was the main collection point where confiscated  property of the victims of "Aktion Reinhardt" was moved and stored. in his place, who had travelled here from Germany was SS Captain Gottlieb Hering,  who had previously worked together at the Stuttgart police and during the "Operation T4" with Wirth. in his cruelty, he resembled Wirth, though he was rarely present within the camp. The survivor Rudolf Reder described him in following terms: "We knew that the camp commandant lived in a beautiful house next to the railway station Belzec. He was a First Lieutenant,[in fact his rank was Hauptsturmführer, which is a Captain,sic]  his name I can not remember,   although I keep trying. It was a short name. He was rarely seen in the camp,  only came when something happened or went wrong. He was a big grown thug, broad-shouldered, about 40, with a vulgar expression,  probably the way a born criminal looks like.  An absolute monster. Once the killing machine broke down. He was informed of this, came into the camp, riding on his horse and ordered the repair of the machine. He did not allow, however, people out of the gas chambers, rather let them suffer few hours longer and in agonies of the stifling and suffocating gas chambers. He crouched down with rage, screaming and trembling. Although he rarely showed up, but he was the terror of the SS men". (80) From testimony of former SS men it is well known that Hering behaved particularly cruel towards the Trawniki men, some of which he sentenced to death for lack of obedience and escape attempts or for the theft of Jewish property. (81)[ Under Hering's rule at least 350,000 Jews were killed in Belzec. After the liquidation of Belzec in spring 1943, he became commander of the forced labour camp Poniatowa. On 4 November 1943 all Jewish inmates of the camp were shot in the course of Aktion Erntefest. In 1944 he was ordered to Italy, where he again replaced Wirth as chief of Kommando R 1 in Trieste after Wirth's death. On 9 October 1945 he died as a result of illness at the Katherinen Hospital in Stetten im Remstal, Germany.sic]
Ref :80-Reder, Belzec, page 63
Ref :81-statement, Heinrich U., 21/07/1960, BArch in Ludwigsburg, B 162/208, the trial against Josef Oberhauser, Vol 5, page 965; Arad, Sobibor, Belzec, Treblinka, page100-104.
Hering, Bolender, and Zierke
Probably together with Hering additional SS-men arrived at Belzec. They replaced the guards, Wirth had delegated to the extermination camps at Sobibor and Treblinka, the main aim was, they should strengthen the camp staff of the planned influx of larger Transports. Among them were Hans Girtzig, Heinrich Unverhau, Karl Johann Gley, Robert Jührs and Werner Dubois-all former employees of the "Euthanasia" campaign.  Some were for duties at the assembly point near the ramp, another for the supervision of the Sonderkommandos, the digging of graves (like Girtzig) or to sort out the effects deposited  in the old locomotive shed (Werner Dubois). The SS men were basically forever around in the camp grounds, and it seems that the commandant assigned them to different tasks as required. Many participated apart from their actual duties during the execution (shooting) of people who were not able to run to the Gas chambers. These executions took place in the summer of 1942 and even more frequently, because with the increasing number of transports,  invariably the proportion of deportees unable to walk did rise in numbers. (83)
Ref :83-Karl Schluch testified during the investigation, a surprise, that most SS men who served in the camp service, participated in the shootings of the elderly, disabled and young children, most commonly was Hackenbolt, Gley, Schwarz and Dubois. He himself was not present at the executions. That is, given the fact that he was the only defendant of the few that did give a reasonably precise method and procedure at the gas chambers  and corrected others, was accepted as truthful and factual. Karl Schluch statement, 11/10/1961, in StA Munich, StanW 33033/II, Process against Josef Oberhauser, page 1169.[Schluch's own statement contradicts previous comments and reports, that he, too, did participated in shootings, although he was acquitted of the charges during the trials sic.]

The number of Trawniki men was reinforced. In the summer of 1942 their number rose to  120 men, divided into three section for service at Belzec. Officially, they were only used for surveillance. In fact, however, they were involved from the beginning throughout the extermination process. They were guarding the deportation trains at the Belzec station,  they were present on the ramp, they drove the Jews from the ramp and watched them in the undressing shed, through the "Sclauch" and into the gas chambers. Like the SS, they behaved brutally and ruthlessly. A former security guard testified after the war: "Our role in the extermination of the Jews was that we had to sometimes pull the victims out by force from the freight cars and drove them to the barracks where they had to undress. We forced them to strip naked, and then drove them through a passage(Schlauch) fenced in with barbed wire to the gas chambers. We ran them into the gas chamber. I would like to note that all security guards who served in the Belzec extermination camp did the same service".

Ukranians drinking at the Belzec Camp
Both the Germans and the Trawniki men used whips,(Peitsche) batons, rifle butts, bayonets, and the strength of their hands and feet to drive the victims as quickly as possible into the gassing facilities. Trawniki men, especially their leaders, ethnic German from Russia, also took part in the shooting of the weak, non-ambulatory, elderly and sick people. (86)
Ref :86-statement of Vasily Orlowski, 23.8.1965, in: ibid, page 135th The leaders of the three "sections" that made up the guard company in the extermination camp at Belzec were, Schmidt, Schneider, and Siebert, presumably Volga German.(Wolga Deutsche)

One of the biggest problems the camp administration at Belzec had to deal with was the removal of the corpses. Even in the initial extermination phase in the spring of 1942 the stench of rotting bodies was evident throughout Belzec, their smell was even noticed by the inhabitants of the village that was relatively far away from the camp. (87) First, the bodies were buried only in mass graves, but soon a smelly liquid would ooze from the graves, which was created by the decaying process and the stench spread throughout and rapidly towards Belzec. Janusz Peter described it. "In the passenger trains, which led through Belzec, no one crowded at the window to see the infamous place of execution. Depending on the wind direction, the windows were quickly shut as far away as Lubycza or Susiec, and the conductor announced at times, all who wanted to get out in Belzec, to get out of the coaches on the corridor side. Even in the nine Kilometers away township Tomaszow Lubelski,  people had to vomit or fainted. Some had to leave the area because they suffered from chronic headaches , weight loss,  loss of appetite or suffering from anaemia. Although the Nazis devoted a lot of efforts to the "big thing" they themselves could no longer stand the awful unpleasant  smell. Finally, they drove some freight cars to the pits with cement and covered them  with a layer of concrete". (88)
Ref :87-16-year-old at the time, Wladyslaw Brogowski reported that in April 1942 in Belzec all smelled after "Sauerkraut". The residents quickly came to the conclusion that the cause of the smell were rotting corpses from the camp. In the summer of 1942 the stench intensified. Prof. Brogowski then lived four to five Kilometers from the camp. Interview with Prof. Wladyslaw Brogowski, 29.4.2007, in: AMMPB.
Ref: 88 - Peter W Belzcu,page 196.

Holes dug by Poles searching for valuables  in the area of the former death camp
This trial method which was introduced had not the desired effect, because the gasses that were released during the decaying of the thousands of corpses degraded the concrete and did not stop the smell. This was probably  the reason why the Germans began in early summer 1942, to burn the bodies in the mass graves. To make this process more efficient, they confiscated the bellows from mills in an effort that this should keep the fire constantly burning. A cremation on a  larger scale, however, began only in November 1942. (90) Until then, most of the bodies were still brought by prisoners of the Sonderkommando into the mass graves that they still dug out. This work was done by Jewish prisoners, manually as well as with a mechanical digger that was brought into the camp.
The first pyres were burning until January 1943. The bottom layer was formed of railway tracks and stones, then they stacked layers of wood and corpses, all doused with oil and lit it. On one day you could burn about 2,000 bodies in this way.  Already at that this point in time began the exhumation of mass graves. The purpose and order to leave no traces  by burning virtually all of the dead bodies did not begin until January 1943 when no more transports came to Belzec.
Ref. :90-Rudolf Reder, who was until November 1942 in Belzec, does not mention any cremations. Reder, Belzec, page 57. The fact that the pyres were already burning since November 1942, reported the former SS-man Dubois on 29.4.1963, in: StA Munich, Stan W 33033/II, during the trial of Josef Oberhausen, Page 1517

At least since the summer of 1942 the Belzec extermination camp was known in far away remote areas of the General Government. Although not all the details were reported back to the public, the majority of Poles, Jews and Germans, had been aware of the name of this camp and associated it with a place of Jewish exterminations. Hans Bratsch, who was employed as a German policeman(Gendarm) in Jaslo and Nowy Sacz in the district of Krakau and was involved in the closure of the local ghetto, testified after the war. "The Jews were crowded into freight cars like sardines, men, women and children, I reported the departure of the train and knew at that time even the name of the place to which they travelled. This place was an extermination camp and  that the Jews were gassed, I learned later, during my service in Jaslo and Nowy Sacz  that the Jews in a particular location were collected and killed there somehow".
Furthermore, Polish railway workers and escapees from the camp did provide information about Blezec. Also German and Polish passengers who travelled by train through Belzec reported about the camp. Officials of the German civil administration in the area or employees of the German Labour Office(Arbeitsamt) in Zamosc regularly visited the camp and kept a friendly relationship with the SS crew. Former German civil servants from Zamozc and Tomscow said consistently after the war, that the knowledge about Belzec was widespread throughout the area under the Germans and the Poles.
It is therefore not surprising that this knowledge came also to the Jews trapped in ghettos. The farther they were removed from Belzec, the less the victims could believe what happened to the deportees. In the surrounding towns like Lemberg they knew a lot about it, which is not to say that the majority refused to acknowledge this. Many still argued that it would be contrary to all logic, if the Germans would kill all the Jews. However, many then were looking for rescue possibilities: in the fall of 1942, the escapes from transportations became a mass phenomenon.
During the entire trip some deportees jumped  from fast moving trains. Even at the station of Belzec desperate Jews were fleeing right before the eyes of waiting passenger on the platform and were shot on the run  by their escorts. Most of them died during the jump, shot or died of their injuries along the rail-way track. Those who had survived the jump, were often apprehended by patrolling Ukrainian, Polish or German soldiers or civilians from the area, who received money for the so called "Springer" (Jumpers). Usually the escapees were trying to organise themselves as quickly as possible into small groups. However, their fate was often sealed, because without weapons and without the support of the local population, which in most cases refused to hide Jews, they were easy prey for the police. Janusz Peter described their situation: "The fate of these short-term recovered group was predetermined, the askaris (Ukrainian guards) scoured the woods and thickets along the rail-road tracks thoroughly, and knew from experience that the victims would easily fall into their hands.  Also peasants (Bauern) would turn against them, after listening to the plight of these pathetic half-crazed beings, it made no difference. It was even quite common that the wandering refugees found no support and then either were reported to the askaris or in the village itself, and therefore begged to be sent to the camp at Belzec. The Jews, who were often city dwellers had, in the woods no orientation and could not satisfy their simple survival needs and quickly found , that they could not cope".  This assessment is a stereotype that was prevalent among the non-Jewish population. Examples show that even in the near Belzec area, small Jewish partisan units as well as family camps existed that housed the escapees from transports and ghettos. The decision to report themselves to the police, had more to do, that he or she had given up all hope to receive help from the outside.  Local farmers were afraid to help Jews who had escaped, because it entailed the death sentence (die Todesstrafe) for the whole family, and among the nearest neighbours there were often informers. This is what Janusz Peter had to say: "One should mention that along the railway line of Belzec-Zwierzyniec roamed quite a few spies, jackals in human bodies, who were willing to betray others for money and to kill, as well as ordinary profiteers, who collected along the way objects that had been thrown from the trains. These were mainly letters in different languages​​, even in Greek, documents, books, prayer books, often rare items, money and jewellery and the like".
The deportees had often with them, tools like small metal files or knifes to cut an opening inside the freight cars. In the fall of 1942, a group arrived with no baggage, nor did they carry money or jewellery, lest it fall into the hands of the Germans. Upon arrival at the camp, they threw themselves at the SS men and guards. Janusz Peter described that the guard Gottfried Schwarz was wounded by a Jew at the ramp and had to be treated in the hospital. During the Tomaszow-Lubelski  post-war investigations, however, no SS-man reported of resistance on the camp grounds. [They would normally not do so, partly due to their indoctrination: ["Widerstände sind da um sie zu brechen, und nicht davor zu kapitulatieren", Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf", (Resistance is there to be broken and not to capitulate) I still remember it to this day sic.] However, Polish residents from Belzec still recall that the drunken guards told them about the Jewish resistance efforts. (98) The Trawniki men also reported actions of resistance in the camp. They confirmed that some of the arriving Jews already knew the truth about Belzec and objected and were recalcitrant upon  arrival at the camp. This justified the Trawniki men to the brutal treatment of the deportees. (99)
Ref :98-statement of Miecyslaw Nieduzak, 10.3.1967, in: AIPNL, sign Ds. 338/67, investigations into labour camps for Jews in Belzec Folwark. The files and saws, which took away the Jews in transports, see Taffet, The Destruction of the Jews, page 41f.
Ref :99-statement of Mitrofan Klötz, 8.9.1965, in: StA Munich, StanW 33033/32, 103 statements from Trawniki Wachmämmer to their activities at Belzec on page 103.

 "In September 1942, the entire population of the (Kolomyja) ghetto were ordered to gather in the yard of the Judenrat, allegedly to be registered. Some 5,000 people presented themselves. In the manner commonly used by the Germans by way of "selection", approximately 300 were chosen and sent to the right – which meant life. All others, surrounded by Ukrainian militia and SS men with specially trained dogs, were herded in the direction of the railway station.
The column moved slowly towards the railway station. Apart from the sound of the scraping of thousands of feet, it was amazingly quiet. From time to time a child would cry, to be quickly silenced by its mother. There were only a few children and elderly men and women. Always amongst the weakest of the ghetto inmates, many of the youngest and eldest had perished earlier. The ghetto had been closed in early spring, and terror, hunger and disease had prowled there ceaselessly.
It was a long journey to the railway station, situated on the outskirts of the town. We waited in vain for a miracle to happen... We came to the station buildings, but we were driven on further, to the ramp, where a very long train with many cattle wagons was waiting. The doors of the wagons were already open, ready for loading. There was an odour of chlorine, which had been abundantly sprinkled within the wagons. Obedient to this point, at the sight of the train the column wavered, then with a final cry of despair, broke and dispersed. Did I scream too? If so, it was subconsciously, joining in the anguish of all around me.
Suddenly we heard shooting. An additional detachment of Ukrainian militia ran towards the ramp. Like the Gestapo, they carried long whips. The SS and militia began to attack the crowd, who were already deranged with fear. The nightmare began.
Barking dogs, cracking whips, the guttural orders of Germans and the vulgar shouts of Ukrainians: "Vorwärts, los, los, schnell, schnell!" and "Go on, you damned Jewish pigs!", the screaming voices all merging into a single yell. Attempting to avoid the beating, people quickly helped each other to climb the high steps of the cattle wagons for the assumed safety of the wagons' interiors. Wave by wave, driven on, insulted and cursed, the people rapidly filled the wagons.
When it was so full that it seemed impossible than any more could be crammed in, a drunken Ukrainian militiaman climbed into the wagon and began swinging his whip and shooting in all directions. As a result, people standing near him pushed themselves further into the wagon in order to avoid the lashing whip. Into the space thus created, another group was forced, to the accompaniment of shouting and shooting. This method of filling the wagons had been long established.
The screaming and yelling did not cease until late afternoon, when the train finally moved. To where? There was no doubt – ultimately to death.
I was in one of those wagons, along with my parents. We were still together. My parents probably thanked God that I often lost consciousness, because what was taking place inside the wagon exceeded the most vivid conception of purgatory.
How long did it last? Hours? Eternity?
Whenever I recovered consciousness I was still there – in hell. In a wagon that could hardly contain 50 or 60 people, some 200 had been packed. (...) Cries, stench, and the acrid odour of chlorine...
Through the screams and the drumming of the wheels we could hear shooting. In a moment of awareness, I realized that we were standing naked, pressed to the side of the wagon. With their intertwined arms, my parents had created a kind of shelter. It was thanks to this that I was still alive. I noticed that everybody was naked, although I remembered that we had all entered the wagon fully clothed. It was so hot that people had somehow managed to undress themselves in the midst of the crowd. Those standing in the middle were probably already dead, but were unable to fall down.
Suddenly, I felt a breath of fresh air. There was now more room around us. My mother whispered in my ear:"Do you hear me dear? If you understand what I say, just nod. Some young people managed to make a hole in the side of the wagon and they are jumping out, one by one. We have decided to do the same. First Papa will jump, then you, and finally me. The train is going through the forest now. Its night. If you make it, try to hide in the forest. Don't be afraid. We will find you afterwards..." I nodded that I understood. Before I realised what was happening, strong arms took me up and pushed me out of the wagon through a narrow hole. I was suspended for a moment, held by my armpits, choked by the blast of fresh air. I became more aware. Not for long. The arms that held me opened and I fell into a dark abyss..."
Her mother subsequently managed to assume a false identity to get a position as a maid in a local Manor House, but was unable to keep Ruta since she had no papers. Ruta decided to assume a false identity and go to the last place the Germans would think of looking for her: to volunteer for work inside Germany.
Ruta survived for the rest of the war working in various positions in western Germany; at a shoe factory, in the household of a well connected German, and at the BMW plant in Allach (near Munich). It was at this final assignment that she met her future husband,- another Pole named Witek Burak. [The German spelling of her name is Ruth. sic]

                              Continued under Part 6


Saturday, March 24, 2012

BELZEC Extermination Camp part 4

By the end of May 1942 smaller shipments from the environments of (Cieszanow, Komarov, Krasnobrod, probably from Tyszowce and Zamosc) which was when the second deportation phase began to arrive at Belzec. (60) in early June 1942 it was followed by larger transports from the Krakau district, mainly from the cities of Krakau and Tarnow. 7000-7500 Jews were deported from Krakau between the 1-8 June in four transports to Belzec. Between 11 and 18 June approximately 10,000 people came from Tarnow in three large transports to the camp.

German officials examine the pile of abandoned luggage left on the platform after the departure of a deportation train on its way to the Belzec death camp
From 18 or 19 June 1942 to 8 or 9 July 1942, the camp once again closed for any arrivals and was partly rebuilt in two weeks. The old building with the three gas chambers was demolished, and new, massive, especially larger gas chambers  were erected there by Trawniki men and Jewish prison work teams.
Ref :60-Due to the incomplete information of places at their point of loading for this period, and can not be provided in all cases, it is unclear whether they were taken to Belzec or Sobibor, which commenced operation at this time. Compare this with: Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhardt Death Camps, Bloomington, 1999, statement by Ludwik Obalak, 10.10.1945, in: APMM, photocopies, sign 1284, OKBL, sign 1604/45
The new gas chambers were solid buildings and divided into six rooms. The details of the SS men to the actual size of these rooms are contradictory,  they were probably 20-30 square meters wide. Heinrich Gley testified that the new type would have the capacity of up to 3,000 people that could be eliminated at any time.  Another SS man Heinrich Unverhau claimed on the other hand, that you could kill 1,200 people at the same time, when there were six rooms in each with 200-250 people. Werner Dubois, described that in each chamber you would fit up to 750 people. This number was also confirmed by the former inmate Rudolf Reder.
The gasification plant was expanded, however, it was still connected to the old engine, which had been used in the first phase of exterminations in the camp. The gas chambers were to resemble as before to be a shower room. Whether there were also mock shower heads is not known .. The former SS officer Karl Schluch described in his testimony, the gas chambers: "They had a friendly, light-colored paint. Whether the paint was yellowish or gray, I now can no longer remember, it may well be that the walls were painted with an oil paint . [...] the newly arriving Jews should not have guessed,  for what purpose the rooms were prepared for, but they should believe it was a bath".

Gypsy couple sitting in an open area in the Belzec concentration camp.jpg
A detailed description of the new gas chambers is narrated by Rudolf Reder, who from the 16 August to November 1942 was as a prisoner in the camp: "The building, which housed the gas chambers was low, long and wide, made of gray concrete, with a flat tar-paper covered roof (Pappdach) and wire netting, which was covered with green stuff. From the outside, three steps led into the inside, one meter wide, with no railing. In front of the building was a large vase with colourful flowers. On the wall above had been legibly written 'Bathing and Inhalation Rooms'(Bade-und Inhalationsräume) . You went up the steps into a dark corridor, which was 1.5 meters wide, but very long. It was quite empty, four concrete walls, to the left and right there  were doors to the gas chambers. The doors were made of wood, one meter wide, and opened with a wooden handle. The gas chambers were completely dark with no windows and completely empty. In each chamber could be seen a round hole the size of a[electrical sic] socket. The walls and floors were made ​​of concrete. The corridor and the chambers were lower than normal rooms, they were less than two meters high. At the opposite side of each chamber were also doors, two meters wide, through which you threw out the bodies after the suffocation. On the outside of the building was a small extension, perhaps two meters by two meters wide, in which the 'machine' was located, a gasoline engine. [Note: This statement is contrary to all previous claims that Belzec had a Diesel Engine  see part of the Gerstein Report below,sic]. The chambers were located approximately 1.5 meters above the ground, the ramp behind the doors at the same height, so that the corpses were thrown down from there to the ground ", Ref (64). Reder, Bezec, page 51
A Witness: Lt. Gerstein
He reports that on 18 August he traveled to the extermination camp at Belzec where the next day he witnessed the arrival of "45 wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were already dead on arrival.” He continues by describing the procession in front of him: “Then the procession starts moving. In front a very lovely young girl; so all of them go along the alley, all naked, men, women, children, without artificial limbs. I myself stand together with Hauptmann Wirth on top of the ramp between the gas chambers. Mothers with babies at their breast, they come onward, hesitate, enter the death chambers!” After the doors are closed, there is a technical hitch: the diesel motor will not start, but finally he writes, “After two hours and 49 minutes - the stop watch has registered everything well - the diesel starts. Until this moment the people live in these 4 chambers, four times 750 people in 4 times 45 cubic metres! Again 25 minutes pass. Right, many are dead now. One can see that through the small window in which the electric light illuminates the chambers for a moment. After 28 minutes only a few are still alive. Finally, after 32 minutes, everyone is dead!”
Presumably, during the conversion of the gas chambers, the ramp on the arrival track was extended. Rudolf Reder remembers that the deportees had to jump from a height of more than one meter from the wagons, with some arms and legs broken. He also stated that the ramp was lengthened to a total of about one Kilometer long. (65, Ibid page 46f), this seems impossible. The ramp from the camp entrance to the very end could not be more than 500 meters long.[Which is half the length he is claiming sic.] Whether additional barracks were built on the grounds of the camp is not known.
In the second phase of the camp six Jewish musicians were obliged to perform  during the arrival of the prisoners and play music on their way to the gas chamber. Their instruments were from stolen Jewish property. The camp Band of Belzec played orchestral pieces, especially "It will all pass, it's all over," (Es geht alles vorüber, es geht alles vorbei)"Three Lilies"(Drei Lilien) and the famous Polish folk song "Hey Goral does, it not harm you?".(Hey Gorale, tut es dir nicht leid) The music could be heard up into the village.
The admission procedure of transports did not change after the rebuilding of the gas chambers. It, however, increased the number of those killed. While the average number of persons per transport in the first phase was about in 1500-2500, then during the summer of 1942 the Belzec trains delivered train loads, each containing 3000-6500 people. The high point in the transport numbers was in August 1942, as the "Great Action"(Große Aktion) was held in Lemberg . From the 10 to 25 August 1942, 40000-45000 Lemberger Jews were brought to the Belzec extermination camp. From Lemberg alone the transports on an average held 6000-6500 people. During the "Great Action" in Lemberg no other transports arrived from the district of Galicia, but from the district of Krakow(Krakau), including the counties of Krosno, and Jaslo Gorlice. (68) The largest transport arrived on the 10 September 1942 from the district Kolomyia with 8205 Jews from Galicia, Kolomyia, Kosow, Sniatynia, Horodenka and Zablotow. (69)
It must be assumed that probably in August 1942 alone, some 130,000 Jews were deported to Belzec. In September 1942 the number was conservatively estimated at approximately 80,000. (70) During the hot summer months of 1942 because of the crowded transports more deaths occurred even during a short train journey. Frequently, there were over 100 people compressed into a freight car, without sufficient fresh air, water or food. (71) Even on the relatively short ones with about 80 Kilometres route between Lemberg to Belzec  many people fainted or died in the cars.

Gypsy King Kwiek at Belzec
Ref :68-Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, page 388. In comparison with other sources and publications Arad's figures appear to be in increased slightly.
Ref :69-This transport is described in, Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men. The Reserve Polizeibattalion 101 and the "Final Solution" in Poland, Reinbeck, near Hamburg, 1999, page 52-56. Published in Polish only, the memory of a woman who fled from this transport is: Ruth Wermuth,. "I met people, the story of a tragic beginning and of an unusual end". Poznan 2002 Page 10-14.
Ref:70 -As already mentioned, the research to determine the number of those deported and murdered in Belzec in each month is still pending.
Ref:71-statement Edward Luczynski, 28/01/1965. In: AIPNL, Sign 08/298, investigation files to SS crimes in the area and other Wojeodschaft Lublin, Vol.I
Tadeusz Misiewicz, an inhabitant of Belzec and then ticket seller on the local train station, recalled: "I had several opportunities to notice that the people who were brought to the site were completely naked. You could see this through the missing planks in the boxcars. The Germans had forbidden to bring the Jews drinking water to the boxcars. [...] I was told at the station in Belzec, that the Jews from a wagon in which they were taken to the death camp at Belzec, had a board torn out,  through this opening  a Jewess stuck out her head and cried for help. But it was a German policeman who with such force smashed into her face that her head was shattered. Through this hole you could see that the naked Jews sat on naked dead bodies, which was perhaps representing a quarter of those trapped inside the car".(72)
Ref :72-statement of Tadeusz Misiewicz, 14.10.1945, in: APMM, photocopies, Sign 1284, OKBL, Ds. 1604/45. In the summer of 1942, the people removed frequently their clothing in the carriage by themselves, due to the high temperatures they could not endure. In the fall of 1942 the Germans ordered the deportees to undress before entering the cars, to prevent escapes from the transports. Wermuth, Spotkalam Iudzi, page 10-14.

Kurt Gerstein
Kurt Gerstein, director of the Office of "Technical Disinfection and Health Technology" in the SS Hygiene Institute, visited in the summer of 1942 on behalf of the Reich Security Main Office, the extermination camp at Belzec. His visit with Professor Wilhelm Pfannenstiel was associated with the testing of hydrogen cyanide(Blausäure) for mass destruction(Massenvernichtung) and of Zyklon B to disinfect the clothes of the murdered in the extermination camps. Besides Belzec, Gerstein visited the camps at Treblinka and Majdanek, which at this point were not finished with their gas chambers. Although Gottlieb Hering was already camp commandant at Belzec, Gerstein was led by Christian Wirth through the camp. Probably the visit took place on 18 August 1942, at a time when daily transports of Jews from Lemberg to Belzec arrived. Gerstein observed the extermination (Vernichtung) of a Lemberger Transport and noted in his famous report that the consignment consisted of 6500 people and that 1450 had died already in transit.

Gottlieb Hering
On the methods of murder, after Gerstein's visit nothing changed . The cyanide bottles were buried in the vicinity of the camp. Perhaps they are the 26 cyanide bottles, which were found in 1971 in a sand pit behind the former camp grounds. (74) Gerstein tried to pass his knowledge of the mass murder of Jews on to foreign embassy members abroad.
Ref: 74 - The cyanide bottles were secured by the Army Engineers Unit of Chelm. After a cursory documentation, including some photos, the Demolition Unit destroyed the bottles. On these bottles, there were German inscriptions. It is known that they were produced in Berlin, unfortunately not, of which company. Along with the bottles themselves were also the remains of the boxes in which they were packed. The bottles were blown up in the fields of the village at Kornie Lubycza Krolewska into the air, see: Protocol on bottle find on the grounds of the sand pit at Belzec, in: AIPNL, acts of OKBZH Lublin, Ds. 20/67, against Helmut Kellmeyer Investigation Records, responsible for building the gas chambers at Belzec extermination camp, interview with Tadeusz Wolzyk, Chelm, 25.2.2004, in: AMMPB, interviews and reports, Sign 46. Tadeusz  Wolczyk during the destruction of the bottles was the supervising officer.

Jewish children -all perished at Belzec

Upon arrival of the transports no names, but only the number of persons were registered. When driven into the box cars the deportees were counted and the number was written in chalk on the outside of the freight wagons. Probably no transport to Belzec had a list of names of the deportees. It could be that before the deportation in Ghetto lists of names were created. To date, no list of names of deportees to Belzec was found.
How the extermination process went on after the new and improved gas chambers were functioning is described by Rudolf Reder. "After all the chambers were filled, the doors were hermetically sealed, the outside doors locked  and wedged, the engine was  started and had been served by the prisoner Moniek. , a cab driver from Krakau. (77) The motor ran for 20 minutes, then Moniek gave a sign to a machinist and turned off the engine. After the engine was stopped, the prisoners working there opened to the command of  Moniek the doors, and a couple of them with the use of straps wound around the arms pulled the bodies down from the gas chambers and dragged them to the mass graves, which had been dug with the help of machines. On the way from the gas chamber to the pit, dentists pulled from the corpses the gold teeth. [...] The air in the gas chambers was after the opening of the doors clear and odourless. In particular,  there was absolutely no smoke or combustion gas from the engine. [...] During the first period after closure of the gas chambers, horrific screams could be heard and  complaints,(Klagen) but after a few minutes there was a grave silence. It seemed to be that never after the opening of the chambers that still someone was still living. The corpses were still warm, to drown out the cries, the prison orchestra was playing from morning till night".

hackenholt 1940
Ref:77-To operate the engine, the combustion gas which was introduced into the gas chambers, was the responsibility of Lorenz Hackenbolt, who was called by the other SS men for this reason the "Gas Master".(Gasmeister) He was assisted by a Trawniki-man named Wlasiuk.[How accurate Rudolf Reder's narrative is, I leave it to others to judge, he has taken unpardonable liberties with the facts on a number of occasions.He was 61 years old and spent apparently only four months in Belsec. Or one could blame his ghost writer. Only to mention one example.
[Reder’s escape from the “death camp” is itself something of a miracle, I quote:
"I had been in this nightmare for nearly four months when, towards the end of November, Irrmann told me that the camp would need metal sheets, and a lot of them. I was swollen and blue all over. Pus ran from open wounds. Schmidt bludgeoned me about the face with a truncheon. With an ironic smile Irrmann told me that I would go to Lemberg under escort to fetch the sheets, adding 'Sollst nicht durchgehen' ['Don't try to escape']. Off I went in a lorry with one guard and four Gestapo. After loading the whole day, I stayed in the lorry guarded by one of the thugs, while the others went away looking for fun. I sat there for a few hours without moving or thinking. Then, quite by chance, I noticed that my guard was asleep and snoring. Instinctively and without a thought, I slipped down from the lorry and stood on the pavement pretending to adjust the load. Then I slowly backed away. Legionowa Street was full of people. There was a blackout. I pushed my cap down lower and no one noticed me. I remembered the address of my Polish housekeeper and went straight to her flat. She hid me. It took twenty months for the physical injuries to heal. But what of the mental wounds? I was haunted by images of past horror, hearing the moans of the murdered and the children crying, and the throb of a running engine. Nor could I wipe from my memory the faces of those German thugs. And in such a state of continuous nightmare I survived until the liberation."
Thus despite being “swollen and blue all over”, with pus running from open wounds, having suffered injuries which it took “twenty months“ to heal, 61 year old Reder was chosen by the Germans for the work of loading metal sheets! One would suspect that an old man in Reder’s condition would have been chosen for the quote of 30-40 prisoner workers allegedly killed off each day, rather than for hard work, but the legend must have it otherwise. That the SS would bring a Jewish prisoner from a secret extermination camp to a town just in order to do work that could well have been done by, for example, an Ukrainian guard, is of course perplexing in itself. Regarding the details of the escape, it may suffice to say that it reads like something from The Boy’s Own Paper or an old episode of Hogan’s Heroes.sic]

                                                                                              continued under Part 5



Thursday, March 22, 2012

BELZEC Extermination Camp part 3

In the first phase of the camp, it seemed that the gas chambers door seals were not tight and people were still alive when the doors were opened. They were then driven to the mass graves and shot. (44) Also, the elderly, infirm, unconscious and small children who were not able to run on their own without the help of their parents to the undressing barracks and gas chambers. were executed at the mass graves. The commando that was responsible for the ramp, did carry these people from the unloading ramp through a specific passage in the fence that separated the camp area, directly towards the pits. Here, the Sonderkommando took the prisoners from them, and brought them to the edge of mass graves where they were undressed. After that, Wirth had selected specific SS-or Trawniki men, who shot the defenseless. Most frequently he used the most brutal of SS men of the camp for the execution: Lorenz Hackenbolt, Reinhold Feix, Heinrich Gley, Ernst Zierke, and Karl Schluch (45)
Ref: 44, statement Edward Luczynski, 15/10/1945, in APMM photocopies, Sign.1284, OKBL, DS 1604/45.
Ref: 45, Robert J. statements, 10/11/1961, 23/11/1961 and Henry G., BArc in Ludwigsburg, B 162/208, the trial against Josef Oberhauser, Vol.8, page 1479 and 1552ff. The latter claimed that every SS man of the Camp Administration received orders from Wirth,  to shoot those, that were not in a position and not able on their own strength to go into the Gas-chambers.
Each member of the SS garrison had a function that was described in the post-war period as a "general supervision service over the camp".(Allgemeiner Aufsichtsdienst über das gesamte Lager)For specific tasks the Trawniki men were in charge as well as selected prisoners from incoming Transports.
Every morning  a roll call was attended by all prisoners (Appell),  commandant Wirth as a rule appeared in person or his deputy, Gottfried Schwarz. Both gave orders to the assembled prisoners. Wirth also personally assigned tasks to his SS- subordinate. Each had his allotted duties to run, so that the extermination process(Vernichtungsprozess) was not disturbed. This principle was a basic rule during the whole period of existence of the camp at Belzec.
Even as the Jews were in the undressing barracks and were herded into the gas chambers, a Jewish prisoner commando under the supervision of an SS member, principally led by Rudolf Kammm (later Henry Unverhau) collected the baggage of the deportees from the ramp. Thereafter, the personal belongings of the deportees from the undressing barracks were brought down on special railway tipping cars (Loren) into the former locomotive shed. This building outside of the camp served as a magazine for the stolen property of the victims. Here,  Jewish prisoners assorted, also under the direction of the SS-man Kamm, the baggage, and removed the Star of David patch which would have been the identity and evidence of a previous owner from their clothing, and searched luggage and belongings for hidden money and valuables.

Remnants of the storage shed outside of Belzec
Clothing, shoes, bags were not registered at Belzec, they were packed in special railway wagons and shipped to Lublin, probably into the camp, called "Old Airport" the main magazine of the "Aktion Reinhardt" and all items were sorted a second time. In Belzec there  was no time for the registration and re-sorting of items, since the next part of the transport was already waiting to be led into the camp. Valuables and money and pulled gold teeth on the other hand, were brought to the headquarters building(Kommandanturgebäude). They were stored at the Administration Building within the compound(Hof) in a container, the Germans called the "Pavilion". Erwin Fichtner was responsible for these treasurers, the crew members of the camp called him the "accountant" or "cashier". A former railway worker of the Belzec station reported that cash and valuables were twice a week in a specially sealed box and attached by a chain inside the railway wagon transported under escort of German soldiers by a fast train(Eilzug) to Lublin.
The first phase of the deportation to Belzec took place on 17 March 1942 to April 1942. During this time parts of the Jewish population from Galicia and the district of Lublin was deported to the camp. Every day there were two, sometimes three transports that arrived. The largest groups of Jews came from the ghettos of Lublin and Lemberg (Lvov). From these cities, until March 31, 1942 transports arrived on a daily basis at Belzec. Also trains coming from other towns of the Lublin district like (Piski, Izbica, Lubartow and Zamosc) and Galicia.[I did not indicate other places as they are too numerous sic] According to current calculations, between mid-March and mid-April 1942 about 63,000 Jews were murdered at Belzec. (50) Although the average size for a transport according to the coordinator of "Operation Reinhardt", SS Captain Hermann Höfle, was from 1000 to 1500 people, although he admitted that during this period transports with 2000 passengers such as from Piaski near Lublin or Izbica did arrive periodically. (51) From the district of Galicia there were significantly larger shipments, for example, 4000 people from Stanislawow on 31 March 1942. (52) Smaller shipments for example, came from Zhovkva with only 700. (53)
Ref: 50 These numbers, however, should be seen as a preliminary to the memorial at Belzec, who are currently working to develop on an overview of all the transports to the extermination camp of Belzec. This current summary includes the date of shipment and the number of deportees who may be in many cases, unfortunately, only one approximation of the value based on survivor reports from the respective sites.
Ref: 51, During the first "action" in the ghetto of Piaski on 23 March 1942, about 3,400 people were taken to the Belzec extermination camp, including all the Jews from neighbouring towns of Biskupice and Trawniki:see BArch Ludwigsburg, B162/208, investigation of Karl Strebel, Michael Janczak, Erwin Mittrach and others, Vol.6, page 31.
Ref: 52, Dieter Pohl, Nazi persecution of Jews in East Galicia, 1941-1944. Organisation and implementation of a national mass crime, Munich 1997, pages 190-195, Kruglov, holocosta Chronicles, page 91. The latter indicates that on 31 March 1942, 2,500 Jews were deported to Belzec from Stanislawow.
Ref: 53 Gerszon Taffet, Zaglada Zydow zolkiewskiego [The Destruction of the Jews from Zhovkva], Lodz, 1946, page 28.
The knowledge of the killings at Belzec spread quickly under both, the Polish and among the Jewish population in the vicinity of the camp. The transports stopped at the public train station of Belzec, where the regular trains halted and was therefore used by ordinary passengers. A source of information were the Polish railway workers, who drove the transports, as well as the security guards that plied in some houses at Belzec.  Soon the first escapee's appeared from the camp as well. Janusz Peter reported and wrote: "It was common news of the events in the Belzec camp which spread like the flight of birds to the surrounding villages and by the railway workers across the country. The death camp at Belzec was an open secret and was confirmed by the fact that the food supply never increased for them. They only drew just as much bread as was necessary for the camp personal, although there should have been a considerable increase in demand due to the daily arrivals of a few thousand prisoners. In a vain attempt the Germans tried to condense and improve the fence surrounding the camp with spruce, because right at the beginning the planted trees started to yellow and the needles fell off, and through the withered branches you could see inside the camp. Everyone knew what was happening inside, and now there were no more guesses, because the Askaris and SS men, who drank themselves out of their minds and were gossiping (verplapperten) every bit now and again. [.. .]
Some Christians from the neighbourhood who were caught with too much loquacity, were also brought to the camp. Almost every transport of the condemned dropped through a window or a door crack cards and letters in which they warned those who remained at home and informed them, where and under what conditions they were going. First, a certain proportion of them reached the addressee, as the finder felt obliged to put the cards into a mailbox or even stamp it. Later, the head of the German post office  instructed to destroy all non-paid letters, and even prepaid ones if the addressee appeared to be a Jew ". Ref: 54, Peter W. Belzcu, page189f

Belzec station entrance
Goeckel - stationn master belzec
Some managed to escape at this phase of the extermination camp, for example, three young men from Lublin. One of them, the 21-year-old Szmirer reported after his escape in the Lublin ghetto what was going on inside the  Belzec extermination camp. The 13-year-old  Lejb Wosztejn, who was deported from Zamosc to Belzec, did tell his story as well. Also known are the names of two women, who escaped and were transported to Belzec from Zolkiew: Mina Astman and Malka Thalenfeld. None of these experienced the end of the war.
Their reports were initially received in general with scepticism. In their home-towns at this time anyone could hardly imagine  that the National Socialists were able to such monstrous crimes.
The Polish underground movement in Lublin learned relatively quickly about the death camp at Belzec. Mid-April 1942, they were preparing a report to do so. In it they tried to estimate the number of those murdered at Belzec: "From March 17 to 13 April fifty-two transports (18 to 35 freight cars with an average of 1,500 persons) have arrived in the camp". The authors had detailed information about what was happening in the camp and the conduct of the camp staff. They knew, among other things, that the guards of the camp stole the property of the murdered in exchange in the villages to procure alcohol. However, they did not know, how and what facilities were used to eliminate people in the camp: "In what method the death of the Jews died in the camp is not known, there are three assumptions: 1.) With electricity, 2) gas, 3) by means of rarefied air, a suction pump.
To 1 - There is no suitable power source.
To 2-There was neither a supply of gas nor the interaction of gas residues by ventilation of the gasification chamber observed. Belzec angewandt wurden. kamen durch sie auch in Sobibor zum Tragen. Belzec angewandt wurden,
To 3- This assumption is contrary to anything. However, it is confirmed that the construction of walls and floors, a barrack, was covered with a thick sheet metal (probably for a particular purpose ") (57)
Ref :57-This report also gives a hint that a track of a narrow gauge railway did lead from the building of the so-called laundry room to the graves, with which the bodies were brought into the mass graves which existed indeed during the first phase of exterminations. This was dismantled in the summer of 1942. The Polish underground also knew the name and rank of the camp commandant Wirth. The report shows that the members of the underground movement gathered their Information also among the railway workers and inhabitants of Belzec. They have had also contact with the first builders on the camp site. Compare also: Explorers of the death camps at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and by the secret government agency in the country and the Home Army in: Zeszyty Majdanka 14 (1992), page 39-60.
The first phase of the extermination in the Belzec camp ended on 16 April 1942. On this day, the camp commandant Christian Wirth went with some of his men for six weeks to Berlin to report to the Chancellery of the Führer(i.e Adolf Hitler sic) to report of the work at Belzec. A week before his departure, Victor Brack from the Chancellery of the Führer, who had previously significantly  co-ordinated the euthanasia campaign, had visited Belzec. The SS men and staff were on military matters reporting and responsible to the SS and Police Leader in Lublín, Odilo Globocnik. In personnel matters, however, the Chancellery of the Führer retained the responsibility for the former employees of Aktion T4. Some men of the camp staff were transferred during Wirth's absence to the Sobibor extermination camp, which was built at this time in Wlodawa. The building methods and lay-out which were applied in March and April 1942 in Belzec came through and had a bearing at Sobibor. The establishment of the locally improved gas chambers were essentially based on the involvement of SS-men from Belzec with Lorenz Hackenbolt at the top. Until the second half of May 1942 no transports to Belzec took place, the camp was only guarded by a detachment of Trawniki men.

                                                                                                                                continued under Part 4

Monday, March 19, 2012

BELZEC Extermination Camp part 2

The Polish workers were working until Christmas 1941 at the construction of the extermination camp. At that time, SS First Lieutenant Christian Wirth arrived , he was the first commander of the camp in Belzec, was a skilled carpenter who had been working since 1913 in the police service. From 1939 he was involved in the Nazi Euthanasia-Program, during 1940 he was appointed "Inspector" of all Euthanasia Installations (Anstalten). After completion of the "Action T4" in August 1941  he moved like many others to the "Reinhardt Operation". His first step upon arrival at the camp was the release of Polish workers, he replaced them with Trawniki men and a group of 120-150 Jews, who had been arrested in the neighboring township of Lubycza Krolewska. These people had to finish the construction work at the camp. The reason for the dismissal of Polish workers may have been the growing rumors about the intended use of the new camp. How much did the population of Belzec at that time knew about the camp is difficult to assess. In any case, the Germans, who were employed in police formations or in the civil service administration in the region, the future use of the place was known. Janusz Peter, who before and during the war was chief doctor at the hospital in Tomaszow Lubelski, he collected for the Polish underground information about the camp: "The Germans built barracks and were planning to do something mysterious, none of the inhabitants of Belzec could look inside the fenced-off square, as visibility was prevented by closely planted pine trees.(spruces). The inhabitants rhymed different things together, he wrote after the war in its local history chronicle... for example, that there is an experimental station being built as the barracks were lined inside with sheet metal, or to combat diseases, a hosiery factory or a hospital for frostbite or something similar. Only when on the corners of the quadrangle watchtowers were set up, they realized that a detention camp was in the making. The  same watchtowers could be seen when you drove along the road to Majdanek near Lublin. For this reason, every inhabitant of Belzec or farmer from Zylka or other location stayed away from the threatening wires, more so when signs in German, Polish and Ukrainian language went up, after which it was forbidden under pain of death to approach the fence".

Belzec remains of the fence
Fence posts and logs at Belzec
Even before the start of the camp,  Christian Wirth ordered ten SS-men from Germany to Belzec who should form the camp staff. They had been previously involved at the Euthanasia "Action T4"  facilities(Anstalt) in Bernburg. Gottfried Schwarz was Wirths deputy in the camp, Josef Oberhauswer his "right hand" and the next assistant. (29)
[Ref:29, during the trial of Oberhauser he denied the allegation, that he had been adjutant of Wirth. He described himself as the closest collaborator(Mitarbeiter) of the camp commander and also as liaison officer between Belzec and the staff of Globocnik in Lublin, Statement Joseph O., 15/09/1960, in ibid, B 162/208. Oberhauser trial, Volume 6, page 1038].

Probably at this time was an engine of a Soviet tank dismantled, and transported to the camp. Wirth, who was known for trying out various methods of killing, experimented and tried since 1942, before the commissioning of the annihilation camp, methods of killing with gas. His subordinates Siegfried Graetschuss and Lorenz Hackenbolt, both by profession truck drivers and car mechanics converted a post delivery bus into a mobile gas chamber. Wirth selected patients from the villages within the vicinity of Belzec. From the village of Teniatyska, the Germans deported for example, five physically or mentally disabled persons. The villagers found out after some time that their relatives were taken to Belzec. Also during this time political prisoners were killed, in one instance for example from the prison which was  nearly  44 kilometers away at  Zamosec were taken to Belzec. Wirth probably experimented at this time also with cyanide(Blausäure) as a killing agent.
Even before the start of the camp about 60 guards were transferred from Trawniki, over time this number has doubled but these were were used to dig mass graves at first in the camp grounds. They were recruited from a large group of Soviet prisoners of war from the Ukraine. In order to save their lives, they consented to a transfer to the German side and were trained in the Trawniki SS training camp in which they were under the jurisdiction of SS and Police Leader in Lublin district, Odilo Globocnik. Their task was only at  first was to watch the ghettos, labor camps and military installations. With the beginning of "Operation Reinhard", ie from March 1942 they were used also during the deportation actions in some places and to guard convoys of the deported Jews to extermination camps. They also represented a significant portion of the security services in the Belzec extermination camp, and later in the death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka. Although the local population usually described them as "Ukrainians", there were also Russians and representatives of other ethnicities of the former Soviet Union, like Volga German(Wolga-Deutsche)or ethnic Germans from the Ukraine that acted as a translators and led divisions of Trawnikis-for example Christian Schmidt, who commanded a guard platoon at Belzec and at the same acted as translator. He was particular known for his peculiar cruelty. Another Soviet citizens of German origin was Karol Trautwein, who interpreted in the camp between the guards and the Germans.
Among them at Belzec were also a Georgian and a Bulgarian. Most Trawniki men spoke no German. The guard company at Belzec was divided into platoons, each of which was commanded by an ethnic German from the Soviet Union, who's German was sufficient to lead.
Between the population of Belzec and the Trawniki men contacts quickly developed that deepened when the first transports arrived in Belzec. The Trawniki men left more or less regularly and sneaked out of the camp and smuggled stolen Jewish property, which they exchanged with the local populations for alcohol or "love services". Former residents  reported contacts and intimate relationships with women that arrived from other villages as a convenient method for desirable goods in exchange for their "services". For alcohol, they had paid twice the retail price. Payment was made in Polish or foreign currencies or valuables that had been stolen. The Trawniki men were also among the first source of information about the crimes in the camp. Officially these contacts were banned, but visits among the Trawniki men in Belzec and environment was a matter of everyday life. The barracks of them were searched regularly. When they were caught leaving the camp without authorisation, they received 25 lashes. Some of them were shot as a penalty for smuggling out of valuables from the camp.

 Belzec Trawniki SS and one ethnic German on the right. Most likely a (Volksdeutscher). Neither of them does have the obligatory "Hoheitsabzeichen"(Eagle with Swastika) on their caps, only their own insignia, thus not part of any part of the German Armed Forces 
The first victims, that were killed in the gas chambers of Belzec were the Jewish workers from Lubycza Krolewska. This was probably for testing purposes in late February or early March 1942, about two weeks before the arrival of the first transport into the camp. One of the Jewish workers could watch from a hiding place in the camp, what had happened to his colleagues. After his escape, he retold the people of Belzec and the Jews from the village of Lubycza Krolewska what went on. A witness to his comments recalls. "In February 1942, the Germans from camp Belzec approached the chairman of the Jewish community in a bid to provide a dozen or so Jews for a Work Detail. (Arbeitseinsatz) They emphasized that they should bring with them spoons.and utensils. The Germans took little more than twenty Jews from Lubycza Krolewska and brought them by car to the camp at Belzec. One of the Jews, who was there, told me that they had to cut down pine trees several days in the camp, then herded them all into a barrack, but he managed to get free and hide. From his hiding place he heard the Jews screaming in the barrack for a few seconds, and then it was quiet, one must assume that this was the first attempt in  killing Jews in Belzec. I then heard that the Germans later caught the fleeing Jew and killed him".(36)Ref: 36:Statement Mieczyslaw Kudyba, 14.10.1945, in: APMM, photocopies, sign.1284, OKBL, Ds.1604/45 investigation files to the crimes in the death camp at Belzec.
Jewish work detail at Belzec

The trains stopped at the Belzec station and went from there onto a side track and dependent on the length of the train, were separated  in two or three parts of 15 to 20 cars and shunted singly onto the ramp. At the beginning  the Polish railway workers were not allowed into the camp. The German station master Rudolf Göckel, who was also responsible for documenting the transport lists, took over the train at the Belzec railway station and drove it into the camp. Later on, Polish railway workers were permitted out of necessity to attend the trains towards the camp, however, the SS men stayed with them so that they could not have a thorough look around to  what actually was going on. They were for all intense and purposes under the supervision of the station master Göckel at all times.

Jews arriving at Belzec
On the ramp they drove the people out of the freight cars and ordered them to leave their luggage behind. Overseeing the procedure was led by the camp commander and two or three SS men. During the first transports Wirth oversaw the complete annihilation process from the moment in which the cars were driven to the ramp and got the people out, until the time when the bodies were pulled out of the gas chambers, Wirth led in person by example, how, with cruelly they had to deal with these victims. On his orders, all transports should continue to be treated this way. His brutality and vulgarity also left at the SS camp staff and the Trawniki men marks, who called him "the wild Christian" or "Stuka". Disobedience of his subordinates, Wirth responded with violence. Wirth said that he threatened a few SS men with death who had asked Berlin for a transfer from Bezec. In the sources available there are no indications, however, that any SS-Man from Belzec was transferred upon his request to the Front or returned to the Reich. (39)
Ref: 39: Josef Oberhauser statement,13.12.1962 and statement Hans Girtzig 15.1.1963, in: StA Munich, StanW 33033/11, the trial against Josef Oberhauser, page 2438 and 2471
   When unloading the transports Trawniki men were also present, who would quickly drive people out of the cars. Later on Jewish prisoners worked there, who would help, especially those who's own strength were not able to do so. In addition, they moved the bodies from the transports, deceased persons that had died during the long train journeys who had succumbed to sickness or of old age. They also gathered the luggage of the deportees and stacked them first along the railway track. Initially the host (Lt. Wirth) did welcome incoming Jews with a speech that should have served their peace of mind. It said that they had came into a transit camp and would be after a bath and disinfection sent to a labor camp. The speech was probably by one of the Jewish prisoners, translated into Polish. Then the SS divided them into groups of 60-80 people who were led into the undressing barrack. From there they were driven out in a naked state through the "tube"(Schlauch) into the gas chambers. All this took place in an atmosphere of brutality and under constant driving. Victims should have no time to think about what would happen to them and not be able to fight back. The division into groups of 60 to 80 people took place only with the first transports. Later, the groups have been greater after the Germans wanted to accelerate the process quickly and efficiently. According to SS-men, the groups that came in the first phase of the camp in total was never greater than 400 to 500 people at any time,  since the pick- capacity(Aufnahmevermögen) was limited at the undressing barracks and the gas chambers were of a primitive type in the early days.(Ref.:41,Statement Karl Schluch,10.11.1961,in:ibid,page 1166)

In the Undressing Barrack, which was separated between the sexes, men, women and children, there was a place, were the deportees had to deposit their money and valuables. Former members of the SS guards(Lagermannschaft) later testified that the victims had been issued with a receipt. It is possible that these were 4 to 5 cm (Centimetre) large cement discs with punched-in high numbers on them, of which a few dozens were found during excavations at the former camp grounds in the years 1993-2000 and 2002-2004 and are now on display as part of the permanent exhibition of the Memorial to Berlzec.
First, the men were driven through the "tube" into the gas chambers. Meanwhile, the women were in the undressing barrack and had their hair cut off, then they were herded into the gas chamber barrack as well. On both sides of the "tube" were Trawniki guards that drove them through this narrow path  and not seldom used whips, rifle butts, or  sticks, there was an SS-man on duty, who should be supervising the whole operation. In the first phase of camp, this was Karl Schluch. Despite the primitive equipment, the gas chambers resembled a washing room and, therefore no negative associations with anything else crossed the minds of the victims. On the ceiling were - with great difficulty dummy shower heads installed, (42) to the end, the victim remained in the dark about their fate.. Ref: 42, Erich Fuchs testified after the war, he had told Wirth that it was not without difficulties to attach dummy shower heads to be mounted without any special installation on the ceiling. Wirth, then had him whipped and threatened to have him shot. Ultimately, the installation was built. Statement by Erich Fuchs, 28.5.1963, in ibid, page 2644f.
If all people were in the gas chamber, Lorenz Hackenholt locked together with an Ukrainian guard all the doors and started the engine. Some witnesses recall that the engine was running only for four to five minutes, others have reported up to 20 minutes. In the beginning you could hear the screams of the victims who died one by one. Then Hackenholt examined using a peep-hole, if all people were dead in the chambers. The Jewish prisoners from the Sonderkommndo then opened the doors and pulled out the bodies of those murdered. Often they had to separate mutual bodies, which had entwined in their last agony. The corpses were soiled by urine, faeces and menstrual blood. Some were lying on the floor, the rest were intertwined and still standing up. A Jewish prisoner called the "Dentist",(Zahnarzt) after the bodies were pulled out, removed the rings from her fingers and pulled out gold teeth, which were packed into cartons. (43)
Ref: 43, Karl Schluch's statement 11.10.1961, in: ibid, page 1167f. Polish witnesses mentioned during investigations in 1945 that the extermination process could take even longer in the gas chambers. The information they had received from the guards in the camp. Statements by Edward Luczynski, 15/10/1945, and Alojzy Berezowski, 12/04/1946, in APMM, photocopies, Sign 1284, OKBL, Ds.1604/45. Luczynski had first hand information. The guard Wlasiuk, who operated the gas chambers together with Hackenbolt had told him personally, how the gassings was ran.

                                                                                          continued under Part 3

Saturday, March 17, 2012

BELZEC Extermination Camp part 1

The first considerations for the establishment of an extermination camp at Belzec in southeastern Poland were considered in connection with the decision of the Reichs Leader(Reichsführer der) SS Himmler, dated 20 July 1941,  to have the District of Lublin Germanized and later the entire General Government. To accomplish this project as a "clean up"  it necessitated to remove the entire population of the Jewish and Polish communities.Thus began the planning by  the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin District, SS Brigadier Odilo Globocnik with  the Germanization of the region. At the same  time Globocnik worked during the summer of 1941 on a concept for the effective mass killing of Jews, not only in Lublin area, but for the entire General Government which came under his jurisdiction.

The decision to make Auschwitz  the place(Schauplatz)of the mass murder of European Jews was not  made later than  February 1942 while Belzec was already completed for the reception of the first transports. Although the Germans had already in the summer of 1941 in Auschwitz done experiments on the use of gas as a means of killing, however, the German-Polish historian Bogdan Musial argues that both, the decision to implement the mass murder in stationary gas chambers and the decision on the site of Belzec as a place of execution for the "Final Solution"(Endlösung)" was made at the same time, between July and October 1941. What influenced this decision making, while at that time mass shootings of Jews in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union had been in full swing, was, that  this method of slaughter required a large staffing and took a long time. Moreover, the participation in the executions of the perpetrators took a great toll on them psychologically. [Those Einsatztruppen that refused(Befehlsverweigerung) to shoot women and children were court marshaled, sentenced and as a rule finished up at Dachau KZ, very little has been written about their emotional feelings and distress.sic]  This method of murder was therefore not intended for the rapid killing of millions of Polish and European Jews. At the same time, it became clear that logistical reasons and because of the war situation it was hopeless to deport  the Jews from the General Government, let alone to transport them en mases from all over Europe, only to be shot in the Soviet Union was out of question.
In Western Europe, this method of killing was already out of deference to public opinion not an issue of debate . The use of mobile gas vans in the opinion of the murderers turned out to be too time consuming. The establishment of extermination camps in the General Government allowed first and foremost for secrecy of the crime. This appeared to the National Socialists political administration(Parteiverwaltung) particularly important and necessary in relation to the Deportation of German Jews. [Hitler did finally gave the green light to deport Reichs-Juden to the East after lengthly delays and dithering.sic] Another reason for the establishment of an extermination camp in the General Government was that the Germans were able to prevail here with impunity an occupation regime without any recall to the law,  furthermore people in the occupied countries of Western Europe, were neither exposed nor aware to the extent of the terror that existed.
Belzec was the first camp where the Nazis installed stationary gas chambers. The decision to build this extermination camp was probably already taken in September 1941, or as early as mid-October with SS lieutenant Gottfried Schwarz, SS Sergeant Josef Oberhauser and SS lieutenant Josef Niemann, the first who had been involved in"Aktion T4"  who arrived in Lublin, and who later became members of the camp's team (5) at  the end of October they were already in Belzec. Further plans for the building were probably held at a meeting on 13 October, at which Himmler, Globocnik were present as well as higher ranking SS and Police Leaders of the General Government including Hans Krüger. Ref.: (5) Statement, Josef Oberhauser 12/04/1961 in StA Munich Stan33033 / 6, Process against Josef Oberhauser, page 1194..Oberhauser testified that he arrived already in the summer of 1941 in Lublin shortly after the completion of the euthanasia program,his claim that he was ordered to Lublin, in order to establish a Ukrainian division at Belzec with the aim to collect only the Russian abandoned war material, is not true.[The researcher might be wrong as the name of the Police Chief at that time was Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, not Hans, sic]

Joseph Oberhauser at his trial
The choice of location as a site of Belzec as  the first death camp with gas chambers was mainly for logistical reasons. Belzec was situated on the railway line Warsaw-Lublin-Lemberg(then Lwów, now Lwiw  in Ukraine). 14 km from Belzec away was the railway hub Rawa Ruska, the region with the southern part of Poland during the occupation was part of the"Cracow District," from here it was planned the deportations to Belzec to be carried out as well, and were joined to the northern part of the occupied eastern territories.Through  Rawa Ruska on the Bug River you can reach Brzesc, today it is Brest in Belarus and Vilnius. The good rail link guaranteed a proportionate rapid arrival of transports to the extermination camp. A second and possibly decisive factor for the location of the camp at Belzec would have been the "Kozielsk Hill" (7)  the fact that at the foot of the hill was a railway ramp. This one belonged to the "Upper Silesia wood-industrial society"(Oberschlesischen Holz-Industrieanlagen)  and was before the First World War used for the removal of timber from the forests of the area around it. Belzec was at that time the most northernly border station of the Austrian territory since the division  (8) The ramp, after modernization was able to handle about  20 railway freight cars. The front of the ramp had sufficient space for the deportees. (9)
Ref: (7) This expressionn was used by the inhabitants of Belzec and other surrounding villages like Cieszanow about 20 km away the death camp known as "camp on the "Kozielsk"
Ref: (8) In the years 1918-1939 Belzec belonged to the district of the county of Rawa Ruska, Lemberg.Aftter the German invasion of 1939, the largest part of the village was under German occupation and thus added to the Lublin district. The boundary between German and the Soviet occupation zone, the so-called Molotov-line ran exactly on the site of the later extermination camp. You can recognize the remains of a bunker built by the Soviets as well as a German anti-tank ditch from 1940, which are each about 100 meters from the camp grounds. On the history of the place during the 1st World War and immediately afterwards, see Pavel Sygowsky, Belzec, woj. zamojskie.Historia i Rozwoj przestrzenny, Lublin 1990

Ref: (9) statement Scluch Karl, 11.10.1961, in StA Munich, StanW 33033/11, Process against Josef Oberhauser page 1161

WIRTH, Christian SS-Sturmbannführer
Inspector of all Aktion Reinhard death camps and in charge of DAW (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke) at Lublin Airfield.
After the official cessation of the euthanasia programme (September 1941) he was ordered to join the staff of SS- und Polizeiführer im Distrikt Lublin Odilo Globocnik. The experience gained by Wirth in the euthanasia institutions, his enthusiasm for National Socialism, as well as his innate cruelty were all put to use when he assumed command of Belzec and later was appointed inspector of the Aktion Reinhard death camps. Not only was he the inspector of the death camps and, in this capacity, the actual commander, but also it was he who developed the entire system of the extermination machine in these camps. It was Wirth who introduced the regime of terror and death in the Aktion Reinhard camps and influenced the daily life and sufferings of the Jewish prisoners there more than any other commander. Because of his cruelty he became known as "Christian the Terrible" by his subordinates. The killing system, as developed by Wirth, enabled the murder of tens of thousands of Jews every day in the three death camps under his jurisdiction.

Christian Wirth

Christian Wirth's driver at Belzec

Wirth was posted to Trieste (Italy) in September 1943 and commanded the SS-Einsatzkommando R, which was composed of former Aktion Reinhard members. On 26 May 1944 partisans killed Wirth near Trieste. His grave (no 716) is marked by a great cross in the German Military Cemetery at Costermano, near Verona (Italy).
THOMALLA, Richard SS-Hauptsturmführer, the Camp Belzec "Architect"
Service at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka:
"Architect" of all three Aktion Reinhard death camps and their temporary commander.Richard Thomalla was the "architect" of Belzec. On 1 November 1941 the construction of Belzec started. It ended in March 1942. At first Polish workers were used, later they were replaced by Jews from the surrounding ghettos.
Thomalla was executed by NKWD (Russian Secret Service) in Jicin, Czechoslovakia on 12 May 1945.
was a Nazi official and high-ranking member of the SA and SS. Between 1939 and 1943 he was SS and Police Leader in the General Government in German-occupied Poland and in that capacity he organized and supervised numerous acts of war crimes.On 4 October 1939, because of his ambition and his loyalty to the party, Heinrich Himmler, appointed him to as Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF East) (Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer) in the part of German-occupied Poland called the General Government. Krüger thus became one of the most powerful men in occupied Poland. Among other things he was responsible for: crushing rebellion in the extermination camps, setting up forced labor camps, the employment of police and SS in the evacuations of people from Warsaw ghettos, the execution Aktion Erntefest, the so-called "anti-partisan" fighting in the General Government, and the driving out of over 100.000 Polish farmers from the area around Zamosc. Authority quarrels with Governor General Hans Frank led to his dismissal on 9 November 1943. He was replaced by Wilhelm Koppe. The Polish Secret State ordered his death, but an assassination attempt on 20 April 1943 in Kraków failed when two bombs hurled at his car missed the target. Half a year later, he wrote in a letter, "I have lost honour and reputation due to my four year struggle in the GG (General Government) (Ich habe für meinen vierjährigen Kampf im GG Ehre und Reputation verloren.).
From November 1943 until April 1944 Krüger served with the 7th SS mountain infantry "Prince Eugen" division in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. While ostensibly engaged in anti-partisan actions in Yugoslavia, this unit became notorious for committing atrocities against the civilian population.
Later from June to August Krüger took over the command over the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord in northern Finland. From August 1944 until February 1945 Krüger was commanding general of the Fifth SS Mountain Infantry Corps. In February 1945 he was Himmler's representative at the German southeast front and in April and May 1945 he was commander of a combat unit of the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) at Army Group South (known as Army Group Ostmark after 1 May 1945). At the end of the war Krüger committed suicide in upper Austria
On October 31, 1941 Josef Oberhauser and Gottfried Schwarz went, accompanied by SS Captain Richard Thomalla of the SS Central Construction Office in Lublin and recruited about 30 Polish residents for the construction of the extermination camp. Most volunteered and were paid for their work. Of course the Germans did not inform them of the purpose of the camp. (11) They had been under the impression that another camp would be erected in the vicinity of Belzec as previously was the case, another labor camp for Jews, as it had been done in 1940 in the town. (12) The Polish workers had to level and pave the Kozelsk hill and set up the first primitive barracks, and the gas chambers.
Ref: (11) The research of Michael Tregenza, including interviews with inhabitants of Belzec and the surrounding area who were employed in the construction of the extermination camp suggests that the people were fully aware of the purpose of the camp. However, these discussions were led by Tregenza in the early '90s, when the mass murder at Belzec was generally known. Yet, if one analyzes the statements of the same people from the years 1945 and 1946, it seems that the Polish workers were not aware for what purpose they set up the barracks. Only during the camps activities did it become clear that this was an extermination camp. Ibid, pg 170f. Compare this statement of Stanilaw Kozak on 14/10/1945 and Jan Gib on 16/10/1945 in: OKBZH Lublin, ref.:1604/45, investigations of crimes in the death camp at Belzec.
Ref: (12) In addition there were Jews, Polish and German Sinti and Roma as well as some Polish farmers who had been arrested from the area for not delivering their mandatory quotas. The former prisoners had to build a tank ditch(Panzergraben) along the German-Soviet border.

The whole camp area measured about seven hectares From the beginning the Belzec extermination camp was divided into two sections, known as Camp I and II, some former SS-men referred to the section in which the ramp was a "Reception Area(Vorlager)". Also properties outside the fence of the camp, like two houses that came from the 1920s  in Lwowska Street, which had been originally built for the families of the workers at the railway station of Belzec become objects of "interest" to the SS for good reasons. In December 1941, when the first commander of the camp, Christian Wirth arrived in Belzec, they seized them for residential and administrative purposes. Until then, the SS men who supervised the construction of the camp, lodged in private homes of the Belzec population. During the occupation these properties now belonged to the German Eastern Railway, which was responsible and came under the administration of the General Government. Another object outside the camp's fence was the locomotive shed which led to the warehouses of the belongings of the victims. All these buildings were located 400 to 500 meters from the camp, as well the railway station Belzec, where the Transports arrived.
Inside the camp, across the ramp there were two undressing barracks, one for men and one for women and children. In another large shed the clothes were collected. From the undressing barracks to the gas chambers led  a kind of corridor, the Germans called the (Schlauch) "tube" and through which the victim walked or run naked towards the chambers. It was protected on both sides with a high wooden fence, behind which were the mass graves. This fence camouflaged the site and prevented the victims from knowing  that they would be gassed.

Two photos showing the construction of the Belzec camp
The first gas chambers were made of wood and very primitive. The Polish worker Stanislaw Kozak from Belzec, who was involved in the construction, described it:.. "On 1 November 1941 we started to work with the construction of the barracks on the part that bordered on the siding of the railway line, a hut, which was 50 meters long and 12.5 meters wide, which was located directly next to the track, that was the waiting room for the Jews who would be working in the camp. A second hut about 25 meters long and 12.5 meters wide was intended for the Jews, who were to go into the showers, in addition to this hut we built a third one of 12 Meters long and 8 meters wide, this was divided into three parts with wooden walls, so that each part was four Meters wide and eight Meters long the height was two Meters, the inner walls of these barracks we done like this:.. we nailed two boards together and filled the space with sand. These walls were then covered with cardboard, also the floors and walls up to a height of 1,10 meter were then lined with galvanized steel sheets. [...]
From the second to the third hut that lead to a covered corridor, two meters high, two meters wide and some ten meters long.  This corridor led through into the hall of the third hut. From there three doors leading into the three-part of barrack. Each part of the hut had a door on the north side, which is about 1.80 meters high and 1.10 meters wide. These doors, as well as the doors of the Corridor were sealed with rubber gaskets. All these doors opened outward. They were built of massive wooden beams and interlocked by wooden cross bars so that they could not be broken from the inside. These wooden bars were placed into two iron brackets that had been mounted there for this purpose [...] Along the northern side of the hut as mentioned was a ramp made ​​of wooden planks at a height of 1 meter and placed along the ramp on a narrow gage railway track, that led into the pit that was dug out by the "blacks" (15) and was located in the northeastern corner of the camp".
Ref: (15) The Trawniki men that were at Belzec were known as "blacks"(Schwarze) or "askaris"by the local population,(at that stage they did wear black uniforms). The Germans called them "Hiwis"(Hilfswillige)="willing to help"
In order to introduce gas into the gas chambers pipes may have been installed that were connected to an engine that came from a Soviet tank and probably was sent from Lemberg.  The gas supply was probably not installed until after December 1941 when the Polish workers were no longer employed at the site of the future camp None of them remembers a motor.
Outwardly, the camp was fenced with barbed wire, only at the level of the ramp was a three-meter high wooden fence set up and camouflaged  with branches. This was meant to shield the camp from the looks of the passengers on trains that were running by as the regular train line ran parallel to the ramp. In the vicinity of the gas chamber, a watchtower with machine gun position and a spotlight was erected, illuminating the whole camp site. Four other towers stood at the corners of the camp, a fifth was at the camp gate, which guarded the entrance while fright cars went through with the deportees on their way to the ramp.
Just behind the gate and the guard-hut in the so-called camp area I there were three barracks for the Trawniki guards. The barrack located closest to the camp gate was used as accommodation, the one in the center as a kitchen and dining room. In the third, there was a barbershop, a clinic and a dental treatment room for the guards, where Jewish prisoners were working. The roll call square located in front of the barracks was used for both the guards and for the Jewish inmates of the camp.
The barrack accommodation and the kitchen for Jewish prisoners from the Sonderkommando were in the area of the extermination part of the camp, near the gas chambers and mass graves. The second group of Jewish prisoners who worked in different functions within the commandos and had to perform outside of the camp was, however, in the vicinity of camp I, and located at the end of the ramp. This was to prevent the prisoners from the Sonderkommando could come in contact  with the inmates of the labor detachments. Initially, the Jewish prisoners were exchanged frequently, often they were shot after a few days. The most common rotation took place in the Sonderkommando. It is probable that camp commandant Wirth decided to copy the example of Sobibor in late May 1942, that a group of Jewish prisoners would be more valuable alive then to teach new arrivals from scratch. About the Jewish Sonderkommando there is little known because only two reports from former prisoners have been handed down, but they came later into the camp. As the prisoner treatment was designed along the lines of that at Sobibor, comparison can only be gained from the statements of those survivors.
All camp sections: the extermination area with gas chambers and mass graves, the area for the Trawniki men, and the area of the Jewish prisoners were fenced off with barbed wire from each other, which was also camouflaged. A fence was also erected for reason of concealment​​ between the area of the undressing barracks and the area of the gas chambers.
The members of the German staff lived outside the camp grounds.The properties near the railway station which were  taken over by the SS during 1941was used by the camp commandant as his private residence as well as the Camp's Administration Office(Lagerkommandantur).

Belzec Kommandantur
In the neighboring house lived most of the SS team. Even an old mill which had belonged before the war to the Jewish family Kessler, was used to accommodate staff members. Near the railway houses an additional hut was erected,  which was furnished as an apartment for one SS man. In another part of this hut Jewish women were housed who worked in the camp as laundresses. Along the road between the German-occupied houses and the railway tracks was a small wooded area with a bunker that was used as a detention block for Trawniki men.

An Ukrainian Guard on the staff of the Belzec camp, posing in front of the flour mill used as an assembly place for Jews deported to the camp.
Some of the SS-men mentioned in this narrative:
OBERHAUSER, Josef SS-Untersturmführer
From November 1941 until 1 August 1942 in Belzec as contact to the Lublin office without a special task but leader of guard platoon. On 1 August 1942 ordered to Wirth's office. He became chief of the Ukrainian guards in Lublin. Accompanied Wirth on his inspection tours of the three camps (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka).
Promoted SS-Untersturmführer on 20 April 1943 because of his "merits" in the course of Aktion Reinhard.
In Autumn 1943 ordered to Italy where he was promoted SS-Obersturmführer on 30 January 1945. Captured by British troops in May 1945 in Bad Gastein (Austria).
Sentenced to 15 years in prison by Landgericht Magdeburg. Amnesty on 28 April 1956. Casual labourer and waiter in Munich. Then sentenced to 4 years and 6 months by Landgericht München in 1965.
NIEMANN, Johann SS-Untersturmführer
Served in Belzec as SS-Hauptscharführer before he was permanently posted to Sobibor.
As a soldier in the Waffen-SS, he served several times in 1942 as acting commander in this camp. From early 1943 he occupied the post of camp commander permanently. He was responsible for the events in Camp III. Promoted SS-Untersturmführer after Himmler's visit to the camp on 12 February 1943.
During the Sobibor revolt he was the first SS-officer to be killed at the dressmaking barrack.
SCHWARZ, Gottfried SS-Hauptscharführer, promoted to SS-Untersturmführer after Aktion Reinhardt
Deputy commander and head of the gassing squad from Winter 1941. Himmler praised him as one of the most meritful men of Aktion Reinhard.
According to Erich Fuchs he served also at Sobibor.
After Belzec / Sobibor commander of the Dorohucza labour camp, then ordered to Trieste in Italy (Einsatz R). He was killed in San Pietro (Istria / Italy) in 1944. Buried at the German military cemetery at Costermano near Verona (grave no. 666)
.SCHLUCH, Karl Alfred SS-Unterscharführer
Schluch was in Belzec from June 1942 until early summer 1943. He served as a guard at the ramp, and accompanied the naked Jews through the Schleuse (sluice) to the gas chambers.
After Belzec to Poniatowa labour camp. In autumn 1943 to Italy, where he fought against partisans, probably in the frame of "Aktion R".
At the end of war he was arrested by US troops, but released on 6 July 1945. Until 1948 agricultural worker, from 1948 - 1952 construction worker. From 1952 male nurse again, at the hospital in Bedburg-Hau.

  Equivalent Ranks of the SS compared withe the Wehrmacht, which seems to be confusing to some readers:   
Reichsführer-SS / RFSS     =     General of the army
SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS / Ostgruf     =     General
SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS / Ogruf     =     Lt General
SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS / Gruf     =     Major General
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS / Brigaf     =     Brigadier General
SS-Oberführer / Obf     =     Senior Colonel
SS-Standartenführer / Staf     =     Colonel
SS-Obersturmbannführer / Ostubaf     =     Lt Colonel
SS-Sturmbannführer / Stubaf     =     Major
SS-Hauptsturmführer / Hstuf     =     Captain
SS-Obersturmführer / Ostuf     =     1st Lieutenant
SS-Untersturmführer / Ustuf     =     2nd Lieutenant
SS-Sturmscharführer / Stuscha     =     Sergeant Major
SS-Hauptscharführer / Hscha     =     Master Sergeant
SS-Oberscharführer / Oscha     =     Technical Sergeant
SS-Scharführer / Schaf     =     Staff Sergeant
SS-Unterscharführer / Uscha     =     Sergeant
SS-Rottenführer / Rttf     =     Corporal
SS-Sturmmann / Strmm     =     Lance Corporal
SS-Oberschütze     =     Private 1st class
SS-Schütze= Private

Aerial photo and surroundings of Extermination Camp Belzec 
                                                                   Continued under Part Two