Location: Treblinka, Masovian Voivodeship
Treblinka Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom
Kosow Lacki 76
Tel. 025 781 1658
Open: 9am- 6:30pm daily
Nov- March: 9am- 4pm
Treblinka Extermination Camp is a former Nazi German concentration camp situated near a small village of Treblinka in Masovian Voivodeship in North- East Poland. Treblinka Concentration Camp was build in April- July 1942. It was part of the Final Solution inspired by Himmler, one of the most prominent aides of Adolf Hitler. Extermination of everyone who didn't fit racial, religious or ideological dogmas of the Third Reich was the main purpose of its establishment. During its operational history between 22 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 about 800,000 to 1,200,000 were murdered under supervision of SS- Totenkopfverbande (Death Skull Squad).
The order to build the Treblinka extermination camp was given by SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler to the head of the Warsaw District SS Arpad Wiegand on April 17, 1942. The construction of the camp began in late May 1942.
The camp area was 24 hectares, it was surrounded by a double fence 3 meters high, as well as a moat 3 meters deep. The first 3 gas chambers with an area of 48 m² were built on the same principle as in the Sobibor death camp. On July 22, 1942, the eviction of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto and the eastern regions of the Warsaw region to the Treblinka-I camp began.
In August-October 1942, ten additional gas chambers were built with a total area of 320 m².
The camp staff consisted of 30 members of the SS and about 100 Wachmans - Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Bulgarians, Poles, residents of Asian Soviet republics. Basically, the protection consisted of prisoners of the former Red Army soldiers.
Currently, Polish historians are creating a list of those responsible for the killings in Treblinka. Survivor in Treblinka Samuel Wilenberg said in an interview that the guards consisted of “SS” (“SS”) and “Ukrainians”, and the former “kept separate from the Ukrainians and also watched them”, as “they could not be left without control”.
From the victims, until the last moment, they concealed that death awaited them. This allowed in most cases to prevent acts of resistance. Many Jews from Western and Central Europe arrived at the camp on ordinary passenger trains (according to the tickets they bought), hoping that they would be taken to a new place of residence. Jews from Eastern Europe were brought in clogged freight cars, under guard, without giving water and food.
After being filled with people, exhaust gas from the engine of a heavy tank was fed into chambers disguised as showers (another way was pumping air from the chambers). Death came from suffocation within half an hour. The bodies of those killed were first buried in large collective graves, but in the spring of 1943, after visiting Himmler’s camp, cremation furnaces were installed in the camp. Himmler ordered all the bodies of the dead to be dug up and burned, and for the newly killed to be burned, not buried.
On August 2, 1943, in Treblinka-2, those prisoners whose lives were temporarily saved to ensure the functioning of the camp raised a carefully planned uprising, as a result of which some of them managed to escape, and 54 were able to testify after the territory came under the control of the anti-Hitler coalition. But many prisoners were captured and killed. The camp itself, as planned by the Nazis, was liquidated, the remains of the structures were dismantled, the territory was seeded with lupins. Among the few surviving participants in the uprising were Samuel Wallenberg, who wrote the book The Uprising in Treblinka (died February 20, 2016 in Israel) after the war, and Richard Glazar, who left the recollections of Hell Behind the Green Fence.
After the war
In search of gold and jewelry, Polish peasants dug up the remains of Jews from mass graves near Treblinka. Historian Jan Gross argues that "looting during the Second World War was massive in Poland."
V. S. Grossman in his book “Treblin Hell” concludes the reasons that prompted Himmler to personally visit Treblinka and give an order to cremate the bodies, despite the complexity of this procedure: “There was only one reason - the Stalingrad victory of the Red Army. Apparently, the force of the Russian strike on the Volga was terrible if, after a few days in Berlin, for the first time they thought about responsibility, retaliation, and reckoning, if Himmler himself flew by plane to Treblinka and ordered to immediately notice the traces of crimes committed sixty kilometers from Warsaw. Such an echo caused a mighty blow by the Russians to the Germans on the Volga. ”
Some of those responsible for the killings were brought to trial: in 1951, a court in Frankfurt sentenced Heathreiter to life imprisonment. Two processes took place in Dusseldorf (Germany). At the first trial (October 1964 - August 1965), ten SS men were tried. The deputy commandant of the camp, Kurt Franz, and three other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, five to sentences of three to 12 years, and one was acquitted. At another trial (May-December 1970), former camp commandant F. Stangl, arrested in Brazil and extradited to Germany, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
List of some famous prisoners
Korczak, Janusz (1878-1942) - Polish teacher, writer, doctor and public figure of Jewish origin. He was executed along with pupils from the orphanage "House of Orphans" on August 5 or 6, 1942.
Pullman, Simon (1890-1942) - Polish musician, violinist, conductor, music teacher, founder and leader of a music ensemble and chamber orchestra.
Zamenhof, Sofya Lazarevna (1889-1942) - Polish Esperantist, daughter of Lazarus Zamenhof.
At the site of Treblinka-2 camp, a monument-mausoleum and a symbolic cemetery were built.
In Tel Aviv, at the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery, a memorial was erected in memory of the victims of the Treblinka death camp.