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Treblinka - Extermination camp


Stones commemorating the nearly one million dead of Europe's Jewish population at this death-camp

       Treblinka was one of the main extermination centers during WW II. It was located between the Polish towns of Siedlce and Malkinia, 62 M (100 KM) northeast of Warsaw, Poland. There were two camps, Treblinka I and II. Treblinka was located about 2 1/2 M (4 KM) from the railway station. Treblinka I was opened in December 1941 as a medium forced-labor camp. A second, larger and ultra secret camp referred to as T. II - Treblinka II in official dispatches, was located one mile from the first and opened in July of the year 1942 as an extermination camp for Jews marked for the Final Solution. From July 1942 to September 1942, three hundred thousand Jews were transported from Warsaw to Treblinka. Toward the middle of May 1943 the entire population of the Warsaw ghetto was rounded up and deported to Treblinka or to one of the other death camps around. By 17 January 1945, the date when Soviet troops liberated Warsaw, it is estimated that between seven to nine hundred thousand Jewish men, women, and children were exterminated at Treblinka.

       After they were unloaded from the arriving railway freight cars, the victims at Treblinka II were separated by sex, stripped of clothing and other possessions, marched into buildings containing "bathhouses," and gassed with carbon monoxide poison piped in through ceiling pipes camouflaged with shower heads. Lethal poison was produced by diesel engines. From information that an additional ten larger gas chambers were built it may be assumed that the Nazis later used the poisonous gas Zyklon-B, although this can not be confirmed. Death in the chambers was calculated to occur within fifteen to twenty minutes, but sometimes it would take much longer, especially in the larger chambers that were constructed later. Diesel engines often failed thus adding more suffering to the victims. The staff at both Treblinka I and II was made up of thirty SS officers and two to three hundred Ukrainians belonging to the SS auxiliary services. They used and abused between one thousand to fifteen hundred Jewish prisoners called Sonderkommandos - Special Work Units who were recruited from among the younger men. After having been brought to a state of emaciation, they were frequently killed and replaced by men from new transports. The latter removed gold teeth, dentures, and other valuables from the corpses. They were forced to transport the remains to mass graves for burial, and later were forced to exhume and burn the victim's remains on iron grates in an attempt to cover up the Nazi crime.

Treblinka Memorial with the text "Never Again"           photo: Universität Heidelberg


       On 2 August 1943 a group of about 325 Jewish prisoners of one Sonderkommando - Special Work Unit rose up in a planned revolt, killing a number of Ukrainian guards and one SS officer but the effort mostly failed because of confusion and because the timing was off. Most of the one hundred and seventy-five or more who managed to escape were eventually killed or captured again and, of course, killed. In total, between sixty to seventy survivors were recognized after liberation. Still, the rebellion and subsequent escape from Treblinka, along with several other acts of resistance and heroism within these killing centers, were great and worthy phenomenon. These took place while hundreds of thousands others systematically were murdered.