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Treblinka Extermination Camp

Below you can see photographs taken at Treblinka at the time of World War II. next >>

Photographs courtesy of the USHMM, except where noted.


Jews from Przyrow are deported
to the Treblinka extermination camp.
Czestochowa, Poland, September-October 1942.


Jews load a barrel of water for the trip to
Treblinka onto a deportation train in Skopje.
Skopje, Yugoslavia, March 11- 29, 1943.

Courtesy of the USHMM and the Central Zionist Archives.

The camp of Treblinka was located 62 miles northeast of the Polish capital Warsaw, near the village of Malkinia Gorna, 1.5 miles from the Treblinka railroad station. The camp was organized in two subdivisions: Treblinka I and Treblinka II.

Treblinka I was a forced labor camp and administrative complex in support of the death camp. Treblinka I operated between 1941 and 1944. In this time half of the 20,000 inmates died from execution, exhaustion, or mistreatment. Treblinka I inmates worked in either the nearby gravel pit or irrigation area.

  Treblinka II was a Nazi German extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II. Between July 1942 and October 1943, around 850,000 people were killed there, more than 800,000 of whom were Jews, including several thousand Gypsies and 2,000 Romani people.

The camp was closed after a revolt during which a few Germans were killed and a small number of prisoners escaped.

Distant view of smoke from
the Treblinka extermination camp,
set on fire by prisoners during a revolt.
This scene was photographed
by a railway worker.
Treblinka, Poland, August 2, 1943.
Courtesy of the USHMM and
Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz.


Scene during the deportation of Jews
to Treblinka extermination camp.
Lom, Bulgaria, March 1943.

Courtesy of the USHMM and the Central Zionist Archives.

Treblinka I was further divided into two parts: The first part was the administrative section, which included barracks for the SS-Totenkopfverbande guards, the camp commanders' quarters, a bakery, a storage and barracks for up to 800 prisoners who were used to operate the camp.The second section of Treblinka I was the receiving area where the railroad extended from the Treblinka station into the camp. There were two barracks near the tracks that were used to store the belongings of prisoners; one was disguised to look like a railway station, complete with a wooden clock. There were two other buildings about 100 meters from the track. All of the buildings were used to contain the clothing and belongings of the prisoners. One was used as an undressing room for the women, who were also shorn of all of their hair. There was a cashier's office which collected money and jewelry for "safekeeping". There was also an "infirmary," where the sick, old, wounded and already dead were taken. It was a small barrack painted white with a red cross on it. There, the prisoners were led to the edge of a ditch where bodies were continuously burning. They had to strip naked and then sit in the edge of the pit before they were shot in the back of the head. Then they fell in the ditch and burned.

Treblinka II was on a small hill. From camp one there was an uphill path (cynically called Himmelstraße—the Road to Heaven—by the SS) lined with barbed wire fences--der Schlauch, "the tube"—which led directly into the gas chambers  building. Behind this building there was a large pit, one meter wide by twenty meters long, inside which burned fires. Rails were laid across the pit and the bodies of gassed victims were placed on the rails to burn. There was also a barrack for the prisoners who operated camp II.

At the very beginning, people were buried in mass graves or piled up in camp II because the workers did not have time to bury them. The stench from the decomposing bodies could be smelled up to ten kilometers away.

Many of the soon-to-be-murdered Jews waiting in the railway wagons correctly guessed what would happen to them; thousands instead chose suicide in the trains over death at the hands of the Nazis. In September 1942, new gas chambers were built. These death chambers could kill three thousand people in two hours.


Jews assembled in the Siedlce ghetto during deportation to the Treblinka camp, forced to march toward the railway station.
Siedlce, Poland, August 21-24, 1942.

Courtesy of the USHMM and the
Instytut Pamieci Narodowej.


Under guard, Jewish men, women, and children
board trains during deportation from Siedlce to
the Treblinka extermination camp.
Siedlce, Poland, August 1942.

Courtesy of the USHMM and the Dukumentationsarchiv
des Oesterreichischen Widerstandes.

Arriving by train, victims were pulled from the train, separated by gender, and ordered to strip naked. In winter, the temperature often dropped to -20 °C (-5 °F). The guards chose who would go to the "infirmary." Jews who were too resistant to the process were taken to the infirmary and shot. Women had their hair cut off before going into the gas chamber.This hair was used in the manufacture of hair-yarn socks for 'U'-boat crews and hair-felt footwear for the Reichs-railway" to quote from a directive sent to all concentration camp commanders in 1942.

The gas chamber had portholes through which the Germans could watch the victims die. The victims were gassed with carbon monoxide generated by diesel engines. After the gassing of the victims in the gas chamber, when the doors of the gas chamber were opened, "the disfigured, bitten prisoners, with ears torn off, lay on top of each other in the most varied posture." The bodies were initially buried in large mass graves; in a later stage of the camp's operation, they were burned on open-air grids made of concrete pillars and railway tracks. Sometimes, the people were not dead and began to revive in the fresh air, especially pregnant women. They were shot by the guards and burned like the others. Some 800–1,000 bodies were burned at the same time, and would burn for five hours. The incinerator operated 24 hours a day.

The killing centers had no other function, unlike concentration camps where prisoners were used as forced labor for the German war effort. The camp was disguised as a railway station to prevent incoming victims from realizing their fate, complete with train schedules, posters of destinations and what appeared to be a working clock (in reality, a prisoner would move the hands to the approximate time before each convoy arrived).

The camp and the process of mass murder is described by Vasily Grossman, a Jewish correspondent serving in the Red Army, in his work "A Hell Called Treblinka," which was used as evidence and distributed at the Nuremberg Trials.

On August 2, 1943, the prisoners in the work details rebelled. They seized small arms, sprayed kerosene on all the buildings and set them ablaze. In the confusion, a number of guards were killed but many more prisoners perished. Of 1,500 prisoners, about 600 managed to escape the camp, but only 40 are known to have survived until the end of the war. There was also a revolt at Sobibor two months later.

After the revolt, Treblinka ceased operation. Camp commander Kurt Franz recalled during his testimonies:

"After the uprising in August 1943 I ran the camp single-handedly for a month; however, during that period no gassings were undertaken. It was during that period that the original camp was leveled off and lupins were planted."

The camp had been badly damaged during the uprising, and the murder of the Polish Jews was also largely complete. It was decided to shoot the last of the Jewish prisoners and shut down the camp. Odilo Globocnik wrote to Himmler:

"I have (on October 19, 1943), completed Operation Reinhard, and have dissolved all the camps." The final group of about thirty Jewish girls at Treblinka was shot at the end of November.



Text adapted from Wikipedia.


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