Appendix D - Ash Disposal and Mass Graves at Treblinka

The Ash Removal

In March of 1943, the opening of the mass graves began. The dead were disinterred, removed to the grates and burned. After the incineration, the ashes which had fallen through were removed by the ash kommando and then sifted with any remaining bones pulverized by hand or returned to the fires for further reducing. The photograph in Figure D1
provides a glimpse of one of the mass graves which has just been opened. Judging from of the clothing worn by the SS on the right and the prisoner standing in the pit, the picture must have been taken in late winter. The sun is fairly high, above 30 degrees, an angle it does not reach at Treblinka's latitude until March (at noon 15 March, the sun's elevation is 35.5 degrees). This assessment would agree with the date when Treblinkas' graves began to be opened and the corpses burned. However, the most important feature of the photograph is in the background. There one can see anomalous heaps of dark colored material. These are believed to be ash piles; they are spaced about as one would expect so as to keep the ashes discrete until they can be sieved and any unconsumed bones destroyed.

Another Kurt Franz photograph also contains images of probable ash heaps. This picture and an enlargement of it are shown in Figure D-2.
These piles are visible in three other snap shots taken by Franz. In all of them one can see the same sort of heaps. All the photos show members of the Jewish work force. Three of them can be seen at the right edge of the photograph. One is standing, two appear to be bent over. Theirs is the task of sieving for bones and of crushing the remnants. In another picture taken at the same position as the one above, but at a slightly different time is in Figure D-3. Here, the image of a driver and a horse is enlarged in the inset. This picture is of interest because it indicates that the method of transporting the ashes from the pits to the sites, where they were sieved, was some sort of cart or sled. This would make sense because a horse drawn conveyance would be much more efficient than transport by wheel barrow.

Burial Pits

A mass grave can be seen close up in Figure D-1. It is evicent in the picture that the horizons caused by the layering of different colored soils. These horizons can also be seen in other Kurt Franz pictures and they serve to reveal grave pits at a greater distance. They can be seen in figures D4 and D5. An enlargement of the area in which layering can be seen may be found in Figure D-5. The white arrows in D4 point to a deep excavation. The two pictures in the figure compose an inadvertent stereo pair. Viewing the image in this mode permits one to see the small region common to the two images in relief. A nearly vertical wall rises in the v-shaped area framed by the soil being excavated. Layering can also be seen. Figure D5 is an enlargement and the entire extent of an excavation can be seen. In this image the layering is not really visible, although the rim of the excavation is easy to see. It turns out that the grave appearing in these last two figures is the same one.

All the locations and taking directions of the Kurt Franz snapshots were identified. This proved possible because of the tree line and fencing which was captured in all the pictures. For example in Figure D4, the black arrow indicates an easily recognized pine tree. This feature And the other nearby trees were used to align and position the individual frames to each other. In addition, the posts for the security fence line just in front of the tree line were visible in many of the pictures. These afforded a scaling measure, so that the cameras distance to the tree line could be roughly calculated. The results are shown in Figures D6 Through D8.