Reconstruction of Treblinka: Geography of the Locale
The Treblinka extermination camp was built in northeastern part of the General Government portion of Poland (Figure1). The General Government was the rump state that remained after the Germans had annexed the northern and western parts of pre war Poland and had assigned the eastern portions of the country to be administered as parts of the other conquered Reichkommissariats Ostland and Ukraine.
The immediate area of the camp is shown on the modern map in Figure 2. The camp's namesake, the village of Treblinka, is about 10 kilometers south of Malkinia, a town located on the main Warsaw-Bialystok railroad. During WW II, a junction at Malkinia took another rail line south to Siedlce. A spur line was built Off the Malkinia-Siedlce railroad line southeast of Treblinka village (the rail line to Siedlce no longer exists today, but the right of way is indicated on the highway map by a dashed black line). The line ran to a penal colony built in early 1941. This camp was called Treblinka 1, and served as a punishment camp for Jewish and Polish prisoners.
Construction of the Treblinka extermination camp was begun in May or June 1942 by two German firms contracted to do the building. The camp was erected on the east side of the branch serving Treblinka 1. A short siding was laid into the extermination camp on to which the transports of the doomed victims would be shunted. Traces of this siding can be seen on the May 1944 aerial photograph.
Treblinka was remarkably small - approximately 700 by 1500 feet [210 x 450 meters] at the longest and widest parts - encompassing some 53 acres [21 hectares]. In the photograph of Figure 3,
the light toned area on the south is the site of the Totenlager, or death camp. The light tones are representative of the sandy soils in the region. These were exposed during the camp's operation. At the beginning mass burial pits were excavated, filled with corpses and covered again with soil. In early 1943, the pits were opened, the dead removed and the remains burned on open air grates. After the graves had been emptied, the ashes were mixed with soil and reburied. The camp was razed in November 1943 and serious attempts were made to erase all traces of its existence. The aerial photograph in Figure 3 documents the state of the camp in May 1944, when eastern Poland was still under Nazi control. The Red army did not overrun the area until late August or early September, when advance units of the Red Army swept past and reached Warsaw in August, 50 miles [80 kilometers] away (see
Appendix C - Military Operations, 1944). The camp's namesake, the village of Treblinka, is located approximately 4-5 kilometers to the north (cropped from the photograph in Figure 3) and contained the railroad station. A view of the area taken looking northwest towards Treblinka village is presented in Figure 4.