Reconstruction Treblinka: The Living Camp

The living camp housed the German and Ukrainian supervisory and guard forces as well as the Jewish slave laborers (the Arbeitsjuden). Jewish prisoners performed all of the tasks associated with processing the incoming convoy's belongings as well as camp maintenance and construction. The prisoners were housed in a large U- shaped barracks just north of the reception area. This part of the living camp was enclosed by fencing and the prisoners were locked in every night. The area included an 'Appelplatz', or roll call square.

The living camp was rigorously segregated from the death camp. The system of compartmentalization included visual aspects - with earth mounds and pine boughs woven into the security fencing to prevent seeing into the death camp - to insulating the Jewish slave labor from their fellow prisoners in the Totenlager. The SS and Ukrainian forces had their own support facilities - buildings for medical, messing, storage and other purposes. There were also workshops, and stables. The living camp also held a small work force of Polish women who cooked for the SS contingent and had days off as though they worked in an ordinary milieu. (Reference 19, p166) These women required housing. There was even a recreational site consisting of a zoo. The latter was a building built in a central location that was bordered with a decorative birch fence. It had rustic settees scattered about, and the menagerie included foxes and various birds. There was a dovecote on the roof of the zoo's building. All of these facilities, under the direction of Commandant Stangl, were subject to decorative improvements by the Jewish slave laborers. Sereny, in her interviews with Stangl quotes him saying that the camp "became really beautiful", with flowerbeds and colorful paint schemes. (Reference 19, p166)

The primary task in reconstructing Treblinka's appearance was to locate as many of the buildings as possible which served the purposes described above. To this end, the first analysis I conducted was to identify the buildings visible on the aerial photographs by correlating the aerial images with the corresponding images captured by Franz's ground based camera. Here, the methods followed the techniques described in Appendix A - Identifying The Kurt Franz Camera The first stumbling block was to overcome confusion caused by an erroneous identification of the bakery as a Ukrainian settler's house, A number of accounts of the dissolution of Treblinka state that at the end the gas chambers were pulled down and the bricks used to construct a house for the Ukrainian guard recruited to serve as a farmer and guard. In fact, aerial photography shows conclusively that all but one of the buildings present in May of 1944, when Poland was still under German control, can be seen in Kurt Franz photos taken in 1942 and 1943. The exception is a large wooden building which seems to have been a barn and which was burned down after the Russians overran the region in August 1943.