Ziel Treblinka / "Final Destination Treblinka"

By Stephen Potyondi

As part of the greater Nazi effort to exterminate the Jews of Europe, the Treblinka concentration camp was second only the the more famous Auschwitz-Birkenau in terms of deadliness. With thousands of cattle cars stocked to the gills with Polish Jews converging on it day after day for months on end, its facilities orchestrated the annihilation of at least 800,000 of them, and quite likely more. All this we know from what remains of eyewitness testimony and physical evidence despite Nazi efforts to destroy both, and most especially train schedules whose 'final destination' declarations take on a macabre connotation with the understanding of what really occurred at the end of the line.

Before continuing, it must be noted that this paper is not intended to be an exhaustive exegesis of Treblinka. I have written it to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that Treblinka was an extermination camp devoted to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews within the framework of the Final Solution. Any shortcomings of detail, therefore, must needs be remedied by reference to other treatises.

Massive and systematic executions at the Treblinka camp fell under the aegis of Aktion Reinhard (alternatively Einsatz Reinhard and Aktion Reinhardt), a facet of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" (Endlösung der Judenfrage) devoted to physically exterminating the Jews of the Generalgouvernement of former Poland. A brief treatment is therefore in order. Its principal organiser and commander was Odilo Globocnik, a ranking member of the Schutzstaffel from 1 September 1934 onward and a recurring name in this history.

On 9 November 1939, Heinrich Himmler, both overseer of the newly annexed Polish territories and director of the Final Solution, appointed Globocnik to the position of SS and police chief for the Lublin district (SS- und Polizeiführer für den Distrikt Lublin). Globocnik demonstrated very early that he was a fervent supporter of Himmler's "General plan for the East" (Generalplan Ost) to resettle the Lublin area with volksdeutsche [ethnic German] immigrants and to extirpate its Jews to that end. So much so that on 17 July 1941, he was appointed as Plenipotentiary for the Construction of SS and Police Strongpoints in the new Eastern Area (Der Beauftragte des Reichsführers-SS für die Errichtung der SS- und Polizeistützpunkte im neuen Ostraum). His zeal is attested to by his contemporaries, including Jakob Sporrenberg, Globocnik's successor as Lublin SSPF after the former's departure for Trieste in 1943, among others.1 Rudolf Höß, kommandant of Auschwitz, wrote in his Krakow jail cell that Globocnik had concocted:

fantastic plans of bases stretching all the way to the Urals .... He didn't see any difficulties here and rejected all criticism with a superior sweep of the hand. Insofar as he did not need them for labour at "his" bases, he wanted to liquidate the Jews in these areas on the spot.2

At the same time, Himmler appointed Hauptsturmführer Hans Höfle as Globocnik's Chief of Operations in charge of organisation and manpower, an essential player in the upcoming Aktion Reinhard(t) programme.3 Globocnik was also given a staff of a few hundred men to aid him in his work, many of whom came from the T4 euthanasia programme at the behest of Dr. Viktor Brack, Oberführer in the SS.

In 1941, I received an oral order to discontinue the euthanasia programme. I received this order either from Bouhler or from Dr (Karl) Brandt [Himmler's adjutant]. In order to reserve the personnel relieved of these duties and to have the opportunity of starting a new euthanasia programme after the war, Bouhler requested, I think after a conference with Himmler, that I send these personnel to Lublin and put them at the disposal of SS-Brigadeführer Globocnik. I then had the impression that these people were to be used in the extensive Jewish labour camps run by Globocnik[sic]. Later, however, at the end of 1942 or the beginning of 1943, I found out that they were used to assist in the mass extermination of the Jews, which was by then already common knowledge in the higher Party circles.4

Although most of these men were discharged from their T4 positions on 24 August 1941, they were hastily summoned back by an emergency recall two weeks later to serve Globocnik's purposes.5 Among them was Christian Wirth, heretofore inspector of the T4 programme, who, in turn, became inspector of the Aktion Reinhard(t) operation in August 1942. Future Lager-Kommandants Franz Stangl and Kurt Franz were also among the conscripted. Himmler's designation of men familiar with the methods and technologies of gas chamber execution6 for a mass killing operation can hardly have been coincidental and was intended to facilitate the Aktion by staffing it with experienced officers

It was at some point very soon after this, in either the late summer or autumn of 1941 that the order to begin Aktion Reinhard(t) was received. No official document containing such an order has ever been recovered; however, its inception may be inferred circumstantially. Höß writes in his memoirs that in the summer of 1941 he personally received an order from Himmler to "prepare a site for mass extermination"7 because "[t]he existing extermination camps in the East are not in a position to carry out the large Aktionen which are anticipated. I have therefore earmarked Auschwitz for this purpose.8" Although either the wording or the date of this statement isn't accurate as there were no extermination camps in 1941, it is unimaginable that Globocnik was not likewise informed of the decision regarding the Aktionen being prepared for. Furthermore, during his trial, SS-Obersturmbannführer Karl Adolf Eichmann, head of the department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo from 1941 to 1945, submitted that Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Central Security Office, or RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) in charge of "carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question"9 informed him two or three months prior to Operation Barbarossa (22 June 1941) that Hitler had ordered the physical annihilation of the Jews.10 Later, Heydrich told Eichmann "to drive to Globocnik. The Reichsführer has already given him corresponding orders. Look, see how far he has gone with this project."11 Belzec, earliest of the Aktion Reinhard(t) death camps, was in experimental operation by November or December of 1941 and the first use of gassing vans is attested to from 8 December.12 The order, therefore, must have appeared sometime before this. A diary entry by Reich Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels on 27 March 1942 illustrates all the implications of the Aktion.

Beginning with Lublin, the Jews in the General Government are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 per cent can be used for forced labor.

The former Gauleiter of Vienna, who is to carry this measure through, is doing it with considerable circumspection and according to a method that does not attract too much attention. A judgment is being visited upon the Jews that, while barbaric, is fully deserved by them. The prophesy which the Führer made about them for having brought on a new world war is beginning to come true in a most terrible manner. One must not be sentimental in these matters. If we did not fight the Jews, they would destroy us. It's a life-and-death struggle between the Aryan race and the Jewish bacillus. No other government and no other regime would have the strength for such a global solution of this question. Here, too, the Führer is the undismayed champion of a radical solution necessitated by conditions and therefore inexorable. Fortunately a whole series of possibilities presents itself for us in wartime that would be denied us in peacetime. We shall have to profit by this.

[Hitler in a Reichstag speech on January 30, 1939, prophesied that the outbreak of another world war would mean the end of the Jews in Europe. He then said: "I want today once again to make a prophecy: In case the international Jewish financiers within and outside Europe succeed once more in hurling the peoples into a world war, the result will be, not the Bolshevization of the world and with it a victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."]

The ghettoes that will be emptied in the cities of the General Government now will be refilled with Jews thrown out of the Reich. This process is to be repeated from time to time. There is nothing funny in it for the Jews, and the fact that Jewry's representatives in England and America are today organizing and sponsoring the war against Germany must be paid for dearly by its representatives in Europe - and that's only right.13

The former Gauleiter of Vienna whom Goebbels mentions as being the head of the operation is no other than Odilo Globocnik, the man whom Himmler put in charge of Aktion Reinhard(t) - Globocnik had been Gauleiter of Vienna until 1939. Deportations to Belzec extermination camp had begun on 17 March 1942, ten days before this entry was written.

To move forward to the Treblinka death camp. There were two and a half million Jews in Poland at the end of 1941,14 far more than could have been killed using the firing squad tactics of the Einsatzgruppen15 or recently experimented-with gas vans16. As Governor Hans Frank stated in a remark to a session of the GG government on 16 December 1941, "We cannot shoot these 3.5 million [sic] Jews, we cannot poison them. Yet we'll be able to take measures to destroy them that will somehow result in success."17 The answer was found in stationary execution camps designed to kill en masse using gas chambers. Dieter Wisliceny, Hauptsturmführer-SS and subordinate of Adolf Eichmann from 1940 to 1944 "as expert for AMT IV A 4 in Slovakia dealing solely with the Jewish question,"18 elucidated in 1946: "According to Eichmann's own statements to me, Globocnik was the first to employ gas chambers for mass extermination." 19

Among these first employments was Treblinka-II, a concentration camp built between May and July of 1942 in the north-eastern part of the Generalgouvernement, in a remote and sequestered location ten kilometres from Malkinia Gorna, a railway junction on the main Warsaw-Bialystok line.20 Of all the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps, Treblinka was the most streamlined and sophisticated as it drew on experience gleaned from the operation of its predecessors.

In apprehension of Treblinka's completion, Victor Brack - who had supplied the T4 labour for the earlier Aktion Reinhard(t) projects, including Belzec and Chelmno - wrote to Himmler regarding additional personnel being prepared for accelerated operations due to to begin in late July on account of the anticipated purging of the Warsaw ghetto.

Viktor Brack
SS-Oberführer Berlin, IV 8, Voss-Strasse 4, 23 June 1942
[Initial] HH Top Secret To the Reich Leader SS and
Chief of the German Police
Heinrich Himmler,
Berlin SW 11, Prinz Albrecht Str. 8

Dear Reich Leader,

On the instructions of Reich Leader [Reichsleiter] Bouhler I placed some of my men - already some time ago - at the disposal of Brigadeführer Globocnik to execute his special mission. On his renewed request I have now transferred additional personnel. On this occasion Brigadeführer Globocnik stated his opinion that the whole Jewish action should be completed as quickly as possible so that one would not get caught in the middle of it one day if some difficulties should make a stoppage of the action necessary. You, yourself, Reich Leader, have already expressed your view, that work should progress quickly for reasons of camouflage alone. Both points which in principle arrive at the same result are more than justified as far as my own experience goes;

Among 10 millions of Jews in Europe there are, I figure, at least 2-3 millions of men and women who are fit enough to work. Considering the extraordinary difficulties the labour problem presents us with, I hold the view that those 3 millions should be specially selected and preserved. [...]21

The sum of Brack's "own experience" at the time amounted to taking charge of and running the T4 operations for two years, euthanizing approximately 70,000 mentally and physically handicapped persons with poison gas, which tells us why he considered speed and secrecy to be of the essence.22 Just one month prior to writing this letter, Brack had visited Globocnik in Lublin to discuss plans for the Final Solution:

At the beginning of May 1942 SS-Oberführer Brack from the Führer's Chancellery suddenly came to Lublin. With Globocnik, he discussed resuming the extermination of the Jews. Globocnik said that he had too few people to carry out this programme. Brack stated that the euthanasia programme had stopped and that the people from the T4 world from now on would be detailed to him on a regular basis so that the decisions taken at the Wannsee conference could be implemented.23

Given his knowledge about Aktion Reinhard(t) at the time, therefore, Brack's request that 2-3 million Jews be "preserved" from Globocnik's "special mission" for the sake of slave labour is a casual suggestion that only the other 7-8 million be killed in the extermination camps.24 Finally, Treblinka was declared "ready for operation" on 11 July 1942 in a communiqué sent from its first commandant Dr. Irmfried Eberl to Dr. Heinz Auerswald, Nazi Commissioner for the Warsaw Ghetto.

Dr. med. Irmfried Eberl
SS-Untersturmführer
Warsaw
Palais Brühl/Head of SS and Police
Warsaw, 07.07.1942

To the
Commissary for the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw

[stamp of receipt by the Commissary for the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw, 7 July 1942] Warsaw
Palais Brühl

Subject: Work Camp Treblinka

The work camp Treblinka will be ready for operation on Saturday, 11.07.1942.

For final completion the following objects are still needed:

1,000 clips for the lighting lead, 9 mm;
20 electrical supports with switch
20 electrical supports without switch
3 meters of conveyor[?] belt [literal translation is "drive belt"]
1 table drill press
3 kg of nut tree pickle
3 kg of pickle oak bright
1 field furnace

We request speediest delivery. The commencement of operation is not affected by the supply of the above mentioned objects, as the installation will be made able to work on a provisional basis until Saturday.

Heil Hitler!

[signature of Eberl]25

Contrary to the wording of the message, the 'work camp Treblinka,' or T-I, had been completed in 1941, a year earlier. The new camp, T-II, was built a short distance from the original.26 Its dimensions were approximately 600m x 400m according to the Düsseldorf County Court which tried many of the perpetrators involved,27 giving it an area of 240,000 square meters which was divided into three sections of more or less equal size:

i) The Wohnlager or Living Camp;
ii) The Auffanglager or Receiving Camp;
iii) The Totenlager or Death Camp, i.e. the extermination area;

features among others sworn to be "absolutely correct" by Lager-Kommandant Franz Stangl at his trial in 1970.28 The extermination area was generally referred to as the 'upper camp' and the rest as the 'lower camp.'

According to eyewitnesses and camp personnel, the living camp, composing the 'left' or northernmost portion of Treblinka contained barracks for the Totenkopf-SS guards and Ukrainian Trawniki who operated the facilities, along with storehouses, infirmaries, a kitchen, utility shops (carpenter, tailor, etc.) and the like. The receiving camp (SW portion) consisted of a counterfeit train station and sorting square (Transportplatz) where shipments of Jews were first admitted to the camp. It also contained a small area in the south-eastern corner called the Lazarett where invalids and Jews otherwise unable to be herded into the gas chambers were shot instead.29 Finally, the 'upper' death camp (SE quadrant) contained the gas chambers and burial pits. All these sections were hidden from one another by tree branches woven through barbed wire fences.30 Unlike other camps, there were no permanent, large-scale residence facilities for Jewish arrivals; they were told that they were at a transit camp and were killed almost immediately after admittance.31 Soon after the camp's inauguration, it was discovered that it had insufficient capacities to kill the number of Jews arriving from the Warsaw Ghetto and elsewhere every day. At the end of August or beginning of September, therefore, the decision was taken to build a new set of gas chambers just north-west of the old ones.32

At nearly the same time as the camp's opening - a week later - each man involved was made to sign non-disclosure forms by Globocnik's second in command, Höfle, swearing them to absolute secrecy about the project even after its termination.

July 18, 1942

concerning the obligation of [name of person]......... as a person with special duties in the execution of tasks in the evacuation of Jews within the framework of "Einsatz Reinhard," [Operation Reinhard] under the SS Police Leader (SS- und Polizeiführer) in the District of Lublin.

......... [Name] declares:

I have been thoroughly informed and instructed by SS Hauptsturmführer Höfle, as Commander of the main division of "Einsatz Reinhard" of the SS and Police Leader in the District of Lublin:

1. that I may not under any circumstances pass on any form of information, verbally or in writing, on the progress, procedure or incidents in the evacuation of Jews to any person outside the circle of the "Einsatz Reinhard" staff;

2. that the process of the evacuation of Jews is a subject that comes under "Secret Reich Document," in accordance with censorship regulation Verschl. V. a;

3. concerning the special regulations made by the SS and Police Leader in the District of Lublin in this case, with explicit reference to the fact that these regulations are "Orders concerning Duties," and/or "Orders and Prohibitions" in accordance with Para. 92b of R.St.G.B.;

4. that there is an absolute prohibition on photography in the camps of "Einsatz Reinhard";

5. concerning Para. 88 through 93 of R.St.G.B., of the formulation of April 24, 1934, and the Regulation on Bribery and Revealing of Secrets on the part of Persons who are not in Official Employ, of May 3, 1917, and February 12, 1920;

6. concerning the paragraphs of R.St.G.B. 139 (Duty to Lay Information) and 353c (Breach of the Official Secrets Act).

I am familiar with the above Regulations and Laws and am aware of the responsibilities imposed upon me by the task with which I have been entrusted. I promise to observe them to the best of my knowledge and conscience. I am aware that the obligation to maintain secrecy continues even after I have left the Service."33

This constitutes a second official instance of activities surrounding Treblinka and Aktion Reinhard(t) being classified top secret, with others to come. The reasons for doing so could not be clearer: on 19 July 1942, the very next day, Heinrich Himmler ordered the completion of the Final Solution in the Generalgouvernement.34

I herewith order that the resettlement of the entire Jewish population of the Government-General be carried out and completed by December 31, 1942.

From December 31, 1942, no persons of Jewish origin may remain within the Government-General, unless they are in collection camps in Warsaw, Cracow, Czestochowa, Radom, and Lublin. All other work on which Jewish labor is employed must be finished by that date, or, in the event that this is not possible, it must be transferred to one of the collection camps.

These measures are required with a view to the necessary ethnic division of races and peoples for the New Order in Europe, and also in the interests of the security and cleanliness of the German Reich and its sphere of interest. Every breach of this regulation spells a danger to quiet and order in the entire German sphere of interest, a point of application for the resistance movement and a source of moral and physical pestilence. For all these reasons a total cleansing is necessary and therefore to be carried out. Cases in which the date set can not be observed will be reported to me in time, so that I can see to corrective action at an early date. All requests by other offices for changes or permits for exceptions to be made must be presented to me personally.

Heil Hitler!
H. Himmler

Three days later, the "Great Resettlement Action" (Große Umsiedlungsaktion) of the Warsaw Ghetto began, under the auspices of SS- und Polizeiführer Warschau Ferdinand v. Sammern-Frankenegg, Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes in Warschau, Dr Ludwig Hahn and - most significantly - now SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle who acted as representative of Odilo Globocnik, head of Aktion Reinhard(t).35 It entailed massive deportations of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, but not for resettlement to the Russian east. A letter sent on 28 July from State Secretary of the Reich Transport Ministry Ganzenmüller to the then chief of Himmler's staff, SS-Obergruppenführer Wolff tells us where the transports were really going.

Secret

Dear Party Comrade Wolff!

With reference to our phone conversation on 16.7.1942 I hereby transcribe the following report of our Gerneral Direction of Eastern Railways (Gedob) in Cracow for your information:

"Since 22.7. a train with 5 000 Jews goes daily from Warsaw via Malkinia to Treblinka. Furthermore there is a train with 5 000 Jews going from Przemysl to Belzec twice a week. Gedob is constantly in touch with the security service in Cracow, who agrees that the transports from Warsaw via Lublin to Sobibor (near Lublin) rest as long as the conversion works on this line make transports impossible (until October 1942)" The trains are agreed with the commander of the Security Police in the General Government. The Head of SS and Police for the Lublin district, SS-Brigadeführer Globocnik, has been informed.

Heil Hitler!
Your truly
signed Ganzenmüller36

This document tells us the following:

i) People were being taken to Treblinka at a rate of 5,000 per day beginning 22 July 1942;

ii) Treblinka was the final destination of these transports

A glimpse of their fates can be gleaned from a posterior document, the Stroop Report of 1943. It is relevant insofar as its references to "T-II" (Treblinka death camp) tell us that Jews were sent there to be "destroyed," i.e. killed.

24 May 1943

Of the overall total of 56,065 captured Jews, about 7,000 have been destroyed in the course of the large-scale action in the former Jewish living quarter. 6,929 Jews were destroyed by transport to T. II, so that overall, 13,929 Jews were destroyed. It is estimated that, in addition to the number of 56,065, 5 - 6,000 Jews were destroyed by explosions and fire.37

By the end of a two and a half month-long period, Stroop placed the number of Jews sent to Treblinka for extermination at over 310,000.

It soon became clear that not all dangers had been banished by confining the Jews to one district. Security considerations necessitated that Jews be completely removed from the city of Warsaw. The first large removal occurred during the period from 22 July to 3 October 1942, when 310,322 Jews were removed. In January 1943, another resettlement operation was carried out, which encompassed a total of 6,500 Jews.38

District governor Dr. Ludwig Fischer reported that 400,000 Jews had been deported from the city and its environs during the same period of time.39 This was not all, however, as contemporary train records indicate that additional shipments of Jews from Lublin, Radom and Bialystok carrying nearly 900,000 individuals (total, including Warsaw deportations) were being sent to Treblinka as well, until they ended on 19 August 1943 (coinciding with the uprising).40 These shipment records also usefully demonstrate that Treblinka was not a transit camp for 'resettlement to the east' as the language of Nazi correspondence implied, since Jews were, beginning 19 August, actively being sent from the east (backwards, from Bialystok!) westward there to die on the very railway which was supposedly being used to 'evacuate' them to the Soviet Union. Moreover, the Oberfeldkommandant of the Lwow ghetto made it clear in spring of 1942 that Jews were being transported westward from Galicia to the Lublin district and not the other way around.

Within the Jewish population of Lemberg a noticeable unrest has spread in regard to a deportation action that has begun, through which some 30,000 elderly and other unemployed Jews shall be seized and allegedly transferred to a territory near Lublin. To what extent this evacuation can be equated with a decimation remains to be seen.41

Their fate was also made abundantly clear by the same:

The resettlement actions continue undiminished. The Jews are informed of their fate. Indicative is the statement of a member of the Lwow Jewish council: We all carry our death certificates in our pocket--only the date of death is not yet filled out.42

The Jews could hardly have been unaware of what awaited them. In spite of their precautions, these murder operations were not always as discreet as the Nazi high command would have liked. According to one of the weekly reports of the Lwow propaganda division

The resettlement of the Jews (which partly assumes forms not worthy of a cultured people) directly provokes comparison of the methods of the Gestapo with those of the GPU. The railway wagons are said to be in such a bad state that it is impossible to prevent Jews from breaking out. The result is that at wayside stations there occur wild shootings and regular man-hunts. It is also reported that corpses of shot Jews lie on the streets for days. Although the Reich Germans, as well as the foreign population, are convinced of the necessity of liquidating all Jews, it would still be more appropriate to carry this out in a manner that causes less sensation and offence.43

To dispel any lingering doubts, a work report from German Military Police operating in Bulgaria unequivocally puts paid to the lie of resettlement by unambiguously naming Treblinka as the final destination of Jewish transports. That geriatrics and infants numbered among them also makes it impossible that they were sent there for labour purposes.

Work Report
12 April 1943
Subject: Escorting the Jewish Transports

On the basis of a telephoned command from SS Haupsturmführer Danker, the train left Skopje on March 23, 1943, at 12:00, escorted by platoon No. 1, which comprised thirty men and was commanded by Police Sergeant Buchner. The train arrived at 23:00. On March 29, at 06:00, the loading of 2,404 Jews onto freight cars commenced at the former tobacco sheds. Loading was completed at 12:00, and at 12:30 the train departed. The train passed through Albanian territory. The final destination, Treblinka (the camp), was reached on April 5, 1943, at 07:00, via Czestochowa, Piotrkow, Warsaw. The train was unloaded that same day between the hours 09:00 and 11:00. Incidents: Five Jews died en route. On the night of March 31 - an elderly man, aged eighty-five; on April 3 - an elderly woman, aged ninety-four and a six-month-old child. On April 4 an elderly woman aged ninety-nine died.

Transport Roster: received 2,404
less 5
total delivered at Treblinka
2,399

[signed] Karl, Military Police Lieutenant and Company Commander.44

An ancillary document intercepted by the British decoding service at Bletchley Park, the so-called Höfle memorandum, corroborates the increased death tolls.

13/15. OLQ de OMQ 1005 83 234 250

State Secret!

To the Senior Commander of the Security Police [and the Security Service], for the attention of SS Obersturmbannfuhrer HEIM, CRACOW.

Subject: fortnightly report Einsatz REINHART.

Reference: radio telegram therefrom.

recorded arrivals until December 31, 42,

L [Lublin] 12,761,
B [Belzec] 0,
S [Sobibor] 515,
T [Treblinka] 10 335 [,]
together 23 611

sum total…[as per] December 31, 42,

L 24 733,
B 434 508,
S 101 370,
T 71 355, read: 713 555]
together 1 274 166

SS and Police Leader Lublin, HOFLE, Sturmbannführer45

This document tells us that 713,555 Jews from the Polish General Government arrived at "T" (Treblinka) until 31 December 1942, Himmler's deadline for the "total cleansing" of the Generalgouvernement. It also tells us where one of the key figures in the report of Himmler's statistician Richard Korherr came from. The Korherr report, prepared at Himmler's request, were actually two, a "long" one for Himmler and a "short" one for Hitler himself, meant to give a comprehensive account of the Holocaust to its directors.46 A translation yields the following passage:

"4. Transportation of Jews from the
eastern provinces to the Russian
East: ............................ 1 449 692 "

The following numbers were sifted
through the camps in the General
government ............. ........ 1 274 166 Jews

through the camps in the Warthegau..... 145 301 Jews"47

The "camps in the Warthegau" was Chelmno and the "camps in the General Government" were the aforementioned Aktion Reinhard(t) camps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka and the Lublin-Majdanek camp, the latter obviously because it was considered more practical to send Jews from Lublin to Majdanek as soon as that camp had extermination facilities instead of sending them to far-away Belzec or Sobibor. The figure of 1,274,166 Jews mentioned in that report is evidently the figure from the above quoted Höfle memorandum, which means that Korherr's figure is broken down as follows:

  1. Lublin-Majdanek 24,733
  2. Belzec 434,508
  3. Sobibor 101,370
  4. Treblinka 713,555

Total 1,274,166

On 9 April 1943, Himmler wrote to the heads of the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst that he found Korherr's report "excellent for camouflage purposes," and forbade its dissemination.48 In the original version of the report, Korherr used the term Sonderbehandlung, i.e. "special treatment", with regard to the Jews mentioned in this section of his report. This term, which was a bureaucratic euphemism for killing commonly used in the context of the Final Solution,49 must have become too worn and thus transparent by the time Korherr submitted his report to Himmler, for which reason Himmler's adjutant Karl Brandt, in a letter dated 10 April 1943 required Korherr to refrain from using the term Sonderbehandlung and to phrase the quoted paragraph as it was finally worded.

The Reichsführer SS
S[outh] Field Command Post 10.4.1943
Tgb. Nr. [stamped: state secret]
-V

2. Draughts
2. Draughting

To the inspector of statistics, PG. Korherr
B e r l i n

The Reichsführer SS has reviewed your statistical report on "the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe." He wishes that the term "special treatment of the Jews" be nowhere mentioned. Page 9, point 4, must read as follows:

"Transportation of Jews from the
eastern provinces to the Russian East:
The following numbers were sifted
through the camps in the General
government .....
through the camps in the Warthegau ..............."

No other formulation may be used. I have sent the copy of the report already draughted to the Reichsführer SS with the request to amend page 9 accordingly and send it back again.

SS-Obersturmbannführer

1 brief50

A final document, though it gives no exact indications of numbers, is illustrative when it comes to giving an idea of just how many Jews were being killed. It is the remark of the Wehrmacht commander of Ostrow recorded in the first war diary of the General Quartermaster of the Military Commander in the Generalgouvernement on 24 October 1942.

It reads: "OK Ostrow reports that the Jews in Treblinka are not sufficiently buried and therefore an unbearable smell of corpses befouls the air."51

Ostrow, it is significant to point out, was 20 kilometres from Treblinka.

More than 800,000 Jews (and likely far more as many train records are incomplete or lack head counts) were shipped to Treblinka in the space of a year for 'special treatment'; 'evacuation'; 'liquidation'; 'resettlement'; murder; with only a handful ever seen again. Such creative language had long been used to attempt to disguise killing operations of Jews in the east, most notably by the Einsatzgruppen but also by the Gendarmerie.52 In this light, a decision arrived at in Lublin on 17 October 1941 by Hans Frank and Odilo Globocnik among others helps us place the birth of the extermination programme, guessed at above.

All Jews, with the exception of indispensable craftsmen and the like, are to be evacuated from Lublin. Initially, 1,000 Jews will be transferred across the Bug River. Responsibility for this is placed in the hands of the SSPF. The Stadthauptmann will select the Jews to be evacuated.53

The term 'transferred across the Bug River' was a watchword in use from before the German invasion of Russia and hence anachronistic at the time (territory across the Bug being Soviet in 1939/40), its meaning therefore not intended literally, especially in the context of the Jewish extermination plans which were already being adumbrated.54

As SS-Sergeant and camp guard Franz Suchomel put it, "Treblinka was a primitive but efficient production line of death. Understand? Primitive, yes. But it worked well, that production line of death."55 We know that Jews were being sent to their deaths, but the question of how remains. Much allusion has been made up to this point to use the use of gas chambers. Eichmann, in a paper he submitted for his defence entitled "Götzen," wrote that "Globocnik had established gassing camps at Treblinka and Belzec upon instruction from Himmler and Krüger."56 Reference to the testimony of those present best describes what was occurring inside the camp all the while.

Testimony of Treblinka's kommandant, SS-Unterscharführer Franz Stangl, who replaced Eberl in September 1942:

Michel [the sergeant-major of the camp] told me later that Wirth suddenly appeared, looked around on the gas chambers on which they were still working, and said: 'right, we'll try it out right now with those twenty-five working Jews. Get them up here'. They marched our twenty-five Jews up there and just pushed them in and gassed them. Michel said Wirth behaved like a lunatic, hitting at his own staff with his whip to drive them on...57

Testimony of SS-Unterscharführer Willi Mentz, stationed at Treblinka from July 1942 to November 1943 and assigned by Christian Wirth to supervise the Lazarett:

When I came to Treblinka the camp commandant was a doctor named Dr. Eberl. He was very ambitious. It was said that he ordered more transports than could be "processed" in the camp. That meant that trains had to wait outside the camp because the occupants of the previous transport had not yet all been killed. At the time it was very hot and as a result of the long wait inside the transport trains in the intense heat many people died. At the time whole mountains of bodies lay on the platform. The Hauptsturmführer Christian Wirth came to Treblinka and kicked up a terrific row. And then one day Dr. Eberl was no longer there...

For about two months I worked in the upper section of the camp and then after Eberl had gone everything in the camp was reorganized. The two parts of the camp were separated by barbed wire fences. Pine branches were used so that you could not see through the fences. The same thing was done along the route from the "transfer" area to the gas chambers...

Finally, new and larger gas chambers were built. I think that there were now five or six larger gas chambers. I cannot say exactly how many people these large gas chambers held. If the small gas chambers could hold 80-100 people, the large ones could probably hold twice that number...

Following the arrival of a transport, six to eight cars would be shunted into the camp, coming to a halt at the platform there. The commandant, his deputy Franz, Kuettner and Stadie or Maetzig would be here waiting as the transport came in. Further SS members were also present to supervise the unloading: for example, Genz and Belitz had to make absolutely sure that there was no one left in the car after the occupants had been ordered to get out.

When the Jews had got off, Stadie or Maetzig would have a short word with them. They were told something to the effect that they were a resettlement transport, that they would be given a bath and that they would receive new clothes. They were also instructed to maintain quiet and discipline. They would continue their journey the following day.

Then the transports were taken off to the so-called "transfer" area. The women had to undress in huts and the men out in the open. The women were than led through a passageway, known as the "tube", to the gas chambers. On the way they had to pass a hut where they had to hand in their jewellery and valuables..58

Testimony of SS Oberscharführer Heinrich Matthes, chief officer commanding T-II and of the gas chambers:

During the entire time I was in Treblinka, I served in the upper camp. The upper camp was that part of Treblinka with the gas chambers, where the Jews were killed and their corpses laid in large pits and later burned.

About fourteen Germans carried out services in the upper camp. There were two Ukrainians permanently in the upper camp. One of them was called Nikolai, the other was a short man, I don't remember his name... These two Ukrainians who lived in the upper camp served in the gas chambers. They also took care of the engine room when Fritz Schmidt was absent. Usually this Schmidt was in charge of the engine room. In my opinion, as a civilian he was either a mechanic or a driver...

All together, six gas chambers were active. According to my estimate, about 300 people could enter each gas chamber. The people went into the gas chamber without resistance. Those who were at the end, the Ukrainian guards had to push inside. I personally saw how the Ukrainians pushed the people with their rifle butts...

The gas chambers were closed for about thirty minutes. Then Schmidt stopped the gassing, and the two Ukrainians who were in the engine room opened the gas chambers from the other side.59

The testimony of Auschwitz camp Kommandant Rudolf Höß on 1 April 1946 in Nuremberg is also instructive:

Q Didn't you visit any of the three existing extermination camps?

A Yes.

Q Which ones?

A Treblinka ...

Q What did you see there?

A At that time the action in connection with the Warsaw Ghetto was in progress, and I watched the procedure.

Q How was it done there?

A They had chambers for about 200 people. Into these chambers the fumes from an exhaust machine came in. These motors had been taken from captured enemy equipment such as tanks, trucks and had been installed next to the gas chambers. They were run by gas, and those victims were supposed to be suffocated by the fumes.

Q How many chambers were there, and how many people were killed?

A I do not know the exact figure, but there may have been about ten chambers. It was built next to a ramp and the train drove right up to it. The people were unloaded right into the chambers, and this procedure was necessary because the motors did not always work right.

Q Weren't the people first registered or interrogated?

A No.

Q They were put directly into the chambers from the trains?

A Yes.

Q And what happened to their clothing?

A They had to undress before they were put into the chambers.

Q And their valuables?

A That was all sorted. I saw a number of shacks there in which there were piles of clothing, shoes, valuables, etc., all sorted separately and neatly stacked. They were later packed.

Q What happened to these things?

A I do not know.

Q Who did the sorting?

A Inmates.

Q Who guarded the trains in which the Jews were to be gassed alive?

A The train that I saw In Treblinka arrived guarded by members of the Security Police; also the trains that came into Auschwitz from Poland were guarded by the Security Police.

Q Did the train loads consist of women, men and children all together?

A All together.

Q We are now talking about the train in Treblinka?

A Yes, the one in Treblinka.

Q Were there babies, real small children and very old people also?

A All kinds, if they were evacuated from Warsaw.

Q Now I understand from your statement that the people - men, women and children had to strip themselves completely naked. Am I right?

A Yes.

Q And the women carried their babies with them into the chambers?

A Yes.

Q And they know what was going to happen to them?

A Yes, I assume so.

Q Did they knew what was going to happen to them?

A Yes, they did.

Q And what was your reaction?

A I did not consider this problem, or the means, or the manner in which it was conducted because in my opinion they knew it was going to happen to them.

Q But you found it lawful and right that they were to be exterminated. It was only the manner you objected to?

A Yes, according to my discussions with Himmler it was the way you just stated.

Q Did anyone try to escape?

A No, I didn't see that.

Q How long did you remain in Treblinka?

A About three or four hours.60

Höß confirms the capacity estimates of the new gas chambers built in the middle of 1942 made by Willi Mentz as being 200. Given six chambers (there were possibly ten, according to some witnesses), 1,200 people could have been gassed at a time. Assuming, therefore, Matthes' estimate of thirty minutes for each operation, to execute a trainload of 5000 would have taken just over two hours, certainly a little longer when removal of the bodies and cleaning up are considered, but nothing that would take anything approaching a whole day. 800,000 Jews could have easily been killed in 160 days at this rate (the date for the statistic of 713,555 listed in the Höfle memorandum is 31 December, 163 days from the commencement of arrivals), leaving enough time to gas a further 1,235,000 before arrivals slowed drastically in August of 1943, should they have been shipped there. Other estimates place the capacity of the chambers at 300 each and the duration of the gassing at 15 minutes, which would increase the efficiency of the killing operation even more.61 Obviously, the killing capacity of Treblinka is beyond questioning. Even if the demands on the Treblinka staff and their facilities had been more than doubled, the trains would have continued running on time.

A significant portion of witness testimony about the murders converges on the point of collection of Jewish valuables both before and after gassing. Unlike other extermination centres, Aktion Reinhard(t) camps did not report to Heydrich's RSHA but rather to the Economics and Administration Office or WVHA (Wirtschafts und Verwaltungshauptamt). On 15 June 1941, in anticipation of the imminent Operation Barbarossa, the "Nürnberger Gesetze" (Racial Laws) became valid in the eastern occupied territories, article two of which stated:

Article 2

1. The property of a Jew shall be confiscated by the Reich after his death.

2. The Reich may, however, grant compensation to the non-Jewish legal heirs and persons entitled to sustenance who have their domicile in Germany.

3. This compensation may be granted in the form of a lump sum, not to exceed the ceiling price of the property which has passed into possession [Verfügungsgewalt] of the German Reich.

4. Compensation may be granted by the transfer of titles and assets from the confiscated property. No costs shall be imposed for the legal processes necessary for such transfer.62

As millions of Jews were being killed, the WVHA took an interest in such affairs with regard to their economic aspect, that being 'confiscation of property' from murdered persons. An undated report by Odilo Globocnik conveying the value and volume of valuables accrued during these seizures gives an idea of their extent.

[Stamp]
Personal Staff Reich Leader SS
Files Administration
File No. Secret 115
[initialed by Himmler]

Valuables Turned In from the "Operation Reinhardt"

Valuables from the "Operation Reinhardt" have been handed in at the SS WVHA Berlin for transmission to the Reich Bank or to the Reich Ministry of Economy as follows:

a. RM, total value - RM 53,013,133.51

b. Foreign currency, in notes, from all main countries of the earth (particularly the half million dollars are noteworthy), total value - RM 1,452,904.65

c. Foreign currency in coined gold, total RM 843,802.75

d. Precious metals (about 1,800 kg. gold and about 10,000 kg. silver in ingots), total value -.RM 5,353,943.00 e. Other valuables such as jewels, watches, glasses, etc., in particular, the number of watches, about 16,000 watches in working condition and about 51,000 watches in need of repair, is noteworthy; they have been placed at the disposal of the troops - RM 26,089,800.00

f. About 1,000 boxcars of textiles, total value - RM 13,294,400.00

Total - RM 100,047,983.91

About 1,000 boxcars of textiles are still in stock, and about 50 percent of above-mentioned other valuables, which still must be counted and appraised. It should be stressed that the valuations given above have been established on the basis of official exchange rates and prices; commercial values are, however, much higher, for instance when selling precious stones or metals abroad, as the flight into fixed values is greater there than in our country. Moreover, sales abroad bring us foreign currency.

If these prices have been used here for evaluation purposes, then this was done in order to be able to give a survey of the delivered valuables, in general, this valuation is not so decisive.

The value of the receipts lies mainly in the fact that such large quantities of raw material, which are so urgently required, could be had and that on the basis of the seized valuables foreign currency can be secured, thus permitting Reich offices to buy more raw material.

[Signed] GLOBOCNIK
SS Gruppenführer and Major General of the Police

1 detailed list attached.[Document NO-061. Prosecution Exhibit 475, pp. 699-702.]63

All economic aspects of Aktion Reinhard(t) fell under the auspices of the Chief of the WVHA, SS Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl. According to the USMT II, "[o]n 4 July 1944, Pohl, in a communication to the Main Office chiefs, announced the names of officers responsible for the property seized in several areas, and stated: 'As a matter of principle, it has to be kept in mind that the entire Jewish property is to be incorporated into the Reich property.'"64 In his affidavit of 2 April 1947, Pohl explained that he was working under the direction of Himmler and directly over Globocnik to manage the economic aspects of Aktion Reinhard(t)65. He went on to declare that he was completely aware of where the valuables were coming from and of what activities they were a result.

It was never doubted that this loot was taken from Jews exterminated in the concentration camps. * * * As I learned in 1943, gold teeth and crowns of inmates of concentration camps were broken out of their mouths after liquidation. This gold was melted down and delivered to the Reich Bank. * * * When I received all the vouchers, setting out the economic assets received, I realized the extent of the operation. I realized that the greatest part of the textile goods listed in these reports had been taken from people who had been violently put to death and that the purpose of the operation had been the extermination of the Jews."66

In addition, "[i]n his interrogation of 13 June 1946 (NO-728, Pros. E. 693), Pohl was confronted by Kaltenbrunner's testimony before the International Military Tribunal that, 'there were only a handful of people in the WVHA who had any control or knew anything about concentration camps,' to which Pohl commented: 'Well, that is complete nonsense. I described to you how these were handled in the WVHA. As for instance, in the case of the use of textiles and turning in of valuables, and also from Gluecks and Loerner right on down to the last little clerk, must have known what went on in the concentration camps, and it is complete nonsense for him to speak of just a handful of men.'" 67

Particularly illuminating is a report Pohl made to Himmler on 6 February 1943 containing a detailed list of items seized. Among them were 221 train cars' worth of appropriated clothing sent to the Office for Germanisation, useless to the dead but otherwise essential to any who would have actually been transported to the east, i.e. none.

[...]2. Office for Germanization [VoMi]

Men's clothing:

Women's clothing:

Children's clothing:

Pohl apologised for the unexpectedly low numbers(!) and excused himself in the following way: "In this connection special consideration must be given to the fact that the delivery of rags is very high. As a result, the amount of usable old garments, especially men's clothing, is naturally diminished. It has therefore not been possible to satisfy the demand for men's clothing to its full."69 Aside from demonstrating the sheer enormity of the Aktion, Pohl's reports also shed light on just how lucrative the extermination camp system was for the Nazi state. Another economic bulletin from Globocnik to Himmler from December 1943, seemingly anterior to the one above, lists Aktion Reinhard(t) revenues of approximately 178,000,000 Reichsmarks, where "minimum values are assumed, so that the total value probably reaches twice as much..." .70 One year, the overwhelming wealth of watches and fountain pens seized from dead inmates, along with the spirit of Christmas, prompted Pohl to request that several hundred of each should be distributed to each SS division as well as thousands to the submarine service.71 Himmler approved of the plan and suggested that another 15,000 women's watches be given to volksdeutsche entering the Greater Reich from Russia at the time.72 Over and above simply (and tragically) financing their own deaths, then, Jews were inadvertently swelling the coffers of the Third Reich. The executions were more than paying for themselves, which does much to explain why they continued despite the resources they claimed which might have otherwise gone toward the prosecution of the war in the east.

By this time, it was well-known in Allied government circles that the Germans were mass-murdering Jews in the camps, prompting initiatives to conceal and eradicate all traces of the Final Solution in Poland.73 Aktion 1005 was the result, a Sonderkommando effort to exhume and cremate the contents of the mass graves in the east headed by SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel. Another motivating concern was the health hazard posed by such extensive extermination operations, especially that of the "insufficiently buried" Jews at Treblinka whose stench must have been intolerable. Consequently, following a visit by Heinrich Himmler to Treblinka in February or March of 1943, the decision was made to cremate the bodies that had been buried.74 "At Treblinka there were no crematoria with furnaces, but there was a primitive arrangement of grates made from rails placed on supports of reinforced concrete, which could hold 2,500 corpses. Mechanical excavators were used for digging the pits and later for the exhumation of the corpses."75

In December 1959, at the time of his arrest, a photo album entitled Schöne Zeiten was discovered by west-German investigators in the flat of Kurt Franz, assistant commandant of Treblinka. The album shows numerous photos of Treblinka, such as of a brick tower, of the bakery, of the menagerie and zoological garden and of the commandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl.76 Comparison with an aerial photo and the maps drawn by survivors of Treblinka and Stangl and with eyewitness descriptions indicates that the pictures to follow are showing the extermination site.77 The following is a photograph of one of the Menck & Hambrock type "Mb" excavators used during this operation, the buildings and trees in the background corresponding best to a picture taken from the 'concealed burial pit' towards the old gas chambers in a north-westerly direction with either the water pump shelter or the guard house slightly obscuring the view.78 Note also the two men in the bottom, left-hand corner carrying a stretcher between them.

An open burial pit79

Once the industrial machinery was no longer needed for exhuming bodies and demolition of the camp, it was sent away, having no other purpose to fulfil. "In the waybills for the wagons sent from Treblinka at the time of the final 'liquidation' of the camp three excavators are mentioned. One of them was dispatched from Treblinka on June 29, 1943, to the firm of Adam Lamczak, Berlin-Neukölln, Willy Waltherstrasse 30-3 Tr."80 The gravel quarry at T-I, it should be noted, continued operating well into 1944.

United States Reconnaissance air photographs reveal that by 15 May 1944 (and long before then), physical traces of the camp were all but eradicated.81 Odilo Globocnik wrote to Himmler on November 4, 1943: "On October 10, 1943: I concluded Operation Reinhard which I had conducted in the General Government and have liquidated all camps."82 Upon their arrival in 1945, the Soviets found a lunar wasteland of recent excavations by scavengers complementing other scars in the landscape left by the obliteration of the camp's building foundations. Most tellingly, they found among the upturned soil, alongside clothing and personal articles, innumerable human remains83.

In November of 1945, Poland sent its Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes to investigate the remains of the camp. Commission member Rachel Auerbach reported that:

in the north-eastern part [of the Totenlager, presumably], over a surface covering about 2 ha. (5 acres), there are large quantities of ashes mixed with sand, among which are numerous human bones, often with the remains of decomposing tissues.

As a result of an examination made by an expert it was found that ashes were the remains of burnt human bones. The examination of numerous human skulls found in the camp has shown that they bear no traces of external injuries. Within a radius of several hundred yards from the camp site an unpleasant smell of burnt ash and decay is noticeable, growing stronger as one approaches.84

In 1959, Third Reich historian Martin Gilbert visited the camp and came away with this recollection: "From Treblinka village we proceeded for another mile or two, along the line of an abandoned railway through a forest of tall trees. Finally we reached an enormous clearing, bounded on all sides by dense woodland. Darkness was falling, and with it, the chill of night and a cold dew. I stepped down from the cart on to the sandy soil: a soil that was gray rather than brown. Driven by I know not what impulse, I ran my hand through that soil, again and again. The earth beneath my feet was coarse and sharp: filled with the fragments of human bone."85 All present in the vicinity, even fifteen years after the fact, discovered literal heaps of sinister evidence pointing to what had occurred there.

If there is a dearth of primary documents surrounding an operation of such magnitude, it is because of assiduous efforts by Odilo Globocnik and others to cover their tracks: "[w]ith regard to the complete final accounts of 'Operation Reinhard' I must add that all vouchers should be destroyed as soon as possible, as has been done in the case of all other documents pertaining to this operation."86 Anything that he or Himmler might have missed was combed over by subsequent Nazi officials: "All files, particularly the secret ones, are to be destroyed completely. The secret files about ... the installations and deterring work in the concentration camps must be destroyed at all costs. Also, the extermination of some families, etc. These files must under no circumstances fall into the hands of the enemy, since after all they were secret orders by the Führer."87 That the few we have left survived at all can only be attributed to bureaucratic confusion in the face of imminent collapse before the inexorable march of the Red Army. Likewise, our paucity of eyewitness testimonial can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of those who witnessed the exterminations were also killed by them. If the hundreds of thousands of Jews supposedly resettled to the east really had been sent to Russia, we would today have no end of confessions to that effect. As it stands, the fragmentary evidence we hold before us, though incomplete, paints an undeniable picture of a ruthless industrial slaughterhouse performing its task with heartless efficiency in broad strokes. Confronted with this bleakness, I am reminded of my Shelly:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

An unfair testament to the countless who lost their lives, but perhaps the dead find solace in the downfall of their own Ozymandias.


Notes

  1. Bogdan Musial, The Origins of 'Operation Reinhard': The Decision-Making Process for the Mass Murder of Jews in the Generalgouvernement, trans. William Templer. Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. XXVIII (Jerusalem: 2000), p. 113-53 (6). See note 18. Available online at http://www1.yadvashem.org.il/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%203222.pdf

  2. Rudolf Höß on Globocnik, January 1947, quoted in Ibid, p. 6.

  3. Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka: the Operation Reinhard Death Camps, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 19.

  4. TAL/IMT: Statement of Viktor Brack, 15 September 1946

  5. TAL/ZStL, Belzec Case: Statement of Josef Oberhauser

  6. Henry Friedlander, "Euthanasia," in The Holocaust Encyclopedia, ed. Walter Laqueur (London: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 171 ff. "Operation T4 estalished killing centers at Brandenberg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, and Sonnenstein.[...] All six killing centers were equipped with a gas chamber and a crematorium, as well as reception rooms and housing for the staff. But there were no facilities for disabled patients, because they were killed soon after arrival. First, the physician and his staff examined the victims to ensure that the paperwork had been correctly completed. Then the victims were photographed for a permanent record and were led to the gas chamber. Once they were locked in the chamber, the physician opened the valve of the carbon monoxide container located next to the chamber. The gas entered the chamber through a pipe while the physician observed the victims through a window. After one or two hours the chamber was ventilated, the physician pronounced the victims dead, and the stokers (Brenner) removed the bodies." See also the testimony of SS Captain Josef Kramer quoted in William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (Greenwich: Fawcett Crest, 1960), p. 1277.

  7. Rudolf Höß Death Dealer: Memoirs of the Camp Kommandant at Auschwitz (New York: Prometheus Books, 1992), p. 206.

  8. Ibid, page 164

  9. Letter from Göring to Heydrich concerning solution of Jewish question, 31 July 1941. Nuremberg Document NO-2856. Available online at: http://www.einsatzgruppenarchives.com/mt/exhibit194.html

  10. YVA: Eichmann Trial: Transcript. Interrogation notes by Captain Avner Less (Israeli Police), 30 May 1960, tape No. 5, p. 172

  11. Ibid

  12. See "Chronology" in Laqueur, p. xxx of the Introduction. The gassings that occurred in Chelmno were performed by gas vans which collected the Jews, drove them to the forest during which time they were killed on the journey by the exhaust fumes from the vehicles. A secret directive from the RSHA dated 8 June 1942, recommended 9-10 Jews per square metre in the gassing vans at Chelmno in the Warthegau. Available online at: http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/r/rauff.walter/rauff.letter.060542

  13. Josef Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries, ed. and trans. Louis P. Lochner (New York: Popular Library, 1948), p. 175-76. Available online at: http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/g/goebbels-joseph/goebbels-1948-excerpts-02.html#1942-mar-27

  14. "The Wannsee Protocol and a 1944 Report on Auschwitz by the Office of Strategic Services," reproduced in John Mendelsohn, ed., The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes. Vol. 11 (New York: Garland, 1982), p. 18-32. Available online at: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/h-wannsee.htm

  15. Nuremberg Document PS-510

  16. Top Secret document dated 16, May 1942, addressed to SS Obersturmbannführer Rauff, 8 Prince Albrecht-Strasse, Berlin, from Dr. Becker, SS Untersturmführer. Nuremberg Document PS-501. Available online at: http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/resource/document/DOCPER11.HTM

  17. Hans Frank, from a speech on the extermination of the Jews, 16 December 1941. Nuremberg Document PS-2233

  18. Affidavit of Dieter Wisliceny, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume VIII, p. 606-619. Available online at: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/Wisliceny.htm

  19. Musial, p. 23

  20. Alexander Donat, ed. The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary (New York: Holocaust Library, 1979), p. 146

  21. Nuremberg Document NO-205. Available online at: http://www.deathcamps.org/reinhard/pic/brackletter_de.jpg

  22. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews: Revised and Definitive Edition, Vol III (London and New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), p. 872-3. See also Nuremberg Document NO-365

  23. SS-Untersturmführer Josef Oberhauser on the early days at Belzec, quoted in E. Klee, W. Dressen and V. Riess, The Good Old Days (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1988), p. 229

  24. Steve Hochstadt, ed. Sources of the Holocaust (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 141.

  25. Reproduced in Donat, p. 255

  26. National Archives, GX120 frame 125, May 15, 1944. Available online at: http://www.holocaust-history.org/Treblinka/geographyinternet/Figure2.3.jpg

  27. AZ-LG Düsseldorf, XI-148/69 S., 1970

  28. Ibid. Maps available online at http://www.deathcamps.org/treblinka/maps.html. This particular map was prepared by the court.

  29. Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (New York: Howard Fertig: 1982), p. 99. Available online at: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/gcpolindex.htm

  30. Arad, p. 110. "In Treblinka, a second prisoners' group worked outside the camp. It was called the camouflage team and numbers approximately twenty-five. Its task was to camouflage with branches the camp's outer and inner fences, especially the fences around the extermination area and the "tube". This was intended to prevent outside observation of camp activities, as well as observation from within the camp of what transpired on the way to the gas chambers and in the extermination area. The team workers would cut branches in the forests near the camp and weave them into the barbed-wire fences. Since it was constantly necessary to replace dried-out branches with fresh ones, the camouflage work was continuous. These groups of prisoners left the camp confines under a strong guard of Germans and Ukrainians."

  31. Willi Mentz quoted in Klee, p. 245

  32. Decision of the Düsseldorf County Court (AZ-LG Düsseldorf: II-931638, p. 49 ff.), 1968. "Schon bald nach der Betriebsaufnahme stellte sich heraus, dass die Kapazität des alten Gashauses nicht ausreichte, um die täglich anfallenden Judentransporte reibunslos zu liquidieren. Man begann daher Ende August/Anfang September 1942 mit dem Bau eines neuen grossen Gashauses, das mehr und grössere Gaskammern enthielt und nach etwa einmonatiger Bauzeit in Betrieb genommen werden konnte." See "Excerpts From Judgments (Urteilsbegründung)" in Donat, p. 296 ff.

  33. Einsatz Reinhard secrecy pledge, 18.7.42, reprinted in: Tatiana Berenstein, Artur Eisenbach, Bernard Mark and Adam Rutkowski, eds, Faschismus-Getto-Massenmord: Dokumentation über Ausrottung und Widerstand der Juden in Polen während des zweiten Weltkrieges, (East Berlin: 1996), p. 500. "...bei der Durchführung von Arbeiten bei der Judenumsiedlung im Rahmen des "Einsatzes Reinhard" beim SS- und Polizeiführer im Distrikt Lublin.... ein ausdrückliches Photografier-Verbot in den Lagern des "Einsatzes Reinhard." Also available online at: http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part2/doc123.html

  34. Order by Himmler On July 19, 1942, for the Completion of the 'Final Solution' in the Government-General. Nuremberg Document NO-5574. Available online at: http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part2/doc124.html

  35. Order to Warsaw Jewish Council to organize deportation 'to the East', 22 July 1942", translated from reprinted version in Faschismus - Getto - Massenmord, p. 305-7; original in archive of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Ring II, Nr. 192. Reproduced in Hochstadt, p. 192-4. Abridged copy available online at: http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part2/doc128.html

  36. Ganzenmüller to Wolff, 28 July 1942. Nuremberg Document NO-2207. "Geheim

    Sehr geehrter Pg. Wolff!

    Unter Bezugnahme auf unser Ferngespräch vom 16.7.1942 teile ich Ihnen folgende Meldung meiner Generaldirektion der Ostbahnen (Gedob) in Krakau zu Ihrer gefälligen Unterrichtung mit:
    "Seit dem 22.7. fährt täglich ein Zug mit je 5 000 Juden von Warschau über Malkinia nach Treblinka, ausserdem zweimal wöchentlich ein Zug mit 5 000 Juden von Przemysl nach Belzec. Gedob steht in ständiger Fühlung mit dem Sicherheitsdienst in Krakau. Dieser ist damit einverstanden, dass die Transporte von Warschau über Lublin nach Sobibor (bei Lublin) so lange ruhen, wie die Umbauarbeiten auf dieser Strecke diese Transporte unmöglich machen (ungefähr Oktober 1942)"
    Die Züge wurden mit dem Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei im Generalgouvernement vereinbart. SS- und Polizeiführer des Distrikts Lublin, SS-Brigadeführer Globocnik, ist verständigt.

    Heil Hitler!
    Ihr ergebener
    gez. Ganzenmüller"

    In reply, Wolff wrote Ganzenmüller on 13 August 1942: "I should like to thank you personally and on behalf of the Reichsfuhrer very much indeed for your memorandum of 28 July 1942. I was particularly gratified to learn from your communication that for the past two weeks a train containing 5,000 members of the chosen people is travelling to Treblinka every day and [as a result] we are thus now in the position to carry out this population transfer at an accelerated pace." Quoted in Klee, p. 233. Available online at: http://www.deathcamps.org/reinhard/pic/ganzenmueller3.jpg; http://www.deathcamps.org/reinhard/pic/ganzenmueller4.jpg

  37. Jürgen Stroop, The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of the Warsaw Ghetto is no More!, ed. and trans. Sybil Milton (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979), sec. II, p. 75. Available online at: http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/stroop-report/htm/strp075.htm

  38. Ibid, sec. II, p. 3. http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/stroop-report/htm/strp010.htm

  39. August/September report of the Warsaw district governor to Bühler, in YVA, O-53/113/348-61

  40. Arad, p. 381-2, 392-7 (Appendix A). Available online at: http://www.holocaust-info.dk/statistics/info.htm with accompanying charts: http://www.holocaust-info.dk/treblinka/treblinka_deportations.htm

    These charts lack statistics for the Opatow district (website error), which amount to another 45,100. See also German Crimes in Poland, 1946, p. 103-04. "The average number of wagons in a transport was 50 though sometimes, as the railway records showed, it was as many as 58. The total number of wagon-loads of victims from August 1, 1942, to May 15, 1943, may be taken, with some certainty, to have been 7,550.

    In the later period, from the railway records; the list of the wagons for August 17, 1943; a telegram of August 18, 1943; and a document entitled Fahrplanordnung Nr. 290 sent from Treblinka station by the Reichsbahndirektion Königsberg, the number of train-loads could be established quite accurately. In the above-mentioned Fahrplanordnung we read among other things: Zur Abbeförderung von Aussledlern verkehren folgende Sonderzüge von Bialystok nach Malkinia. Ziel Treblinka, from which it may be concluded that after the revolt the following train-loads, were brought in: on Aug. 27, 1943, 41 wagons; on Aug. 19, 35 wagons; on Aug. 21, two transports of 38 wagons each; on Aug. 22, two transports of 39 wagons each; and on Aug. 23, one transport of 38 wagons; i.e. a total of 266 wagons.

    As an average number of persons per wagon we may take 100 (the majority of witnesses deposed that it was more than 150). According to this calculation the number of victims murdered at Treblinka amounts to at least 731,600. Taking into consideration the great caution with which the investigators assessed the number of train-loads and the average number of persons per wagon, this must be accepted as probable, that in actual fact the number of victims was even larger. (It should be pointed out that from pertinent documents such as telegrams, time-tables and way-bills it appears absolutely certain that more than two thousand wagon-loads of Jews were brought to Treblinka; yet these documents constituted but a small part of all the railway documentary evidence, the greater part of which is lost.)"

    The Fahrplanordnung Nr. 290 referred to in the Central Commission's report is also referenced on page 372 of Arad, op. cit. "6. YVA, TR-10/1107, Band 3, Ganzenmüller's trial, the transport order no. 290 of August 17, 1943, issued by the Directorate of the German Railways in Konigsberg; Zabecki, p. 96."

  41. Report of OFK 365, 19 March 1942, in National Archives, T-501/215/97. "Innerhalb der jüdischen Bevölkerung Lembergs hat eine merkliche Beunruhigung Platz gegriffen mit Rücksicht auf eine begonnene Aussiedlungsaktion, durch die etwa 30,000 ältere und sonstige, nicht im Arbeitsprozess stehende Juden Lembergs erfasst und, wie angegeben, in die Gegend von Lublin verbracht werden sollen. Inwieweit diese Evakuierung einer Dezimierung gleichzusetzten sein wird, bleibt abzuwarten."

  42. Report of OFK 365, 17 October 1942, in National Archives, T-501/216/1129. "Die Umsiedlungsaktionen gehen unvermindert weiter. Das Judentum ist über sein Schicksal unterrichtet. Bezeichnend ist der Ausspruch eines Mitgliedes des Lemberger Judenrates: Wir tragen alle unseren Totenschein in der Tasche--es ist nur der Sterbetag noch nicht ausgefüllt."

  43. Gerald Reitlinger,The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939-1945 (London: Vallentine, Mitchell & Co. Ltd., 1961), p. 283.

  44. Arad, p. 145

  45. Peter Witte and Stephen Tyas, "A New Document on the Deportation and Murder of Jews during 'Einsatz Reinhardt' 1942," Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 15:3 (2001), p. 468-486. "13/15. OLQ de OMQ 1005 83 234 250

    Geheime Reichssache! An den Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspol., zu Händen SS Obersturmbannführer HEIM, KRAKAU. Betr. 14-tägige Meldung Einsatz REINHART. Bezug: dort. Fs. Zugang bis 31.12.42, L 12761,B 0, S 515, T 10335 zusammen 23611. Stand ... 31.12.42, L 24733, B 434508, S 101370, T 71355, zusammen 1274166.

    SS und Pol.führer LUBLIN, HOEFLE, Sturmbannführer."

  46. Georges Wellers, Les chambres à gaz ont existé: Des documents, des témoignages, des chiffres (Saint-Armand: Gallimard, 1981), p. 174-5.

  47. Nuremberg Document NO-5194. Transcription and facsimiles available online at: http://www.ns-archiv.de/verfolgung/korherr/korherr-lang.php; http://www.ns-archiv.de/verfolgung/korherr/faksimile-lang/ . English translation by Roberto Muehlenkamp at: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=397

  48. Nuremberg Document NO-5197. "Ich halte diesen Bericht als allenfallsiges Material für spätere Zeiten, und zwar zu Tarnungszwecken für recht gut. Im Augenblick darf er weder veröffentlicht noch weitergegeben werden [...]. In den kurzen Monatsmeldungen der Sicherheitspolizei will ich lediglich mitgeteilt bekommen, was monatlich abgefahren worden ist und was zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch an Juden übrigblieb."

  49. See Nuremberg Document NO-4634. See also Eichmann session 79, W1-Y1

  50. Léon Poliakov and Joseph Wulf. Das Dritte Reich und die Juden. Ullstein 33036, p. 240ff. Available online at: http://www.ns-archiv.de/verfolgung/korherr/anweisung-himmler.php

  51. War Diary of the Oberquartiermeister, Mbfh Polen, 1 May-31 December 1941, in National Archives, T-501/219/461. "OK Ostrow meldet, dass die Juden in Treblinka nicht ausreichend beerdigt seien und infolgedessen ein unerträglicher Kadavergeruch die Luft verpestet."

  52. Report of Gendarmerie district leader Brest, 8 November 1942, in BA, R 94/7. "Am 15. und 16.10.42 wurde in Brest-Litowsk die Judenaktion durchgeführt. Anschliessend erfolgte auch die restlose Umsiedlung der Juden im Kreisgebiet Brest-Litovsk. Im ganzen sollen bis jetzt etwa 20,000 Juden umgesiedelt worden sein. ...Einsatz bei der Aktion gegen die Juden in der Stadt und im Kreisgebiet Brest-Litowsk vom 15.10.42 ab. Bis jetzt sind etwa 20,000 Juden erschossen worden."

  53. Musial, p. 3

  54. Ibid, p. 4.

  55. Franz Suchomel, interviewed on hidden camera for the film Shoah. Transcript from Claude Lanzmann, Shoah (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 62.

  56. http://www.mazal.org/various/eichmann.htm "In Treblinka und Belzek hatte Globocnigg auf Befehl Himmlers und Krügers, Vergasungslager errichtet."

  57. Franz Stangl quoted in Arad, p. 184

  58. Willi Mentz quoted in Klee, p. 245-247

  59. Heinrich Matthes quoted in Arad, p. 121. Parts of notes 57-9 are available online at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/treblinkatest.html

  60. Testimony of Rudolf Höß taken at Nuremberg, Germany, on 1 April, 1946, 1430 to 1730 by Mr. Sender Jaari and Lt. Whitney Harris. Also present: Mr. George Sackheim, Interpreter: Piilani A. Ahuna, Court Reporter. Available online at: http://www.mazal.org/archive/H%D6SS/TEXT/HOS1-027.htm and following.

  61. German Crimes in Poland, p. 102

  62. Thirteenth regulation under Reich Citizenship Law, 1 July 1943. Nuremberg Document PS-1422. Available online at: http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=6298

  63. Nuremberg Document NO-060

  64. Opinion and Judgement of the United States Military Tribunal II, in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 5: United States v. Oswald Pohl, et. al. (Case 4: 'Pohl Case'), p. 980-992. Available online at: http://www.mazal.org/archive/nmt/05/NMT05-T0980.htm ff.

  65. Ibid.

  66. Nuremberg Document NO-2714, Pros. E. 555, Ibid

  67. Opinion and Judgment of the United States Military Tribunal II: General Findings, op. cit., p. 958-980

  68. Nuremberg Document NO-1257

  69. Ibid

  70. Nuremberg Document PS-2024

  71. Nuremberg Document NO-2003

  72. Nuremberg Document NO-2754

  73. Conrad Black, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom (New York: Public Affairs, 2005), p.815. "Despite Germany's efforts to suppress information about its mass-murder policies, evidence of them trickled steadily out to the West. A report came from the Polish government in exile in June 1942 that 750,000 Polish Jews (one-quarter of the total pre-war Jewish population of the country) had been killed. When Roosevelt's old sometime ally from New York politics, Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, prevailed upon Justice Felix Frankfurter to visit and remonstrate with the President in September 1942, Roosevelt blandly assured him that he thought most of the deportations were for forced labor rather than extermination. He must have known this to be untrue, and was either trying not to disconcert his old 'friend' or was inexplicably reluctant to take the issue on fully." See also Richard Breitman, "American Policy," p. 11-16; Michael Cohen, "British Policy," p. 92-7; Gaston Haas, "Red Cross, International Committee of the," p. 518-9; in The Holocaust Encylopedia, ed. Laqueur

  74. German Crimes in Poland, p. 106

  75. Ibid., p. 98

  76. Pages reproduced in Klee, p. 226-7

  77. Alex Bay, "Appendix A - Identifying the Kurt Franz Camera." The Reconstruction of Treblinka. http://www.holocaust-history.org/Treblinka/appendixa/

  78. http://www.deathcamps.org/treblinka/pic/bmap9.jpg

  79. Reproduced in Donat, p. 263

  80. German Crimes in Poland, p. 98-9.

  81. National Archives, GX120 frame 125, May 15, 1944. Blown up version available online at: http://www.deathcamps.org/treblinka/pic/bmap8.jpg

  82. Nuremberg Document PS-4042

  83. Photos of a Soviet investigation in 1946, Novosti Press. Collection available online at: http://www.deathcamps.org/treblinka/lasttracks.html

  84. German Crimes in Poland, p. 96-7

  85. Quoted in "Reconstruction of Treblinka: Geography of the Locale" http://www.holocaust-history.org/Treblinka/geographyinternet/geographyp2.shtml

  86. Odilo Globocnik, "Top Secret" memo, 5 January 1944. Nuremberg Document NO-064

  87. Secret order issued by Sprenger, the Gauleiter and Commissioner for Reich Defence, 15 March 1945. Nuremberg Document D-728.


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Stephen Potyondi is an undergraduate student of history at the University of Alberta.

Copyright © 2006 Stephen Potyondi. All rights reserved.