Eliayahu Rosenberg, a survivor of Treblinka, testifies at a trial in Israel
Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz in the number of Jews who were killed by the Nazis: between 700,000 and 900,000, compared to an estimated 1.1 million to 1.5 million at Auschwitz.
The Treblinka death camp was located 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Warsaw, near the railroad junction at the village of Malkinia Górna, which is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the train station in the tiny village of Treblinka.
Raul Hilberg stated in his three-volume book, "The Destruction of the European Jews," that there were six Nazi extermination centers, including Treblinka. The other extermination camps were at Belzec, Sobibor,Chelmno, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of which are located in what is now Poland. The last two also functioned as forced labor camps (Zwangsarbeitslager), and were still operational shortly before being liberated by the Soviet Union towards the end of the war in 1944 and early 1945.
The camps at Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Chelmno had already been liquidated by the Germans before the Soviet soldiers arrived, and there was no remaining evidence of the extermination of millions of Jews. The combined total of the deaths at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor was 1.5 million, according to Raul Hilberg.
In June 1941, a forced labor camp for Jews and Polish political prisoners was set up near a gravel pit, a mile from where the Treblinka death camp would later be located. The labor camp became known as Treblinka I and the death camp, which opened in July 1942, was called Treblinka II or T-II.
The following quote, regarding the Treblinka I camp, is from Martin Gilbert's book entitled "The Holocaust":
The Jewish and Polish prisoners living there (Treblinka) were employed loading slag, cleaning drains and leveling the ground in and around the engine shed at Malkinia Junction, on the main Warsaw-Bialystok line. Later they were put to work repairing and strengthening the embankment along the Bug river. The staff of the camp consisted of 20 SS men and 20 Ukrainians. The commandant was Captain Theo von Euppen.
On January 20, 1942 at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, a conference was held to plan "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question" for Europe's 11 million Jews. SS General Reinhard von Heydrich, who was the head of RSHA (Reich Security Main Office) as well as the Deputy of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech Republic) led the conference. The protocols from the conference, as written by Adolf Eichmann, contained the expression "transportation to the East," a euphemism that was used to mean the genocidal killing of all the Jews in Europe.
This map shows the routes of the deportation of the Jews to the three Operation Reinhard camps that were set up following the Wannsee Conference.
On May 27, 1942, Reinhard von Heydrich was fatally wounded by two Czech resistance fighters who had parachuted into German-occupied Bohemia from Great Britain where they were trained. Even before Heydrich died 8 days later, Odilo Globocnik began preparations for Aktion Reinhard, which was the plan to send Jews to their deaths at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, according to Martin Gilbert's book "The Holocaust." A fourth extermination camp had already opened at Chelmno in what is now western Poland, and the first Jews were gassed in mobile vans on December 8, 1941, according to the Cental Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland.
There were no "selections" made at the three Operation Reinhard camps, nor at the Chelmno camp. All the Jews who were sent to these camps, with the exception of a few who escaped, were immediately killed in gas chambers. There were no records kept of their deaths.
Treblinka and the other two Operation Reinhard camps, Sobibor and Belzec, were all located near the Bug river which formed the eastern border of German-occupied Poland. The Bug river is very shallow at Treblinka; it is what people from Missouri would call a "crick" or creek, compared to the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers. It is shallow enough to wade across in the Summer time, or to walk across when it is frozen in the Winter.
As this map shows, the territory on the other side of the Bug river was White Russia (Belarus) and the section of Poland that was given to the Soviet Union after the joint conquest of Poland by the Germans and the Soviet Union in September 1939. This part of Poland was formerly occupied by the Russians between 1772 and 1917; between 1835 and 1917, this area was included in the Pale of Settlement, a huge reservation where the Eastern European Jews were forced to live.
The tiny village of Treblinka is located on the railroad line running from Ostrów Mazowiecki to Siedlce; a short distance from Treblinka, at Malkinia Junction, this line intersects the major railway line which runs from Warsaw, east to Bialystok. Trains can reverse directions at the Junction and return to Warsaw, or turn south towards Lublin, which was the headquarters for Operation Reinhard. A few Jews from Warsaw were sent to the Majdanek death camp in Lublin on trains that turned south at the Malkinia Junction.
When railroad lines were built in the 19th century, the width of the tracks was standardized in America and western Europe, but the tracks in Russia and eastern Poland were a different gauge. Bialystok is the end of the line in Poland; this is as far east as trains can go without changing the wheels on the rail cars. Treblinka is located only a short distance west of Bialystok, as can be seen on this map.
In June 1941, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union and "liberated" the area formerly known as the Pale of Settlement. By the time that the Aktion Reinhard camps were set up in 1942, German troops had advanced a thousand kilometers into Russia. The plan was to transport the Jews as far as the Bug river and kill them in gas chambers, then claim that they had been "transported to the East."
In 1942, the Germans built a new railroad spur line from the Malkinia Junction into the Treblinka extermination camp. When a train, 60 cars long, arrived at the junction, the cars were uncoupled and 20 cars at a time were backed into the camp. Today, a stone sculpture shows the location of the train tracks that brought the Jews into the Treblinka death camp.
The first Jews to be deported to the Treblinka death camp were from the Warsaw ghetto; the first transport of 6,000 Jews arrived at Treblinka at about 9:30 on 23 July 1942. Between late July and September 1942, the Germans transported more than 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Jews were also deported to Treblinka from Lublin and Bialystok, two major cities in eastern Poland, which were then in the General Government, as German-occupied Poland was called. Others were transported to Treblinka from theTheresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic. Approximately 2,000 Gypsies were also sent to Treblinka and murdered in the gas chambers.
Trains continued to arrive regularly at Treblinka until May 1943, and a few more transports arrived after that date.
On October 19, 1943, Odilo Globocnik wrote to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler: "I have completed Aktion Reinhard and have dissolved all the camps."
In an article published on August 8, 1943, the New York Times referred to a headline in a London newspaper which read: "2,000,000 Murders by Nazis Charged. Polish Paper in London says Jews Are Exterminated in Treblinka Death House." The subtitle read : "According to report, steam is used to kill men, women and children at a place in the woods." The London newspaper story was based upon an article published on August 7th in the magazine Polish Labor Fights, which contained information from a Polish report on November 15, 1942.
More news about the killing of the Jews at the Treblinka camp came from Vasily Grossman, a Jewish war correspondent who was traveling with the Soviet Red Army. In November 1944, Grossman published an article entitled "The Hell of Treblinka," which was later quoted at the trial of the major German war criminals at Nuremberg. Grossman had interviewed 40 survivors of the Treblinka uprising and he had talked to some of the local farmers. The camp had been completely razed to the ground; there was nothing left for Grossman to see, "only graves and death." The Jews had all been killed, according to Grossman.
Proof that Treblinka was an extermination camp is contained in a 16-page secret document, that was submitted by Nazi statistician Dr. Richard Korherr to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on March 27, 1943. Reichsführer-SS Himmler was a five-star general and the leader of the SS; he was responsible for all the Nazi concentration camps, which were administered by the SS. This report on "The Final Solution of the European Jewish Problem," compiled at Himmler's request, stated that of the 1,449,692 Jews deported from the Eastern provinces, 1,274,366 had been subjected to Sonderbehandlung at camps in the General Government.
On April 1, 1943, Himmler had the report prepared for submission to Hitler; the words "Sonderbehandlung at Camps in the General Government" were changed to "Transport of Jews from the Eastern Provinces to the Russian East, Processed through the Camps in the General Government." The term Sonderbehandlung, sometimes abbreviated SB, was used by the Nazis to mean death in the gas chamber; the English translation is "special treatment."
The terms "evacuation" and "transportation to the East" were Nazi code words for sending the Jews to death camps where they were murdered in the gas chambers. The words "resettled" and "liquidated," when used to refer to the Jews, were also euphemisms which meant killed in the gas chambers.
The term "die Endlösung der Judenfrage" was written by Hermann Goering in a letter to Reinhard von Heydrich on July 31, 1941. Translated into English as "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question," this is as a euphemism which was used by the Nazis to mean the genocide of the Jews in Europe. However, at the Nuremberg IMT, Goering testified that the term meant the "Total solution to the Jewish question" which was a euphemism for the evacuation of the Jews to the East.
In order to hide its real purpose as a death camp, the Nazis referred to Treblinka as a Durchgangslager (transit camp).
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was responsible for completing, by March 1943, the resettlement of 629,000 ethnic Germans from the Baltic countries into the Polish territory that was incorporated into the Greater German Reich in October 1939. He was also responsible for deporting 365,000 Poles, from the part of Poland that was incorporated into the Greater German Reich, to occupied Poland, and for deporting 295,000 citizens from Luxembourg and the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which were also incorporated into the Greater German Reich. All this had been accomplished by Himmler by March 1943 when Dr. Korherr, who was Himmler's chief statistician, made his report on what had happened to the Jews who were living in Eastern Poland.
In 2000, a document called the Höfle Telegram was discovered by Holocaust historians in the Public Records Office in Kew, England. This document consists of two intercepted encoded messages, both of which were sent from Lublin on January 11, 1943 by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, and marked "state secret." One message was sent to Adolf Eichmann in the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in Berlin and the other to SS-Oberststurmbannführer Franz Heim, deputy commander of the Security Police (SIPO) at the headquarters of German-occupied Poland in Krakow.
The encoded messages gave the number of arrivals at the Operation Reinhard camps during the previous two weeks and the following totals for Jews sent to the Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Lublin (Majdanek) camps in 1942:
Treblinka, 71,355; Belzec, 434,500; Sobibor, 101,370; and Majdanek, 24,733.
The number for Treblinka, 71,355, was a typographical error; the correct number should be 713,555, based on the total given. The total "arrivals" for the four camps matches the total of 1,274,166 "evacuated" Jews in the Korherr Report.
Besides the freight trains that carried the Jews in box cars to Treblinka, there were also passenger trains with 3,000 people on board each train, as well as trucks and horse-drawn wagons that brought the victims to Treblinka.
Samuel Rajzman, one of the few survivors of Treblinka, testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal that "Between July and December 1942, an average of 3 transports of 60 cars each arrived every day. In 1943 the transports arrived more rarely." Rajzman stated that "On an average, I believe they killed in Treblinka from ten to twelve thousand persons daily."
The following testimony was given by Samuel Rajzman at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal:
Transports arrived there every day; their number depended on the number of trains arriving; sometimes three, four, or five trains filled exclusively with Jews -- from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, and Poland. Immediately after their arrival, the people had to leave the trains in 5 minutes and line up on the platform. All those who were driven from the cars were divided into groups -- men, children, and women, all separate. They were all forced to strip immediately, and this procedure continued under the lashes of the German guards' whips. Workers who were employed in this operation immediately picked up all the clothes and carried them away to barracks. Then the people were obliged to walk naked through the street to the gas chambers.
At the camp, a storehouse was "disguised as a train station," according to a pamphlet which I purchased at the Visitor's Center in 1998. The fake station was designed to fool the Jews into thinking that they had arrived at a transit camp, from where they were going to be "transported to the East."
Regarding the fake train station, Samuel Rajzman testified as follows at the Nuremberg IMT:
At first there were no signboards whatsoever at the station, but a few months later the commander of the camp, one Kurt Franz, built a first-class railroad station with signboards. The barracks where the clothing was stored had signs reading "restaurant," "ticket office," "telegraph," "telephone," and so forth. There were even train schedules for the departure and the arrival of trains to and from Grodno, Suwalki, Vienna, and Berlin.
According to Rajzman's testimony at Nuremberg, "When Treblinka became very well known, they hung up a huge sign with the inscription Obermaidanek." Maidanek was the German name for Majdanek; it was a death camp on the outskirts of Lublin, the headquarters of the Operation Reinhard camps. Rajzman explained that "the persons who arrived in transports soon found out that it was not a fashionable station, but that it was a place of death" and for this reason, the sign was intended to calm the victims.
In spite of all this effort to reassure the victims, the SS soldiers at Treblinka were allowed to grab babies from the arms of their mothers and bash their heads in. The first person to be tried for war crimes committed at Treblinka was Josef Hirtreiter, who was put on trial in a German court in Frankfort am Main, and sentenced on March 3, 1951 to life in prison. Based on the testimony of survivors, Hirtreiter was found guilty of killing young children at Treblinka, during the unloading of the trains, by holding them by the feet and smashing their heads against the boxcars.
The pamphlet from the Visitor's Center says that "In a relatively short time of its existence the camp took a total of over 800,000 victims of Jews from Poland, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Jugoslavia, Germany and the Soviet Union." Raul Hilberg puts the number of deaths at Treblinka at a minimum of 750,000. Other sources say that the total number of deaths was 870,000. Although the Nazis kept detailed records of everything, they did not record the number of deaths by gassing.
The following quote is from the same pamphlet:
"The extermination camp in Treblinka was built in the middle of 1942 near the already existing labour camp. It was surrounded by fence and rows of barbed wire along which there were watchtowers with machine guns every ten metres. The main part of the camp constituted two buildings in which there were 13 gas chambers altogether. Two thousand people could be put to death at a time in them. Death by suffocation with fumes came after 10 - 15 minutes. First the bodies of the victims were buried, later were cremated on big grates out of doors. The ashes were mixed witch (sic) sand and buried in one spot."
Martin Gilbert wrote in his book entitled "Holocaust Journey" that the gas chambers at Treblinka utilized carbon monoxide from diesel engines. Many writers say that these diesel engines were obtained from captured Russian submarines, but according to the Nizkor Project, they were large 500 BHP engines from captured Soviet T-34 tanks. However, at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal proceedings against the major Nazi war criminals, which began in November 1945, the Nazis were charged by the Soviet Union with murdering Jews at Treblinka in "steam chambers," not gas chambers. Steam chambers were used at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt for disinfecting the clothing of the prisoners.
The pamphlet continues with this information:
"Killing took place with great speed. The whole process of killing the people, starting from thier (sic) arrival at the camp railroad till removing the corpses from the gas chambers, lasted about 2 hours. Treblinka was known among the Nazis as an example of good organization of a death camp. It was a real extermination centre."
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has the following information about Treblinka:
"The camp was laid out in a trapezoid of 1,312 by 1,968 feet. Branches woven into the barbed-wire fence and trees planted around the perimeter served as camouflage, blocking any view into the camp from the outside. Watchtowers 26 feet high were placed along the fence and at each of the four corners."
The camp was divided into sections with one area reserved for the living quarters of the administrators of the camp and the Ukrainian guards; another section at the south end of the camp was for the 1,000 Jewish workers who sorted the clothing and removed the bodies from the gas chambers. Another section, where the gassing operation took place, was fenced off from the reception area and the living area. The victims went through a tube, which was a fenced-in and camouflaged path that led from the reception area, where they had to undress, to the gas chamber. The victims had to run naked through the tube to a building with a deceptive sign that indicated that this was a shower room.
Samuel Rajzman testified at the Nuremberg IMT that the Nazis had nicknamed the path to the gas chamber "Himmelfahrtstrasse," which means Street to Heaven. In his testimony, Rajzman stated that there were originally 3 gas chambers at Treblinka, but later 10 more were built and there were plans to increase the number of Treblinka gas chambers to 25.
On August 23, 1942, fifty-two-year-old Jankiel Wiernik (Yankel Vernik) was among several thousand Jews transported from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka. Wiernik, who was born in 1891 and lived in Czestochowa, Poland, survived and after the war, he wrote a book entitled "A Year In Treblinka." Despite his age, Wiernik had been assigned to the work squad, composed mainly of young men, which had to carry the bodies to the mass graves that had been made by "an excavator which dug out the ditches." According to Wiernik, "The dimensions of each ditch was 50 by 25 by 10 metres."
Wiernik wrote that there was originally one gas chamber building which had 6 small rooms, three on each side of a narrow hallway. This was a rectangular building located at the end of the tube; the door into the building faced north. Today, a large monument stands in the spot where this building was located.
According to Wiernik, the engine room was at the south end of the hallway; carbon monoxide was pumped from diesel engines into the gas chambers. After the gassing, the bodies were removed through six outside doors on the east side which opened upward like a garage door. The bodies were first buried in pits, then later dug up and burned on two pyres located just east of the gas chamber building.
The first Commandant of the Treblinka II death camp was SS-Obersturmführer Irmfried Eberl, who held this position from July 1942 to September 1942. He was succeeded by SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl, who served as the Commandant from September 1942 to August 1943. Prior to his service at Treblinka II, Stangl had been the commander of the Sobibor death camp and before that, he was on the staff at Schloss Hartheim, where mentally and physically disabled Germans were sent to be gassed.
The 3rd and last Commandant of Treblinka II was SS-Untersturmführer Kurt Franz who was the commander from August 1943 until October 3, 1943. Franz was a handsome man who was nicknamed "Lalka" by the prisoners. Lalka is the Polish word for doll. The German word for little doll is Puppi, a common term of affection for little girls, but for a man, this nickname was a term of derision.
Kurt Franz was nicknamed "Doll" by the prisoners
On September 3, 1965 Kurt Franz was convicted by the German Court of Assizes in Düsseldorf, Germany in the First Treblinka Trial, along with 9 other SS officers who had worked at Treblinka II.
The killing of Jews at Treblinka had not bothered Kurt Franz in the least; the photograph album, that he complied while working in the camp as the deputy of Franz Stangl, and later as the Commandant, was entitled "Schöne Zeiten" which means Good Times.
Kurt Franz was sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was based on the finding of the court that "At least 700,000 persons, predominantly Jews, but also a number of Gypsies, were killed at the Treblinka extermination camp."
This finding by the court was based on the expert opinion submitted to the Court of Assizes by Dr. Helmut Kraunsnick, director of the Institute for Contemporary History (Institute fur Zeitgeschichte) in Munich, who referred to the following documents during his testimony:
(1) The Stroop report, a book by SS Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, which contained photographs and daily reports of the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943. The Stroop report mentioned that approximately 310,000 Jews had been transported in trains from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka during the period from July 22, 1942 to October 3, 1942. After the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Jews who survived were transported to Treblinka.
(2) The testimony at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.
(3) The official records of train schedules, telegrams, and train inventories pertaining to the transports of Jews and Gypsies to Treblinka.
Franz Stangl was imprisoned by the Allies after the war, but was released two years later without ever having been put on trial. Following his release, he went to Italy where he was helped by the Vatican to escape to Syria, where he lived with his family for three years. In 1951, he moved to Brazil where he lived openly, using his real name.
Stangl was a native of Austria, but for years the Austrian authorities declined to bring him to justice for the murder of thousands of Jews at Treblinka. Finally in 1961, a warrant for his arrest was issued, but it was not until six years later that he was captured in Brazil by the famous Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal; he had been working at a Volkswagen factory in Sao Paulo, still using his own name.
In 1969, Dr. Wolfgang Scheffler submitted an expert opinion, based on more recent research, that the total number of persons killed at Treblinka was 900,000.
Franz Stangl was finally put on trial in the Second Treblinka Trial by the court of Assizes at Düsseldorf on October 22, 1970, charged with the deaths of 900,000 people at Treblinka. Stangl confessed to the murders, but in his defense, he said, "My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty ..."
After his six-month trial in the German court, Stangl was found guilty on December 22, 1970 and sentenced to life in prison in January 1971; he died in prison at Düsseldorf on June 28, 1971.
Aerial photos taken by the Soviet Union while the camp was in operation show that there were Polish farms adjacent to the camp and that the area of the camp was devoid of trees. Today, the area of the Treblinka Memorial site is completely surrounded by a forest and the section of the camp where the guards once lived is now covered by trees.
Like the Buchenwald concentration camp, the Treblinka II camp had a zoo, which was built by Commandant Franz Stangl for the amusement of the SS staff and some of the privileged prisoners, called Kapos, who assisted the Germans in the camp. Treblinka also had a camp orchestra and a brothel for the SS staff.
According to Jean Francois Steiner, who wrote a book called "Treblinka," the privileged prisoners in the camp had "a great life." They were allowed to marry in the camp, and Kurt Franz conducted the wedding ceremonies. After one of the wedding celebrations, the prisoners got the idea of "a kind of cabaret," where there was music, dancing and drinking on the Summer nights.
The following quote is from Steiner's book:
When Lalka heard about what was going on, far from forbidding it, he provided the drinks himself and encouraged the SS men to go there. The first contact lacked warmth, but the S.S. men knew how to make people forget who they were, and soon their presence was ignored. In addition to the dancing, there were night-club acts. The ice was broken between the Jews and the S.S. This did not prevent the S.S. from killing the Jews during the day, but the prospect of having to part company soon mellowed them a little.
The high point of these festivities was unquestionably Arthur Gold's birthday. An immense buffet was laid out in the tailor shop, which the S.S. officers decorated themselves. Hand written invitations were sent to every member of the camp aristocracy. It was to be the great social event of the season and everyone was eager to wear his finest clothes. [...] The women had done each other's hair and had put on the finest dresses in the store, simple for the girls and decollete for the women. [...] Arthur Gold outdid himself in the toasts that preceded the festivities. He insisted on thanking the Germans for the way they treated the Jews.
One evening a Ukrainian brought an accordion and the others began to dance. The scene attracted some Jews, who with the onset of Summer, were more and more uncomfortable in their "cabaret." The nights were soft and starry, and if it were not for the perpetual fire which suffused the sky with its long flames, you would have thought that you were on the square of some Ukrainian village on Midsummer Eve. Everything was there: the campfire, the dancing, the multicolored skirts and the freshness of the night. Friendships sprang up. Just because men were going to kill each tomorrow was no reason to sulk.
On August 2, 1943, the Jewish prisoners who worked at Treblinka staged an uprising after they had managed to steal weapons stored at the camp. The prisoners sprayed kerosene on the camp buildings and set them on fire. Jankiel Wiernik survived the uprising, although he was shot by one of the guards. According to Jean Francois Steiner, the Treblinka guard known as Ivan the Terrible was killed during the uprising.
In 1986, John Demjanjuk, an American citizen, was extradited from the United States to Israel, where he was put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death in 1988. At the trial, five survivors identified him from a photograph as "Ivan the Terrible," a guard at the Treblinka extermination camp who was famous for his brutality. His conviction was overturned when it was learned that the real Ivan the Terrible was probably a man named Ivan Marchenko, who had been killed with a shovel during the prisoner revolt at Treblinka in 1943, just as Jean Francois Steiner wrote in his book.
The following quote is from a book written by Jean Francois Steiner, entitled "Treblinka":
All the members of the Committee and most of those who played a role in the uprising of the camp died in the revolt. Of the thousand prisoners who were in the camp at the time, about six hundred managed to get out and to reach the nearby forests without being recaptured.
Of these six hundred escapees, there remained, on the arrival of the Red Army a year later, only forty survivors. The others had been killed in the course of that year by Polish peasants, partisans of the Armia Krajowa, Ukrainian fascist bands, deserters from the Wehrmacht, the Gestapo and special units of the German army.
The photograph below shows three unidentified survivors of Treblinka who escaped during the uprising.
Photo Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum
One of the 40 prisoners who escaped from Treblinka, and lived to tell about it, was Abraham Bomba, a Jew who was born in 1913 in Germany, but raised in Czestochowa, Poland. Bomba was one of the 1,000 Jews who lived in the barracks in a separate section of the Treblinka II camp and worked for the Germans who ran the death camp. Bomba was a barber and his job was cutting the hair of the victims inside the gas chamber, just before they were gassed. In 1990, he told about his experience in the camp in a video-taped interview for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The quote below is from the transcript of his interview:
"And now I want to tell you, I want to tell you about the thing...the gas chamber. It was, they ask me already about this thing. The gas chamber, how it looked. Very simple. Was all concrete. There was no window. There was nothing in it. Beside, on top of you, there was wires, and it looked like, you know, the water going to come out from it. Had two doors. Steel doors. From one side and from the other side. The people went in to the gas chamber from the one side. Like myself, I was in it, doing the job as a barber. When it was full the gas chamber--the size of it was...I would say 18 by 18, or 18 by 17, I didn't measure that time, just a look like I would say I look here the room around, I wouldn't say exactly how big it is. And they pushed in as many as they could. It was not allowed to have the people standing up with their hands down because there is not enough room, but when people raised their hand like that there was more room to each other. And on top of that they throw in kids, 2, 3, 4 years old kids, on top of them. And we came out. The whole thing it took I would say between five and seven minute. The door opened up, not from the side they went in but the side from the other side and from the other side the...the group...people working in Treblinka number 2, which their job was only about dead people. They took out the corpses. Some of them dead and some of them still alive. They dragged them to the ditches, and over there they covered them. Big ditches, and they covered them. That was the beginning of Treblinka."
After each gassing, the Jewish workers at Treblinka had to clean up in preparation for the next batch of victims, according to Abraham Bomba. The clothing that had been taken off by the victims had to be removed and put into piles for sorting before being sent on the next empty transport train to Lublin. Everything was done with great efficiency in this assembly-line murder camp, and nothing was wasted. All of the clothes and valuables, taken from the Jews when they arrived at Treblinka, were sent to the Majdanek camp in a suburb of Lublin where everything was disinfected before being sent to Germany and given to civilians.
In his 1990 interview at the USHMM, Bomba described what happened next. Below is a quote from the transcript of his interview:
"People went in through the gate. Now we know what the gate was, it was the way to the gas chamber and we have never see them again. That was the first hour we came in. After that, we, the people, 18 or 16 people...more people came in from the...working people, they worked already before, in the gas chamber, we had a order to clean up the place. Clean up the place--is not something you can take and clean. It was horrible. But in five, ten minutes this place had to look spotless. And it looked spotless. Like there was never nobody on the place, so the next transport when it comes in, they shouldn't see what's going on. We were cleaning up in the outside. Tell you what mean cleaning up: taking away all the clothes, to those places where the clothes were. Now, not only the clothes, all the papers, all the money, all the, the...whatever somebody had with him. And they had a lot of things with them. Pots and pans they had with them. Other things they had with them. We cleaned that up."
After a visit to Treblinka in February 1943, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered that all the evidence of the killing of the Jews had to be destroyed. Beginning in March 1943, the bodies of approximately 750,000 victims were exhumed and burned on pyres; the ashes were then buried in the original pits, according to Raul Hilberg. Today, a symbolic cemetery is located where some of the ashes were buried. By May 1943, the daily transports had stopped and the Treblinka camp was getting ready to close.
During his trial, the last Commandant, Kurt Franz, testified that "After the uprising in August 1943, I ran the camp single-handedly for a month; however, during that period no gassing was undertaken. It was during that period that the original camp was leveled off and lupines were planted."
There were neither factories nor living quarters for the 713,555 Jews who arrived at the fake transit station at the Treblinka death camp in 1942. The terms "arrivals" and "evacuated" were Nazi code words for extermination; the Jews who were sent to Treblinka and the other Operation Reinhard camps were immediately gassed, only hours after their arrival.
The following quote, regarding the purpose of the Treblinka camp is from the trial transcript of David Irving's libel case against Deborah Lipstadt which is on this web site:
(Richard Rampton, the lawyer for the defense, shows David Irving a map of the railroad lines to the Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec camps, as he questions him about the purpose of these camps.)
[Mr Rampton] Then there is that another marking, which we do not have to bother about, which is the actual, I think, German railway as opposed to the Russian one or the Polish one. A different gauge, I think. The line runs north/east or east/north/east out of Warsaw to a place called Malkinia; do you see that?
[Mr Irving] Yes.
[Mr Rampton] Just on the border with White Russia?
[Mr Irving] Yes.
[Mr Rampton] And there is a sharp right turn and the first dot down that single line is Treblinka.
[Mr Irving] Yes.
[Mr Rampton] Then if you go to Lublin and you go east/south/east towards the Russian border you come to a place Kelm or Khelm.
[Mr Irving] First of all Treblinka and then Kelm, yes.
[Mr Rampton] And you go sharp left northwards to Sobibor?
[Mr Irving] Yes.
[Mr Rampton] Which is just again next to the border. If on the other hand you turn right before you get to Kelm or Khelm and go to Savadar, again, travelling right down to the border on single line you get to Belsec?
[Mr Irving] Yes.
[Mr Rampton] Those, Mr Irving, were little villages in the middle of nowhere, and from the 22nd July 1942, if these figures you have given in your book are right, which they are not quite, but the volume, if you multiply, must be hundreds of thousands of Jews transported from Lublin and Warsaw and as I shall show you after the adjournment also from the East; what were those Jews going to do in these three villages on the Russian border?
[Mr Irving] The documents before me did not tell me.
[Mr Rampton] No, but try and construct in your own mind, as an historian, a convincing explanation.
[Mr Irving] There would be any number of convincing explanations, from the most sinister to the most innocent. What is the object of that exercise? It is irrelevant to the issues pleaded here, I shall strongly argue that, it would have been --
MR JUSTICE GRAY: If you want to take that point, can you
[Mr Irving] -- it would have been irresponsible of me to have speculated in this book (Hitler's War), which is already overweight, and start adding in my own totally amateurish speculation.
MR RAMPTON: No, you mistake me, Mr Irving, it is probably not your fault I, as his Lordship spotted what I have done, I have taken what you have wrote (sic) in the book as a stepping stone to my next exercise, which is to show the scale of the operation, and in due course, and I give you fair warning, to demonstrate that anybody who supposes that those hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to these tiny little villages, what shall we say, in order to restore their health, is either mad or a liar.
MR RAMPTON: No. I suggest, Mr Irving, that anybody -- any sane, sensible person would deduce from all the evidence, including, if you like, the shootings in the East which you have accepted, would conclude that these hundreds of thousands of Jews were not being shipped to these tiny little places on the Russian border in Eastern Poland for a benign purpose?