Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp?

A Review
Published: 2004-02-01
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Carlo Mattogno, Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp?, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2004, pb, 370 pp., $25.-

At the end of November or beginning December 1995, during an evening stroll in the cold late fall of Moscow, Carlo Mattogno and I had an inspiration. We had been working in two Russian archives with holdings in German wartime documents. While our main research target was the Auschwitz concentration camp, we had also turned up quite a bit of material about Treblinka in the Archive of the Russian Federation, including many eyewitness testimonies and reports of Soviet commissions. Despite the absence of primary documents German, we decided to write a book about Treblinka.

Several important revisionist investigations of this notorious "pure extermination camp" had already appeared. Udo Walendy had prepared a comprehensive critique of the official account of Treblinka in Historische Tatsachen (Historical Facts) No. 44, pointing out a series of technical impossibilities as well as contradictions among the eyewitnesses. The anthology Dissecting the Holocaust, which was published in 1994 by Ernst Gauss (i.e. Germar Rudolf), contained three essays – by John Ball, Friedrich P. Berg, and Arnulf Neumaier – which dealt completely or partially with Treblinka. All of these authors, however, limited themselves to taking apart the orthodox version of the "death factory," making no attempts to discover an alternative function for Treblinka.

This is in no way surprising: While a large number of documents survived in Auschwitz and Majdanek, those for Treblinka (as well as for the other "pure extermination camps" Belzec, Sobibor, and Chelmno) are as good as gone; nor will the visitor find any tangible physical traces at the sites of the former camps. The modern picture of the "killing centers" is therefore based solely on eyewitness testimonies. It is not an easy matter to find out the real function of these camps under these circumstances.

Treblinka. Stone Memorial in the Center of the Camp. © Carlo Mattogno, 1997

It was chiefly for this reason that Mattogno and I put our Treblinka project temporarily on ice. During the course of intensive travel in Poland in the summer of 1997, we were able to visit the Treblinka site, 80 kilometers east of Warsaw, and take a number of photos, but our main interest was the concentration camp Majdanek.

Our interest in Treblinka was renewed by the end of 1999, when our Australian friend Fredrick Töben informed us of the ground-penetrating radar investigations by his fellow Australian Richard Krege, a young engineer. By means of radar, which discovers irregularities of the soil structure and can indicate underground finds as buried objects and grave sites, Krege investigated the area of Treblinka, which, according to eyewitnesses, contained huge mass graves. Since neither Treblinka, nor Belzec, Sobibor, or Chelmno are alleged to have had crematoria, the corpses of 750,000 to three million murdered Jews (the numbers depending on the author) were first buried in mass graves, but then, following the spring of 1943, dug up and cremated in open air on huge gratings, allegedly without leaving a trace. Based on preliminary results from several days worth of radar investigations in October 1999, Krege came to the conclusion that the soil in the zone of the alleged mass graves was completely untouched and that therefore the graves had never existed.

This was exciting news. If Krege’s results were correct, then the extermination camp story was, with absolute scientific certainty, finished, for the official version of Treblinka stands and falls with the existence of those graves. I quickly contacted the Australian engineer by telephone in order to learn the details. He informed me that his data were incomplete: Further on-site investigations were necessary. He also planned to check out Belzec and Sobibor. We decided to work together.

Since the two-week rental of the radar equipment was beyond Krege’s means, I sent out a letter requesting donations from my sponsors and friends, and succeeded in raising the necessary amount. On August 21, 2000, six days after my 49th birthday (at which time I departed my homeland, Switzerland, permanently), the three of us – Richard Krege, Carlo Mattogno, and I – met in Cracow. However, Mattogno had to return to Italy two days later due to a family illness – which fortunately proved not to be serious – so Krege and I continued the journey to the "extermination camps" on our own.

Treblinka. Cross beams of concrete, along a concrete platform, symbolize the rail-road track and the ramp of the camp. © Carlo Mattogno, 1997.

Our first goal was Auschwitz. For his study, Krege required a comparison between Treblinka and a place where mass graves had been dug at the time of the Second World War. Several such graves are located in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where about 20,000 victims perished during a murderous spotted fever epidemic during the summer and fall of 1942. Since the capacity of the old crematorium in the main camp was insufficient by far for the cremation of all the epidemic victims and the crematoria of Birkenau had not yet been built, the corpses were for the most part buried in mass graves, which are clearly visible on the Allied aerial photographs as published and interpreted by John Ball. We had no problems finding one of the graves with the ground-penetrating radar device; the ground configuration and vegetation unmistakably differed from that of adjacent areas. Krege worked there for two days with his equipment. Because I had no idea how to operate the apparatus, I was unable to be of much help, so my task on that trip was limited to one of interpreter.

The next station was Belzec, where my colleague found ideal working conditions. Although about 600,000 Jews are alleged to have been gassed in this tiny camp, i.e. one tenth of the famous "six million," it attracts few visitors, and the Polish authorities have not thought it necessary to build a museum there. Therefore Krege could work there for days undisturbed, especially since Mother Nature was smiling on us. Conditions were different in Sobibor: First, there is a museum at the entrance to the camp, the employees of which are quick to notice any unauthorized activity in the camp area, and second, as a young Polish historian who worked in the museum informed us, the exact (or supposed) location of the mass graves is unknown. Since the historian knew Mattogno and myself to be revisionists from our previous visit in 1997, we renounced any secrecy and asked for permission to employ the radar equipment. The man referred us to an office in Warsaw to obtain the necessary approval; we declined so futile an effort and continued on to Treblinka.

There we stayed in a well-kept country guest house at the edge of the small town Ostrow, not far from Treblinka. Over the following days Krege worked tirelessly with his radar equipment, checking out every square meter of ground in the area of the alleged mass graves. Since buses with (frequently Israeli) Holocaust tourists arrived continuously, I was on tenterhooks throughout. Luckily the industrious activity of my companion caused no suspicion among the Holocaust pilgrims, and we left Treblinka without any awkward incidents. Krege returned to his home via Germany the following day, while my path led me further east – first to Lemberg (Lviv), in Ukraine, where I researched for several days in the local archive, then to on Moscow, and two months later to the Orient. But that is another story.

Richard Krege presented the initial results of his research, displayed on slides, at two conferences (in June 2001 in Washington and in January 2002 in Moscow). While the scans of Birkenau showed evidence of massive ground disturbances, strengthening support for the presence of an earlier mass grave, all traces of similar soil disturbances are missing in Treblinka and Belzec. The only logical conclusion is that these huge mass graves, containing up to one and a half million corpses (per Encyclopedia of the Holocaust: 870,000 in Treblinka and 600,000 in Belzec), never existed. This fact alone suffices to make the official version of the Holocaust collapse like a house of cards.

Originally Mattogno, Krege, and I planned to publish the complete results of these radar ground penetration studies of Treblinka as part of a comprehensive study of the camp. Our plan has changed. In view of the special importance of these research results we have agreed to the suggestion of Castle Hill Publishers that we publish them, together with those from Belzec, in a separate book. Therefore Krege’s results were not included in the Treblinka book, which Mattogno and I completed in the spring of 2002.

Plan of Treblinka, drawn by Samuel Willenberg in 1984. The author’s "Treblinka" includes a chronological presentation of the various maps of the camp published after the war, and demonstrates their many inaccuracies. (From: S. Willenberg, "Revolt in Treblinka," Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, Warsaw 1989, p. 6; click to enlarge)

Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transfer Camp? is mostly the work of Carlo Mattogno, since he edited seven of the nine chapters. I am the author of the first and fifth chapter, and the introduction and conclusion; I also translated Mattogno’s chapters into German. The first part of the book includes an overview of orthodox as well as revisionist historiography on Treblinka, a thorough analysis of the origin of the official version of Treblinka, a systematic historic and technical rebuttal of this version that goes far beyond previous revisionist scholarship, and a survey of the Treblinka trials in Germany and Israel, in which nearly every principle of justice was discarded. The second part of our book establishes that Treblinka was a transit camp, through which the deported Jews from Warsaw and other Polish towns were channeled, partly eastward into the occupied Soviet territories, partly southward to Majdanek and other work camps in the Lublin district.

According to the official historiography, the Jews who arrived in Treblinka were told that they were in a transfer camp, where they had to shower and their clothes had to be disinfested before they continued their journey. In this way, goes the story, the Jews were enticed to enter the gas chambers. We assume that the first part of the story is correct: The Jews took showers, and their belongings were placed in disinfestation chambers. As is known, German disinfestation chambers during the war were often operated with steam. If this was the case in Treblinka, it is the key to the original version of the extermination myth, according to which the Jews were allegedly killed in Treblinka with steam. On November 15, 1942, less than four months after the opening of the camp, the resistance organization of the Warsaw ghetto published a long report entitled Treblinka: Eternal Disgrace for the German Nation, in which it was claimed that to that date two million Jews (almost 20,000 per day!) had been murdered in steam chambers. The report went on to allege that the corpses had been buried in ever larger mass graves, and that after the extermination of all Jews "the ghost of death in the steam chambers would stand before the eyes of the whole Polish people." Treblinka: Eternal Disgrace was taken quite seriously in the Warsaw ghetto. The journalist Eugenia Szaijn-Lewin entered the following in her diary:

"The worst is the death in Treblinka. In the meantime we all have become aware of Treblinka. Over there, people are boiled alive."

After the Red Army conquered the region around Treblinka in August 1944, Soviet investigative commissions set immediately to work, reporting that three million people were killed in the camp. However, the specified killing method was no longer steam, but rather suffocation achieved by sucking the air from the death chambers by means of a vacuum pump driven by a diesel engine. Gradually the diesel engine, which had at first only driven the pump, was transformed into the killing weapon itself. The author of the latest counterfeit of Treblinka reality was the Jewish carpenter Yankiel Wiernik, who, in May 1944, plagiarized the report of the resistance organization of November 1942, replacing the "steam chambers" with "gas chambers".

It is quite probable that there was a diesel engine in Treblinka: A generator set would have been needed to supply the necessary electricity, and such a set was normally driven by a diesel engine. Since diesel engine exhaust fumes smell terribly, the technical amateur Wiernik evidently believed that these exhaust fumes were a suitable means of murder. This is a gross error, for, as Friedrich P. Berg and other revisionists have emphasized, these emissions, due to their high content of oxygen and low content of carbon monoxide, are poorly suited for the killing of people; any gasoline engine would be more efficient.

Between August 1944 and the end of 1945, differing methods of extermination contended in the atrocity propaganda. The three most often mentioned were suffocation by vacuum pumping of the death chambers, diesel exhaust fumes, and steam. The Soviet-Jewish author Wassili Grossmann wrote in his horror report The Hell of Treblinka, which was published in several languages in 1945 (and according to which the "barbed wire surrounded waste land of Treblinka consumed more people than all the seas and oceans together since the beginning of mankind"), that all three techniques were used, but mostly the first one. Although a document submitted by the Polish authorities to the Nuremberg Tribunal in December 1945 stated that several hundred thousand Jews were killed in Treblinka with steam (PS-3311), the Polish judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, the author of the first forensic reports about Treblinka, decided at about the same time for diesel exhaust fumes, because this appeared to him to be the most believable of the various killing techniques offered by the witnesses. In February 1946 the former Treblinka inmate Samuel Rajzman, in testimony presented at Nuremberg, spoke only of gas chambers. Since the Gerstein report, which at that time was attracting the attention of the historians, also mentioned diesel engines as the killing weapons at Belzec and Treblinka, the diesel gas chamber became at that time "established historic fact," and the other variants disappeared into the trash bin of history. The original figure for of Treblinka victims, three million, was dropped as too unbelievable; in the following years considerably lower numbers were found satisfactory.

In toto, the various witnesses listed the following killing methods for Treblinka:

  • Exhaust fumes from an unspecified engine, with poison added to the fuel.
  • A mobile gas chamber that traveled along the mass graves and unloaded the corpses into them.
  • Gas chambers with delayed reaction gas, which enabled the victims to walk to the mass graves, where they lost consciousness and fell into the graves.
  • Quicklime in trains; according to this version Treblinka served only as a burial place.
  • Boiling steam.
  • Electric current.
  • Shooting with machine guns.
  • Suffocation by vacuum pumping of the chambers.
  • Chlorine gas.
  • Zyklon B.
  • Diesel exhaust fumes.

This total confusion is of course quite embarrassing for the historians. While the less venturesome, such as Raul Hilberg, were satisfied to ignore all killing techniques described by the witnesses except the diesel engine, more impudent writers stoop to falsifying historical sources. This is especially true of the Israeli professor Yitzhak Arad, author of the "standard work" Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, in which the descriptions of the resistance movement of November 1942 are reproduced in detail, but the original "steam chambers" are replaced with "gas chambers" each time!

In short: The official Treblinka version is an uninterrupted chain of absurdities. This, however, does not answer the question of the camp’s actual purpose. Such revisionists as Arthur Butz, Robert Faurisson, Mark Weber, and Andrew Allen hypothesized that Treblinka was a transfer camp many years ago. Mattogno meticulously sets forth, on the basis of numerous documents, the National Socialist policy of Jewish resettlement to the East in two chapters, and in the final chapter provides evidence upon evidence and proof upon proof that those Jews who were brought to Treblinka were indeed subsequently sent through to other destinations. In order to counter the objection that, in the end, it does not matter whether the Jews were gassed in Poland or shot farther east, Mattogno in another chapter scrutinizes the thesis of the orthodox historians, according to which the Einsatzgruppen performed a policy of systematic extermination of Jews in the occupied eastern territories, and demonstrates that this allegation is untenable.

That Treblinka served, among other things, as a transit camp to Majdanek and other work camps in the Lublin area is admitted even by the Jewish historians Tatiana Berenstein and Adam Rutkowski. In the verdict of the Demjanjuk trial in Jerusalem certain former Jewish deportees were named who arrived in Majdanek after a short stay in Treblinka. It is more difficult to prove that Jews were deported from Treblinka to the occupied Soviet areas, but at least one solidly documented proof exists. On July 31, 1942, one week after the opening of Treblinka, the Reichskommissar for White Russia, Wilhelm Kube, excitedly objected to Reichskomissar for the Eastern territories Heinrich Lohse against the transportation of 1,000 Jews from Warsaw to Minsk, on the grounds that these Jews represented a danger as potential carriers of epidemics and as supporters of the partisans. At that time all deported Jews from Warsaw arrived in Treblinka, so that those 1,000 Jews must have been sent through that camp to Minsk. This one transport already is enough to shake the foundations of the story of the "pure extermination camp," in which every Jew except for a handful of "work Jews" was immediately murdered. Whoever objects that this transport is merely an exception must ask himeself how many other such "exceptions" existed.

Of course much is still obscure: the exact number of Jews deported to Treblinka, the exact destinations of those who were transferred from there, the fate of those who survived the harsh conditions of the war. There is reason to hope that the improving accessibility to the archives in the new nations that have sprung from the former USSR will make it possible for historians who are interested in the truth to shed more and more light into this darkness.

Our book contains numerous photos and documents and is based on the analysis of the German, Polish, French, and English published literature on Treblinka and on intensive research in many archives. Carlo Mattogno has based the technical part partially on prewar sources; he cites, for example, a technical-toxicological study prepared by leading experts and published in Germany in 1930, which indicates that the Germans already at that time had exact knowledge of the relatively low danger of diesel exhaust fumes, which underlines the falsity of the tale of the diesel exhaust fumes gas chambers. Richard Krege’s book about the results of his ground penetrating radar investigations will be a welcome addition to our research results when it appears. We rather doubt whether the representatives of the orthodox historiography will be able to counter with much more than lawsuits and testimonies, such as that of Abraham Bomba, who described in Claude Lanzmann’s film Shoah how he cut off the hair of seventy naked women in a gas chamber four meters long by four meters wide.


Sources are completely omitted in this book review. For these I refer to the book itself.

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Author(s) Jürgen Graf
Title Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp?, A Review
Sources The Revisionist 2(1) (2004), pp. 97-101
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Dates published: 2004-02-01, first posted on CODOH: July 9, 2012, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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