Chapter II: The Development of the Idea of Treblinka as an Extermination Camp
1. The Secondary Killing Methods
As we have seen in the introduction, there was little secret about Treblinka. In fact, already since August 1942, detailed reports about this camp were reaching Warsaw. These were essentially coming from Jews who had fled from Treblinka, from the populace, which resided in the area surrounding the camp, as well as from the Polish railway workers who operated the trains with the deportees. In these reports the version of the mass murders, adopted shortly after the war by the official historiography and still accepted today - gassing by means of the exhaust fumes of diesel engines - played an entirely epiphenomenal role. It appears in only two reports, which, moreover, mention some undefined "toxic fluids" supposedly mixed with the exhaust gases.
On October 5, 1942, the Polish underground newspaper Informacja bieżąca (Current Information), circulated the following report:
"Treblinka. The death camp is once more in operation. Transports arrive from the entire country (lastly Radom, Siedlce, Międzyrzec). Presently not 20 but 10 trains are allowed to approach at a time, for it takes a long time until the bodies of those who died on the way (20-30%) have been unloaded. The gas chambers function as follows: Outside of the barracks is a 20 HP internal combustion engine, which is in operation around the clock. The end of its exhaust pipe is mounted in a wall of the barracks; the exhaust gases, with the admixture of toxic fluids, which have been specially mixed into the fuel of the engine, kill the people locked up in the barracks. Besides the Jewish workers, there is a Jewish orchestra as well as a group of Jewish women in the camp area with whom the staff enjoys itself.
Up to the end of August, 320,000 Jews were exterminated in Treblinka."
The killing method described here also surfaces in a report, which was forwarded to the Polish exile government in London as part of a series of reports about Treblinka:
"After the arrival in the camp, the Jews receive the order to completely undress, under the pretext that they were being led to a bath. They are brought into a sealed chamber, a barrack, approximately 100 people at a time. Outside of the barrack stands an internal combustion engine of 20 HP, which runs around the clock. The mouth of the engine's exhaust leads through the barrack's wall, and the people locked up in the barrack are killed by exhaust gases channeled through it that contain toxic fluid additives, which have been especially mixed to the engine fuel."
Other murder techniques are also described in the reports of the Polish underground movement. Thus, in an edition of Informacja Bieżąca dated August 17, 1942, a mobile gas chamber is discussed:
"After the departure of the steam engines, the Jews are forced to undress, supposedly for the bath; then they are led into the gas chamber and executed, whereupon they - sometimes still living - are buried in excavated pits. The pits are excavated by machine; the gas chamber is mobile and moves back and forth over the pits. The camp strength amounted to 40,000 Jews on August 5, about 5,000 are executed daily. The liquidation is carried out by Ukrainians under the leadership of SS-men. The operation in the Warsaw Ghetto is supposed to be completed by September of this year."
On September 8, 1942, the Informacja Bieżąca reported on the deployment of an undefined gas with a delayed effect:
"The extermination of the Jews takes place entirely independently from the events in the camp. The steam engine pushes the cars with the Jews under the ramp, all in sequence. The Ukrainians pull the Jews out of the cars and lead them to the 'bath' in the bathhouse. This is a building surrounded by barbed wire. They enter in groups of 300 to 500 persons. Each group is immediately locked up hermetically and gassed. Of course, this gas is not immediately effective, for the Jews have to walk to the pits afterwards, which are about ten to twenty meters away and 30 m deep. There they lose consciousness and fall into the pits, and the excavator sprinkles a thin layer of earth upon them. Then the next group follows."
A further method was a gas - again without further description - with immediate effect. A Polish officer spoke of this, who was sent to Treblinka with his Jewish wife on September 6, 1942, but who escaped from there a few days afterward. His report belongs to the series of reports, which was sent to the Polish government-in-exile in London on March 31, 1943:
"Outside of the barracks the women undressed completely, and together with the naked children they were led to the huge barracks of 'Treblinka II' through a side exit on a path, which was surrounded on both sides by a wire net. One supposedly takes a bath in these barracks, but in reality a sudden death by gas occurs. I do not know what kind of gas is used, but I know from a colleague who worked three weeks in 'Treblinka II' that the corpses have a bluish color. [...] I do not know how many people have been killed in Treblinka; the piles of clothes and shoes are enormous and attain a height of two storeys; they take up a huge surface. [...] At the head of the group of Jewish workers are a Jew, the Kommandant of the camp, and his deputy. [sic!]"
As part of the same series of reports, a report was also sent to London, which likewise spoke of an extermination of Jews in "gas chambers." Information about what sort of gas was in use was not imparted in it, but there are supposed to have been "about a hundred gas chambers"(!):
"In this gigantic wooden house, where there were approximately 10,000 people in standing positions, an SS-officer greeted them very politely and said the following, word for word: 'You have worked too little up to now for the German State, and because of this the German Reich has decided to resettle you in the Ukraine, so that you work more. You are in a transit camp here. You will proceed directly to the bath.' [...] They finally reach their destination - apparently baths, but in realty gas chambers. They walk, a few of them at a time, into one chamber, and there are certainly about a hundred of these chambers. [...] The bodies are piled up in even layers, a hundred at a time, and chlorine is sprinkled on them."
Likewise among the reports delivered to London on March 31, 1943, there was a report with the title "Charakterystyka metód Treblinki" (Characteristic of the Methods of Treblinka), in which three further murder methods were listed: shooting, trains with unslaked lime, as well as water vapor:
"At the beginning of the so-called resettlement operation, when the technical preparations of the machinery of death were still not perfected, the Germans killed their victims in Treblinka in an extremely simple manner: a machine gun opened fire upon a crowd of men, women, and children who were brought forward, and they were shot down, each and every one of them. A crew of gravediggers threw all - the bodies of those killed, the critically wounded, as well as those lightly wounded - into the pits prepared up to that time and strewed them over with earth.
In August as well as the following months, as the acceleration of the campaign exceeded the possibilities of the steam chambers, the transports were loaded into cars, which were sprinkled with a layer of lime and chlorine, so that after the arrival in Treblinka, exclusively corpses of a violet-blue color were tossed out of the cars. All had suffocated under torment in the cars. For these transports (for example from Międzyrzec Podl., Kielce) Treblinka was but the place of burial. From this information it emerges that a punctual and precise execution of the drawn-up plan was important to the Germans. The methods described above were practiced when the capacity of the machinery of death in Treblinka was faltering. The teeth of the corpses pulled out of the steam chambers in Treblinka were examined. Gold teeth and bridges were extracted by means of dental instruments."
In 1946, Eugen Kogon cited in his well-known book Der SS-Staat the eyewitness narrative - originating from the previous year - of an Oskar Berger, who, according to his own statements, had been deported in the July of 1942 from the ghetto of Kielce to Treblinka and had escaped in September of the same year. He stated inter alia:
"Sometimes there were shipments that held only corpses. I believe these people must have been gassed in the cars, for I never notice any wounds."
He added that in the beginning the Jews who had arrived in the camp were shot. During his stay in Treblinka, the Germans had built "a small brick building." From then on, according to the witness, "new arrivals were gassed rather than shot."
These killing techniques - engine exhaust fumes from fuel mixed with toxic fluids, stationary gas chambers, a mobile gas chamber, gas with a delayed effect, gas with immediate effect, shootings, train cars strewn with unslaked lime, electric current - were mentioned in the reports about Treblinka only sporadically and without further details. The murder method that occupied the foreground, which was described most often as well as in the most detail, was the scalding with steam.
2. The Main Killing Method: Steam Chambers
On October 15, 1942, Emmanuel Ringelblum noted in his "ghetto chronicle":
"Information from the gravediggers (Jakob Rabinowicz), the Jews from Stoczek, who have escaped from the trains loaded with objects, gold, and cash. Congruent description of the 'bath,' the gravediggers with golden patches on the knees.
Method of killing: gas, steam, electricity. "
Until April 1943, the journalist Eugenia Szajn-Lewin lived in the Warsaw Ghetto and kept a diary during this time. With regard to Treblinka, she set down in this what was said about this camp in the ghetto until the end of 1942:
"The worst thing is death in Treblinka. By now, all know of Treblinka. There they cook people alive. They know by now that Bigan has escaped from Treblinka. [...]
He [Bigan] will build halls like the ones in Treblinka. Everything will be modern: the boilers that are heated by current, the steam-gas in there, the floor movable and sloping. 'There I will drive in the Germans, all naked. Many, many Germans, so that every corner is made use of, every centimeter.' And from the boilers the gaseous steam is conducted through the pipes, the boilers are red, and the steam... a hellish boiling bath. Four minutes suffice, then the floor flap automatically drops down, and the slimy mass of red, curled bodies flows away into the cesspit. And finished, the pits are but filled with chlorine, and there is no more trace of what was once alive. 'All this lasts only seven minutes, you hear me?'"
On November 15, 1942, the resistance movement of the Warsaw Ghetto, operating in the underground, composed a long article entitled "Likwidacja żydowskiej Warszawy" (Liquidation of Jewish Warsaw), which contained a detailed description of Treblinka together with a sketch of the camp. Due to the importance of this article, it deserves to be reproduced here in its entirety despite its length. It was sent to the Polish government-in-exile in London on January 6, 1943. This report was widely disseminated. A complete English translation already appeared in 1943 in the anthology The Black Book of Polish Jewry with the subtitle "Treblinka. Official Report Submitted to the Polish Government" and reads as follows:
"The village of Treblinka is situated near the Warsaw-Bialystok railroad line, a few kilometers from Malkinia, in a sandy and wooded area. The population consists of Polish peasant-farmers and forest workers. In 1940, [correct: 1941] the Germans established a penitentiary concentration camp, Treblinka A, on the sandy stretches near the village, for Poles who were guilty of transgressions against the occupant, of not supplying the demanded amounts of agricultural produce, or who were caught smuggling. The discipline at the camp is very strict; prisoners are shot on any pretext. The camp is as notorious as the penitentiary camp at Oswiecim.
In March, 1942, the Germans began the construction if another camp, Treblinka B, in the vicinity. That camp has become the slaughter-house for the Jews of Poland and of other European countries. Poles from the nearby Treblinka A, as well as Jews caught in the neighboring villages, were put to work at the preparatory construction. That work lasted until the end of April when the central building of the camp, death-house No. 1, was built. (14).
Treblinka B is situated on the sandy hills among woodland. The area of the camp is comparatively small, some 5,000 hectares (about 12,500 acres). It is entirely surrounded by a green fence interwoven with barbed wire entanglements (3). Part of the fence runs through a young forest in the north (25). At the four corners of the camp, observation points were placed for the Lagerschutz (Camp Guard). The Lagerschutz consists mostly of Ukrainians armed with machine-guns. At the observation point's strong searchlights have been placed to light the entire place at night. Observation posts are also set in the middle of the camp and on the hills in the woodlands. The western border of Treblinka B is formed by the rail embankment along which runs a side-track that connects the camp with the main railroad-line (1). The side-line (2) was constructed in recent months, in order that the trains of transports might be delivered directly to the slaughter-house. The northern border of the camp is formed in the forest; east and south the border cuts through sandy hills. In the area of the camp, bushes form a long stretch parallel to the railroad tracks starting in the north (25).
A railroad-crossing (4) is adjacent to the side-track; trains with transports halt there.
From that barrier there is an entrance to a square which holds two to three thousand persons. The square is fenced in with barbed-wire. On the square, not far from the northern border, there is a wooden barracks. In the south-western corner of the square there is a guard-house with a military post on 24-hour duty (7). South of the square, outside of the fence, there is a cloth-sorting place (Lumpensortierungsplatz), and further south, there is the execution place of the camp-commandant and the graves of the victims murdered by him (22). The arrival square (6) is connected with rest of the area by an entrance in the north-eastern corner of the fence (8). From there, a path runs through the woods for about 200 meters eastwards (9) and then turns at right angles to the south and runs along the forest, parallel to the western limit of the arrival-square. This road stops at a large building of an unusual shape; it is an unfinished one-story brick-construction, about 40 meters long and 15 meters wide. (When we received the information concerning Treblinka B in the first half of September, this building was about to be finished.) The Germans began the construction of that building after the action started, probably in the middle of August, with the help of Jewish artisans picked out from among the Jews brought to Treblinka for slaughter. It is significant that the bricks for the construction had been brought from as far as Warsaw, in trucks attached to each transport. The bricks were loaded in the Warsaw Umschlagplatz by Jewish workers. According to the report of an eyewitness, the interior of the building is as follows; a corridor 3 meters wide runs through the middle; there are five chambers on each side; the height of each chamber is about 2 meters; the area is about 35 square meters. The execution chambers are without windows, but they have doors opening on the corridor and a type of valve on the outside walls. Next to these valves there are large scoops (they remind one of large vessels). In the walls pipes were installed from which water-steam is supposed to pour into the chambers. This was to have been death-house No. 2.
A path (9) skirts the building and runs along its western wall finally ending at the next building (12) near death-house No. 1 (14). This building is at right-angles to the death-house No. 2. It is a brick construction much smaller than the other. It consists of only three chambers and a steam-room. Along the northern wall of this house runs a corridor from which there are doors to the chambers. The outside walls of the chambers have valves (until recently doors which had been changed into valves for utility reasons). Also here a scoop in the shape of a shallow vessel is placed at the height of the valves (15). The steam-room (15a) is adjacent to the building. Inside the steam-room there is a large vat which produces the steam. The hot steam comes in to the chambers through pipes installed there, each having a prescribed number of vents. While this machinery of death is in action, the doors and valves are hermetically closed. The floor in the chambers has a terra-cotta inlay which becomes very slippery when water is poured over it. There is a well next to the steam-room, the only well in the whole area of Treblinka B. Not far from the death-house, south of the barbed-wire and wooden fences, there is a grave-diggers' camp. The grave-diggers live in barracks (19) next to which are the kitchen buildings. On both sides of the camp there are two guard-houses (17-20). The remaining area of Treblinka B is destined for the murdered victims. A part of that area is already a large cemetery (22, 23, 24). At first, Poles employed in the camps dug the graves; later , as the slaughter was intensified and the need for more ditches grew, special digging-machines (bulldozers) were brought, which ran day and night at grave-digging. A Diesel-motor supplies the energy and its rattle is a characteristic sound at Treblinka B.
The supervisors and execution-staff are small in numbers. The slaughter-house is commanded by an S.S. man of the rank of major; his name is Sauer). The German staff, consisting of S.S. men, are in terror of their chief. The moment they see him from the distance they drive the Jewish workers as well as the victims on their way to death with even greater energy. Altogether, there are ten Germans and thirty Ukrainians.
The German crew changes from time to time; sometimes S.S. men from various towns of the General Government who were active at the deportations there, arrive at the camp.
In addition to the German-Ukrainian Lagerschutz, there is also the Jewish auxiliary, part of whom are busy at the sorting place for the clothing of the victims (Lumpensortierungsplatz), and part of whom act as grave-diggers. They empty the execution chambers and bury the dead; the rest work at the arrival-square. The groups of the Jewish auxiliary service are headed by group-leaders whom the Germans call 'kapos.' They are relatively better fed than the rest and wear a triangular yellow patch at their knees to distinguish them from the other.
The personnel of the Jewish auxiliary service undergoes almost daily changes. Rarely can a Jew stand that service for more than two weeks, due to the inhuman treatment they receive at the hands of the Germans. They are constantly tortured and whipped; corporal punishment (25 strokes) is very frequent as well as the shooting of the weak ones who lose their fitness to work. This is done mostly by the chief himself. Every day there is a roll-call. The German asks who does not feel strong enough to carry on with the work? A few men step out of the row, report their unfitness and beg him - as though for a favor - to be shot. The executions take place at a special spot; the victim himself stands erect over a grave while the chief shoots at the back of the victim's head. The next victim has to step nearer and throw the body of the murdered one into the ditch, and then a few moments later, share the fate of his predecessor. These young Jews are so overworked that all will to resist is gone; on the other hand, the German terror is so atrocious that it makes them even want to die so as not to suffer further inhuman tortures. In one of the first days of September, the chief of Treblinka thus murdered 500 young Jews by shooting them one after another with his gun; what is startling is that not one of this group of a few hundred men attempted to resist death. The execution lasted from 7:30 to 3 P.M.
The relatively lightest work in the death in the death camp is the sorting of the clothing of victims. While assigned that work, one can eat to one's heart's content, for the 'deported' Jews took along large food-stocks: bread, marmalade, fat, sugar. But the chief does not leave the men at this work for any length of time; after a few days, he transfers them to grave-digging.
The gaps in the Jewish auxiliary service are supplemented from among the transports arriving in Treblinka. As a rule, two transports arrive daily: one in the morning and one toward evening. In the period of greatest of the action a few transports arrive daily. Each train consists of a few score of freight cars. Some of the cars halt at the side-track straight across from the arrival-square, while the remaining cars are shifted to the side to wait until the first part is taken care of. The cars are quickly emptied. The tortured and excited throng breathes with relief when let out on the square. They are immediately taken over by the Jewish auxiliary guard headed by the 'kapos.' These give orders in Yiddish. The women and children are ordered to enter the barracks immediately while the men remain in the square. Looking around, they see a high pillar with a poster bearing a large inscription: Achtung Warschauer (Attention, natives of Warsaw) despite the fact that transports of Jews from many other towns of the General Government, from Germany and the states of Western Europe are also brought to Treblinka. 'Do not worry about your fate,' continues the poster. 'You are all going eastward for work; you will work and your wives will take care of your households. Before leaving, however, you have to take a bath and your clothing must be disinfected. You have to deposit your valuables and money with the cashier (of Treblinka) for which you will get receipts. After the bath and disinfection, you will receive everything back unharmed.'
In the first period of murder in Treblinka an S.S. officer with a kind, confidence-inspiring face used to come to the square and hold a speech along the same lines. However, when in the course of action ever larger transports arrived from the various parts and the crowds had to be quickly liquidated, the Germans cancelled the speech as superfluous.
To make the Jews believe that actual classification according to trades would take place at the arrival-square in order to send occupational groups for labor, they placed small signs with the inscriptions: Tailors, Shoemakers, Carpenters, etc. It goes without saying that such segregation never took place.
The 'kapos' quickly put the men in rows of ten, ordering them to take off their shoes, undress completely and prepare for a bath. Everybody is permitted to take along a piece of soap and his documents [sic]. In the meantime the sorting-service men take away the clothing to the sorting-place. Women and children also have to undress completely. Now comes the last act of the Treblinka tragedy. The terrorized mass of men, women and children starts on its last road to death. At the head a group of women and children is driven, beaten by the accompanying Germans, whips in their hands. The group is driven ever quicker; ever heavier blows fall upon the heads of the women who are mad with fear and suffering. The cries and laments of the women together with the shouts and curses of the Germans interrupt the silence of the forest. The people finally realize that they are going to their death. At the entrance of death-house No.1 the chief himself stands, a whip in his hand; beating them in cold blood, he drives the women into the chambers. The floors of the chambers are slippery. The victims slip and fall, and they cannot get up for new numbers of forcibly driven victims fall upon them. The chief throws small children into the chambers over the heads of the women. When the execution chambers are filled the doors are hermetically closed and the slow suffocation of leaving people begins, brought about by the steam issuing from the numerous vents in the pipes. At the beginning, stifled cries penetrate to the outside; gradually they quiet down and 15 minutes later the execution is complete.
Now comes the turn of the grave diggers. Shouting and cursing, the German overseers drive the diggers to their work, which consists of getting the bodies out if the execution chambers. The grave-diggers stand at the scoop, near the valves. The valves open but not a body falls out. Due to the steam all the bodies have become a homogenous mass stuck together with the perspiration of the victims. In their death agonies, arms, legs, trunks are intertwined into a gigantic macabre entanglement. To make it possible for the grave-diggers to get out single bodies, cold water from the near-by well is poured over the mass. Then the bodies separate and may be taken out. As a rule the surfaces of the bodies are not defaced; only the faces and buttocks are purple. The grave-diggers, constantly beaten and driven by the Germans, place the corpses on the scoops until the chambers are empty. The bodies lie piled up like slaughtered cattle. Now the burying takes place. Formerly (during the first half of August), the Jewish grave-diggers had handcarts to convey the bodies to the ditches, which had to be done at top speed. Lately, however, the chief did away with them. 'Ein Mann - zwei Leichen' (one man, two corpses), meaning that each grave-digger has to bury two corpses. He ties the legs or the arms of the body with his belt and running, pulls it from the scoop to the ditches, throws it in and, again running, returns for the next load. Formerly the graves were right at the death-house so that the burying of corpses could take place quickly. As new victims were added, the grave-line moved ever further to the east and the pulling of the corpses tot he graves takes longer and longer. After the ditch is filled, the grave-diggers quickly cover the bodies with earth and the digging-machine nearby prepares the next grave.
The execution of the men is identical. They also are driven through the road in the woods to their death. The victims react differently while being driven in the direction of the death-house; some repeat loudly psalms of penitence, confess their sins; others curse God; but a sudden shout of the Germans and the blows falling upon the backs of the doomed men immediately brings silence on the whole crowd. Sometimes all the victims cannot get into the overcrowded chambers; then the Germans keep the rest in the woods near the slaughter-house. These people see and hear everything but there is no attempt at self-preservation.
This is irrefutable proof of the atrocious terror wielded over their victims by the Germans.
The new death-house provides for the liquidation of 8,000 to 10,000 victims. If we consider that right now 2,000,000 murdered Jews, or the greater part of Polish Jewry, are already buried in the area of Treblinka, the disturbing question arises: for whom do the S.S. intend that new house of death; who are to utter their last breath in the slaughter-house? Most probably the death-machine, once started, will not limit itself to murdering Jews. At present, the specter of death in steam chambers rises before the Polish population; there have already been some signs of it: according to a report of an eyewitness, the Germans exterminated a group of Poles in death-house No.1, in the second half of August."
On August 8, 1943, The New York Times reported, referring to an article that appeared in a London newspaper: "2,000,000 Murders by Nazis Charged. Polish Paper in London says Jews Are Exterminated in Treblinka Death House." The subtitle reads: "According to report, steam is used to kill men, women and children at a place in the woods." The article was based upon a contribution published on August 7th in the magazine Polish Labor Fights, which was nothing other than the report of November 15, 1942. This is indubitably clear from the quotes in the NYT article.
In 1944, Rabbi Silberschein published an eight-page report about the camp "Tremblinki" (a garbling of Treblinka). Although many features suggest that the source for this report is mainly the same as the one of November 15, 1942, it also contains many new elements, especially in relation to the killing technique, which probably stem from a different source. On the grounds of its importance, the document, which is as good as unknown to specialists, deserves to be cited in toto. On the one hand, Silberschein speaks of "gas chambers" and of "gas, which flows out of pipes," while on the other hand he says that the bodies "under the influence of the water vapor" had been clumped together. Thus, either Silberschein (correctly) regarded water vapor as a gas or he was not certain of the killing technique.
The occurrence of many improper linguistic expressions is explained by the fact that it has been translated from the French by a person not fully in command of German. It reads as follows:
The small village of Tremblinki lies on the Warsaw-Bialostock [sic] rail line. The main extermination camp, three times as large as that of Lublin, was located not far from the village. It was at first set up as a concentration camp for Jews and Poles; but in March 1942, the Germans transformed it into an extermination camp for Jews only. They reconstructed the camp expressly for this and equipped it with gas experimental rooms and ovens.
The camp was situated in the midst of dense forests, entirely cut off from the outside world, and was reachable by means of a railway track with the Warsaw-Bialostock main line. It encompassed an area of 100 acres and is surrounded by the thickest barbed wire.
It consisted of three sections: the actual camp; the extermination camp, and an open square. The actual camp has three blocks: a men's camp, a women's camp, and between these two a children's camp.
A three-meter wide anteroom divides the inside of each block into two parts. From the anteroom doors open into the cells. Each cell measures 36 m2 with a height of no more than two meters [.... Each structure was 40 × 50 M in size. Aside from this, two more long-stretched buildings, each about 120 × 150 M in size, were constructed later as a men's camp (not shown in the plan).
The extermination facilities took up approximately the same space as the accommodation spaces and contained a dressing room (see plan). The dressing room contained a reception room for the camp administration, an anteroom, and the actual undressing room. The entrance to the dressing room was from the open square. A door led from the dressing room to the baths, from here a door led to the experimental chamber for gases of suffocation, and from there a door to the ovens. The ovens were connected with a railway, which led to the cemetery (see plan).
A large pedestal had been erected on the open square. There were almost no workshops and only a few job positions in this camp.
An SS detachment under the command of Hauptmann Sauer supplied the guard service in the extermination camp of Tremblinki. The composition of the staff of the detachment changed frequently.
The inmates performed various tasks in connection with the requirements of the camp. They were terribly maltreated and abused at this and had to endure the most inhuman punishments imaginable for every pettiest violation of the house rules or other mistake. Not all worked, most of them waited in the cells only so long until the gassing facility was able to take them. But sometimes they were killed even sooner in another manner. The Germans shot several Jews on a daily basis, above all the Kommandant Sauer himself. Every afternoon he had his executioners assemble the Jews who still remained alive. Then he asked: 'Who is weak, who can no longer work?' The Jews made no answer at all to this: whoever had had enough simply stepped forward from the line - and was shot down. In this manner, Hauptmann Sauer had murdered 500 Jewish youths, one after the other, on a single day in the beginning of September 1942.
The 'Kapus' occupied a special position. It was these Jews upon whom many important mechanisms of the camp were imposed. Most Kapus had sorted through the clothing of those who had been transported out of this life. They did this task at a place called the 'rag sorting place.'
Others were also working at the railway station with the reception of those freshly arriving. Others, again, had to work as gravediggers. It happened not rarely that the Jews so occupied lasted no longer than two weeks and committed suicide.
Day after day two trains arrived in Tremblinki, completely filled with Jews. Jews were carried off from all parts of Europe to this place; but the main contingent was made up of the Jews from Warsaw, north Poland, and the Baltic.
Every train was 30 to 50 cars long. The emptying of the cars proceeded at lightning pace. Then the Kapus received the arrivals and read to them the camp regulations in the Jewish language. At the station building, the following appeal was displayed: 'Have no concern about your fate! You are all traveling only to work in the east. You yourselves will perform the work and your women will do the housework. Before traveling on, you have to bathe and remove the germs from your clothes. Gold and other valuables are to be deposited at the counter, where you will get a receipt for them.' And really, in order to lull the belief in these promises into a feeling of security, the Germans had established an office at the train station, where each new arrival had to turn up and report his professional training. After fulfillment of these 'statistics,' the people were brought into the camp and at first only sent into the disinfection baths. After the bath they were temporarily sent to the individual cells. There they were supposed to wait until it was their turn. But for the most part, those instructed didn't know what fate awaited them. They still believed that they would soon be traveling on to a place of work. This belief was even strengthened by the fact that there were no large factory facilities in the camp and that it had all seemed as if it were only a transit station.
But when the rooms could no longer accept new arrivals, the oldest inmates were gassed. Every day groups of a thousand people each were brought into the gas and oven chambers. At first, as at their arrival, they were led into the bath by the Kapus. Everyone had to take off clothing and shoes and remained naked. For the further deception of the victims, each was handed a little piece of soap. In the meantime, the work of putting the discarded clothing and shoes in order was performed. Hauptmann Sauer took them over in the reception room of the extermination facilities. He did not miss any opportunity to flog every single person. Then the Germans drove the women and children as the first ones into the extermination cells. Now the final act of the extermination began:
Men and women, old people and children, all naked, take their last walk into death. At the fore stride the women and children, then the men, old and young, follow behind. To impel them to run faster, the Germans strike them on head and body. Now the victims are running, tormented by fear: their cries of dread, especially those of the women and children, ascend to the sky. Now everybody knows where this is leading - into death. The floor is slippery, one slips and falls. But the falling can no longer even stand up; for continually new victims are flung over them. The children are thrown into the room, above the heads of their mothers. The extermination cells fill up. When they are full, then they are hermetically sealed, from every side the pipes open, out of which flows gas. The death of asphyxiation reaps a quick harvest. Within a quarter hour it is all over. Then the Kapus must go to work. With pitiless blows, the guard personnel force them to perform their work.
The gates of death open - but the dead bodies somehow cannot be pulled out individually: for they have all clumped together with one another and stiffened under the influence of the water vapor.
Water is fetched from a nearby well and the bodies are sprinkled with it so the gravediggers can carry away the corpses. These are loosened by it, one from the other, and it is easier to remove them. Their appearance has not changed, aside from a violet coloration of the head and the back side [sic].
Now the dead are loaded onto the ramp, conducted over a railway to the cemetery in the mass graves, where the Kapus bring their task to an end. (See almost identical description in the article by Tymon Terlecki 'Alle Juden raus,' cited by us on page 18 in 'L'extermination des Juifs polonais IV').
By many hundred thousands, Jews from all regions of Europe have been exterminated in this way in Tremblinki alone.
But the camp of Tremblinki had another 'specialty.' To wit, the Jewish Arthur Gold Orchestra (see plan) gave concerts there, and it had the duty of playing for those who were being led to their death!!!! At the same moment as thousands of Jews were perishing in the gas chambers, the musicians had to play cheerful melodies. Whichever of them refused to do it was hanged up by his feet with his head down. Several of the musicians were seized by madness in the middle of playing. The artists, one after the other, jumped willy-nilly amongst the crowd of people who were waiting for their turn, and they bellowed with voice breaking and face madly distorted 'Frait och, yidelach, ir got zum tot mit klezemer!' (Enjoy yourselves, you Jews, you are going to death with music). Then the German bullets whizzed, and they sank under them to become a lifeless lump on the ground. After this the orchestra was brought up to strength again and the performance was repeated every time."
In a report dealing with alleged German crimes in Poland, authored by the Polish government for the Nuremberg Court and presented by the Soviets as Document USSR-93, the following is written regarding Treblinka:
"When the process of exterminating Jews was initiated, Treblinka became one of the first camps to which victims were brought. They were put to death in , by and " (Emphasis added by us.)
Charge no. 6 of the Polish government against Hans Frank, according to which "The German authorities acting under the authority of Governor General Dr. Hans Frank established in March 1942 [sic!] the extermination-camp at Treblinka, intended for mass killing of Jews by suffocating them in steam-filled chambers," is based in essence on the report of November 15, 1942, from which large excerpts were cited, in which the description of the structure of the two "death-houses" as well as the supposed system of killing is given particular attention.
Still in 1961 in Düsseldorf - presumably in the preliminary stage of the trial against the (alleged) last Treblinka Kommandant Kurt Franz - a witness in Düsseldorf deposed that the victims had been killed with steam in Treblinka.
3. Significance of the Report of November 15, 1942, for Historiography
The report of November 15, 1942, is the most important historical source about the Treblinka camp during the time of its existence, and the entire subsequent official historiography relies on this report, beginning with the description of the alleged 'gas chambers.' Nevertheless, it causes official historians a miserable headache so that they occasionally cite it with blatant falsification.
The Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad summarizes it as follows:
"In this document there is a description of the construction of the Treblinka extermination camp, its location, its size, and a detailed plan, including a sketch of the area. This report also includes a description of the dozens [sic] of new gas chambers and other structures in the camp. With regard to the camp staff, it states that, in addition to the Germans and Ukrainians there are also Jews, whom the document calls 'Jewish auxiliaries', who are employed at ancillary works, in sorting of clothes of the murdered and removing the corpses from the gas chambers and burying them. The document mentions the extremely difficult conditions under which the prisoners are kept, the daily killings among these Jews, and that their life expectancy in this camp was no more than two weeks. In the description of the way the transports were treated, there is reference to the deceptive plays of the Germans and a description of the extermination process from the moment the people disembarked on the platform - the way they were tortured - until they were led into the gas chambers, as well as the system of burying the corpses. In conclusion, it stated that by then two million Jews had been murdered in Treblinka - the majority of Polish Jewry. The report concludes by asking why the new gas chambers were built, since indeed the majority of Polish Jewry had already been killed, and states that, according to one eyewitness, the Germans had already killed a group of Poles in the middle of August.
This report is the first in which there is a comprehensive description of the Treblinka extermination camp. The facts are, for the most part, correct. Their source is escapees from the camp who reached the Warsaw ghetto and who gave testimony for the Ringelblum Archive and to Jewish Underground groups in the Warsaw ghetto. This report is based therefore on the descriptions of witnesses who had seen for themselves the process of extermination, who had lived in the camp for days or weeks as prisoners, who had been employed at various jobs, and who had succeeded in escaping. The facts that they related on the basis of what they had seen were accurate, but the reference to two million Jews murdered was incorrect. In the period to which this report refers, one-fourth to one-third of the number cited in the report had been murdered. Also the detail about the murder of a group of Poles in Treblinka was incorrect."
The coarse falsifications, of which Arad, regarded by the official historiography as the most renowned Treblinka expert, becomes guilty here, makes one imagine his mortal embarrassment in the face of this historical source of such unusual importance - a source, however, which indeed contradicts one of the main pillars of precisely this official historiography by the fact that it mentions as the murder weapon not any diesel gas chambers, but instead water vapor chambers.
Y. Arad claims, though, that the report contains "a description of the dozens of new gas chambers" as well as a description of the "process of extermination," but does not write so much as a single syllable about the steam chambers, but rather he shamelessly transforms them into "gas chambers"! Furthermore, he asserts that the facts are "for the most part, correct" and that the witness testimony was "accurate," although the official historiography long since banished the steam chambers to the realm of myths.
The Polish historian Józef Marszałek furnishes a summary, which is not any less dishonest when he writes:
"In this section [of the report] the site and topography of the camp are exactly shown, and the number of the gas chambers as well as their structure with the facilities for the gassing of the victims are described."
We now turn to the question of how the miraculous transformation of the steam chambers into gas chambers occurred.
4. From Steam Chambers to Carbon Monoxide Chambers
In August 1944, the Soviets occupied the area around Treblinka and conducted a military forensic investigation with examination of the camp grounds as well as witness interviews. The murder method most frequently mentioned by witness at the latter was different again from those already mentioned and consisted of the evacuation of air from hermetically sealed rooms by means of a vacuum pump driven by an engine. This engine, which at first was merely used to run the pump, gradually transmogrified into a murder weapon - at first still in connection with the evacuation of air, before it then, thanks above all to Jankiel Wiernik, became the single instrument of killing, by which the victims were killed with carbon monoxide gas.
The murder technique of suffocation by pumping out the air was described in particular by two witnesses. The Jew Abe Kon, former Treblinka prisoner, stated on August 17, 1944:
"I was sent into the Treblinka camp in October 1942 with my relatives - father, mother, two sisters, a brother. [...] The naked people walking by were struck by whips. They were walking to a building, which had been nicely built with cement. A Jewish symbol, the 'Star of David,' was attached to the house. At the entrance to the 'bath' stood a Ukrainian with a knife and whip. He stabbed those with the knife who did not want to enter and dragged them into the building. The service staff named this Ukrainian 'Ivan the Terrible.'
Plan of the 'Bath': the bath consisted of 12 cabins. Each cabin measured 6 × 6 m. The height amounted to 2.5 m. In one cabin they drove 600 people each. They threw the children on their heads. The cabins had two doors, which could be sealed hermetically. In the corner between ceiling and wall two openings were connected with hoses. Behind the 'bath' stood a machine. It pumped the air out of the chambers. The people suffocated within 6 to 15 minutes. The second door was opened and the people were dragged out. The teeth were examined and golden teeth were ripped out. From thence the bodies were carried away on stretchers and were buried in the ground. They weren't buried any farther than 100 m away from the 'bath.' People were driven into the 'bath' three times a day. In this way 15,000 to 18,000 persons were destroyed each day. That's how it went for two months. Later, machines dug these bodies up and they were cremated in ovens. There were no fewer than one million burned.
Later, the extermination process proceeded as follows: suffocation and burning. They were incinerated in a specially manufactured oven, which could hold up to 6,000 bodies. The oven was filled with corpses. Gasoline or petroleum was poured over them and burned. The cremation lasted up to an hour. [...] Those who could not walk to the 'bath' - invalids, old people - were sent to the 'hospital'; they went there. They were placed at the edge of a deep pit on whose bottom was a pyre made up of human beings. The victims got a shot in the back of the neck, whereupon they fell into the pit and burned. So it went, day after day."
On August 22, 1944, the Pole Kazmierz Skarzyński gave the following statement:
"Incarcerated Jews in the camp reported that many hundred prisoners at a time were penned in hermetically sealed chambers and were asphyxiated by pumping out the air. The people died very quickly - in 10 or 12 minutes. According to the stories of the Jews, the oven [sic] was a pit of 25 m in length, 20 m wide and 5-6 m deep, with a grate made out of train rails on the bottom of the pit, which constituted an air vent. The bodies were piled on the rails and burned. The glow from the fire was visible at a distance of 15 km. During the day a black smoke spread. In a strong wind, the smell of burning was still perceptible 30 km from the camp."
The air evacuation technique of killing also turns up in the first official Soviet report concerning Treblinka I and II. It originates from August 24, 1944. Regarding Treblinka it is reported:
"The 'bath' was a house that consisted of 12 cabins each 6 × 6m in size. They drove 400 to 500 people into one cabin at the same time. They had two doors, which could be hermetically sealed. In the corner, between ceiling and wall, there were two openings connected with hoses. Behind the 'bath' stood a machine. It pumped the air out of the room. The people suffocated in 6 to 10 minutes. The second door was opened and the dead were brought in wheel barrows to the special ovens."
On September 15, 1944, a Polish-Soviet commission composed a "protocol of a provisional preliminary investigation and inquiry into the former concentration camp Tremblinka" [sic], where we read:
"In the beginning, the method was employed of pumping the air out of the room by means of a small car engine. Then, as a result of the large number of the doomed, a chemical substance began to be used."
Wassili Grossmann entered Treblinka in September and spoke with the witnesses who were also questioned by the Soviet investigatory commission at that time. As he writes in his book, he reconstructed the picture of Treblinka "according to the stories of living witnesses," the "statements of people who have worked in Treblinka from the first day of the establishment of the camp until August 2, 1943." Grossmann, however, declared that he was not satisfied with copying the contradictory statements of these witnesses, but attempted to connect them into a coherent historical portrayal:
"In the beginning, even the pressure and suction devices functioned poorly, the suffering of the unfortunates at that time dragged on for eight to ten hours. The most diverse means were employed for killing: the exhaust gases of a heavy armored tank engine, which served the power station of Treblinka, were forced in. [...]
The second most often used procedure in Treblinka was the pumping out of the air from the chambers with the help of special suction equipment - the causes of death were approximately similar to those in the poisoning with carbon monoxide gas: the oxygen supply for the people was blocked. And, finally, the third method, rarer but likewise employed, the murdering by steam, which was also based upon denying oxygen to the organism: the steam forced the air out of the room. Various toxic gases were also used, but merely for experimental purposes; the factory-scale mass murder was carried out in the manner described in the first two procedures mentioned."
At the end of 1945, on the occasion of their questioning by the Polish examining judge Z. Łukaszkiewicz, the Treblinka witnesses were still uncertain about to which of the various extermination techniques they should give preference. In a statement given between October and December, witness Szymon Goldberg described the following method of killing in the "gassing cabins" of Treblinka:
"The Jews were poisoned in that the air was pumped out - there was a machine for pumping out the air - and gas [i.e., exhaust fumes] of a vehicle were introduced. Ether was burned and this vapor introduced inside. Then there was also chlorine."
On October 12, 1945, witness Henryk Reichmann put on record:
"The killings were carried out either by pumping out of the air or by introduction of CO. Once, when fewer transports were arriving, the Germans conducted an experiment: They pumped out the air without introducing poison. When the doors were opened after 48 hours, we found some living people inside."
The statement of the witness Stanisław Kon of October 7, 1945, was similar in content:
"The killing took place by means of pumping out the air or by introduction of engine exhaust gases."
In January 1946, Rachel Auerbach, member of the Jewish Central Historical Commission, published her book that has already been mentioned, which was then issued in English under the title In the Fields of Treblinka in 1979 by Alexander Donat. There, the manner of functioning of the gas chambers is described as follows:
"The motor, installed in a workshop near the bathhouse, could be started now. First, a suction pump was brought into play to draw the pure air from the chamber. After that, the pipe to the reservoir of exhaust gas from the motor could be opened.
[...] At the last moment, it seems, when the pump started to suck out breathable air, all self-control broke and there was an outbreak of collective hysteria inside the gas chamber."
A succinct example of the hopeless confusion, which then prevailed among the eyewitnesses with respect to the method employed in Treblinka for the extermination of Jews, are the statements of Samuel Rajzman. Rajzman, characterized by A. Donat as "nestor of the Treblinka survivors," was questioned on September 26, 1944, by the military examining judge of the military prosecutor's office of the 65th Soviet Army, First Lieutenant of Justice Jurowski. He stated that he had arrived in Treblinka on September 27, 1942, and remained there until August 2, 1943, therefore, according to his statement, spent more than ten months in the camp and had to know all about the gas chambers as well as their function, if there were any. Yet he reported the following:
"Dr. Horonschitzki likewise had no admittance into the cabins, but of what was known to him, he told me the following: the people were driven in large parties into the cabins of the so-called 'baths.' These cabins were hermetically sealed. In the first period, the killing occurred by means of pumping out the air from the cabins; then one resorted to other methods - poisoning by chlorine gas and Cylon-gas. On the camp territory there was a special store of materials with a large amount (up to 15 tons) of so-called Chloren. Externally, Chloren was constituted of blocks white in color. Every day before my eyes, barrels of this Chloren were carried into the second division. I did not see containers with Cyclon, but rarely and periodically various crates arrived with the transports, which were taken over by the guard staff of the 2nd division without delay. The engines in the 'bath rooms' ran 24 hours without interruption. Whether poisoning by means of gas mist occurred, I have not heard."
A month beforehand, in August, Rajzman had written a 16-page report entitled Kombinat Smerti v Treblike (death factory in Treblinka), in which he depicts the method of extermination in Treblinka as follows:
"After being sheared, the women were sent into the 'bathing establishment,' which consisted of a row of chambers, each of which could hold 700 persons. In the chambers towels were hanging, and there was a sign posted with the inscription 'Rules for using the bath'! The people were led in, and the doors were hermetically sealed. In the beginning, the method of pumping out the air was employed: under frightful torments the people died the death of asphyxiation. As time went by, the Germans switched to poisoning with gas, which went more rapidly. Each group stayed in the chamber from 12 to 20 minutes, no longer, for masses of new arrivals were waiting for their turn in the 'bath.' After twenty minutes, the bodies were already afire on an enormous pyre. It happened that out of the fire desperate lamentation sounded. The Germans paid no attention to it - an expression of the 'extraordinary German tenderheartedness.' There were instances when one of the Germans delivered the coup de grâce to one of those thrown alive into the fire. Before the bodies fell into the fire, they were examined by a group of 'dentists', who checked whether perhaps there were teeth, crowns, or fillings of gold present; all this was torn from the mouth of the dead by pliers.
The corpses were burned in a huge construction pit. Foundations of cement were erected on its bottom, upon which grills made from railway rails were fixed. Under the grills burned a strong fire, into which some kind of fluid was poured. The workers at the ovens [sic] were changed every few days, and only rarely did one remain more than a week long at this 'work.' They were replaced by a fresh labor force, which day after day came in with the new trains. As 'reward' for working off these days, these prisoners were not sent into the 'bath,' but were killed instead by a shot to the back of the neck."
At the Nuremberg Trial, where he stood in the witness stand on February 27, 1946, Rajzman merely spoke of the "gas chambers" without going into any closer detail about their structure or the type of gas used.
In the same year, thus 1946, Rajzman composed an eight-page report with the title Mój pobyt w Treblince (My stay in Treblinka). Here, he claimed that 25,000 people per day had been murdered in Treblinka, but did not elaborate on the method/s of killing.
By the 1950s, Rajzman had happily attached himself to the official version of the 'gas chambers,' but remained perfectly silent about the details. In his report, published in English by A. Donat, he contents himself with the following remarks:
"The women had to line up, and all their hair was clipped off. It was destined for use in German mattresses. Naked, they went the road of no return, into the gas chambers. While they undressed and walked into the gas chambers, the Germans hit them very hard; many died from the beatings alone. Everybody was pushing to get to the gas chamber fast, because the Ukrainians and the Germans were beating them so hard. Everybody was stampeding forward. The whole place was covered with blood. People didn't know that it would be the end there; the idea was simply to get out of the place where they were beating you. And in doing that, they went straight into the gas chambers."
In these few sentences, Rajzman thus mentions the 'gas chambers' four times, but spares not a word as to their structure and manner of functioning.
5. Origin of the Version of Carbon Monoxide Gas Chambers
Let us summarize: at the end of 1945, three different methods of mass murder were still contending for first place: steam, evacuation of air, and engine exhaust. As mentioned, the Polish government gave preference to steam at the Nuremberg Trial and thereby conferred upon this method the official consecration of being an 'historical fact.'
In what was to follow, this 'historical fact' was declared a myth, and the steam had to defer to the exhaust gases of a diesel engine.
What was the origin of this version? And why did the latter ultimately prevail?
The claim that in Treblinka murder was committed by engine exhaust was already fleetingly surfacing (without an indication as to the type of engine) in the year 1942, but soon vanished into oblivion again. It was again picked up and enlarged upon by Jankiel Wiernik. By his own testimony, Wiernik was deported to Treblinka on August 23, 1942, and remained there until August 2, 1943, the day of the prisoner uprising. In May 1944 he published a report about Treblinka in the Polish language, which was published in English translation in the USA that same year. Wiernik has the following to report about the first gassing facilities:
"When I arrived at the camp, three gas chambers were already in operation; another ten were added while I was there. A gas chamber measured 5 × 5 meters and was about 1.90 meters high. The outlet on the roof had a hermetic cap. The chamber was equipped with a gas pipe inlet and a baked tile floor slanting towards the platform. The brick building which housed the gas chambers was separated from Camp No. 1 by a wooden wall. This wood wall and the brick wall of the building together formed a corridor, which was 80 centimeters taller than the building. The chambers were connected with the corridor by a hermetically fitted iron door leading into each of the chambers. On the side of Camp No. 2 the chambers were connected by a platform four meters wide, which ran alongside all three chambers. The platform was about 80 centimeters above ground level. There was also a hermetically fitted wooden door on this side.
Each chamber had a door facing Camp No. 2 (1.80 by 2.50 meters), which could be opened only from the outside by lifting it with iron supports and was closed by iron hooks set into the sash frames, and by wooden bolts. The victims were led into the chambers through the doors leading from the corridor, while the remains of the gassed victims were dragged out through the doors facing Camp No. 2. The power plant operated alongside these chambers, supplying Camps 1 and 2 with electric current. A motor taken from a dismantled Soviet tank stood in the power plant. This motor was used to pump the gas into the chambers by connecting the motor with the inflow pipes. The speed with which death overcame the helpless victims depended on the quantity of combustion gas admitted into the chamber at one time. [...]
Between 450 and 500 persons were crowded into a chamber measuring 25 square meters. ...] The chamber was filled, the motor turned on and connected with the inflow pipes, and, within 25 minutes at the most, all lay stretched out dead or, to be more accurate, were standing up dead."
There is no mention in any other witness testimony of the two additional gas chambers, and official historiography also knows nothing of them.
A few pages later, Wiernik gets into the details of the new gassing facilities:
"The new construction job between Camp No. 1 and Camp No. 2, on which I had been working, was completed in a very short time. It turned out that we were building ten additional gas chambers, more spacious than the old ones, 7 by 7 meters or about 50 square meters. As many as 1,000 to 1,200 persons could be crowded into one gas chamber. The building was laid out according to the corridor system, with five chambers on each side of the corridor. Each chamber had two doors, one door leading into the corridor through which the victims were admitted; the other door, facing the camp, was used for the removal of the corpses. The construction of both doors was the same as that of the doors in the old chambers. The building, when viewed from Camp No. 1, showed five wide concrete steps with bowls of flowers on either side. Next came a long corridor. There was a Star of David on top of the roof facing the camp, so that the building looked like an old-fashioned synagogue. [...]
The motor that generated the gas in the new chambers was defective, and so the helpless victims had to suffer for hours on end before they died. [...] When the chambers were opened again, many of the victims were only half dead and had to be finished off with rifle butts, bullets or powerful kicks."
Two important elements make it possible for us to progress to the origin of this version of the extermination method in Treblinka: the camp plan published by Wiernik and his reference to the "power plant" which "operated alongside these chambers" and supplied "Camps 1 and 2 with electric current."
Document 4 in the Appendix shows the plan of Treblinka, which Wiernik has published in order to lend credibility to his claims. In reality, he quite simply copied the plan, which was enclosed with the report about the steam chambers dating from November 15, 1942 (see Document 2 in the Appendix). Both plans bear the same designation: "Treblinka. Szkic orientacyjny" (Treblinka, orientation sketch); both depict the same map legends; and, on both, the facilities are numbered 1 through 26, which indeed is explained in the report of November 15, 1942, but not, however, in Wiernik 's exposition. The first three "extermination chambers," which in the report of November 15, 1942, are called "steam chambers," but in that of Wiernik are called "gas chambers," are designated by the number 14 in both plans. Correspondingly, a boiler room for the production of steam is represented by number 15a in the report of November 15, 1942, and in Wiernik 's plan it is a gassing engine. In addition, the description of the two gassing installations - the first with three and the second with ten chambers - fully and completely corresponds to the report of November 15, 1942, and to the camp plan which was enclosed with it!
Precisely for the reason that it is the fruit of plagiarism, Wiernik 's sketch has a paucity of features of this kind: not only are many buildings of the camp missing, but also the cremation grills, although he wrote his report in the year 1944. Wiernik 'rectified' his error only in 1945 by furnishing a new, 'corrected' plan of Treblinka. If one compares this with that of the year before, the plagiarism shows up even more glaringly.
On the occasion of Session 66 of the Jerusalem Eichmann Trial, Wiernik produced the plan from 1945, which entered the records as Document T-1300, yet mendaciously claimed to have drawn it in the year 1943.
Thus it is clear that Wiernik quite simply plagiarized the plan of the report of November 15 and in doing so replaced the word "steam chambers" with "gas chambers". Why did he do this? Presumably he was of the opinion - and to be sure with good reason - that the then current versions of mass murders in Treblinka were too simpleminded. On the other hand, the idea of the engine compellingly suggested itself.
That there was an electrical power supply in Treblinka is not only probable, it is certain. Every concentration camp possessed such equipment. Even camps with connection to the local electric supply were equipped with an emergency power supply. This was all the more so for those which - like Treblinka - were not connected to the local electric supply. Thus, in Treblinka, the electric power supply was no emergency device but rather the actual plant for supplying the camp with the electricity necessary for its functioning, and consequently it had to be in operation 24 hours a day. The generator of such a power supply was usually driven by a diesel engine. In view of the importance of this engine, a special engine - naturally new - was normally employed. How complex such an installation was regarded technically, emerges from, for example, the "Kostenvoranschlag über Notstromanlage" (Estimate for back-up power plant) which was prepared for the concentration camp Auschwitz on November 10, 1940, by the firm of Georg Grabarz, Master Electrician, from Gleiwitz. We shall return of this later.
Where was the power plant located in Treblinka? As we have seen, Wiernik claimed that it had been installed by the first "gassing house." This is also claimed by Rajzman, who reports:
"The engines in the 'bath rooms' ran 24 hours without interruption."
The supposed homicidal chambers are meant by the "bath rooms". That one or more engines are supposed to have been in operation "24 hours without interruption" cannot be explained on the basis of requirements for an extermination program, in which such engines would have run only a few hours a day, but solely by the necessity of producing electricity for the camp around the clock.
That the story of the engine exhaust gas chambers lacks any kind of basis in reality and is nothing else but a propaganda fairy tale, is shown beyond doubt by Wiernik 's description of the corpses of the alleged gassing victims:
"All were equal. There was no longer any beauty or ugliness, for they all were yellow from the gas."
Relying upon the statements of three eyewitnesses, Rachel Auerbach writes:
"The bodies were naked; some of them were white, others were blue and bloated."
As a matter of fact, the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning exhibit a cherry-red or rosy red coloring. This is caused by carboxy-hemoglobin, which forms as a reaction of carbon monoxide with hemoglobin in the blood.
The following is extremely odd:
The Polish government knew Wiernik 's writing and even mentioned it in its official report, handed to the Nuremberg Court, concerning the alleged German crimes in Poland, which was presented by the Soviets as Document USSR-93. In this one reads:
"As in other cases, so also in this one, a document is produced first-hand, which describes the conditions and crimes in Treblinka. It originates from one who had been a prisoner, who succeeded in escaping from the camp. It was Yankiel Wieznik [sic], a Jewish master builder, who spent a year in Treblinka. He produced a report about Treblinka which, as he suggests in his preface, comprises the sole meaning of his continuing to live on."
In this report, however, the Polish government does not mention the killing method described by Wiernik - engine exhaust gases - with a single word, but speaks merely of steam and electricity. This means, of course, that they did not accept the reality of the gassings, but all the same did not want to do without a 'first-class' prosecution witness. Thus this strange compromise.
At the Nuremberg Trial, Head Justice Counsel L.N. Smirnow, Assistant Prosecutor for the Soviet Union, took up this point of the Polish report at the presentation of the document USSR-93 (and garbled Wiernik 's name even more badly):
"On page 70 of the Russian text of this report, you find a passage from the statement of a carpenter from Warsaw, Jakob Vernik [sic], a carpenter from Warsaw, who spent a year in the extermination camp of Treblinka 2. [...] This is what Vernik said in presenting a report on Treblinka to the Polish Government; a report which, as he stressed in his foreword, was his only reason 'to continue his pitiful life:'"
But in reality, no 'report' follows in the Soviet folder of documents, but merely the two citations from Wiernik 's writing, which appeared in the Polish document and which had been copied by Smirnov.
6. Triumph of the Version of Carbon Monoxide Gas Chambers
Finally, the following question needs to be addressed: why and when did the carbon monoxide gas chambers prevail over the steam chambers? The reason for this was twofold and of compelling nature. First of all, not even persons of merely average education could take seriously the fable of extermination by steam. The British-Jewish historian Gerald Reitlinger rightly comments about this:
"It is difficult to see how people could be exterminated by steam, [...]"
In fact, any kind of sauna would then indeed be a 'steam extermination chamber'! This was doubtlessly the reason, why Examining Judge Z. Łukaszkiewicz, in his report about Treblinka of December 29, 1945, jettisoned the most idiotic among the diverse murder methods claimed by the witnesses and retained merely those, which seemed most credible to him: namely the engine exhaust gases. Yet initially, his report found little resonance.
On the other hand, the so-called 'Gerstein Report' attracted the interest of historians directly after its publication and became at once the 'proof' par excellence for the existence of the alleged 'extermination camp' Bełżec (as well as secondarily of the 'extermination camp' Treblinka). The Gerstein Report proved to be decisive for historiography regarding the choice of the murder weapon - diesel exhaust gases - for the three alleged 'extermination camps' of Bełżec, Treblinka, and Sobibór.
Thus, the report of the Polish government was seen as totally unworthy of belief, for this mentioned a killing method for Bełżec, which was scarcely less absurd than the 'steam chambers' of Treblinka: electric current:
"Under the pretext that they were being led into the bath, the Jews were completely undressed and herded into the building. Through the floor of this building flowed a strong electric current; thousands of human beings were killed here."
In the session of February 19, 1946, Smirnov recited the following passage from the report of the Polish government (Document USSR-93):
"[...] in the last paragraph on Page 136 of the document book, we may read that Camp Belsen was founded in 1940; but it was in 1942 that the special electrical appliances were built in for mass extermination of people. Under the pretext that the people were being led to the bath-house, the doomed were undressed and then driven to the building where the floor was electrified in a special way; there they were killed."
In its official report, the Polish government also dealt with the camp Sobibór, but only in passing in just nine lines; the Jews, it said there, had been killed in Sobibór in "gas chambers," but no particulars were given.
In December 1947, Elias Rosenberg, who later called himself Eli(y)ahu Rosenberg, wrote a report about Treblinka, which was obviously influenced by the 'Gerstein Report,' in which the version of the killing by "exhaust fumes of a single diesel engine" now happily appeared. Yet this text yellowed for decades in an archive and moved into the spotlight only during the Demjanjuk Trial.
In 1951, Léon Poliakov made use of the 'Gerstein Report' in order to give substance to the rumor of the 'extermination camps' in Poland. He quoted a long excerpt from it and concluded as follows:
"There is little to add to this description, which holds good for Treblinka and Sobibor as well as for the Belzec camp. The latter installations were constructed in almost the very same way, and also used the exhaust carbon monoxide gases from Diesel motors as the death agent."
Two years later, Gerald Reitlinger took up Poliakov 's claims in his work The Final Solution, which rapidly became the classic of official historiography and thereby ultimately asserted diesel exhaust gases as the extermination method in the 'eastern extermination camps.'
Therefore it is owed mainly to the 'Gerstein Report' that Treblinka, just like Bełżec and Sobibór, received its diesel engine, and the steam chambers were banished to the junk yard of history.
By means of this propaganda maneuver, official historiography raised the carbon monoxide chambers of Treblinka (as well as of the two other 'eastern extermination camps') at last to the status of 'certain historical fact.'
|||Krystyna Marczewska, Władysław Waźniewski, op. cit. (note 56), pp. 138f.|
|||In the original: "z domieszka plynow trujacych."|
|||Krystyna Marczewska, Władysław Waźniewski, op. cit. (note 52), p. 153.|
|||Ibid., pp. 136f.|
|||Ibid., pp. 137f.|
|||Ibid., p. 148.|
|||Ibid., p. 151.|
|||Ibid., pp. 153f.|
|||Eugen Kogon, Der SS-Staat. Das System der deutschen Konzentrationslager, Karl Alber Verlag, Munich 1946, p. 170; we quoted from the English translation: E. Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell, Secker & Warburg, London 1950, p. 170.|
|||According to other witnesses, this building already existed in July 1942.|
|||See following section.|
|||Emmanuel Ringelblum, Kronika getta warszawskiego, ed. by Arthur Eisenbach, Cztelnik, Warsaw 1983, p. 416.|
|||Deaths due to electric current were generally imputed at that time to the Bełżec camp.|
|||Eugenia Szajn-Lewin, Aufzeichnungen aus dem Warchauer Ghetto. Juli 1942 bis April 1943, Reclam Verlag, Leipzig 1994, pp. 83f.|
|||"Likwidacja żydowskiej Warszawy," in: Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Warsaw, January-June 1951, no. 1, pp. 59-126.|
|||This sketch is not found in the article listed in the preceding note.|
|||The author of this chapter already pointed out this report in 1985 and translated the most essential passages concerning Treblinka. See Carlo Mattogno, Il rapporto Gerstein, op. cit. (note 96), pp. 167-170.|
|||The editors of the Biuletyn erroneously give the date of the transmittal of this report to London as November 15, 1942, the day which the text is dated. It was published in Polish by K. Marczewska, W. Waźniewski, op. cit. (note 52), pp. 139-145.|
|||Jacob Apenszlak (ed.), The Black Book of Polish Jewry, American Federation for Polish Jews, New York 1943, pp. 141-147.|
|||The numbers in parentheses, not included in the English translation, are from the Polish original and refer to the sketches appended to the report. See Document 2 in the Appendix.|
|||The size of Treblinka amounted to 13.45 hectares. See the following chapter.|
|||The New York Times, August 8, 1943, p. 11.|
|||In his book Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor (note 72), which is accepted as the standard work, Yitzhak Arad does not devote one word to this report.|
|||Silberschein, Die Judenausrottung in Polen, Geneva 1944, Third Series, pp. 33-20.|
|||See Document 3 in the Appendix.|
|||Two illegible words follow.|
|||This is an article which appeared on November 7, 1943, in no. 45 of the political newspaper Wiadomosci Polskie, published in London, in which Tymon Terlecki quoted longer sections from the already cited report of November 15, 1942.|
|||USSR-93, English version. The Republic of Poland in the case against: 1. German war criminals. 2. Their corporate bodies and organizations, designated under Charge no. 1 before the International War Court, p. 44. There is already an indication as to the assessment of the credibility of this report in the fact that after the section concerning Treblinka, there is a chapter with the title "A Soap Factory of Human Fat"!|
|||PS-3311, IMT, Volume XXXII, pp. 154-158. On December 5, 1945, the document was sanctioned by its author, Dr. Tadeusz Cyprian, the Polish deputy representative at the War Crime Commission of the United Nations in London, through his signature.|
|||See Chapter V.|
|||K. Marczewska, W. Waźniewski, op. cit. (note 52), p. 134.|
|||Yitzhak Arad, op. cit. (note 72), pp. 354f.|
|||Józef Marszałek, "Rozpoznanie obozów Śmierci w Bełzcu, Sobiborze, e Treblince przez wywiad Armii Krajowej i Delegatury Rządu Rzeczyspolitej Polskiej na Ktaju" (The Reconnaissance of the Death Camps Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka by the Intelligence Service of the Homeland Army and the Delegation of the Government of the Republic of Poland in the Country), in: Biuletyn Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni przeciwko narodowi polskiemu / Instytutu Pamięci Narodowe, Volume XXXV, Waraw 1993, p. 42.|
|||See following chapter.|
|||GARF, 7021-115-11, pp. 33f.|
|||GARF, 7021-115-11, p. 16.|
|||GARF, 7021-115-9, p. 108.|
|||GARF, 7021-115-11, p. 44.|
|||Wassili Grossmann, Die Hölle von Treblinka, in: Die Vernichtungslager Maidanek und Treblinka, op. cit. (note 26), p. 33.|
|||Ibid., p. 49f.|
|||Wydawnictwo Centralnej Żydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (ed.), Dokumenty i Materiały, op. cit. (note 40), p. 179.|
|||Z. Łukaszkiewicz, op. cit. (note 32), p. 47.|
|||Donat, op. cit. (note 4), pp. 35f.|
|||Ibid., "Acknowledgements," p. 5.|
|||USSR-337, p. 9 of the German version.|
|||This notice is mentioned in the report, which was written on August 24, 1944, by representatives of the 65th Soviet Army. It was adopted by the Soviets as a piece of evidence for their documentation.|
|||S. Rajzman, Kombinat Smerti v Treblinke, GARF, 7021-115-8, pp. 7f.|
|||IMT, Vol. VIII, pp. 324-329.|
|||Wydawnictwo Centralnej Żydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (ed.), Dokumenty i Materiały, op. cit. (note 40), pp. 182-190.|
|||Ibid., p. 186.|
|||Donat, op. cit. (note 4), p. 232. Donat states that this text is based upon the English translation done by Howard Roiter of an eyewitness report given by Rajzman in the Yiddish language and recorded on tape (p. 251).|
|||R. Czarkowski, Cieniom Treblinki, op. cit. (note 76), p. 30; Yankel (sic) Wiernik, A year in Treblinka, published by American Representation of the General Jewish Workers' Union of Poland, New York 1944. The text can also be found in A. Donat, op. cit. (note 4).|
|||Donat, op. cit. (note 4), p. 157-159.|
|||That would be 18 to 20 victims per square meter!|
|||Donat, op. cit. (note 4), p. 161f., 164.|
|||In this case, 20 to 24 persons would have stood on one square meter!|
|||On both plans the word Treblinka is underlined by a broken line.|
|||In the map legend of Wiernik, under Point 3 is printed, instead of "parkan" (fence) the synonym "plot."|
|||See Document 5 in the Appendix. The plan was published by Filip Friedman in his book To jest Oświęcim! (This is Auschwitz!), Krakow 1945. An English translation followed in the year 1946, under the title This was Oświęcim!, the United Jewish Relief Appeal, London 1946. The plan appears there on pp. 82f.|
|||State of Israel. Ministry of Justice, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Record of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 1993. Vol. III, pp. 1201-1203.|
|||RGVA, 502-1-128, pp. 45-49, see Document 21 in the Appendix.|
|||Donat, op. cit. (note 4), p. 159.|
|||Ibid. (note 4), p. 36.|
|||Friedrich P. Berg, op. cit. (note 99), p. 439 as well as his footnote 22.|
|||USSR-93, p. 45 of the German version.|
|||Two citations follow from Wiernik 's introduction to his book, op. cit. (note 165).|
|||IMT, Volume VIII, pp. 239f.|
|||Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution. Hitler's Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939-1945, J. Aronson, Northvale, N.J., 1987, p. 149, footnote.|
|||USSR-344, p. 321 (p. 5 of the report).|
|||USSR-93, pp. 41f. of the German version.|
|||IMT, Vol. VII, pp. 576f.|
|||Transcription error of the Russian name "Белжец" (so in the original Russian document) for Bełżec, transcribed for its part from the Polish. In the German version of the Protokoll, the spelling is "Beldjitze", IMG, vol. VII, p. 633f.|
|||USSR-93, p. 42. At the Nuremberg Trial, Sobibór was mentioned only once in context with Bełżec (IMT, Vol. VII, pp. 576).|
|||Eliahu Rosenberg appeared as a witness at the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem (Session 66 of June 6, 1961), but in his testimony did not go into his report of December 24, 1947, in any way. State of Israel. Ministry of Justice, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Record of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 1993. Vol. III, pp. 1212-1215. The report in question is also not mentioned by A. Donat in his biographical notes to E. Rosenberg (op. cit. (note 4), p. 289).|
|||Elias Rosenberg, Tatsachenbericht. Das Todeslager Treblinka, Vienna, December 24, 1947. The document was printed on p. 133f. in facsimile by Hans Peter Rullmann in Der Fall Demjanjuk. Unschuldiger oder Massenmörder?, Verlag für ganzheitliche Forschung und Kultur, Viöl 1987. The passage cited appears there on p. 136 (p. 4 of the report).|
|||The 'report' of April 25, 1945. PS-1553.|
|||Léon Poliakov, Harvest of Hate, Holocaust Library, New York 1979, p. 196.|
|||G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution. Hitler's Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939-1945, Vallentine, Mitchell, London 1953, pp. 140-142; p. 148f. in the 1987 edition, note 181.|
|||This clearly did not prevent Lord Russell of Liverpool from writing even in 1954 that in Treblinka there had been committed "massacres by means of two methods, steam and gassing": The Scourge of the Swastika, Cassel & Company Ltd., London 1954, p. 242.|