Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór were death camps. Unlike most of the other concentration camps which used those imprisoned there as slave labor first. The sole purpose of these three was to kill those sent there. From the Jewish Virtual Library
Most people are familiar with the names of the major concentration camps – Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Treblinka, for example – but few realize that these were not the only places where Jews and other prisoners were held by the nazis. Each of the 23 main camps had subcamps, nearly 900 of them in total. These included camps with euphemistic names, such as “care facilities for foreign children,” where pregnant prisoners were sent for forced abortions.
The nazis established about 110 camps starting in 1933 to imprison political opponents and other undesirables. The number expanded as the Third Reich expanded and the Germans began occupying parts of Europe. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum first began to document all of the camps, the belief was that the list would total approximately 7,000. However, researchers found that the nazis actually established about 42,500 camps and ghettoes between 1933 and 1945. This figure includes 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettoes, 980 concentration camps; 1,000 POW camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm; “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers. Berlin alone had nearly 3,000 camps.
Treblinka, was set up near the Warsaw-Bialystok railway and started operating on July 23, 1942.
Operation Reinhard camps were meant to get the Jews out of Poland, and Warsaw Jews were largely sent to Treblinka, it was only 60 miles away from Warsaw, many of the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto were sent there. While Treblinka was only 22 acres, 900,000 people died in that camp alone. There were 3 areas, living area, reception area, and killing portion. Sonderkommando lived in the living section. Not all prisoners could communicate with each other due to the way the nazis had the camp set up.
There was a fake railway station set up with a fake clock, timetable, 2nd 3rd class passenger signs, and a cashier office. Service was suspended in the real Treblinka railway station the entire time the camp was operating. As they disembarked from the train one passenger noticed something odd about the “tree lined” wall. The trees weren’t growing. They had been cut down and placed to simulate the edge of a forest, but he noticed what was behind the trees, barbed wire. It somewhat hid the camp. Deception lasted only a short while, but it only had to last a short while. Then they knew they were in a camp, but there were signs saying “attention, you are in a transit camp. For sanitation, you must take a shower”. The showers even had those nubby non-slip floors, floor tiles have been found. All money and valuables had to be handed to a cashier for a receipt and they were told they would get them back upon presenting the receipt at a later time. Anyone who wasn’t strong enough, or was troublesome was to be taken through to a “Lazaret”with a big red cross on it. Where they would promptly be shot by Willi Mentz, or his boss August Miete.
So where was the Red Cross in all this?? I’m SO glad you asked. Also incredibly pi angry. Here’s just a little bit of the “help” the international Red Cross provided.
A Factual Appraisal Of The ‘Holocaust’ By The Red Cross The Jews And The Concentration Camps
Why didn’t the Jews fight back upon arrival at Treblinka? Because there was so much secrecy surrounding the death camps. Even some of the nazis involved with pieces of the operation didn’t know the whole operation according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Initially many of the Jews didn’t know about “death camps”. Rumors had began coming into the ghettos about the camps, but many choose to disbelieve. In the beginning, some prisoners did escape from Treblinka, and promptly went back to the Warsaw ghetto to try to warn those there of the situation.
Camp B, called the “extermination area,” included the gas chambers. burial pits, fire pits for burning the corpses, and the quarters of the Jewish prisoners who were employed at various jobs in this part of the camp. A narrow path, from 2 to 4 meters wide, fenced on both sides and running for about 100 meters, led from the area where the victims had to undress to the gas chambers in the extermination area. This path was called Heaven Street (Himmelstrasse) or The Tube (Schlauch).
After they had been made to undress in the square they were forced to run through the Himmelstrasse. By forcing them to run this path with SS guards beating them and yelling at them when they got to the showers they were breathing heavily and would inhale more of the carbon dioxide quickly.
In Treblinka they used carbon dioxide, not Zyklon B as was used in some of the other camps. Carbon dioxide was easily produced by using a soviet tank engine, and if it broke down, and it did, sometimes in the middle of a murder, there was always someone around who could fix it.
Everything just happened so fast! The time from departure from the train to the gas chamber was about an hour, hour and a half tops. The yelling, beating and running kept them from thinking so much about what was happening, let alone resist. The deceptions threw them off initially, and then the terror and uncertainty.
A slightly different method was used for transports that arrived from Western Europe, the territory of the Third Reich, Czechoslovakia and the Balkans from the end of 1942 until the middle of 1943. These transports arrived in passenger cars. Upon arrival they found an “ordinary” railway Station with signs pointing to ticket windows, tables indicating the departure times of trains to various destinations and other normal station installations — all, of course, fake. The alighting from the train was carried out in a polite and calm manner. The camp personnel encouraged the arrivals to write postcards to their families and friends telling them that they had come to a labor camp; they were even given an address for receiving mail (those arriving in Sobibor were told to write Arbeitslager Wlodawa [Wlodawa Labor Camp]).
After the postcards were sent, everything having been done in a peaceful and polite atmosphere, the situation changed radically: a torrent of shouts, blows, dog bites and bullets rained down on the people, who were stricken by an even greater shock and paralysis than that felt by the Jews from Poland and the Soviet Union. In this way they were driven toward the gas chambers.
But in the winter of 1942/1943 things began to change. The number of transports slowed down, and news of Germany’s defeats began to filter in. Rumors that some of the Jews working there would soon be sent to the gas chambers began to circulate. The different groups of Jews began to try to form a plan for escape. The Organizing Committee was formed. It was made up of people from the different working groups of the resident Jews. They examined the escape attempts made before and realized their best chance lay in a mass revolt and taking over the camp.
How to do that? They need weapons. Treblinka was located away from towns, no sneaking weapons in as in the Warsaw ghetto. They attempted to bribe Ukrainian guards, the money was taken, but no pistol materialized. But then they caught a break, a lock had to be repaired on the building that housed the weapons. Is anyone shocked a second key was created and found it’s way to the Organizing Committee?
In early March of 1943 Himmler visited the camp. After that the burning of bodies began in an attempt to hide the murders. There were some members that were lost in different ways, some betrayal by the Ukrainian guards, some just bad circumstances, but they continued trying to prepare. Those caught and tortured did not give up any of the plans or other members.
By July the transports had all but ceased, only a few transports with Gypsies and Jews arrived. The Organizing Committee was not exactly a cohesive unit. One part of the camp felt the need to get the revolt underway, time was slipping by, the nazis had a party to celebrate the end of their mission. The other part of the camp wasn’t so sure they needed to rebel in haste. The Rebel now group sent a message revolt now, or we do it without you and a date was set for August 2nd, 1943.
It didn’t happen on that day. It happened on August 18th and 19th. There was a timetable set up for removing the weapons from the storeroom, and many would have to make do with their work tools, hammers, pickaxes, shovels and that sort of thing. The date was fortunate in that some of the Ukrainian guards and the SS had decided to go swimming in the Bug river, so that cut down on the number of men guarding the camp. But there were still informers among them. Not every Capo was an informer, some of them had been heavily involved in helping to facilitate the revolt. There were about 850 Jews in the camp the day of the revolt.
Once the revolt started, they set the buildings on fire, a camp worker having thoughtfully replaced his daily bug spray solution with petrol they went up quite nicely. The Jews had few real weapons, but when some of the guards were wounded they were able to seize their weapons. But their supply of ammunition was being used up fast. Many of them made for the fences. Many of the Organizing Committee stayed behind trying to provide covering fire for those running for the fences to escape. One took a cyanide pill after he was shot and couldn’t go on. About a 100 prisoners chose not to even try or be part of it and went back to their barracks. About half of the 850 prisoners were killed that day. According to a lecture I heard at the Yom HaShoah service I attended, about 300 made it out. The locals were threatened if they helped them, so some were afraid. Some handed them over just because, and some locals caught them, beat them and took their money and then handed them over to the Germans. For those that might have been tempted to help, the rumor was given out they had typhus. Despite that, some of the locals did help and that is why some of the around 67 of them survived. Those 67 are the reason much is known about how Treblinka ran and what went on their according to the lecture. Auschwitz and many of the others were bigger camps, and slave labor camps so more people survived to tell, Treblinka’s sole purpose was murder.
After the uprising only one other transport train came in. On October 20th most of the remaining prisoners were transferred to Sobibor and killed. The 25-30 that remained in Treblinka were killed there.
The nazis then built a farm house on the site, brought in one of their Ukrainian guards, he brought his family and he was to stay there, guard the site and if asked state that he and his family had lived there for years. There were 67 souls alive to call the lie. Had they been better armed? There might have been 750. Remember, there were 100 that chose to go back to their barracks and stay out of it.
As I watched the candles being lit, 7 of them I kept thinking, please G-d, help me to do my part so that these flames are all that will ever be needed. Help me to play the role you have for me to shine the light.
The first candle was for Holocaust survivors.
The second candle was for the second generation, their children.
The third candle was for the third generation, their grandchildren.
The fourth candle was for the youth.
The fifth candle was for the Veterans and the Armed Forces.
The sixth candle was for the community.
The seventh candle was in recognition of 70 years of Israeli statehood, and that one was set alight by a friend of mine.
I don’t ever want to live with deception. Not from myself or others, I don’t want to be blinded by normalcy bias, I don’t want to live with false hope. To do so can be fatal.
This video is 600 Holocaust survivors and their families gathered at Beit Avi-Chai in Jerusalem, marking the Holocaust Memorial Day, by performing the song “Chai” by Ofra Haza.
The Partisans Song. The first in Hebrew, the second in Yiddish, as it was written by Hirsh Glik in the Vilna ghetto for the Vilna Partisans in 1943.
Anachnu po, אנחנו פה
We are here