Oskar Strawczynski Testimony


OSKAR AND ANKA STRAWCZYNSKI339

Oskar and his wife Hannah (Anka) shortly after their marriage in 1932


7th October 1945

Lodz

Judge Sledozy

Siedlce District


b4 Lukaszkieioza

Judge Sledczy Okregowy

Prosecutor J. Kaciejewskie

Oskar Strawczynski Lodz Piotrkowska 51 m.4


On October 5, 1942, I was brought with a transport of Jews from the Czestochowa Ghetto to the camp in Treblinka. The transport consisted of 60 freight cars, and each car held about 150 people - men, women, and children.

At the loading platform in Czestochowa, the Germans and the train escort began beating people with clubs. I remember that an old man of about 60 years of age- a well-known lawyer from Lodz, but I don't know his surname- had his head smashed with a club, so that he was covered in blood.

When the transport arrived at Treblinka station, 20 wagons were separated and a separate steam engine brought them to the Treblinka ramp. Immediately after the wagons stopped, the doors were opened and the Ukrainians under the command of the Germans, all with nagaikas and guns in hand, with terrible shouting, began to drive people out of the wagons, and immediately they rushed, beating the people with the nagaikas through the gate to the square, which on two sides there were barracks, on the other two sides there were wires.

On the square, the men were immediately ordered to separate from the women and children. The men were placed on the right side, the women and children on the left. Then the men were ordered to undress naked, while the women were herded to the barracks on the left, where they were to undress. Still before the men undressed, the camp commandant chose about 50 young men, mostly craftsmen, and among them me. We were led behind a barrack, housed and located on the right side of the square.

The rest of the men, stripped naked at this time, had to run to carry clothes that had been left during the undressing on the square behind the barrack on the right side. During this time, the Ukrainians and Germans formed a line, continuously whipping the naked men with nagaikas, as they were running with their bundles of clothes. 

In the barrack, where the women were undressing, there were a dozen or so hairdressers who immediately cut the women's hair. After their haircuts, the Germans immediately directed the women to the so-called 'Road to Heaven' (The Tube), that is the road that led directly to the gas chambers. At the same time, the men had finished removing their clothes and were also herded to the same road. On the way, along this road, the Ukrainians and Germans also formed a line, constantly beating the Jewish men with nagaikas and urging them to hurry.

It should be explained that there was a special hut on the road, above which a sign read that 'there are no foreign exchange restrictions in the camp,' and that 'all documents, valuables, and money need to be handed over and that these items will be returned after bathing.' I would also like to clarify that the collections of valuables and money took place on the square where the undressing took place. The rest of the money and documents that had not yet been handed over, the documents had to be kept in hand, were required to be handed over in the hut mentioned above.

I also know from my work as a laborer in the camp that women's hair, after being cut,was steamed in a special cauldron, then it was laid out to dry, and packaged. They were then placed into bales and sent out in transports as material for mattresses. The period of time from when the transport arrived at the ramp to the time the people were put on the road to their death took no more than 15 to 20 minutes. All this happened at such a rapid pace, that I could not even say goodbye to my wife, mother and parents, and this was also to make it easier for people to die in the chambers, as a result of the rush and breathlessness.

My further fate in the camp was such that I was put to work as a tinsmith and roof repairer, as a result of which, looking from the height from the roof, I could often see what was happening on the square where the gas chambers were located. I would like to explain that the entire camp was basically divided. It was divided into two parts. The first part contained warehouses, barracks and housing for Germans, Ukrainians, Jewish workers, a railroad ramp, the so-called 'Lazarett' and the square where the people were forced to be undressed. In the second part, where no one from the Jewish workers who worked in the first part had access, there were gas chambers, pits filled with corpses, and places where corpses were burned. There were also barracks in which about 300 Jewish workers lived, but they had no contact with the first part. From time to time they were killed by the Germans. Moreover, they died en-masse when they were worked to death from exhaustion or from mass killings when their labor assignments ended.

As far as the Lazarett in the first part is concerned, I would like to explain that it was a place where sick people, the disabled and unchaperoned children were executed. Those Jewish workers who fell ill or committed some sort of infraction against camp regulations also died there. The staff of the Lazarett, who performed physical labor there, consisted of a few Jewish workers who wore white armbands with a red cross on their sleeves. The Lazarett was a place surrounded by a high fence. It was divided into two unequal parts. In the first part there were benches upholstered with velvet, to imitate a hospital waiting room. In the second part there was an execution site. There was a deep pit dug there, in which a fire was constantly burning. The victim, prior to killing was led in there and positioned on the edge of the ditch. The victim was shot in the back of the head. The body immediately fell into the fire. The executioners were Germans or Ukrainians from the camp staff.

Upon arriving at the camp, I found a number of workers there, who were in the group of manual laborers already before me. They, as I recall coming from Warsaw, were employed during the initial period when the Treblinka camp was established. These workers told me that they dug pits, under the supervision of the Germans, 10 meters deep, up to 50 meters long. As far as I remember from the story, in September 1942, an excavator was brought to the camp and later, two others. These excavators were used to dig pits for the corpses, and during the period of the burning of the corpses, they were used to remove the corpses out of the burial pits and carry them to the roasts.

I know from stories and from my own observations, that as far as the method of obliterating the traces of the crime is concerned, the following was done: In the early days, the corpses were stacked in layers in the pits and covered with chlorine lime. Then the corpses began to be burned, at first simply in pits, and later in the winter of 1942/1943, grates, made of iron rails on brick bases, were built in the pits, and the corpses were burned there. Later still, fans were brought out to force air under the grills. Regular burning of fresh corpses and those dug out from the old pits began in the winter of 1943. By the time I escaped from the camp on August 2, 1943, I suppose most of the corpses had already been burned. What was done with the ashes, I do not know.

From the stories of Hersz Jablkowski,who was a blacksmith and came from Stoczek Wegrowski , I know what the gas chambers looked like. Jablkowski worked on the gas chambers, and later was in our group for some time. I explain that Jablkowski was brought to the camp early, in May 1942, and at that time the camp had not yet been thoroughly organized, so he may have been in part one of the camp, although he worked on the construction of the chambers in part two.

According to the story, the high concrete foundation housed concrete chambers, with sides of approximately 3 meters square, half-lined with tiles, the floor also made of tiles. During construction, showers were placed in the ceiling, but they were not connected to the water supply. Jablkowski reported that while working at the construction site, he asked the German supervisor why the showers had no water supply. The German replied that this would be done later. Jablkowski worked on the construction of four chambers, housed in one building.

The entrance to the building was by steps in the aforementioned foundation. A small door led from the corridor that was inside to each of the chambers. The door was so narrow that only one person could fit through. This was done, so that no-one could back out when the next wave of people and the narrowness of the entrance would not allow it. Outside each chamber had a large flap, lifted upwards, through which the corpses fell out. The floor was also tiled and sloped towards the flap. This had two purposes: the first, to make it easier for the corpses to fall out, and the second, to make it easier for the blood to leak out.

What was the method of killing people in the chambers, I don't know exactly. My guess is that it was done by pumping out air, or by introducing combustion gas from the engine into the chambers. I suppose that poison gas was not used. The corpses of Jews fell out of the chambers and were then carried away by Jewish workers to pits or places of burning.

From the story of the same Jablkowski, I know that mass transports of Jews began arriving in Treblinka on the Jewish holiday, 'Tisha B'Av.' This holiday falls in July. On what day this holiday fell in 1942, I do not remember (Tisha B'Av was on July 1942)

From the time of this holiday until the end of November or the beginning of December 1942, an average of three transports of people , 60 wagons each transport, were exterminated daily in the Treblinka camp. I say three transports on average, because there were days when four transports arrived; and sometimes two transports arrived, for these reasons. The latter did not happen often, but in any case there were no interruptions in the slaughter of people during this period. If I'm not mistaken, the last transport of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto arrived in Treblinka in May 1943. In the period from the beginning of December to May 1943, transports also arrived, but less frequently and I can't quantify their number. Until early December 1942, Jews were brought in from the GeneralGouvernement, Czechoslovakia and Germany. In November 1942, transports also began arriving from beyond the Bug River and from Bialystok, Grodno and the surrounding region.

In April 1943, several transports of Jews from Macedonia arrived. I remember it well, because it was a period when the camp warehouses, usually completely filled with clothes, shoes and other Jewish possessions, were already emptied. Jews from Macedonia, which I assumed arrived in approximately 6 -7 transports of 40 wagons each, brought so many possessions that the entire camp warehouses were filled with them again. These Jews traveled in passenger cars and even had special freight cars for their luggage. In general, Jews from abroad were brought in fine accommodations. I suppose so that they could not suspect their destination and fate. They were allowed to take a large amount of possessions. 

I remember that dentists from Germany even brought dental chairs with them. Whether Jews from other European countries were brought in, I don't know, but I do know that my brother, while sorting old clothes, soon after arriving at the camp, found English documents. All documents and photographs and any evidence that could prove the origin and nationality of the victims were systematically destroyed. To this end, a fire was constantly burning next to the Lazarett, where documents and photographs were burned.

Any laborer who kept a document or photograph was sentenced to death. Also, when sorting the clothes of the victims, which were then shipped to Germany, the workers involved in the sorting were subject to the death penalty for leaving any trace on the clothing that it belonged to a Jew. In particular, the places where the Star of David patches were sewn on had to be cut out of the material if the traces of the patch could not be eliminated in any other way.

As far as the Jewish laborers employed in the camp were concerned they were divided into several groups: the blue group, blue armbands on their sleeves, worked on the ramp. Its task was to clean the wagons and the ramp, so that the next transport would not encounter any traces. The red group , red armbands on the sleeves, worked on the square stripping people. They had the task of cleaning up the square after the group that was directed to the gas chambers, so that the next group could not detect any traces of the previous group. Both groups numbered 30 -40 workers each under the direction of Jewish Kapo's.

The actual workers had yellow patches placed on their pants to distinguish them from the masses of those victims -slated for immediate gassing. The laborers worked in workshops, as craftsmen and in skilled manual labor. The treatment of the workers by the Germans and Ukrainians on the camp staff was characterized by cruelty. For any infraction they were beaten unconscious with nagaikas. They were hung by their legs, immersed in a barrel of water, or placed naked in the cold in winter. Those who broke down physically were executed in the Lazarett. 

One particularly cruel character was a German named Franz, an Untersturmfuhrer of the SS, nicknamed 'The Doll' by us because he was a handsome young man, tall in stature, round-faced with a swaying gait. He walked mostly with a dog called Barry. The dog was trained to brutally attack at the command: 'Mensch, nehm den Hund (Human seize the dog). The dog threw itself at the laborer and charged him in such a way that very often the laborer was finished off - executed in the Lazarett.

I also recall a German named Miete - a Scharfuhrer of the SS. He was the deputy chief of the camp . He was of calm demeanour. He never got riled up . When he saw a sick Jewish laborer, he calmly asked, What's the matter with you?' When someone answered that he was sick, he led him to the Lazarett, where this person was killed.

I would also add that the previously mentioned Franz was a trusted member of the Nazi Party in the camp. He probably came from the Dresden area ( Note: he came from Dusseldorf). The next one I remember was a German named Kuttner- Hauptsturmfuhrer SS, a head of the camp. He was previously a gendarme, who killed a lot of workers in the camp. He was probably killed in the uprising on August 2, 1943. (Kuttner was wounded during the uprising, but not killed). As for the Ukrainians, I do not recall their names. They exercised the same brutality towards the Jewish workers as the Germans.

I escaped, as i mentioned on August 2, 1943, during the uprising we organized in the camp

The protocol was read and was signed by the witness with his own hand on each page.


The Investigating Judge in Siedlce


For Concurrence


District Investigation Judge


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Sources

Yad Vashem Archive YVA 03/558

Translation by S.Straus

Photograph : Private Archive


Holocaust Historical Society August 17, 2022