Treblinka Eyewitness Statements

Fig 34 Treblinka Village Sign -2005473

Treblinka Village Sign 2005 - (Chris Webb Private Archive)

The following testimonies describe the construction of the Treblinka Death Camp, the transports, the day to day operation and life itself in the camp. The testimonies cover in the main Polish railway workers, villagers, Jewish inmates of the death camp itself, and Poles who were incarcerated in the Treblinka Labour Camp. The source of the testimonies is the online Chronicles of Terror which is part of the Witold Pilecki Institute of Solidarity and Valor: The statements have been enhanced with modern day photographs of Treblinka taken on my visits to the site of the former death camp:

Jan Sulkowski

Born June 6 1921

Master Craftsman

Interviewed on December 20, 1945, in Warsaw by Judge Antoni Krytowski

On May 19, 1942, I was imprisoned by the Germans in the forced labour camp in Treblinka. I was incarcerated for twice escaping from the site of forced labour in Germany and for evading work in general. When I arrived at Treblinka, a camp was already in existence there, some 2,000 -3,000 strong, its prisoners were mostly German Jews and some Poles. I was assigned to build barracks, around one kilometer away from the old camp. These barracks were located in the forest and were used by the so-called Camp 2.

My co-workers at the building site were Ludwik Krzyzanowski and Jan Lejbowicz. Apart from the three of us, a couple or a couple of dozen other Poles were building the barracks, but I do not know their names and I have not seen any of them since ..... It seems to me that i was released from Treblinka in July 1942.

They began to bring Jews to Treblinka Camp II only two or three days after my arrival at Treblinka. The first transport consisted of some 800 people. On the same day another transport arrived .... For the purpose of unloading the Jews, a special railway platform was built. The building materials to be used for the barracks had already been prepared and we were making quick progress, since our work involved assembling boards - the barracks components - which were already finished and fitted together; consequently, erecting a barrack took two to three days at the most.

I was involved in constructing barracks for about a week and then I was assigned to building a gas chamber. I was involved in constructing it from the very foundations. Initially, I had no idea of the intended purpose of the building we were erecting. The SS-men supervising our work told us it was going to be a bath-house, and only later, when the building was in the final phase of construction, did I realize that it was a gas chamber.

This was indicated by the presence of a special door made of thick sheet metal, sealed with rubber, locked with a screw and fixed to an iron frame, as well as the fact that in one of the compartments of the chamber, there was some kind of engine with iron pipes running through the roof to the remaining parts of the building. We worked on the gas chamber for about five weeks, and when it was finished, the Germans immediately started to murder Jews inside on a mass scale.

Once I witnessed how the Germans killed eleven Rabbis; they had ordered them to observe Sukkot and while they were praying or performing their ritual dances, the Germans shot at them, bringing all of them down. During this 'show' there was a photographer present who took pictures.

Right by the railway siding, where the Jews laying down the tracks were working, the Germans built the so-called 'death cradle.' The legs of the cradle were made of small planks and the cradle itself was three or four meters high. The Germans would pick out people from among those laying the tracks and order them to climb the cradle; as the people climbed the Germans would shoot at them, if they could not make it to the top. If some agile Jew did make it to the top, then the Germans would order him to take off his shoes and, standing upright, hold them above his head, which was difficult because the cradle was wobbly. Then the Germans would shoot, pretending to aim at the shoes the Jew was holding, but in reality aiming at the Jew.

Essentially, they were issued meals three times a day, but in practice there were only two meals, since there was typically no supper. For breakfast they got 100 grams of green mouldy bread, cooked in coffee, and for lunch, they got the same amount of the same bread, but this time cooked in water. For supper, providing there was one, the Jews got half a litre of bitter coffee and nothing else.

In such conditions, they were unable to work for lack of strength, but the German's and the Kapo's took no notice and often killed the 'lazy' ones with batons or sent them into the queue for beatings, which took place on a designated bench. Such a person had to lie on his stomach across the bench, with his head and feet stuck under two other benches. The Germans or Ukrainians then beat them with wooden sticks, thick as an arm, or with horsewhips made of rawhide, to which the Germans would attach stones; they also used horsewhips made of intertwined electric cables. The Jews typically received 25 blows each - they were beaten naked - but if the person screamed and tried to break free from the perpetrators holding him, then the number of blows would be increased to 50. During the beatings, the Jews were inflicted with terrible wounds in their buttocks, and often they even had their bones mauled, especially the spine. Usually, after such a beating, these people, half-alive, were dumped into a pit, where a Kapo, already waiting there, finished them off.

Mass executions started in the camp when the gas chambers became operative. Each of the chamber's three compartments could accommodate 100 people. Sometimes there were three or four transports of Jews in one day, each consisting of 2,000 people, and all of those Jews would be poisoned in the chamber in the course of that single day. Between the chamber and a special pit, some 70 meters long, 40 meters wide and 5 or 6 meters deep, dump-carts were running all the time, removing the corpses of those gassed. These corpses were not burnt, just dumped into the pit.

The walls of the gas chamber were padded with terracotta tiles, as was the floor, which fell away towards one side. To pad out the chamber, a specialist from Berlin was called in; he told me that he had already built such a chamber elsewhere, but he never told me it was a gas chamber, nor would he tell me where he had built such chambers.

The Commandant spoke Polish, as if it were his mother tongue, as did some of the SS-men, but they used the Silesian dialect. The Ukrainians were posted as guards around the camp and by the sentry box opposite the camp; they were also posted to supervise work, or punish, beat or execute Jews. They were also on the search teams looking for escaped prisoners.

Fig 19 Treblinka bunker on road to penal camp459

Sentry Box between Treblinka Death Camp and the Treblinka Labour Camp 2004 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Lucjan Puchala

Born 1897

Level Crossing Attendant with the Polish State Railways

Interviewed on October 26, 1945, in Kosow by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

I worked on the railways at the Malkinia Station during the occupation. In June 1942, I was assigned to be in charge of the construction of a railway track branch from the Treblinka station to the so-called gravel pit. The construction started on June 1.

At first we did not know what the purpose of the railway track branch was; it was not until the end of the construction that I learnt, from conversations with the Germans, that the branch line was to run to a camp for Jews. The construction continued for two weeks and came to an end on June 15. At the same time as the construction of the railway track branch, earthworks were carried out. The person in charge was a German, an SS captain.

At first, in order to carry out the earthworks, Polish labourers were used, the ones from the Labour Camp, which was already operational at Treblinka; then they started bringing in Jews from Wegrow and Stoczek using vehicles. Two or three vehicles full of Jews arrived every day. Several dozen people were killed daily by the supervising SS -men and Ukrainians out of the labourers who were brought to work; so when I looked from my workplace at the area where the Jews were working, I could see that it was always covered in corpses.

The labourers who were brought in were used to dig deep ditches and to build various huts. I know in particular, that buildings made of brick and concrete were erected, in which - as I learnt later - there were chambers for exterminating people. I heard there were eight chambers like that, and that each of them could hold about 700 people.

On the first day of July 1942, after we had finished working on the branch line, I was sent to work as a member of the administration of the gravel pit, where I worked until May 14, 1943, until I was put in the labour camp.

Since the gravel pit was near the extermination camp, I was able to observe many facts connected with the operation of the camp. I know that right after July 1, 1942, three diggers were brought in, and used to dig pits that were several dozen meters long, about fifteen meters deep, and about ten meters wide. On the day when the work on the railway track branch was completed, the building intended for housing the gas chambers was almost ready.

Fig 28 Branch Line to TII -2005466

The Branch Line to the Treblinka Death Camp 2005 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Stanislaw Kucharek

Born 1904

Farmer, currently Village Leader

Interviewed on November 15, 1945, in Kosow by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

If I am not mistaken, during the haymaking period in 1942, the Germans started the construction of a camp, where as it turned out later, Jews were killed. At that time there was already a labour camp for Poles, located not far from the Jewish camp. I have a field adjoining the area of the camp. Working in the field I could observe, from time to time, what was happening in the camp.

The area was initially not surrounded with a fence, so I could see huts being erected and pits being dug. Later when the transports of Jews started to arrive, the fence was built and so the observation of the camp premises was more difficult. One could constantly hear terrifying screams and shooting coming from behind the fence.

I cannot say exactly when the mass transports of Jews began, I think it was the harvest time. The highest number of transports arrived towards the end of the summer, in autumn, and up to Christmas. There were still transports later, but I cannot say how many.

Wladyslaw Chomka

Born 1893

Senior Track Worker with the Polish State Railways

Interviewed on November 16, 1945, in Treblinka by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

I have been working on the railways since 1929. The part of the railway I supervise stretches from Malkinia as far as the second kilometer after the Treblinka station in the direction of Kosow.

I can vividly remember that in July 1942, a telegram came to the Treblinka station master from the Railway Head Office in Warsaw informing us that as of July 22, a permanent back and forth train would be running between Warsaw and Treblinka, consisting of 58 freight wagons and three carriages. According to the telegram, the train was to transport residents of Warsaw, who because of over-population in the city, would settle in Treblinka. Being aware of the local conditions, we were surprised as to the purpose of sending people to Treblinka, since there were no proper accommodation for them.

In reality, from July 23, 1942, onwards, transports of Jews started to arrive, at first from the direction of the Malkinia railway station, and later also from Siedlce. The highest frequency of transports lasted more or less until Christmas Day, but there was a break of two or three weeks, a short time after the first transports had arrived. During the peak period, there were from two to three transports daily without a break. After the New Year's Day, the frequency of the transports was not very high.

One day, while I was in a steam engine that was moving wagons full of Jews onto the camp's ramp, I was able to observe people being thrown out of the wagons. Immediately after the wagons were emptied, the people were ordered to hand over their luggage, the men were separated from the women, and they were ordered to strip naked. After a while, one could hear deafening screams, simultaneously an orchestra started to play and one could hear the noises of a hammer striking a piece of iron. After some time, all went quiet.

Fig 17 Treblinka Ramp 2002

Treblinka Camp Ramp July 2002 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Kazimierz Gawkowski

Born 1899

Points Man with the Polish State Railways

Interviewed on November 21,1945, in Treblinka by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

From 1926, until now, I have been working continuously as a railway employee at the Treblinka railway station. If I remember correctly from the beginning of July 1942, until New Year's Day 1943, railway transports of Jews arrived without a break.

A transport usually consisted of 60 wagons; after it had arrived at the Treblinka railway station, it was divided into three parts, each with 20 wagons, which were gradually moved onto the ramp of the Treblinka extermination camp. This was done by a shunting steam engine, which came to the Treblinka railway station from Malkinia, specially for that purpose.

There were two German railwaymen permanently employed at the Treblinka railway station dealing with these transports and with their delivery to the camp. The personnel of the trains with Jews consisted of Ukrainians, or German Gendarmerie under the command of Gestapo men. They shot at the wagons whenever the transported Jews attempted to escape. One day, so many people were killed in this way at the Treblinka railway station, that later four flat wagons were filled with the corpses.

Since I traveled in a shunting steam engine to the camp several times, I know how individual parts of the transport were moved onto the camp ramp. When the steam engine moved the wagons onto the ramp, it moved back to the gate, with only Ukrainians, SS-men and the Jewish labourers from the camp remaining on the platform. The people were immediately ordered to leave the wagons, but all their possessions and suitcases had to be left on the platform.

All the people were sent behind a barbed-wire fence, intertwined thickly with branches, so that one could not see what was happening in there. At that time, Jewish labourers, two for each wagon, cleared the wagons of the corpses, any remaining bundles and feces. After some time, one could hear screams, which lasted for a while and then died out.

There was a fake railway station built at the camp ramp with a fake clock and various notices e.g. 'Ticket Office,' First Class and Second Class Waiting Room,' Railway Dispatch' and so on. I suppose this was done in order to make the victims believe that it was an ordinary labour camp rather than an extermination camp.

Railway transports arrived at the Treblinka station from the direction of Siedlce and from Malkinia. Each wagon usually consisted of more than 100 people, which I can remember because the number of people in each wagon was written on the wagon's doors in chalk.

Fig 20 Treblinka Station Area 2002002457

Treblinka Station Area July 2002 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Stanislaw Borowy

Born 1908

Train Dispatcher with the Polish State Railways

Interviewed on November 21,1945, in Treblinka by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

Since 1939, I have been working at the Treblinka railway station.

Each transport consisted of 60 wagons; there were between 150 and 200 people in each. As trains approached the Treblinka railway station, many victims were trying to escape from the wagons, and the Ukrainians and Lithuanians who manned the transport trains, killed a lot of them. There were often so many corpses at the Treblinka railway station that they were loaded into carts and transported to the camp.

After having arrived at the station, each transport was divided into three parts, since there was room for only 20 wagons on the loading ramp of the camp. Each part of the transport was moved onto the ramp with a shunting steam engine. I drove this engine a few times as a points-man. At first, the engine was left behind the gate; later to accelerate the unloading of the wagon's, and the moving away of empty wagons, the engine was left with the wagons at the ramp.Nobody was allowed to enter the area of the camp, so even the Germans who were manning the transports did not have easy access.

The camp was separated from the ramp with a high fence made of barbed-wire, so thickly intertwined with branches that there was no good view of the camp premises from the ramp. Nevertheless, I managed to observe certain facts. I know that after the unloading of people from the wagons, the men were separated from the women and children. After some time one could hear screams, which lasted about 20 minutes and then died out. Between 40 and 50 minutes passed between leaving Treblinka railway station and returning to it with empty wagons.

Fig 23 Treblinka Symbolic Tracks 2002

Treblinka - Symbolic Stones representing the train tracks -July 2002 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Jozef Kuzminski

Born 1909

Station Master Treblinka - Polish State Railways

Interviewed on October 16, 1945, in Siedlce by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

At the beginning of January 1943, I was transferred to the Treblinka railway station, where I was to work as a station-master. I worked there until the arrival of the Red Army.

Because of my work at the Treblinka railway station, I know exactly what the procedure for a transport was from its arrival at the Treblinka railway station. The train's arrival was announced in a phone call from Siedlce or Malkinia, depending on the direction from which it was coming. It was done with a code, which the Polish personnel did not know, but it was clear that when the announcement was made with a code, what was meant was a transport of Jews. 

i am completely certain about the transports from Greece and Belgium, since they were completely different from ordinary transports from Poland. They usually arrived in locked freight wagons, under the supervision of armed guards - Ukrainians and Lithuanians, whereas the foreign transports arrived in completely different conditions. These trains consisted of Pullman carriages, with each passenger holding a ticket and having a lot of luggage; there were luggage wagons in the train.

As for the transport from Greece, I had ticket stubs (their spines) left from the passenger tickets that had been issued - these stubs went missing at the Treblinka railway station during military operations. These tickets were issued to 6,500 people, since I specially checked the number. As for the transport from Belgium, I am also absolutely certain, since I talked to the people on the train and learnt from them where they were coming from. It is necessary to explain that people from foreign transports were able to leave their train freely at stations and they were confident that they were going to a labour camp.

After the uprising, during which the residential huts, chambers*, and a fuel depot were burnt down, the liquidation of the camp was started. They began to transport dismantled huts away - those that had not been burnt down, diggers and the contents of the storehouses, and so in the spring of 1944, there were only three Ukrainians left in the camp, whereas the area of the camp itself had been ploughed and sown with various plants. These Ukrainians escaped before the arrival of the Red Army.

* The gas chambers were not destroyed during the uprising.

treblinka station area 2005047

Treblinka Station Area 2005  (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Jozef Pogorzelski

Born 1911

Train Dispatcher with the Polish State Railways

Interviewed on October 18, 1945, in Sokolow by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

As far as I can remember, in June 1942, I was transferred to the Treblinka railway station, where I was to work as a train dispatcher. I worked as one until the arrival of the Red Army.

Some time after the first transports - I can remember that the first transports came in the second half of July 1942 - there was a horrible smell of dead bodies wafting to the station, and it was then that we all realized that there was another camp in Treblinka, next to the labour camp - an extermination camp.

As for the way the transports were handled at the Treblinka railway station, it was as follows. When a transport arrived, it was manned by two German railwaymen, employed at the station especially for that purpose, who usually divided the transport into three parts with each one being gradually pushed by a shunting steam engine onto a siding which led to the camp.

No member of the Polish personnel of the railway station was permitted to enter the camp premises and that is why I do not know what happened to the transports after they had been moved into the camp and how the people were exterminated. I can remember a transport from Miedzyrzec, in which a Gendarme from the train personnel said there were 10,000 people. Reportedly there were a lot of corpses in the wagons.

I want to add the names of the Germans who worked at the Treblinka railway station. The name of the first one was Rudolf Emmerich and the name of the other one was Willy Klinzmann.

Hejnoch Brener

Born 1913

Shoe Maker

Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 9, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

On October 15, 1942, I arrived with a transport from Koniecpol at the camp in Treblinka. The transport consisted of 60 wagons, each of which contained between 180 and 200 people. Women, men and children all traveled together. The transport had been traveling for two days and nights, but we did not receive even a single drop of water during that time.

When we arrived in Treblinka, 20 wagons were moved onto the ramp of the camp, while the remaining ones waited at the Treblinka railway station. Immediately after the arrival, Ukrainians and Germans started to throw people out of their wagons and herded them into a courtyard between huts, where the men were ordered to strip naked. The women were told to undress in the hut on the left.

I survived in the following way. I had been selected to pile up clothes, together with 200 naked men. My group carried clothes for the entire time during which the people from the 60 wagons of the transport in which I arrived were being murdered. It took about three hours. We worked naked all the time. At the end of the work, I realized that Treblinka was an extermination camp, so I hid in a pile of clothes. After a while, taking advantage of the fact that a German guard was absent, the Jewish labourers who were sorting the clothes helped me to dress myself and I mingled with this group. I want to explain that it was possible only because at that time the labourers had not yet been assigned numbers.

On the third or fourth day after my arrival, I was assigned to a group of barbers who were obliged to shave the women's hair before their death. On the very first day of my work in this group, we were sent to the so-called Camp Number 2 - where gas chambers, pits and camp personnel huts were located - in which one of the chambers intended for exterminating people, had been turned into a barber's shop. Then I was able to scrutinize the arrangements and fittings of the chambers, since I worked during the liquidation of the victims from the 60 wagons in the transport.

The chambers were located in a long building and were made of concrete, with entrances from the corridor through small doors. There were openings in the ceiling, which were used to pump out air - people were killed by pumping air out with a motor situated next to the chambers. The floor of the chambers sloped down towards the outer walls, which had hatches that could be lifted up.

After the killing was complete - it took about 15 minutes from the moment the chamber was locked, the hatches were opened and the corpses slid outside inertly, from where they were carried into the pits. When the chambers were filled with adults, who had to enter with their arms up, so that more people could be fitted in, little children and babies were flung in onto the heads of the people who were standing.

A Ukrainian called 'Ivan the Terrible' stood out for his extreme cruelty when herding people into the chambers, setting his dog on victims. He cut a woman's breast off in my presence. When the hatches were opened, the corpses were blue and swollen. As far as I know, all the chambers were the same size, each could hold over 400 people.

After the trial of shaving off the women's hair in the chamber, each subsequent shaving of hair took place in a hut located on the left side of the undressing courtyard. As soon as they entered the hut, women were forced to quickly strip naked and were ordered to hold their papers, valuables and money in their hands. Then, they had to hand these objects over at the cashier's room, where Jewish labourers (so -called Goldjuden) worked under the supervision of a German.

After the money and papers had been handed over, bodily orifices were searched for hidden valuables. When that was over, women were sent to the hair-shaving room, where there were 16 benches with four or five barbers working at each. The barbers were not allowed to talk to the victims. If a supervising German noticed such a conversation, the barber had to undress and was sent to a gas chamber. I remember a woman recognizing her brother in one of the barbers and greeting him. The barber was immediately ordered to strip naked and was killed.

Near the place where people undressed was a so-called Lazarett, in which people who were not able to walk  to the gas chambers on their own were exterminated. The killing consisted of shooting the person dead at a pit in which there was a fire burning constantly. The corpses were soon consumed by flames.

The frequency of transports was highest from the time I arrived at the camp until approximately the middle of December. Each day - with no break for holidays - at least one transport arrived, consisting of 60 wagons, and frequently two or even three transports arrived. Later, from the beginning of January 1943, there was a break, since this was the period when the Germans were on vacation. From that time, during February and March, two transports came per week on average. The final transport came in May 1943.*

It was mostly Jews from the Generalgouvernement, some areas in the East, Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia that were transported to Treblinka; moreover, some Gypsies were brought in for extermination in cars or less frequently in wagons. In some transports, one also came across Poles among the Jews. It also happened that local low-lifes brought those Jews who had managed to escape from transports to the camp for a reward of half a litre of vodka given to them by the Germans.

Some weeks after my arrival, corpses started to be cremated. At first it was done in a pit, and later on, on iron grates in specially constructed cremation pits. I do not know if the ashes were scattered in the pits. But I know very well that they were mixed with cinder and scattered around on the roads both inside the camp and those connecting the extermination camp with the labour camp, located approximately one and a half kilometers away.

During my stay in the camp, there were several inspections conducted by SS Generals, who were shown the whole camp and the manner in which people were exterminated. I eventually escaped from the camp on August 2, 1943, when an uprising broke out, which we had started organizing long before. During the uprising, we set fire to the buildings of the Treblinka camp, and as far as I know they were burnt down.**

* This is incorrect. Transports from Bialystok arrived in mid-August 1943, after the uprising.

** The gas chambers were not destroyed during the uprising.

Fig 16 Treblinka Black Road to Penal Camp 2002455

Treblinka - Road from the Extermination Camp to the Labour Camp 2002 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Aron Czechowicz

Born 1904

Shoe Maker

Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 11, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

On September 10, 1942, I was brought to the extermination camp at Treblinka in a transport that consisted of about 8,000 men, women and children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Our wagons were taken onto the ramp of the Treblinka camp in groups. After the first group of wagons - where I was - had been emptied, the people were herded into a courtyard  and the men were separated from the women and the children. The Commandant of the camp chose 80 people out of the men to be labourers in the camp. I was among them.

On the first day I sorted clothes; later I was transferred to the part of the camp where the gas chambers were located - the so-called 'Totenlager.' i worked for two weeks there; one day, when I was busy carrying boards near a group of labourers from the first part of the camp, which did not have gas chambers, but only storehouses and residential huts, taking advantage of a Ukrainian's inattention, I managed to mingle with a group of labourers from the first part of the camp. I stayed there working as a clothes sorter.

I can give the following details concerning my work in the so-called 'Totenlager.' When I arrived, three gas chambers were in operation there. Looking from the outside, the building that housed the chambers looked similar to a shed. On one side, in its wall were three large hatches that could be lifted up, through which the corpses were removed after the extermination process was over.

On the roof of the building were three openings surrounded with a pipe shaped like a little chimney. I could see with my own eyes that after the chambers were filled with people, a Ukrainian poured some liquid inside through these openings from a tin can (an ordinary can -like a paraffin can). Simultaneously, a motor started working, which was located in an extension and was operated also by a Ukrainian. At first one heard screams from inside the chamber; then they died down. I suppose that over 500 people could be fitted into one chamber.

During my stay in that camp, the chambers were filled with people about four times a day. I carried corpses into pits. I can remember that one day a I was carrying a man, who was still alive out of the chamber, and taking pity on him, so that he would not be buried alive, I went up to an SS-Scharfuhrer, supervising the work and asked him to finish the man off. The German shot him to death.

One obligation of the labourers who carried the corpses was also the extraction of gold teeth from people's oral cavities. As far as I know, the men were put in the chambers separately from the women. I can remember a day when we worked until 3 a.m.. By all accounts, 21,000 people were killed in the chambers that day. Towards the end of my stay in the 'Totenlager,' i was used to carry wood - it was then that I managed to escape. The wood was intended for the construction of other chambers, whose construction was already being completed at that time - they were being roofed. I do not know how many chambers were inside the new building.

After the escape to the first part of the camp, which I described above, I continued sorting clothes. One day towards the end of November 1942, I hid in a pile of clothes in the evening, and in the night managed to scale the fence and escape from the camp. During my stay in the camp, I guess that at least 8,000 people were exterminated daily, without a break. It is difficult for me to determine how many transports arrived every day.

The labourers who worked in the camp were treated with cruelty. During my stay in the 'Totenlager,' I saw a labourer who tried to escape get caught. They cut off his nose, ears and penis, and hung him by his legs. This was done by Ukrainians. I also saw two cases of hanging by the legs when I was working in the first part of the camp.

Fig 15 Malkinia Cattle Car 2002456

Cattle Car used in Transports at Malikina Station - July 2002 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Leon Finkelstein

Born 1902


Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on December 28, 1945, in Siedlce by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz

I arrived at Treblinka on August 22, 1942, with a transport of Jews from Miedzyrzec Podlaski. The transport consisted of about 7,000 people. Each wagon usually contained 200 men, women and children. Since the wagons had been sprinkled with chloride, many people died on the way, so after the arrival, 50 percent of the people in the wagon were dead.

When the wagons were opened, people were herded out into a courtyard. I saw a great number of dressed corpses in the courtyard, the men were separated from the women and children, but the SS man gave a speech in which he assured us that after our bath finished , we would be sent to work, whereas our possessions, money and valuables, which he had ordered us to hand over to be stored away, would be returned to each person. I want to add that during the arrival of the train there was an orchestra at the ramp playing, so as to inspire trust among people.

When the men were separated, I was able to join a group of labourers, who had red marks on their trousers. I learnt from them that they were used to work in the camp and so I fixed the red mark on my trousers and this was how I survived. I did not know then what had happened to the group of people- where my family was - that had been transported with me. It was only later that I learnt from other labourers that there were operational chambers in the camp for killing victims.

When I arrived at the camp, the area had not yet been surrounded by a fence and straight away on the second day after arrival, I was assigned to a group of labourers who were constructing fences. I worked like that for three weeks. After that, the SS-man Franz selected 200 of the strongest men out of our group and led us to the second part of the camp where the chambers were located. There I learned from a cook that 200 labourers had been executed there the day before, because they had rioted and refused to work in the chambers. We were to replace them.

At that time, three chambers were in operation in one building. The entrances to individual chambers ran from a corridor and were closed with a tightly fitting door. Outside there were large hatches that could be lifted up, through which the corpses were removed. The walls of the chambers were tiled. Next to the chambers, in an extension, was a motor whose fumes were used to poison the victims. Death followed after about 20 minutes. Sometimes, when the motor was out of order, the chambers were sprinkled with chloride and then the victims suffered for a very long time. I can remember cases when after a whole night of being poisoned in such a way people were still alive and were thus buried.

It is not true that the chambers had sliding floors. Corpses were removed through the hatches, as described above and the labourers who were working there had to drag the victims out into the pits in a rush, while being constantly beaten by the SS men and Ukrainians. For a while, there was a short railway with little wagons to transport corpses, but it was soon dismantled since the loading of the wagons took too much time, according to our 'butchers.' Corpses were simply dragged into the pits by the labourers. Some time after my arrival at this part of the camp, so-called 'dentists' were introduced, i.e. labourers equipped with pincers with which they had to extract gold teeth from the oral cavities of corpses. As I stressed earlier, at first the corpses were buried in pits. There were 21 pits like that in our part of the camp, with masses of corpses inside them. I think that individual pits could hold even 200,000 corpses each.

As for the cremation of corpses, initially - still in 1942 - they tried cremating corpses in piles, but this did not yield good results; so as early in 1943, they started to build furnaces in the pits, with special ventilation devices used to pump air in. The cremation in these furnaces was also unsuccessful, so eventually they constructed ordinary grates made of pieces of iron railway tracks, resting on concrete foundations. Such grates could hold many corpses at once and the cremation produced good results. A grate was set on fire with a little amount of wood or rags soaked in petrol and then the corpses burnt by themselves.

The corpses were extracted from the pits with diggers (Baggers), which were also used to dig pits, or they were removed by labourers with pitch forks. A large quantity of corpses still remained in the pits, as the labourers tried to do small acts of sabotage in such a way that, when the Germans or Ukrainians weren't paying attention, they covered a large quantity of corpses with sand, thus avoiding cremation. As far as I can remember, in November 1942, a new building containing ten gas chambers was put into operation; the extermination was also conducted with exhaust fumes; the capacity of these chambers was considerably higher.

It seems that in the early spring of 1943, Himmler conducted an inspection of the camp. He was also shown the second part of the camp with all the details.

In the first part of the camp, Germans exterminated a considerable quantity of victims in the so-called Lazarett. This was a place where all those who were not able to reach the chambers on their own (so older people, the sick and little children) were killed with small-bore guns. I do not know if these corpses were cremated. In our part of the camp, the cremation lasted until the uprising and I do not know what happened later. The ashes were mixed with sand and put in the pits for corpses.

As for the number of victims killed in Treblinka, it is difficult to determine it accurately, in my opinion, from my arrival to the camp until the uprising, there were constant transports of between 3,000 to 12,000 people. Treblinka was the final destination for the Jews from Poland, then from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium and Greece.

The personnel of the camp consisted of SS men and Ukrainians, who committed many atrocities and murders on their own. When the victims were being herded into the chambers, the Ukrainians Iwan, Nikolay and Woronkow, cut women's breasts off with their sabres. There were Jewish labourers working in both parts of the camp, who were also treated with extreme cruelty, and constantly killed.

On August 2, 1943, Jewish labourers staged an uprising, which had been prepared for a long time, during which many Germans and Ukrainians were killed,* and a large number of labourers managed to escape. I took an active part in the preparations for the uprising and in the fighting. I escaped from the camp during the uprising after the fighting had stopped.

Abe Kon

Born 1917


Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 9, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

i arrived on October 2, 1942, with a transport consisting of 60 wagons of Jews from Czestochowa. Each wagon contained about 100 men, women and children. After we had arrived at the ramp of the camp in Treblinka - they moved about 20 wagons onto the ramp, with the remaining ones waiting at the Treblinka station. Ukrainians and SS men threw the people out with whips and rifle butts into a courtyard between huts.

Before we undressed, the Commandant of the camp had selected about 60 Jewish labourers, including me. At first I was sent to sort clothes, where I worked for two or three weeks. Then for about three months, I worked in a hut supervising women's undressing.

Generally, the camp was divided into two parts. One part consisted of a ramp, storehouses and residential huts, while the second part, where entry was prohibited, had gas chambers, graves, cremation pits and huts for the group working there.

Two weeks after my arrival at the camp, I was able to talk to a bricklayer, who had been working at the construction of the gas chambers during the initial period when the camp was organised, and who had managed to get to the first part of the camp. He told me there were 12 gas chambers altogether,* they were built of concrete in the corridor system. There were narrow entrances to individual chambers leading from the corridor, and there were hatches installed in the outer walls for the removal of corpses. People were killed by removing the air out of the gas chambers.

At the time I arrived, the corpses of the victims were usually piled up in pits; later they started to be cremated in various ways. At first, the cremation was crude, in piles, then, on specially constructed grates. I heard that the cremation ashes were mixed with cinder and shoveled onto roads.

There was a so-called Lazarett in the first part of the camp. It was a place where they exterminated people who were not able to walk to the chambers on their own or the labourers who were blamed for something, or who fell ill.

The Jewish labourers used in the camp were divided into several groups. There were red labourers, who supervised the undressing of the men in the courtyard - they wore red armbands, blue labourers, who emptied wagons - they wore blue armbands, and pink labourers, who supervised the undressing of the women - they wore pink armbands. A few labourers worked in the Lazarett and they wore armbands with a red cross on them.

The largest group was used to sort clothes and other possessions. There was also a group who left the camp and went into the woods to collect branches in order to make fences. All in all there were over 1,000 labourers in these groups. In the second part of the camp, there were about 300 labourers working at the chambers and pits. The working conditions there were so hard that people usually died within several days, two weeks at the most, and they were replaced with new labourers.

From my arrival until December 1942, on average, there were three transports of 60 wagons arriving to the camp daily, without a break. Usually, there were already many corpses in the wagons and I specifically remember a transport from Biala Podlaska, which had traveled for seven days and brought 10 living passengers, with all the remaining people being dead.

During Christmas time there was an approximately three-week break in transports; later from about January 7, until more or less the middle of April, there were two or three transports weekly. At the end of March, four or five transports of Jews from Bulgaria arrived. To prove it, I still have a jacket that belonged to one of those Jews, with the name of a tailor's shop in Thessaloniki. In May 1943, the last transports from the Warsaw Ghetto arrived, and then there was still the final transport from the labour camp in Treblinka, situated a small distance from the extermination camp.

There were often inspections in the camp, conducted by SS Generals, with a General from Lublin visting extremely frequently; a short and thin one.Possessions and clothes taken away from the victims were carefully sorted and sent to Germany in huge transports. The gold and money was transported to Lublin and Warsaw in cars from time to time.

From January 1943, onwards, there was a fake railway built, so as to make the victims believe that they were coming to a labour camp. I can remember that before, Jews from Germany and Czechoslovakia had arrived in transports with their own tickets, with the trains having luggage wagons and passengers having luggage tickets for the transported possessions.

I can remember the following names of the German camp personnel: the Deputy Commandant Franz, an SS-Untersturmfuhrer, nicknamed 'Lalka,' the Untersturmfuhrer Sepp, Suchomel and Muller. They all handled the labourers in a cruel way and a lot of people died at their hands.

I escaped from the camp during the uprising on August 2, 1943, taking an active part in the fighting.

Henryk Poswolski

Born 1910

Factory Finance and Sales Director 

Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 7, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

On January 19, 1943, I arrived in Treblinka in a transport from the Small Ghetto in Warsaw. The transport consisted of about 3,000 people. At the railway station in Malkinia, the transport had been divided and a few wagons - about nine - were moved onto the ramp of the Treblinka extermination camp. I want to explain that at that time the people transported to the camp had no doubts that Treblinka was an extermination camp.

As soon as the doors of the wagons were opened, Germans and Ukrainians holding whips and guns rushed to throw people out onto the ramp. The ones that stood out, being extremely ruthless and cruel, were the Germans, Franz, Kuttner and Miete (I learnt their names later) and Ukrainians, who hit the women with their rifle butts and very often shot into the crowd, so many people were killed already on the ramp.

Next, everybody was herded into a courtyard between huts, where the people were divided; the women and the children went to the left and the men to the right. We all had to strip naked in the courtyard. After they had undressed, the women were sent to a hut where their heads were shaved by barbers. As I heard, Ukrainians often committed rape on women in that hut.

After shaving was over, the women and children were driven directly onto the pathway leading to the gas chambers, at the same time, specially trained dogs were used - St.Bernard dogs - to make people walk faster. Simultaneously, the naked men piled clothes up behind a hut located on the right side. In addition, they had to walk in single file and were beaten by the Germans and Ukrainians on their way. When this was done, they were also sent to the gas chambers.

I want to explain that from the accounts of the labourers who had been in the camp before, I know that at first the Germans tried to make their victims believe that they were only going to have a bath. To this end, a number of tricks was prepared, whose aim was to maintain the above mentioned belief. I heard that after money and papers had been taken away, each victim was told to keep one zloty, which was to be used to pay for a bath. These 'fees' were collected by a Ukrainian sitting in a wooden box whose windows faced the pathway leading to the gas chambers. During my presence, such things had already fallen into disuse.

As for my survival, I owe it to a person from among the Jewish labourers, about 40 years old, who came up to me in the undressing courtyard and whispered, 'You are a bricklayer and stove-fitter.' The man was wearing an armband with the inscription, 'Alteste der Juden.' Following his instruction, I came up to a fence, while he brought the SS-man Kuttner, who asked me if I was really a bricklayer? I said that I was and then I was taken to a group of labourers. From that time on I worked as a bricklayer until I freed myself during the uprising.

As for the construction and arrangements of the gas chambers, my knowledge is based on the accounts of these labourers, who in the initial stage of the construction of the camp, were able to get into the courtyard where the gas chambers and graves were located. The chambers were made of cement, tiled. I heard there were even sinks fitted in the walls, which were to imitate a real bath house. There were fake showers in the ceiling, not plumbed in. I am certain that I was told that there were two gas chambers with sliding floors. There were small wagons that came up under the floor and they were used to take the corpses out.* The killing consisted of pumping air out and later pumping exhaust fumes in, which was done with a diesel motor that was located next to the chambers.

As for the so-called Lazarett in the first part of the camp. I can tell the following details based on my own observations: the Lazarett was used to exterminate all the people who were not able to walk to the gas chambers on their own, as well as Jewish labourers who either fell ill, or committed some offence, or who became too weak, after having been beaten up. The Lazarett was located next to a plank storage area, where I often worked. There were two or three Jewish labourers working there under the supervision of a Kapo. They all wore armbands with a red cross on them. The whole area of the Lazarett was surrounded with a high fence, which was intertwined with branches.

There was a hut next to the fence, with a flag with a red cross. The Kapo stayed in this hut. There was an isolated room behind it with benches upholstered with red plush, where victims undressed, believing they would be examined by a doctor. Behind this room, there was an area for extermination, completely fenced off and partly surrounded with an embankment. There was a pit inside that looked like a crater, where the victim was positioned on a plank. A German or Ukrainian, deliberately hiding around the corner, shot the victim in the back of the head. After the people had been killed, all corpses were cremated. During cremation they used some white powder - I supposed it facilitated cremation.

When I arrived at the camp the frequency of transports was already low, since the main period of extermination was in the summer, autumn and winter of 1942. Anyway, I can remember - I think it was in February - two transports from Bialystok, a few transports from the Warsaw Ghetto, and from Bulgaria and Greece. The last small transport arrived in May 1943.

It seems that the camp was inspected by Himmler in March 1943. At 4 p.m. the personnel of the camp and the Jewish labourers were gathered in the courtyard and a report was delivered to the SS man Kuttner. He in turn, reported back to the Commandant of the camp, who then reported back to Himmler. I suppose that it was Himmler's visit that started the main operation was to cover up any traces of the crime. From that time onwards, the corpses were extracted from the pits with diggers and cremated. The ashes left by cremations were scattered around.

As for the Jewish labourers, there were about 1,000 of them all the time. If I am not mistaken, during the uprising, there were 1,100 of them. There were about 300 Ukrainians, whereas the number of SS men was 40-50.

In January 1943, transports of clothes and other possessions started to be sent to Germany in large numbers. I particularly remember a huge transport of overcoats, clothes and boots bound for Vienna. The loading of the wagons was done hastily, while the labourers were constantly whipped by Ukrainians and Germans. Those people who, as a result of the whipping, had blue circles around their eyes, were selected by the SS man Miete, as being ill and escorted to the Lazarett, where Miete killed them. Ill labourers during the typhus epidemic in the winter of 1943, were put in the Krankenstube, which however, could only hold 30 people. If there were more ill people, they were killed with injections. Generally speaking, the treatment of labourers can be characterised as cruel, with individual labourers and even large groups of labourers being constantly killed.As for gold and money, I can remember that in March 1943, two transports were sent away, each consisting of three, four vehicles loaded up with luggage.

The uprising in the camp broke out on August 2, 1943, and had been carefully prepared beforehand. About 300 Jewish labourers took an active part in it; they were armed with guns which they had obtained by forging the storehouse key. About fifteen Germans and fifty Ukrainians were killed during the uprising. The camp was burnt down.*

*This statement is not correct. Only SS -NCO Kuttner was wounded, and the gas chambers and the German quarters were not destroyed.

Fig 36 Malkinia Station -2005472

Malkinia Railway Station 2005 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Samuel Rajzman

Born 1902


Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 9, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

On September 27, 1942, I was loaded into a transport that was leaving from Warsaw, from the so-called Toebbens factory, where I worked as a book-keeper. Some 60 wagons were loaded up then, each consisting of about 120 people. On September 28, at 5 a.m. the train arrived at the Treblinka railway station, where 20 wagons were separated. I was in the first group and moved onto the camp ramp. When the doors of the wagons were opened, Germans and Ukrainians - there were two Ukrainians and one German for each wagon, holding whips, started to throw everybody out as quickly as possible, amid horrible screams. There were already quite a lot of corpses in the wagons - 12 in mine. We were driven through a gate into a courtyard, where there were long huts on both sides. The men were ordered to move to the right, while the women and children to the left.

Immediately after being separated we were ordered to strip naked, the women also had to undress in the courtyard. At the same time, it was announced that everybody had to have a bath, after which we would receive new clothes and get our papers back, which we had been ordered to hand over for the time being, together with our money and valuables.

The undressing in the courtyard lasted five minutes at most. When they were undressed, naked women were sent to the left hut, where the barbers were working. After they had been shaved, the women walked directly from the hut onto the pathway leading to the gas chambers, where there were Ukrainians and Germans whipping them on. When the women were being shaved, the men piled the clothes up in the courtyard behind the right hut. As soon as this work was over, during which the men were constantly beaten by the Ukrainians and Germans, they were also sent onto the pathway leading to the gas chambers.

I survived in the following way. When I undressed, I was spotted by Engineer Galewski from Warsaw, whom I had known for a long time, and who held the position of the most senior Jewish labourer (Lageralteste der Juden) in the camp. At that time, I had already been standing in a line that was to be sent onto the pathway running to the gas chambers.

Galewski came up to me and told me to move back. Paying no heed to the beating from the Ukrainians, I moved back and then Galewski accompanied by Scharfuhrer Post, came up to me and said that he needed me for labour. Post examined me, assessed my physical strength and allowed me to get dressed. I could not find my own clothes, so I put on the first garments I saw and I set about carrying clothes.

I started talking to Galewski during a lunch break, asking him why he had saved me, to which he replied, that I should not delude myself that I would stay alive; he saved me because I was needed to set up an underground organisation whose aim was to organise an uprising.

I was then assigned to the sorting of the clothes and possessions of the victims and I worked in this capacity almost until the end. Simultaneously, I was used by the Germans as a translator, translating from Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish and French into German. As a result of my work in this capacity I know that a lot of eminent French and English scholars were killed in the camp. Among the papers I came across, diplomas from the Sorbonne and Cambridge University. After I had translated them, I returned the papers to the German administration office, but I do not know what happened to them later. I also know that there were in the camp huge numbers of shares issued by English and French companies, since I translated them many times.

The Jewish labourers used in the camp were divided into several groups: the blue group, consisting of between 30 and 50 people, was used to clear the transport wagons. It had to be completed at such a pace that another transport could be brought within 40 minutes after the arrival of the first one, and the victims were not supposed to be aware where they were being transported. The red group, consisting of the same number of people, was working in the courtyard, undressing the people who did not want to disrobe on their own and clearing the courtyard.

The largest group was responsible for sorting clothes and possessions and for loading them into wagons. There was a special group, so-called Goldjuden, the labourers who were responsible for taking, sorting and packing up money and valuables. One part of this group worked in the undressing courtyard, where they collected money and valuables. The other part worked in the so-called 'cashier's room,' where the sorting was done. There was a bank official from Warsaw working in that group called Aleksander, who reported to our underground organisation on the amount of gold and money that passed through his hands. These reports as well as the notes describing the organisation and numbers of transports are partly in my possession; however, I do not have the complete set in Lodz now. I will be able to deliver them though.

There was also a group of the so-called Holzfellerkommando, who were responsible for sawing and chopping wood, and the Tarnungsgruppe who were responsible for repairing the fence and covering it with branches. Another large group consisted of craftsmen and skilled labourers working in the workshops. The labourers got up at 6 a.m. and worked until dusk, and sometimes even during the night. The food they received consisted of a mug of coffee and 20 decagrams of bread in the morning, unpeeled potato soup, sometimes with a few small dumplings, at lunchtime, and coffee alone in the evening. Labourers were treated with cruelty.

When a cigarette or money was found on a labourer, he was whipped between 20 and 50 times, and often killed, depending on the mood of the SS man or Ukrainian. The number of labourers I discussed above was generally between 500 and 800 people. During my stay, several dozen thousand people worked in that group, with their numbers being constantly replenished by newcomers from new transports, of which at least 25,000 were killed or died from exhaustion.

Generally, the camp was divided into two parts. In the first part, there was a ramp, storehouses, the huts of the personnel and labourers; in the other part, there were gas chambers, pits and cremation pits. Any contact between the labourers working in each of the parts was prohibited.

From the time of my arrival until about the middle of December 1942, there were three transports arriving daily on average, each usually consisting of 60 wagons, with each wagon containing 100 people on average. From the middle of December until the middle of January there were very few transports - perhaps one transport a week, because at that time the Germans were on vacation; the break was also needed to load and send victim's possessions that had been collected in the camp, which was done by labourers day and night.

In March or at the beginning of April 1943, transports of Jews from Bulgaria and Greece, which consisted of approximately 40,000 people arrived. Next there were a few transports from the Warsaw Ghetto, with the last transport from the Ghetto, a small one, arriving in the middle of May 1943. At first only Jews from the Generalgouvernement were brought; later, there were transports from Vienna, Czechoslovakia and Germany, and then from the eastern regions; next, as I mentioned above, there were transports from Greece and Bulgaria.

The possessions of the Jews who were exterminated in the camp were consistently sorted and they were fully used by the Germans. To this end, they established different specialisations, for example, for about three months I sorted only spectacles. At that time, a really huge number of spectacles passed through my hands. I also remember a characteristic incident concerning women's brooches. Initially, the brooches were sent to Germany. At one point, an order was issued to remove gems, which were usually artificial, and it was the remaining material - brass, bronze- that was loaded and sent to Germany. In this way, with brooches alone, they sent several hundred kilograms of raw material. As for clothes, as I mentioned above, between the middle of December and the middle of January, these were sent to Germany in large numbers, at least one transport every day. Gold and money were put in suitcases and transported to Lublin in vehicles.

I am convinced that Himmler inspected the camp in February 1943; he arrived by air and landed near the camp. I also think that the camp was inspected by Governor Frank in March 1943. SS -Generals carried out regular inspections and were shown the entire camp and the manner in which it operated. I also know that there were Wehrmacht officers from Malkinia visiting the camp, coming for receptions given by the SS men.

On August 2, 1943, we staged an uprising, which was completely successful and caused the destruction of the camp. The people who took part in the uprising established their own association in Lodz recently; this is why I know that the listed witnesses; the Ciechanowiecki's, Rozental, Goldberg, Jakub and Bronia Miller, Blacharski and Sznajdman are not in Lodz; they left in an unknown direction.

As for the names of the Germans who were the camp personnel, the list of their names can be compiled to the best of our knowledge in a meeting held by the participants of the uprising.

treblinka tube 2002064

Treblinka Tube 2002  (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Eugeniusz Turowski

Born 1913


Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 7, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

I arrived at the Treblinka camp on September 5, 1942, in a transport of Jews from the Czestochowa Ghetto. The transport consisted of 50 wagons, each with another 100 people. Following our arrival at Treblinka station, the transport was divided. One part was taken to the camp ramp, while the other waited at the Treblinka station.

As soon as the wagons stopped at the ramp, Germans and Ukrainians, armed with horsewhips and guns, chased everyone out of the wagons, which happened at lightning pace, amid beating and screaming. Everyone was taken to a yard between the barracks, where men were grouped to the right and women and children to the left.

From among the men, the Germans chose 25 persons, craftsmen mostly, myself included, since I stated my occupation as a mechanic. We were taken to a lot behind a barrack, where men stripped naked and began to carry clothes and throw them onto heaps. It was happening very quickly, again amid beatings and shouting by the Germans and Ukrainians. At the same time, women undressed in a barrack to the left, where they had their heads shaved. Within about 30 minutes of the transport's arrival at the ramp, the naked men and women were directed towards the path leading to the gas chambers.

I was assigned to the machine workshops, where I worked until August 2, 1943, that is until the uprising. From a Ukrainian called Grigori, and a Jewish worker named Jankiel, aged around 16, who came from the environs of Treblinka, I know that the first transports of Jews had started to arrive in June 1942. But back then, the system of extermination had not been organised yet, so the people from the transports would be gathered in a yard and killed with machine guns. They were buried in pits wearing clothes.

Around mid-August 1942, maybe earlier, gas chambers were first used; initially there were four* of them, but later, when I was already in the camp, another ten were built. Because I was working in the machine workshops and would fix various devices from the gas chambers, especially ventilators, I know that the devices for the gas chambers were delivered by a German company, whose name I do not remember.

I cannot tell when transports began to come in en-masse. In any case, between my arrival and the beginning of December 1942, there were at least three transports daily, 60 wagons each. The final transport arrived in Treblinka in May 1943, from the Warsaw Ghetto. Between December 1942, and May 1943, the transports were much less frequent, but there were still at least two transports a week. Until December 1942, Jews were mostly brought from the Generalgouvernement, as well as Germany and Czechoslovakia. In April 1943, a few transports of Jews from Macedonia arrived, in separate wagons with lots of luggage and belongings. I do not know how exactly people were exterminated in the gas chambers.

As regards the infirmary, which was located in the camp's first zone, this was where they directed anybody who was not able to walk to the gas chambers on their own. At the infirmary, people were killed with shots and were then burnt.

As regards the obliteration of criminal evidence, I know that in the beginning - until around June 1942, I suspect corpses were only buried in pits, then some of them would be burnt on heaps, while later, in the winter of 1942/ 1943, corpses started to be burnt in special pits with inbuilt grates and with the use of ventilators that blew air under the grates. During the peak period of burning corpses, dredgers were used to extract bodies from the old graves. I suspect that ashes were put into pits.

In order to mislead the victims brought to the ramp, already during my stay in the camp, a fake train station was built, along with fake buffets, ticket counters and waiting rooms. There was also a signpost that pointed to the gate leading into the yard where people were gathered to be stripped naked. The signpost read, 'Transfers to Bialystok and Wolkowysk.'

I also recall that as a mechanic, I took part in making a safe for documents for the camp's command. The safe was constructed in such a way as to allow the documents to be burnt inside at any time. Working as a mechanic, I was once fixing the lock of the arms and ammunition store, and I managed to make a spare key. I used this key on August 2, 1943, to retrieve the weapons and ammunition used during the uprising.

ARC 21087

Treblinka July 2002 - Symbolic Memorial on the site of roasts (Chris Webb Private Archive

Szyja Warszawski

Born 1911


Treblinka Death Camp Survivor

Interviewed on October 7, 1945, in Lodz by Judge Zdzislaw Lukaszkiewicz, with the participation of reporter -prosecutor J. Maciejewski

On August 23, 1942, I was brought to Treblinka in a transport from Kielce. The transport included 12 wagons, 100 people in each. The transport was directed to the railway siding of the Treblinka camp. On the railway platform by the tracks were corpses of murdered Jews and I recognised people from Kielce among them. After the wagons were emptied, the Germans and the Ukrainians with horsewhips rushed everybody to the yard, where they ordered us to lie down, face to the ground, and then, proceeded to kill everybody with a shot in the head. There were women, children, elderly and sick in the transport.

By accident I was shot in the right arm and I remained lying down until evening, when I was thrown into a pit filled with bodies. Another layer of bodies was thrown on top. I lay that way until dawn, and then, on hearing a conversation in Yiddish, I spoke out, and the Jewish labourers who were working by the pit helped me get out - it was early in the morning and there was no Germans. The workers took me to a barrack and I blended into the group and started as a labourer in the camp.

Next, I worked in a group of carpenters, until I escaped from the camp on August 2, 1943, during the uprising. Initially, I worked with corpses for two days. As regards that period, I remember the arrival of a transport from Miedzyrzec, about 20 wagons. In these wagons, there were only bodies of men, women and children, who had died of chlorine poisoning, because the floor of the wagon, as well as the corpses lying on top were poured over with a layer of chlorinated lime.

I lived in Camp 2, the entire time. There were six of us who specialised in carpentry, and we, including Mr Wiernik, were permanently employed doing construction work; during work, we could go from Camp 2, to Camp 1 and back.

Working close to the chambers, I could inspect their set-up at close quarters. When I arrived at the camp, four concrete chambers supported by high foundations were already finished. The corridor inside the building which housed these chambers had entrances leading to each chamber, the size of the entrances only allowing one person to squeeze through. On the outside, each chamber had a hatch opening upwards, through which the corpses were thrown out. Each chamber could accommodate around 300 people, but in order to speed things up, up to 600 were loaded inside, often onto the heads of those already in the chamber. The poisoning happened by means of pumping in exhaust gas from an engine installed next to the chambers, in a special wooden shed.

In September, or at the beginning of October 1942, another 10 chambers were built in one large building next to the existing chambers, they were set up similarly to the old ones, but were bigger, since each could accommodate around 800 people and typically upwards of one thousand people were loaded inside. Initially, people were killed in these chambers with chloride, and only later, around a month after launching, an engine was built. Since then, the poisoning was effected with exhaust gas.* Between my arrival at the camp until the beginning of January 1943, all the chambers were constantly filled with new victims. The chambers operated ceaselessly every day.

I cannot specify the number of victims brought in daily, but I believe at least 10,000 people were killed every day, while on the Day of Atonement, 18,000 people were poisoned. After New Year's Day 1943, the frequency of transports decreased, and I suspect that from that day until the end of February 1943, around two transports arrived daily. In March 1943, a transport of around 40,000 Jews arrived from the south, from Bulgaria, I think if I am not mistaken, the final transport arrived on May 11, 1943, from the Warsaw Ghetto.

As regards the incineration of corpses, it was not systematic when I arrived at the camp; there were attempts to burn heaps of bodies in pits, but this was not successful, so bodies were typically put in huge pits, 10 meters deep and wide and a couple of dozen meters long. In January 1943, the burning started to be carried out on a larger scale and in February 1943, a grate set up in a pit was first used. Since a pit of this kind was not too efficient, five or six grates were built above ground. Grates constructed out of rails were supported on cement poles, half a meter above the ground. Such a grate was was some 10 meters long, and 4 meters wide. Underneath a fire was lit and corpses were thrown on top with a dredger, once the corpses caught fire, they continued to burn. Mass burnings began in 1943. After the burning, ashes were thrown into pits, from which the corpses had been removed. Vetch was then planted on the surface and trees brought from the forest were planted, in order to conceal such spots.

i often worked as a carpenter in the watchtowers, so I know that not all the corpses were burnt. Dredgers removed only the upper layer of bodies from some pits, while the remaining corpses were buried under a thick layer of soil, with the spot also concealed on the surface.

Aside from the above -mentioned transports from Bulgaria, transports of Jews from Czechoslovakia and Germany also arrived at Treblinka. I did not hear of any transports from other European countries. In the territory of Poland, first the Jews from the Generalgouvernement were exterminated in Treblinka, and then transports from the north and west arrived. Apart from that, small numbers of Gypsies were brought in, and I heard one transport of Poles.

With regard to the names of the Germans on the camp's staff, I recall Franz, Obersturmfuhrer -SS, nicknamed the 'Doll,' who was an aide to the Camp Commandant, Matthes, Untersturmfuhrer -SS, head of Camp 2, Muller, Untersturmfuhrer -SS, supervisor of labourers in Camp 2. I do not remember any more names. *

*Kurt Franz rank was SS- Untersturmfuhrer and Heinrich Matthes held the rank of SS-Scharfuhrer in Treblinka, but served in Italy after Treblinka was closed with the rank of Polizei -Oberwachtmeister.


Chronicles of Terror which is part of the Witold Pilecki Institute of Solidarity and Valor - online resource

Photographs - Chris Webb Private Archives

Holocaust Historical Society November 10, 2020