Visit Treblinka Nazi Camp
This is the closest Nazi Camp to Warsaw, only 1-hour drive from the city. It was second only to Auschwitz in the number of Jews killed. The complex consisted of two parts - labor camp (Treblinka I) and extermination camp (Treblinka II). The labor camp operated between 1941 and 1944 and the extermination camp in the years 1942-1943. Nowadays visitors can enter the museum with an exhibition showing a model of the complex and walk on the grounds of the former camp. On the site there is a symbolic cemetery – a huge monument with over 100 granite stones with names of the towns from which the victims were deported. Outside the camp there are remnants of railway tracks to commemorate the last journey of the prisoners.
Treblinka I - Labor CampThe Penal Labor Camp functioned from the summer of 1941 to the end of July 1944. Theo van Eupen was the commandant of the camp throughout the entire period. The German staff included about 20 people. They were assisted by guard companies, mostly Ukrainians, in the number of around 100 people. Over 20,000 people were prisoners here, of which about 10,000 died or were shot. The functioning of the camp can be divided into several periods: I. June - September 1941 - initial phase, the camp had several dozen prisoners then and was located in the farm buildings of the gravel pit; these prisoners built the proper camp. II. September 1941 - July 1942 - the camp was located on the eastern side of the gravel pit. The functioning of the camp was made public on November 15, 1941. During this period, there was no division into Polish and Jewish prisoners. Unlike Treblinka II, this camp was intended not only for Jews, but also for Poles deported for economic or political offenses. In fact, mainly Poles and a small group of Jewish craftsmen from nearby towns, such as Kosów Lacki, Węgrów, Sadowne, Stoczek Węgrowski, and Sokołów Podlaski, were prisoners here. III. July 1942 - November 1943 - during this period the extermination camp operated 2 km away. At that time, the number of Jewish prisoners increased, both craftsmen and physical laborers. There was a high rotation and death rate of prisoners. Exhausted by starvation and overwork in a nearby gravel pit, brutal beatings and cruel harassment, they died in large numbers. Others were killed in executions - after the war, over 40 mass graves were dug in the nearby forest and as many as 6,500 bodies were counted. Others were transferred to Treblinka II to die after losing all their strength. The dead were replaced with new prisoners. In those months, the labor camp operated in the "shadow" of the Treblinka II extermination camp. IV. November 1943 - July 1944 - in November 1943 the extermination camp was completely liquidated, and in July 1944, shortly before the arrival of the Red Army - the labor camp followed suit. During this period, the number of Jewish prisoners decreased, the remaining ones were mainly prisoners working in the administration. The living conditions of prisoners improved, they even received parcels from the Polish Red Cross twice. The last execution at Treblinka I took place on July 24, 1944, just prior to the entrance of the Soviet army. Until the camp's liquidation, it was a prison for 20,000 people, of which approximately 10,000 died.
Treblinka II - Extermination Camp
The Treblinka II extermination camp was built by the Germans in mid-1942, 2 kilometres away from the penal labor camp. The Germans built a railway spur that led from the labor camp to the death camp and to the railway station in the village of Treblinka. The camp was established as part of "Operation Reinhard", aimed at the extermination of the Jewish population. It was, alongside Bełżec and Sobibór, a center for the mass extermination of Jews. It had one purpose: to kill as many Jews as possible in the shortest possible time. The camp area was hidden inside a pine forest and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The crew consisted of 30-40 Germans and Austrians who were in charge of the camp and a company of guards, about 100-120 people, mostly of Ukrainian origin. Dr. Irmfried Eberl was appointed the commandant of the camp, Franz Stangl took over the position, and Kurt Franz was the deputy commandant. The camp was divided into three parts: the reception area, the death area and the living area. The residential part was used by the camp workers, Germans and Ukrainians. It consisted of warehouses and workshops. There were also barracks for Jews. The construction of the extermination center began in May and was completed on July 22. The first transport of Jews arrived at Treblinka one day later, in the morning of July 23rd 1942. It included 7400 people from the Warsaw ghetto. Between July and September 1942 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto alone were transported to Treblinka and killed there. Jews were sent to Treblinka under the pretext of resettlement to the East. They were brought here mainly from occupied Poland, but also from Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, the USSR, as well as Germany and Austria. Roma and Sinti from Poland and Germany were also transported here. Freight trains and cattle cars were filled with prisoners beyond capacity. A large part of the deported (mainly infants, the elderly and the sick), deprived of water, air and sanitation, often died before reaching their destination. In order to distract the victims' vigilance, a fictitious train station was built, which was equipped with a "ticket office", "hand luggage storage" and "1st and 2nd class waiting rooms". There was a train timetable on the wall, as well as a large railway clock. At the entrance there were signs saying: "to Wołkowysk-Białystok", "to Łomża", "to Baranowice". In order to avoid panic, an orchestra was playing to "welcome" the deportees. Upon arrival, they were confiscated, stripped naked, shaved, and then marched into the specially created gas chambers referred to as “bathhouses,” where they were gassed with carbon monoxide. Gold from their teeth was removed. Initially, the bodies of the murdered were buried in the ground, placed in layers and sprinkled with chlorinated lime. After Heinrich Himmler's visit to Treblinka, from around February 1943, the bodies were unearthed and burned in pits or grates. It is estimated that around 800,000 people died in Treblinka II.
Uprising at Treblinka camp and liquidation
On August 2, 1943, an armed uprising by prisoners broke out in the camp. A group of Jewish prisoners killed some Ukrainian guards and one SS officer. They set fire to some of the camp buildings, but they failed to destroy the gas chambers. Only a small part of the insurgents had weapons and ammunition, which they had taken from the SS armory, the rest could only oppose the well-armed camp staff with axes, knives, rods or hammers. Prisoners trying to get through the camp fence were shot from watchtowers. Most of them were killed. Out of 840 people, only about 200 managed to get out of the camp. Most of them were eventually killed or recaptured. It is estimated that no more than 100 of them could see the end of the war. After the uprising, the camp was slowly liquidated. Before the arrival of the eastern front, all the buildings were burned down, the gas chambers were destroyed, the remaining barracks were pulled down and the fence was removed. The area of the camp, containing the ashes of hundreds of thousands of people, was plowed and sown with lupine.
After the war, several Treblinka officers were brought to trial in West Germany. In a 10-month trial, which ended in 1965, 10 defendants were tried, including the deputy camp commandant Kurt Franz, who heard a life sentence. In 1993 he was released from prison for health reasons. He died in 1998 in a nursing home in Wuppertal. In the 1970 trial, Commander Stangl was also sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of a heart attack half a year later.
Treblinka - Museum and Memorial
Treblinka Museum was opened in 2010. It houses a permanent exhibition that presents the history of both camps - the Treblinka II Extermination Camp and the Treblinka I Penal Labor Camp. The exhibition is complemented by exhibits discovered during archaeological research - from barbed wire to numerous personal belongings of the victims who died in the Treblinka camps. The main element of the exhibition is a model of the Death Camp. The room is equipped with a TV, which shows educational films in Polish, English, Hebrew and German. The museum contains four exhibitions. The largest of them is devoted to the Treblinka II Extermination Camp. Others present life of the civilians at the beginning of World War 2, as well as the time of the German occupation and the functioning of the Treblinka I Labor Camp. The fourth part presents matzevot, i.e. Jewish tombstones. Additionally, the museum has temporary exhibitions. Visitors can also walk on the grounds of the Treblinka II Extermination Camp. There, you can see a monument commemorating the victims of the camp. Its core is a cracked wall which is a reference to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and on its top there is a finial with carved remains and blessing hands, which are a symbol taken from Jewish tombstones. In addition to the monument, on the grounds of the former Treblinka II Death Camp, stones were placed to symbolize Jewish matzevah.