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Kalman Taigman
File:Kalman Taigman.jpg
Born c. (1923-12-24)December 24, 1923
Warsaw, Poland
Died c. July 27, 2012(2012-07-27) (aged 88)
Tel-Aviv, Israel
Nationality Israeli
Known for Treblinka survivor
Home town Bat-Yam
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Rina Taigman (1st wife,
until 1986),
Lea Lipshitz (2nd wife)
Children Haim Taigman (son)
Parents Shimon Taigman (father),
Tema Taigman (mother)

Kalman Taigman also Teigman Hebrew: קלמן טייגמן‎ (c. 24 December 1923 – c. 27 July 2012) was an Israeli citizen born in Warsaw, Poland,[1][2] who testified at the 1961 Eichmann Trial held in Jerusalem as one of the remaining few Jewish inmates of the Sonderkommando who escaped from the Treblinka extermination camp during the prisoner uprising of 1943.[2]

Taigman did not go back to Poland for over 60 years, he returned to Treblinka for the first time in 2010 (two years before his death),[1] asked by the film director Tzipi Beider to take part in a documentary, along with another Treblinka survivor, and a friend of his, Samuel Willenberg. Taigman's second wife of 26 years, Lea Lipshitz, who went along with them, said that Kalman was happy to be in Poland once more and much to her surprise spoke Polish again with ease.[2]


From Taigman's deposition: burning Treblinka II perimeter during the prisoner uprising of 2 August 1943. Barracks were set ablaze, including a tank of petrol which exploded and spread flames on all other structures.[3] A clandestine photograph taken by eyewitness Franciszek Ząbecki.

Kalman Teigman (Taigman) studied at a technical school in Warsaw before the Shoa in Poland occupied by Germany, taught by Adam Czerniaków among others. In 1935, his father emigrated to Mandate Palestine in the hope of bringing the family with him, but the war erupted and the planning failed. Kalman and his mother were trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest Jewish ghetto in all of Nazi Germany-occupied Europe with 500,000 inmates eventually.[4] They worked for the ghetto branch of Germany's Chemnitzer Astrawerke AG factory.[5] In 1942,[6] both of them were deported to Treblinka during the Grossaktion Warsaw.[7]

The camp in Treblinka, built as part of Operation Reinhard (the most deadly phase of the "Final Solution"), operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 officially.[8] During this time, more than 800,000 Jews – men, women, and children – were murdered there upon arrival.[9][10]

Kalman's mother was sent directly from the Holocaust train to the gas chambers disguised as showers. Kalman was put to work with the Sonderkommando in the Auffanglager sorting barracks.[2] Of his experience at Treblinka, Taigman stated on film: "It was hell, absolutely hell. A normal man cannot imagine how a living person could have lived through it – killers, natural-born killers, who without a trace of remorse just murdered every little thing."[11] He described the concealment of the camp's purpose in a following way:

There were flowers planted on the ground, and of course people couldn't imagine where they were. They [the SS] painted the huts and put up all sorts of signs as if it was a real railway station. I remember that once one of them said these words – I'll never forget these words – he said it in German, "Come quickly because the water is getting cold!" That's how far they went. The manner in which it worked was macabre, and it was a horrible thing to see.[12]

Taigman escaped during the uprising of 2 August 1943 by climbing over the barbed-wire fence under machine-gun fire.[3] Soon after the war ended he married in Warsaw. A year later he joined his father in Israel, but only after arrest by the British and subsequent release from the Jewish refugee camp set up in Cyprus, according to the 2002 Uruguayan documentary Despite Treblinka.[13] Taigman ran a successful import business in Israel.[11] For a number of years, while in Israel, Taigman used to meet with other Holocaust survivors on the anniversary day of the Treblinka uprising. Among the guests at the home of Samuel (Szmuel) Willenberg and his wife Ada were also Pinhas (Pinchas) Epstein and Eliahu Rosenberg who testified along with him at the trial of Holocaust perpetrator Adolf Eichmann in 1961.[2]

Both of his friends, Rosenberg and Epstein, were the star witnesses of Israeli prosecution at the 1986–88 trial of John Demjanjuk, identified as camp guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" and accused of committing murder and acts of extraordinary violence at Treblinka against the Jewish prisoners in 1942–43.[14] When asked, Kalman refused to testify and asserted that this man was never in Treblinka.[15] The controversy surrounding Rosenberg-Epstein testimony erupted in full force after it was discovered in the Soviet-held archives that Demjanjuk (identified by both of them from photographs) did not serve at Treblinka at all, but at the Sobibor SS death camp.[16][17] To make matters worse, Rosenberg's testimony in his case from 1981 was shown to have been coached by the interrogators and wholly illegitimate.[18]

Kalman Taigman died in 2012 of a brain tumor, survived by his second wife Lea, a son, and two grandchildren.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 T.P. (21 April 2013). "Piekło płonie (The Hell is Burning)" (in Polish). Nr 16 (3328). Tygodnik Powszechny. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Erec (8 August 2012). "Kalman Taigman, ocalały z Treblinki, nie żyje (Kalman Taigman, saved from Treblinka, is dead)" (in trans. from Hebrew). Dziennik MAARIV. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 ARC (2005). "Kalman Teigman at the Eichmann Trial". Revolt in Treblinka. Action Reinhard Camps. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  4. Gedeon (2012). "Getta Żydowskie" (in Polish). Jewish Ghettos. Retrieved 30 March 2014. "Największe getta utworzono w Warszawie (500 tysięcy ludzi) i Łodzi (300 tysięcy ludzi)." 
  5. Christoph Schult (28 May 2005), Holocaust Survivors: Former Nazi Ghetto Workers Get Cheated – Again. Der Spiegel 22/2005.
  6. Session 66, Witness: Kalman Teigman. The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Part 4 of 9. The Nizkor Project.
  7. Barbara Engelking-Boni, Warsaw Ghetto Calendar of Events: 1942 Timeline: the beginning of the great deportation action in the Warsaw ghetto; transports leave from Umschlagplatz for Treblinka. Publisher: Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów IFiS PAN.
  8. Treblinka Death Camp Day-by-Day Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, H.E.A.R.T. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  9. Staff writer (4 February 2010). "The number of victims". Extermination Camp. Muzeum Treblinka. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  10. Niewyk, Donald L.; Nicosia, Francis R. (2000). The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. Columbia University Press. p. 210. ISBN 0-231-11200-9. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Roper, Matt (11 August 2012). "I looked for him but God must have been on holiday". Retrieved 10 September 2013. "Death Camp Treblinka: Survivors Stories BBC broadcast." 
  12. Rees, Laurence (2005). "Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State. Factories of Death". BBC History of World War II. KCET. Retrieved 30 March 2014. "See also: Episode Guide: Overview. Treblinka" 
  13. "Documentary film "Despite Treblinka" by Gerardo Stawsky (Uruguay)". Film synopsis: footage shot in Uruguay and Israel. Universidad ORT Uruguay. 2002. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  14. Jonathan Broder (February 26, 1987). "2d Witness Calls Demjanjuk `Ivan The Terrible`". Chicago Tribune.,+Eliahu+Rosenberg+and+Szmuel+Willenberg&hl=en-CA&gbv=2&prmd=ivns&strip=1. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  15. "מקומי - חולון ובת-ים nrg - ...סיפורו של השורד מטרבלינקה,". NRG online. 2014-04-29. 
  16. Efraim Zuroff (2014-02-24). "The Demjanuk trial in retrospect". Ukrainian SS death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk: The longest case of a Holocaust perpetrator. The Jerusalem Post.,+Eliahu+Rosenberg+and+Szmuel+Willenberg&hl=en-CA&gbv=2&prmd=ivns&strip=1. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  17. Chris Hedges (August 12, 1993). "Israel Recommends That Demjanjuk Be Released". Archives. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  18. Willem Albert Wagenaar (1988). Identifying Ivan: a case study in legal psychology. Harvard University Press. pp. 105–107. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 

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