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{{Infobox concentration camp | name = Treblinka | type = Extermination camp | image = Treblinka - Rail tracks.JPG | image size = | caption = Symbolic concrete blocks mark the path of the former railway line at Treblinka. | alt = | location map = Poland | map alt = | map caption = Location of Treblinka in Poland | latd = 52| latm = 37| lats = 51.85| latNS = N | longd= 22| longm= 3| longs= 11.01| longEW= E | coordinates type = region:PL-MA_type:landmark | coordinates display = inline,title | other names = | known for = Genocide during the Holocaust | location = Near Treblinka, General Government (German-occupied Poland)

| built by =

  • Richard Wolfgang Thomalla (death camp)
  • Erwin Hermann Lambert (gas chambers)
  • Christian Wirth
  • Schoenbronn Company, Leipzig
  • Schmidt–Munstermann, Warsaw branch [1][2]

| operated by = 3. SS Division Totenkopf.png SS-Totenkopfverbände | commanded by = Imfried Eberl, Franz Paul Stangl, Kurt Hubert Franz | original use = Death | construction = April 1942 – July 1942 | in operation = 22 July 1942 – 19 October 1943[3] | gas chambers = 6 | prisoner type= mainly Jews | inmates = est. 1,200 | killed = est. 800,000 – 1,200,000[4]

Oskar Berger, a Jewish eyewitness, told of the camp's state when he arrived there in August 1942:

When we were unloaded, we noticed a paralyzing view – all over the place there were hundreds of human bodies. Piles of packages, clothes, suitcases, everything in a mess. German and Ukrainian SS men stood at the corners of the barracks and were shooting blindly into the crowd.[5]

On 26 August 1942, Odilo Globocnik, the head of Operation Reinhard, visited Treblinka along with Christian Wirth and Josef Oberhauser. Commandant Irmfried Eberl was relieved of his duties. Among the reasons for his dismissal were incompetently disposing of the tens of thousands of dead bodies, using inefficient methods of killing, not properly concealing the mass murder, and stealing valuables from those who had been "processed", which he then secretly sent to cohorts at Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin. This last activity had been expressly forbidden by Heinrich Himmler, as he wanted this property to go toward the German war effort.[6][7] However, stealing collected gold and money was a common practice among concentration camp commandants; two Majdanek concentration camp commandants, Koch and Florstedt, were executed by the SS for the same reason in April 1945.[8]

Christian Wirth was assigned to move into Treblinka to help clean up Eberl's mess. On August 28, Globocnik temporarily suspended deportations to Treblinka. He chose Franz Stangl, who had previously been the commandant of the Sobibor extermination camp, to assume command of Treblinka as Eberl's successor. Stangl had a reputation as a competent administrator with a good understanding of the project's objectives, and therefore Globocnik trusted that Stangl would be capable of resuming control.[4]

On September 1, Stangl replaced Eberl as commandant of Treblinka. He described Treblinka under Eberl's command when he first arrived at the death camp:

I drove there, with an SS driver ... We could smell it kilometres away. The road ran alongside the railway tracks. As we got nearer Treblinka but still perhaps fifteen, twenty minutes' drive away, we began to see corpses next to the rails, first just two or three, then more and as we drove into what was Treblinka station, there were hundreds of them – just lying there – they'd obviously been there for days, in the heat. In the station was a train full of Jews, some dead, some still alive – it looked as if it had been there for days.[7]

Nazi timetable for a "special resettlement train" (Umsiedlersonderzug) from Łuków to Siedlce to Treblinka, August 1942

Commandant Franz Stangl restored order in the camp, and the transports of Warsaw and Radom Jews began to arrive again on 3 September 1942.[9] Stangl wanted his camp to look attractive, so he ordered the paths paved and flowers planted along the sides of Seidel Street, near camp headquarters and SS living quarters.[10] The appearance of Treblinka concealed the fate that awaited arriving prisoners.

Stangl liked to wear a white uniform and carry a whip, and so he was nicknamed the "White Death" by prisoners. Despite being directly responsible for the camp's operations, Stangl limited his contact with Jewish prisoners as much as possible, at least according to his own testimony. He claimed that he rarely interfered with unusually cruel acts perpetrated by his subordinate officers at the camp.[11] He grew accustomed to the killings and perceived prisoners not as humans but merely as "cargo" that had to be destroyed, he told his prison interviewer.[10] After Stangl, the next and the last camp commandant was Kurt Franz who managed Treblinka II until November 1943 and took care of its subsequent complete liquidation. His deputy was SS-Hauptscharführer Fritz Küttner who maintained a net of Sonderkommando informers and did the hands-on killings.[12]

Treblinka song

According to postwar testimonies, when transports were temporarily halted, Franz wrote lyrics to a song meant to celebrate the Treblinka extermination camp (actually, prisoner Walter Hirsch wrote them for him).[13] The melody came from something he remembered from Buchenwald. The music was happy, in the key of D major, as though the deaths at the camp were a joyful process rather than one of mourning. The song was taught to the newly arriving Jews assigned to work in the Sonderkommando.[13] They were forced to memorize it by nightfall of their first day at the camp. Survivor Samuel Willenberg remembered the song beginning: "With firm steps we march.... "[14] The lyrics recalled by Unterscharführer Franz Suchomel are quoted below:

Looking squarely ahead, brave and joyous, at the world. The squads march to work. All that matters to us now is Treblinka. It is our destiny. That's why we've become one with Treblinka in no time at all. We know only the word of our Commander. We know only obedience and duty. We want to serve, to go on serving until little luck ends it all. Hurray![15]

After the war


A mass grave in Treblinka opened in March 1943; the bodies were removed for burning. In the background, dark grey piles of ash from already cremated bodies

The last rail transport of Jews for gassing was brought to the camp on 19 August 1943 from the Białystok Ghetto.[16] It consisted of 39 cars, according to communiqué published by the Office of Information of the Armia Krajowa, which was based on observation of Holocaust trains passing through the village of Treblinka. Following the uprising, only ten wagons were rolled onto the ramp at one time, while others had to wait. The mass shootings continued into 1944. Jews from the remaining work detail dismantled the gas chambers brick-by-brick and used them to erect a farmhouse in place of the camp's former bakery. Its purpose as a secret guard post was confirmed by Globocnik in a letter to Himmler sent from Trieste on 5 January 1944.[17]

The surrounding villages (Poniatowo, Prostyń, Grądy) were then destroyed by the departing Germans along with all evidence of genocide; 761 buildings were burned to the ground, and many families were killed.[18] The fields of grain that once fed the SS were scorched.[19] By the time the Soviets entered the area in late July 1944, everything had been leveled, plowed over, and planted with lupins.[20][21] What remained, wrote visiting war correspondent Vasily Grossman, were small bits of bone in the soil, human teeth, scraps of paper and fabric, broken dishes, jars, shaving brushes, rusted pots and pans, cups of all sizes, mangled shoes, and lumps of human hair everywhere.[22] The road leading to the camp was pitch black. Until summer 1944 human ashes (up to 20 carts every day) were regularly strewn by the remaining prisoners along the road for two kilometres in the direction of Treblinka I.[23] When the war ended, destitute locals started walking up the Black Road (as they used to call it) in search of manmade nuggets shaped from melted gold in order to buy bread.[24]

Treblinka memorial

The new Soviet-installed government failed to preserve evidence of the crime. The scene has not been legally protected at the conclussion of World War II. In 1947 the first remembrance committee named Komitet Uczczenia Ofiar Treblinki (KUOT) formed in Warsaw and launched a design competition for the memorial.[25] No funds were allocated for it by the Stalinist officials, and the committee disbanded in 1948. Many survivors left the country. In 1949 the town of Sokołów Podlaski took it upon itself to protect the camp with a new fence and a proper gate. A work crew with no archeological experience was sent in to beautify the grounds. In 1958, after the end of Stalinism in Poland, the Warsaw provincial council declared Treblinka to be a place of martyrology. In the next four years, some 127 hectares that had formed part of the camp were purchased from 192 farmers in the villages of Prostyń, Grądy, Wólka Okrąglik and Nowa Maliszewa.[26]

The construction of a towering monument designed by sculptor Franciszek Duszeńko was inaugurated with the cornerstone laid on 21 April 1958 at the site of the former gas chambers. The sculpture represents the trend toward large avant-garde forms introduced in the 1960s, with a granite tower cracked down the middle and capped by a mushroom-like block carved with abstract reliefs and Jewish symbols.[27] Treblinka was declared a national monument of martyrology on 10 May 1964 during an official ceremony attended by 30,000 people.[28] The monument was unveiled by the Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland Zenon Kliszko in the presence of survivors of the Treblinka uprising from Israel, France, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The nearby building of the camp's former custodian (built in 1960) was turned into an exhibition house following the collapse of the Soviet empire, and opened in 2006. It was later expanded and made into a branch of the Siedlce Regional Museum.[29][30]

Death count

The Holocaust "Güterwagen" boxcar holding an average of 100 victims, occupied Poland

There are many estimates of the total number of people killed at Treblinka based on fragmentary data from a variety of sources. Long after the camp's official closure, the last Jewish work commando of up to 700 men was murdered by Trawnikis in July 1944.[20] Definitive reports are scarce. Many postwar testimonies of survivors contain unsupported information and only alleged facts.[31] Franciszek Ząbecki was one of the few non-German witnesses to see every transport that came into the camp. Ząbecki, a Polish station master before the war, was present at the nearby Treblinka railway station when the first Holocaust train arrived from Warsaw.[32] He was employed by Deutsche Reichsbahn as a traffic controller at Treblinka village from 22 May 1941.[33] He was a member of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), which formed most of the Polish resistance movement in World War II, and kept a daily record of the extermination transports. He also took a clandestine photo of the burning Treblinka II perimeter during the prisoner uprising. He witnessed most passing transports including the last set of five covered wagons carrying Sonderkommando to the Sobibor gas chambers on 20 October 1943.[34] From his own records, Ząbecki estimated that no fewer than 1,200,000 people were murdered at Treblinka.[32][35] He published his findings in a book in 1977.[36]

In 1965, after a report by Dr. Helmut Krausnick, director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, the Court of Assize in Düsseldorf concluded that at least 700,000 people were killed at Treblinka.[37] In 1969, the same court, after new evidence revealed in a report by Dr. Wolfgang Scheffler, reassessed that number to be at least 900,000.[35] According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the death toll in the gas chambers of Treblinka II (not including the deaths from forced labor in Camp I) is somewhere between 870,000 and 925,000.[9]

The approximate number can also be estimated on the basis of a 1942 telegram from Operation Reinhard's deputy commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle. In 2001, a copy of a decryption of this telegram was discovered among recently declassified information in Britain.[38] The Höfle Telegram, sent to Berlin on 31 December 1942, listed 713,555 Jews as having been sent to Treblinka officially. The actual number of people who died there was probably higher, as shown through the AK communiqués.[17] On the basis of the telegram and additional German hard evidence for 1943 listing 67,308 persons deported, historian Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk observed that by the official count, 780,863 victims were brought by Deutsche Reichsbahn to Treblinka, regardless of the true number of victims.[39] An archeological study using non-invasive archeological technology began at the site in 2010.[40]

Treblinka trials

The first official trial for war crimes committed at Treblinka was held in Düsseldorf between 12 October 1964 and 24 August 1965.[lower-alpha 1] Twenty years after the war ended, eleven former SS camp personnel were brought to trial by West Germany, including commandant Kurt Franz. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, along with Artur Matthes (Totenlager), Willi Mentz, and August Miete (both from Lazaret). Gustav Munzberger from Gas Chambers received 12 years, Franz Suchomel (Gold and Money) 7 years, Otto Stadie (Operation) 6 years, Erwin Lambert (Gas Chambers) 4 years, and Albert Rum (Totenlager) 3 years. Otto Horn (Corpse Detail) was acquitted and set free.[41][42]

The Austrian Franz Stangl was the commandant of Treblinka from the summer of 1942 until August 1943. In 1951, Stangl escaped to Brazil, where he found work at a Volkswagen factory in São Paulo. His role in the mass murder of men, women, and children was known to the Austrian authorities, but Austria did not issue a warrant for Stangl's arrest until 1961. In spite of being registered under his real name at the Austrian consulate in Brazil,[43] it took another six years before he was tracked down by Simon Wiesenthal and arrested in Brazil. After his extradition to West Germany he was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued: "My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty." Found guilty on 22 October 1970, Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of heart failure in prison in Düsseldorf on 28 June 1971.[42]

Material gain

The stealing of cash and valuables, collected from the victims of gassing, was conducted by the higher-ranking SS men on an enormous scale. When these officers left Treblinka to holiday at home, they would request a private locomotive from Klinzman and Emmerich at the Treblinka station just to transport their personal "gifts" to Małkinia for a connecting train. Then, they would drive out of the camp in cars without any incriminating evidence on their person and later arrive at Małkinia to transfer the goods.[44][lower-alpha 2] The overall amount of loot is unknown except for the period between 22 August and 21 September 1942, when there were 243 wagons of goods sent to Germany.[44] Globocnik delivered a written tally to Reinhard headquarters on 15 December 1943 with the SS profit of RM 178,745,960.59 including 2,909.68 kilograms of gold, 18,733.69 kilograms of silver, 1,514 kilograms of platinum (all melted into bars) and 249,771.50 American dollars,[44] on top of 130 diamond solitaires, 2,511.87 carats of brilliants, 13,458.62 carats of diamonds, and 114 kilograms of pearls. The amount of loot stolen by Globocnik himself is unknown, although Suchomel admitted in court to filling up a box of one million Reichsmarks for him.[25]

Individuals responsible


Deputy commanders




  1. This trial was preceded by the 1951 Frankfurt am Main trial of Josef Hirtreiter who had supervised the undressing of prisoners (see also: The Hirtreiter trial).
  2. see Ząbecki's court testimonies at Düsseldorf


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named HEART-Treblinka history
  2. Arad 1987, p. 37.
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Ounsdale, Treblinka Death Camp, with photographs, PDF file, direct download 2.02 MB. Retrieved August 11, 2013. [author incomplete] [page needed]
  5. Chrostowski, Witold (2004). "Extermination Camp Treblinka" (Google Books search inside). Vallentine Mitchell. p. 37. ISBN 0-85303-456-7. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  6. BBC History of World War II. Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State. Factories of Death: Episode 3. Directed by Laurence Rees. KCET, 2005. See also: Episode Guide. Overview. Treblinka (Start: 29:40; Length: 7:51) and Corruption: Episode 4.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sereny, Gitta, The Healing Wound – Reflections on Germany 1938–2001, page 117, Norton, 2001 ISBN 0-393-04428-9
  8. "Procesy zbrodniarzy [Trials of war criminals 1946–1948"]. Wykaz sądzonych członków załogi KL Lublin/Majdanek [Majdanek staff put on trial]. KL Lublin. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 
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  10. 10.0 10.1 Arad 1987, p. 186.
  11. Robert S. Wistrich. Who's Who in Nazi Germany, p. 295-296. Macmillan, 1982.
  12. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 86.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 90, section 2.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Shoah (film): An Oral History of the Holocaust". France. 1985. "Featuring rare testimony of SS-Unterscharführer (Corporal) Franz Suchomel who worked at Treblinka, and many others." 
  15. Shoah Notes. "The Bible and the Holocaust (032:150)" (PDF file, direct download 91.9 (122) KB). Handout #7. University of Iowa. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  16. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 28.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 112. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEKopówkaRytel-Andrianik2011112" defined multiple times with different content
  18. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 30, graph 1.
  19. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 402.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Holocaust Encyclopedia (June 10, 2013). "Treblinka". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  21. Arad 1987, p. 247.
  22. Grossman 1946, p. 406.
  23. Grossman 1946, p. 402.
  24. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 378.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 117.
  26. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 118.
  27. Harold Marcuse (Feb. 2010). "Holocaust Memorials: The Emergence of a Genre" (PDF file, direct download 26.3 MB). American Historical Review. pp. 35–36 of current document. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  28. Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 122.
  29. Memorial (2013). "Treblinka Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom". Remembrance. Portal to European Sites of Remembrance. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  30. MWiMT (Feb 4, 2010). "The Memorial". Muzeum Walki i Męczeństwa w Treblince. Oddział Muzeum Regionalnego w Siedlcach. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  31. Jonathan Harrison, Roberto Muehlenkamp, Jason Myers, Sergey Romanov, Nicholas Terry (2011). "Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka." (PDF file, direct download 5.30 MB). Holocaust Controversies 2011. Adelaide Institute. pp. 1/571. Retrieved September 17, 2013. "See, p. 34 in source document: The ultimate test for any piece of historical evidence... is whether it can be used to construct a historical narrative or historical explanation." 
  32. 32.0 32.1 S.J., C.L., Holocaust Research Project (2007). "Franciszek Zabecki – The Station Master at Treblinka. Eyewitness to the Revolt – 2 August 1943". H.E.A.R.T. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  33. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Ząbecki 1977
  34. Julian Grzesik (2011). "Holocaust – Zaglada Zydów (1939–1945)". Liber Duo S.C. p. 13. Retrieved 14 August 2013. "Source: Franciszek Ząbecki „Wspomnienia dawne i nowe”, Warszawa 1977. s. 94–95" 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Donat 1979
  36. Tomasz Wiścicki (April 16, 2013). "Stacja tuż obok piekła. Treblinka w relacji Franciszka Ząbeckiego". Train station to hell. Treblinka retold by Franciszek Ząbecki. Muzeum Historii Polski (Museum of Polish history). Retrieved 14 August 2013. "Source: Franciszek Ząbecki, „Wspomnienia dawne i nowe”, Pax publishig, Warsaw 1977" 
  37. Operation Reinhard: Treblinka Deportations
  38. Höfle Telegram, Public Record Office, Kew, England, HW 16/23, decode GPDD 355a distributed on January 15, 1943, radio telegrams nos 12 and 13/15, transmitted on January 11, 1943.
  39. Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk. Treblinka – ein Todeslager der 'Aktion Reinhard'. Bogdan Musial (ed.). Osnabrück 2004. pp. 257–281. "Note 53, page 273. The source of the Treblinka count is Witte, "New Document", 472, which provides the German's count for 1942 of 713,555 (intercepted by the British); and Mlynarczyk, "Treblinka", 281, which supplies a 1943 reconing of 67,308. Bloodlands By Timothy Snyder" 
  40. Caroline Sturdy Colls (22 January 2012), Treblinka: Revealing the hidden graves of the Holocaust, BBC News Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
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  42. 42.00 42.01 42.02 42.03 42.04 42.05 42.06 42.07 42.08 42.09 42.10 42.11 42.12 42.13 S.J., H.E.A.R.T 2007, Trials.
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  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 Kopówka & Rytel-Andrianik 2011, p. 116.
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 45.5 45.6 45.7 45.8 The Holocaust: Lest we forget: Extermination camp Treblinka
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  48. Arad 1987, p. 121.
  49. "Meir Berliner – A Brave act of Resistance at Treblinka – Revolt & Resistance". Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  50. 50.0 50.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Klee
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  52. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Extermination p. 432
  53. Arad 1987, p. 87.
  54. Arad 1987, p. 191.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Sobibor Interviews: Biographies of SS-men
  56. Arad 1987, p. 371.
  57. Defining America: Through Immigration Policy by Bill Ong Hing, Temple University Press, 2003, ISBN 1592132332 (page 223)
  58. Unsolved History: Investigating Mysteries of the Past by Joe Nickell, The University Press of Kentucky, 2005, ISBN 0813191378 (page 38)
  59. Federenko trial


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