Sunday, 27 January 2013

Remembering Treblinka

The Holocaust defines a period in history that remains little known or even completely unknown to some people today. I find it shocking that anyone today can blatantly deny that the Holocaust took place but that is precisely what has been happening ever since the end of World War Two. There have been so many eye witness accounts of the atrocities that took place in such camps, such inhumane acts which are so shocking and deeply distressing to read about.

My writing and research often takes me to unexpected places and just recently it highlighted the camp at Treblinka, in German-occupied Poland. Due to the lack of evidence surrounding Treblinka is is often referred to as 'the forgotten camp.' It had been argued that this was merely a transit camp for Jews. However, thanks to the efforts of archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls and the use of radar,  evidence of massive burial pits has been discovered. Witness accounts describe in detail how the camp was cleverly disguised as a railway station. Once there they were 'sorted.' Strong, young men would be picked and sent to the labour camp. The rest were destined to be exterminated. The men were immediately separated from women and children, and would enter the gas chambers first. They all had to strip naked and wait outside, even during winter when temperatures could be as low as -20 degrees centigrade. One survivor of the camp has been quoted as saying that often as guards went through the piles of belongings from those sent to the gas chambers, babies would be discovered. He claimed that the guards would mercilessly throw the babies into the fire pits, to be burned alive. There were ten gas chambers and the camp commander, Franz Stangl would often boast how he could 'process' an entire train load of people between breakfast and midday. That was around 6000 Jews.

In the summer of 1943, 67 people are known to have escaped during a revolt.


More than 875000 people were murdered at Treblinka within one year.
Last stop: Railway station for the camp

Some of the evidence from one of the last two remaining survivors of the camp is really quite chilling and inhumane. The camp, part of Operation Reinhard, operated between July 1942 and October 1943. It consisted of Treblinka I and II. The first camp was a labour camp, with many dying from exhaustion and malnutrition. No doubt illness was also a contributory factor. The second camp was purely a death camp.
There have been written accounts of the German officers who served there. One such officer has been cited as saying that he was looking forward to the imminent arrival of English Jews. Fortunately that never happened and we have many people to thank for beating Hitler's forces back and for bringing an abrupt halt to his quest for the perfect race. It is terrifying to think of what might have been, had it not been for the efforts and sacrifices of thousands of servicemen and women of various nationalities who helped Britain to win the war.