"Arrival at Treblinka" Treblinka by alancollins

Treblinka Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 23 photos

As trainloads of five to seven thousand people arrived at the camp the deportees would hear a speech by an SS officer that told them they had arrived at a transit camp. Prisoners were then moved through a selection process in which women and children were separated from the men. Those too sick to walk on their own, unknown to the others, were taken to a pit near the infirmary and shot. All of the victims were then taken to a barracks where their hair was cut. Postcards were often written by the prisoners, and were later sent by the camp personnel. That encouraged relatives to move east for resettlement. From here they would be directed to the gas chambers.

Treblinka opened with three gas chambers in operation but quickly expanded to at least six. Housed in a brick building, the chambers appeared at first sight to be showers. Pipes attached to the ceiling brought the gas in to the death chambers through what looked like shower heads. Prisoners were told that they were going in to a bath house to be cleansed. They would enter through one door. Once the prisoners were inside the chambers, the order "Ivan, water!" shouted from a German to a Ukrainian guard would begin the gassing. The gassing did not always happen quickly. Because the victims were packed in to the room tightly, there was no room to move around. Consequently, the victims might stand for thirty to forty minutes before they actually died. After death, the bodies would be removed through a door opposite the entrance of the chamber where all the body cavities would be searched for hidden valuables. After this search the bodies would be dragged to mass graves for burial. When the mass graves became a problem, the Germans ordered the graves to be excavated and that the bodies be disposed of in a more efficient way. Starting in the Autumn of 1942, this meant dragging the bodies and stacking them on a grid of old railway tracks for burning. Once emptied of the bodies, the chambers would be cleaned and made ready for the next group of prisoners.

While the victims were being gassed, some of the male prisoners emptied and cleaned the train cars of the corpses of those who died en route as well as any objects or dirt that was left behind. Once this work was completed, the train cars left the camp to make room for the next round of rail cars. All the personal belongings, clothes and luggage, that came with the prisoners were gathered and sent to Germany.

Not all of the deportees arriving at Treblinka met their fate in the gas chamber. Some were forced to work jobs to keep the killing business in motion. They would be used as labourers for a period of days and then selected out for gassing.

  • Last visit to Treblinka: Jun 2005
  • Intro Updated Jan 27, 2009
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alancollins

“Tickets, passport, money.”

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