Monday, February 13, 2012


Treblinka Part 4


The leisure and entertainment facilities for the German team's camp was organized mainly by the Deputy Commander Kurt Franz. The SS had riding horses available to them, but were apparently used just for Franz's own use. In the upper camp, there was a small ensemble of musicians, an orchestra in the lower camp consisted of ten professional musicians, conducted by the renowned conductor Arthur Gold of Poland. During rehearsals , the musicians were freed from work, they would wear tuxedos during performances that were cut and tailored from white and blue silk. The orchestra was playing in the first few weeks in the vicinity of the "tube" to play opera tunes directed to drown out the screams of horror in the gas chambers . They regularly played during  the evening assembly, martial music and some folk songs. The orchestra was also participating at major events during 1943-such as boxing-at theaters-and dance evenings.

SS RIDERS AT TREBLINKA The photo shows unknown SS men, riding somewhere in the vicinity of Treblinka
During entertainments of the SS, they were generously supplied with food and alcohol, they did wear a Taylor-made uniform and coat during these evenings, made to measure ​​in the camp workshops. Female inmates cleaned the quarters of the SS, the clothes were repaired, and they cleaned their shoes. The SS-men received a supplementary payment during their stay, and after duty they were free and went out. Every three months they were entitled to three weeks of Leave (Urlaub). Those men who were from the Euthanasia T4 Organization and did service at Treblinka, spent time with their wives in the "T4" rest home  on the Attersee in the Salzkammergut in Austria.
What was for the SS an amusement, was often for the Working Jews(Arbeitsjuden) served as additional pain(Qual) their derision and agony of the ritual Jewish weddings the SS arranged between prisoners, only for their own entertainment. The coquettish SS-Sergeant Kurt Franz ("Lalka") had a song composed and set to music by conductor Arthur Gold. These verses testify to the artistry of the deputy commander, who wanted a Treblinka-Hymn. [I will only give the German verse, as in any translation the meaning and impact of it is lost.sic]

Frei in die Welt geschaut
Marschieren Kolonnen zur Arbeit.
Für uns gibt es heute nur Treblinka
Das unser Schicksal ist

Wir hören auf den Ton des Kommandanten
Und folgen dann auf seinen Wink.
Wir gehen Schritt und Tritt zusammen für das,
Was die Pflicht von uns verlangt.

Die Arbeit soll hier alles bedeuten
Und auch Gehorsamtkeit und Pflicht
Bis das kleine Glück
Auch uns einmal winkt.

One prisoner, who stood out because he could not sing the song correctly was, as those who were not quick enough to bow and salute properly, or for other offenses, at the evening roll-call victim of corporal punishment. But many were killed or subsequently liquidated in the "hospital"(Lazarett). This was also serving the people of the SS guards as entertainment.
Reference(24) Quoted by:Rückerl,"NS-Vernichtungslager", page 213.

The German Personal with about 30 to 40 members of the SS was supported by 90-120 "guards". They were "Trawnikis" named after the SS Trawniki training center, they were all "volunteers"[they had not much choice sic.] who were taught during several months of training to be the "foot soldiers of genocide". These protection teams were "recruited" from Ukrainians and ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union, but also Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians were among them. They had mostly been Soviet prisoners of war and were used for guard duties of prisoners  and  partisans during  the ghetto uprising in Warsaw. In the camps of "Aktion Reinhardt" they were participating and deeply involved in the extermination methods of the SS. The"Trawnikis" wore black uniforms and were armed with rifles and leather whips. Organizationally these guards (Wachmannschaft) were structured along standard military lines. They were divided into platoons, platoon leaders were in the main German nationals(Volksdeutsche). They patrolled the camp boundaries, manned the watch towers, supervised the work details, were present on the arrival of transports, and maintained the engines from captured Russian Tanks generating carbon monoxide, the deadly Gas.

                              One-way journey: Jews being loaded onto cattle-truck-style trains that would roll virtually straight into the gas chambers of Treblinka in occupied Poland
    One-way journey: Jews being loaded onto cattle-truck-style trains that would roll virtually straight into the gas chambers of Treblinka in occupied Poland
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The victims were immediately faced by the "Trawniki men" who appeared quickly: For the simple reason, "That people did not have time to think of possible resistance, they were now in the the tube(Schlauch) where a platoon of Guards(Bewachmannschaft) was posted with sticks and with whip attacks, rifle butts and punches pushed the victims through, they had to run in four and five rows deep, naked and with their hands up, thus driven into the gas chambers.The capacity of every each and individual chamber was used to the last available square centimeter under constant beatings and abuse, so many people were pushed in,  that no freedom of movement remained. Infants and young children were frequently just thrown into the chambers above the heads of standing adults. Finally, if no more could be absorbed at all, the doors of the chambers were closed and the German commanding NCO, for example, would give the order with the cry(geschrien) of "Ivan, water!", (Iwan, Wasser)the Ukrainians in the engine compartment upon this command would fire up the engine, the exhaust gases  then passed into the chambers.
The extermination process itself took about 30 to 40 minutes. Then the engine was stopped and an assessment by eavesdropping on the doors whether some movement of life still existed in the chamber was made. If this was not the case, the command was given to open  the folding doors (Klapptüren) which were affixed to the exterior walls, and  the transportation of corpses began. It showed from time to time, even after the gassing, nevertheless it did happen,  that one or the other victim still showed signs of life, so it was either still on the ramp or on the way forward to the pit or later to the incinerator place that the German commanding NCO or a member of the Ukrainian guards would shoot and kill the person. Furthermore, even those late comers and smaller groups that would not fit into a gas chamber were taken directly to the burial pits and shot there, mainly due to overcrowding in the gas chambers, and for a small number of victims concerned, a new gasification process was considered to be uneconomical. "(26)
Reference(26)Rückel,NS-Vernichtungslager,page224(Verdict I Treblinka-Process,Düsseldorf)
Jankiel Wiernik describes as to the horrors of the place was slowly increased by the working guards of the Ukrainian SS: "When I had for the first time to watch, as people were driven into these chambers, I thought I was going crazy, and I have wept bitterly,... because I was desperate that I could not help, the kids were quite mute with terror, the older people were petrified, they huddled together and waited for the grisly end. Suddenly the door opened and Ivan with Nikolai were there with rifles and sabers screaming and chasing and beating the unfortunates in the chambers. The children crying, and the screaming of women,  the sight I will never forget. 450-500 people could hardly stand in the chambers. They were attacked with dogs, who  were barking and biting, apart from that  the guards were beating  the victims with sticks and poles, so that the stronger overtook the weaker ones, and ran to escape the blows,  but soon all was over,  the room filled itself, the doors were closed, the gas pipes were connected to the motor, and it took 25 minutes until everything was quiet. "(27)
Reference (27)Jankiel Wiernik managed to escape during the Uprising, from his published  Yiddish and English Report "One Year In Treblinka" Heinrich Böll prepared in the "Frankfurter Hefte" extracts: "Belcec[sic!] und Treblinka."An SS-Officer and a Jew reporting of the Extermination Camps in Poland, in Frankfurter Hefte 8(1953),pages 548-557. The English Edition was already published 1944 under: Yankel Wiernik, "A Year in Treblinka". An inmate who escaped tells the day-to-day Facts of one year of his torturous experience,New York o.J. (published by American Representation of the General Jewish Workers Union of Poland,New York).

Three participants in the Treblinka uprising who escaped and survived the war. Warsaw, Poland, 1945
Abraham Kolski (left) is seen here with Erich Lachman and a man named Brenner. The three men participated in the Treblinka uprising of August 2, 1943, and successfully found refuge in the nearby forest. A short time later, all three were taken in by a gentile family, which hid them until Poland was liberated.

An eyewitness from the ranks of the SS wanted to inform the world about the murder of Jews in the extermination camps. The report of Obersturmführer Gerstein, dated 20 April 1945,[He left it a bit late, this date was Hitlers last birthday in the Berlin Bunker and the war was almost over.sic] written in French, so an unusual document much the same as the personality of the author. Gerstein had joined the NSDAP in 1933, but was involved in the Bekennenden Church and was persecuted as an enemy of the State, imprisoned in concentration camps, expelled from the party and the civil service.
By his own admission, to be an eyewitness, he joined the SS and was employed from November 1941 as a specialist at the Disinfection Hygiene Institute of the Waffen-SS as a director of the Office of the Health Technology. In August 1942 he made ​​an official trip to the headquarters of the "Aktion Reinhardt" in Lublin. Gerstein was, as the head of the action, Odilo Globocnik, explained to him, first and foremost to solve the problem of the disinfections within the Textile Industry, but the far more important task is the conversion of our gas chambers operating with diesel exhaust fumes into a better and quicker system. "I am thinking especially of prussic acid".(Blausäure) (28)
On 19 August 1942, Gerstein went with Christian Wirth, the "Inspector of the Extermination Camps" to Treblinka. In his report it says: "The equipment was nearly the same, only much larger than in Belzec, 8 gas chambers and mountains of suitcases, textiles and laundry. In our honor a banquet was given at the community hall in a typical Himmler style, in the old German fashion way, the food was simple.. , but everything was available in any quantity. Himmler himself had ordered that the men of this command should have as much meat, butter and other things , especially alcohol as they wanted.
On the way home, Gerstein met on the train in Warsaw the Secretary of the Swedish Legation in Berlin, Baron von Otter. He told him about his impressions and asked to report to the Swedish government and the Allies of the murder scenes and mentioned to his credibility as a reference a wide range of personalities, among them the General Superintendent Otto Dibelius. Gerstein also sought contact with the Papal Nuncio in Berlin. His report, written in French found its way into the major war criminals and was later used in the Doctors Trials at Nuremberg. The author died in July 1945 in a Paris prison cell under unexplained circumstances.
Reference (28) Eye-witness account of the mass gassings in:Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte I (1953) page 177-194
On 22 April 1945 Gerstein contacted the French occupying authorities in Tübingen. He was transferred to Paris in May, where,along with other SS officers, he was locked away in prison. On 25 July he was found hanged in his cell. The question as to whether he committed suicide or was murdered by fanatical fellow SS prisoners remains unsolved.(soure:Ernst Klee,"Schöne Zeiten"page 259. Friedländer,"Kurt Gerstein"page 224,concludes that it is plausible that he committed suicide

[The Gerstein Report has been targeted by holocaust deniers and antisemites. Distinguished French historian, Pierre Vidal-Naquet in "Assassins of Memory" discusses such criticism.
While some aspects of Gerstein's report include false or exaggeratedly attributed statements to Odilo Globocnik, and inaccurate claims regarding the total number of Jews gassed at places where he was not an eyewitness, Gerstein's claim that gassing of Jews occurred at Belzec is independently corroborated by SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Pfannenstiel's testimony given at the Belzec trials, as well as by the accounts of other witnesses that can be found in Gitta Sereny's Into That Darkness, a biography of one-time Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl.
The historian, Christopher Browning, has written: "Many aspects of Gerstein's testimony are unquestionably problematic. ...[In making] statements, such as the height of the piles of shoes and clothing at Belzec and Treblinka, Gerstein himself is clearly the source of exaggeration. Gerstein also added grossly exaggerated claims about matters to which he was not an eyewitness, such as that a total of 25 million Jews and others were gassed. But in the essential issue, namely that he was in Belzec and witnessed the gassing of a transport of Jews from Lwow, his testimony is fully corroborated .... It is also corroborated by other categories of witnesses from Belzec.sic] 

The question is often asked did Adolf Hitler know and approved of the extermination of the Jews in the East, following is part of comments made by Gerstein and it is up to the reader to judge: "SS-Sturmbannführer Guenter ...came to me in my office...he ordered me to get hold of 100kg of hydrocyanic (prussic) acid, and to accompany him to a place known only to the driver of the lorry. We drove to the potash factory in the vicinity of Kolin (Prag). Once the lorry had been loaded, we drove to Lublin(Poland). We took Professor Dr Pfannenstiel, Profesor of Hygiene at the University of Marburg /Lahn, with us. In Lublin SS-Gruppenführer Globocnik received us and told us: "This is one of the most secret missions...Anyone who talks about it is immediately shot...Your task is to convert the technical installation of our gas chambers, which up to now has been functioning on the exhaust fumes of an old diesel engine, from now on it will be dispensing a much faster-working poison, namely hydrocyanic acid.. However the Führer and Himmler, who were here om 15 August, (1942 sic) i.e. the day before yesterday, have assigned me the duty to accompany anyone who needs to see the installations. Professor Pannenstiel:'What did the Führer have to say about this,then?'To which Globocnik,....replied:'Faster,faster. get on with the job!'...Please, gentlemen, if future generation were to be so cowardly and degenerate as not to understand our deed, which is so good and necessary ,well, gentlemen, the entire National Socialist movement will have been for nothing. On the contrary! We should bury bronze plaques along with them as well, to say that it was us, that possessed the courage to accomplish this gigantic task!' To which Hitler said: 'Yes, my dear Globocnik, you're right and I fully agree with you.'
                  Official announcement of the founding of Treblinka I, the forced-labour camp

                                             Continued under Part 5

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