TREBLINKA Part 5THE REVOLT OF PRISONERS
In late February or early March 1943, Himmler visited the headquarters of the "Aktion Reinhardt" and the three death camps. The conclusion and closure of "Aktion Reinhardt" by December 31, 1942, the Reichsführer had already ordered on 19 July 1942. The majority of the Jewish population of the Generalgouvernment had been murdered by the end of 1942, the main aim therefore had been achieved. The first camp was Belzec that ceased its operations early March 1943. The liquidation of Treblinka began about the same time. The exhumation and burning of the corpses still needed time, also transports still arrived, The last Deportees from the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as Transports from Yugoslavia, Greece and Bulgaria, arrived in Treblinka as late as March and April 1943.
During spring of 1943, the "Arbeitsjuden"(Working Jews) had very little to do and suspected that they would be killed as what they were going to witness when the closure of the camp takes place. That is why earlier that year they organized a Jewish resistance movement. Planned since March 1943 in the lower camp, the "organizing committee" planned for an uprising. Members among others was camp elder Marceli (Alfred)Galewski and the Czech Rudolf Massarek, who would lead the rebellion militarily. In the upper camp (Camp II), there was also resistance activities in which the Slovak Zelomir (Zelo) Bloch was involved. He was in April 1943 transferred for disciplinary reasons to the upper camp.
The resistance was able to procure weapons: Some carbines they had bought from the Ukrainian guards, two boxes of hand grenades came from the ammunition chamber. The prisoner Stanada Lichtblau, car mechanic in the SS vehicle fleet (Motor Pool) had stolen gasoline and had it bottled. While trying to buy from the Trawnikis weapons, the prison doctor, Dr. Julian Chorazycki had been seen and had committed suicide after a scuffle with Commander Franz. The deputy camp elder Rakowski was shot because he was caught with a large amount of money and Gold he carried with him, in order to bribe the Ukrainians. Zelo Bloch who should lead the military uprising was dropped from the committee, because he was transferred to the upper camp to the gas chambers. Rudolf Marsalek, who had been a lieutenant in the Czech army took his place.
The uprising broke out on 2 August 1943 at 16.00 hours. Part of the Ukrainian guards was setting out to swim in the Bug river. Hand grenades exploded at several places in the camp, Standa Lichtblau set fire to the petrol tank, which was a beacon, "a gigantic torch in memory of his wife and daughter" who were deported from Theresienstadt to Treblinka with him. The Ukrainians fought, contrary to the expectations of the Jewish resistance, on the side of the SS, the only chance the rebel prisoners had were their escape from the camp. SS and Ukrainian guards fired machine guns, took up the pursuit of fugitives and combed in the following days the area around the camp
Burning Treblinka II perimeter during the prisoner uprising, 2 August 1943. Barracks were set ablaze, including a tank of petrol which exploded set fire to the surrounding structures. This clandestine photograph was taken by Franciszek Ząbecki.
Two refugees, Richard Glazar and Karl Unger had luck. They were immersed in a small lake on the outskirts of the camp, as a security guard shot at them. They saved themselves under water in a thicket near the shore: "During the seven to eight hours in our muddy hide with willow branches that bowed down to the water surface, we heard around and above us screaming, gunshots, dogs barking, and the repeated sound of a plane . In the dead of night when everything was quiet, we crawled out, and when we straightened up, we saw a huge glow about Treblinka, it was larger and differently colored than the nights before when it was fed by the large incineration grate.
The two tramped in the long weeks ahead across Poland, had been arrested in Tomaszow Mazowieki and from there, because they maintained to be Czech foreign workers were sent to Mannheim, Germany, working at the agricultural machinery factory Lanz. There they eventually as experienced "Rüstungsarbeiter" celebrated their liberation. Another, Samuel Willenberg, who was born in Czestochowa, and was taken from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka assigned into the Sorting Commando could, after the uprising with occasional help from the locals reach Warsaw, where he arrived in the Jewish Underground, meeting Yankel Wiernik and other survivors .. Of the roughly 700 Jewish workers who on 2 August 1943, rose and sought to flee, only 60 have survived.(34).
Reference (34) Vlg. Yoram Lubling, Twice-dead.Moshe Y.Lubling, The Ethics of Memory and the Treblinka Revolt, New York 2007.
CLOSURE AND REMOVAL OF THE EVIDENCE
The revolt accelerated the closure of the camp. The last two shipments of 8,000 victims came from the Bialystok Ghetto on the 18 and 19 August at Treblinka. At the end of August 1943 the head of the "Aktion Reinhardt" Odilo Globocnik, was appointed as the higher SS Commander and Police of Trieste. With him, went Christian Wirth, the "Inspector of the Extermination Camps," the commander of Treblinka Stangl, and other German Personnel went there too. The formal closure of the extermination camps, Globocnik announced on 4 November 1943 to the Reichsführer SS: "I have closed as at the 19.10.43 the Operation Reinhardt, which I had been managing in the Generalgouvernment and completely disbanded all camps." (35)
Reference(35) Nürnberg,document PS 4042
A residual command of Jewish prisoners remained in addition to some SS men and Ukrainians to ensure the demolition and clearing work at Treblinka was carried out. They would remove all traces of the murders that had taken place there. Fences, sheds, storage facilities were all (if they had survived the uprising) demolished. The land was plowed up, trees were planted, lupines were sown and a farmhouse built, where a member of the Ukrainian guards was to guard the territory. The last 25 and 30 Jews, including two women, were killed at Treblinka in November 1943 in smaller groups. The bodies were taken by the surviving Jews to the incineration grates,The Ukrainian took the bodies of the remaining murdered Jews there as well.
In spite of the revolt, Treblinka II continued to function and remained a top priority for the SS for another year. Stangl met the head of Operation Reinhard, Odilo Globocnik, and inspector Christian Wirth in Lublin, and decided not to draft a report, as no native Germans had died putting down the revolt. Stangl wanted to rebuild the camp, but Globocnik told him it would be closed down shortly and Stangl would be transferred to Trieste to help fight the partisans there. The Nazi high command may have felt that Stangl, Globocnik, Wirth, and other Reinhard personnel knew too much and wanted to dispose of them by sending them to the front. With almost all the Jews from the German ghettos (established in Poland) killed, there would have been little point in rebuilding the facility. Auschwitz had enough capacity to fulfil the Nazis' remaining extermination needs, rendering Treblinka redundant
The 1944 aerial photo of Treblinka II after "cleanup". The new farmhouse and livestock building are visible to the lower left. The photograph is overlaid with already-dismantled structures (marked in red/orange). On the left are the SS and Hiwi guards living quarters (1) with barracks defined by the surrounding walkways. At the bottom (2) are the railway ramp and unloading platform (centre), marked with the red arrow. The "road to heaven" is marked with a dashed line. The undressing barracks for men and women, surrounded by a solid fence with no view of the outside, are marked with two rectangles. The location of the new, big gas chambers (3) is marked with a cross. The burial pits, dug with a mechanical digger, are in light yellow.
was tracked down and captured by a British armoured cavalry unit, the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, at the Möslacher Alm, overlooking the Weissensee on May 31, 1945. The British unit, under the command of a Major Ramsey from SIS (MI6), had been tracking potential war criminals in Austria. Globocnik was taken to Paternion to be interrogated, and around 11.30 hours committed suicide in by biting on a cyanide capsule. At least two contemporary photographs show Globocnik's body shortly after his death, and there are several reliable reports, including the Regimental Diary and Field Reports of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, detailing the circumstances of his capture and suicide. His body was taken to be buried in a local churchyard, but the priest reportedly refused to have 'the body of such a man' resting in consecrated ground. A grave was dug outside the churchyard, next to an outer wall, and the body was laid to rest without ceremony.
On 1 August 1942, Globocnik appointed him to the post of Inspector of Aktion Reinhard camps, which would grant Wirth overall command of the Sobibor and Treblinka death camps as well. Wirth's official title in this capacity was Abteilung Reinhard - der Inspekteur des SS-Sonderkommandos beim SS- und Polizeiführer Lublin.
Wirth was noted for his unusually brutal rule. He established the regime of terror and death which was carried out in all Operation Reinhard camps more than any other camp commander. During his time at Bełżec, Wirth experimented with different methods to most efficiently deal with prisoners. He developed much of the systematic policy for interaction with the prisoners. For instance, Wirth decided that newly arrived prisoners to be murdered should be beaten with whips incessantly to drive them into the gas chambers, thus creating a sense of panic and terror in which the prisoners felt forced to comply. Such policies were soon implemented at the other death camps.Wirth was killed in May 1944 by Yugoslav Partisans while travelling in an open-topped car on an official trip to Fiume. He was buried with full military honours in the German Military Cemetery in Opcina, near Trieste. His remains were transferred in 1959 to the German Military Cemetery at Costermano, near Lake Garda, northern Italy.sic]
Unwanted by his former colleagues and hunted by the Allies, Himmler wandered for several days around Flensburg near the Danish border. Attempting to evade arrest, he disguised himself as a sergeant-major of the Secret Military Police, using the name Heinrich Hitzinger, shaving his mustache and donning an eye patch over his left eye, in the hope that he could return to Bavaria. He had equipped himself with a set of false documents, but someone whose papers were wholly in order was so unusual that it aroused the suspicions of a British Army unit in Bremen. Himmler was arrested on 22 May by Major Sidney Excell and soon recognized while in captivity. Himmler was scheduled to stand trial with other German leaders as a war criminal at Nuremberg, but on 23 May committed suicide in Lüneburg by means of a potassium cyanide capsule before interrogation could begin. His last words were: Ich bin Heinrich Himmler! ("I am Heinrich Himmler!"). Another version has Himmler biting into a hidden cyanide pill embedded in one of his teeth, when searched by a British doctor, who then yelled, "He has done it!" Several attempts to revive Himmler were unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, Himmler's body was buried in an unmarked grave on the Lüneburg Heath. The precise location of Himmler's grave remains unknown.sic]PS>: My own opinion is that Himmler was killed during his captivity by British Agents, it is unlikely that he had the cyanide capsule embedded in his tooth, an incredulous statement. I had my own capsule, which was oblong and rather large for a tooth, sewn and secreted near the collar of my tunic which I was able to reach and bite into if tortured with my hands bound at the back.]
ERNST LERCH, STAFF OFFICER
After the German surrender in Italy (1 May 1945), Lerch fled to Carinthia (Southern Austria), a region he knew very well. There, at an alpine pasture (Möslacher Alm) near the Weissensee Lake, he was captured by a British commando on 31 May 1945. Lerch was captured with his comrades Globocnik, Hermann Höfle, and Michalsen.
Being imprisoned in Wolfsberg, Lerch was interrogated by the British. He insisted on having spent just a short time in Lublin, and had nothing to do neither with Globocnik nor the mass killings of Jews in Poland. Lerch escaped from prison and lived in hiding from 1947 to 1950. He was captured again in 1950.
In 1960, Lerch was sentenced to two years of imprisonment by a de-Nazification court in Wiesbaden (8JS 1145/60 StA Wiesbaden). In 1971, he was accused again of being involved in the Holocaust. The trial was held in Klagenfurt. His case was finally dropped on 11 May 1976 because Lerch denied having done anything in Poland and because of a lack of witnesses (LG Klagenfurt: 25VR 3123/71)
After the war, he was interned by the British, but was released. For only a brief period of time he worked in the Gehlen organization. He was eventually arrested, but committed suicide by hanging in a Vienna prison cell before his trial could begin
RICHARD GLAZAR-TREBLINKA PRISONER
Following the end of the war, when Glazar and Unger were liberated by the Americans, Glazar attended the trials of many of the Nazis concerned with Treblinka, including Franz Stangl. Glazar also went on to study in Prague, Paris, and London, and received a degree in economics — the field he had been forced into by anti-Jewish legislation in 1939. In 1968 he and his family moved to Switzerland after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Glazar also helped Michael Peters, the founder of the Aktion Reinhard Camps (ARC, a network of private Holocaust researchers), build a model of the Treblinka death camp.
Glazar committed suicide on December 20, 1997 by jumping out of a window in Prague after the death of his wife, leaving the model incomplete.
Continued in Part 6