STATEMENTS OF SURVIVORS
Only three people testified after the war of their stay in Belzic: Rudolf Reder from Lemberg, Chaim Hirszman from Janow- Lubelsk and later a Hasidic Rabbi Izrael Szapiro, who was also deported from Lemberg to Belzec.
The most detailed reports came from Rudolf Reder about his experience during his two month internment at Belzec. The first time he testified at a Soviet Investigation Commission since the liberation of Lemberg in 1944 concerning the activities within the camp. After his repatriation to Poland in 1945 in Krakau, he elaborated in more detail of his captivity in the camp and wrote a book[ghost writer Nella Rost, sic] called "Belzec". In 1959 he was again asked and testified during the general framework of investigations by the Federal Republic of Germany during 1965 against former SS-men from Belzec. [by that time he had changed his name to Roman Robak, more about him later.sic]
Chaim Hirszman fled from the transport, which would have brought the last Jewish Prisoners to Sobibor. After the escape, he joined a guerrilla organisation that was active in the Janowski-woods. After the war he became a member of the Polish Secret Service in Lublin. For this reason he was in 1946 shot by its Polish neighbors, on the very day on which he had begun to write down his experiences in the camp at Belzec. His second wife Pola Hirszman finished his work he had started.
The Rabbi Israel Szapiro spent only three days in the camp at Belzec. He was deported in autumn 1942 together with his wife from Lemberg to Belzec. On the ramp, he was selected to work, his wife was driven into the gas chamber. Part of Szapiro's job was, to collect the luggage at the ramp of the deportees. After three days he took advantage of the carelessness of the guards and hid in a pile of clothes, which was loaded into wagons. In this way he arrived by train in the Janowska-Straße concentration camp at Lemberg, where the prisoners hid him. From there he was deported to Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated. After the war he moved to the United States. About his experience at Belzec, he spoke in the 70 years only with Professor Jaffa Eliach.
Rudolf Reders claims about his experiences in Belzec are dismissed by some Historians and Researchers as false, plagiarised or outright fabrications, he claims that he spent a significant portion of his nearly four months long stay in Belzec dragging corpses to mass graves in proximity of the gas chamber building – a strange case of work assignment when one recalls Reder’s advanced age at the time: 61. In any case, Reder asserts familiarity with the grave pits, their location and appearance:…"the commando(to which he was assigned) was also employed in emptying the gas chambers, piling the bodies on a ramp, and dragging them all the way to the pits. "The ground was sandy. Two workers dragged one body. We had leather straps with metal braces, which we put round the hands of a corpse. Then we pulled, while the head of the dead man often dug deep into the sand... As regards small children, we were ordered to carry them in pairs on our backs. [...] This 'work' was done only in full daylight". You have to ask yourself the question how long can an over 60 year old man do this, we know, he was a soap maker and most likely a chemist, who was not used to physical work.
Reder stated in the interrogation protocol that the victims displayed no “unnatural discolorations” and that they looked “like live persons.” No statements regarding the appearance of the victims are to be found in Belzec. As has been most forcefully pointed out by revisionist F.P. Berg, discolorations of the victim’s skin is in fact a tell-tale sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. Photographs in specialist literature on forensic medicine reveal that large cherry-pink or bruise-red discolorations are prevalent and easily visible on the bodies of victims. It is thus highly suspicious that Reder denies having seen such discolorations among the gas chamber victims. If he had indeed as claimed spent months dragging corpses from the gas chambers to the mass graves, he would beyond any certainty have witnessed numerous cases of discolorations
Mr. Berg has posted a number of pictures of CO poisoning victims in a thread at the CODOH online debate
Thomas Klues comes to the following conclusion:
Rudolf Reder is the only former inmate of Belzec to have left substantial accounts of his alleged experiences in this camp. His text "Belzec", originally published in Polish in1946, should reasonably be the most important and most trustworthy account of the supposed mass murder of Jews at that camp, considering that the witness spent nearly four months in close proximity to the alleged gas chambers and mass graves, and that the account itself was written down merely four years after the events. Instead we find a tale riddled with patently ludicrous elements, as well as numerous statements that at closer examination blatantly contradicts the testimonies of other witnesses as well as orthodox historiography and what we in fact know about the Belzec camp. Thus we have Reder presenting for us a Belzec vastly larger than the actual camp site; thirty mass graves, each of them as large as nearly all of the 33 grave pits detected by Andrzej Kola put together; a large inscription on the front of the “gas chamber” building which reads completely different than reported by Kurt Gerstein; French, Greek and Norwegian Jews that never set their feet in the camp; a strangely confused description of the killing agent; gassings with exhaust fumes leaving no smell; victims of said gassings displaying no symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning; and finally, an absurd escape story worthy the pen of an elementary school student.
|The cover of the original Polish edition of Belzec.
In the light of the above listed contradictions and absurdities it should not surprise that, as reported by Carlo Mattogno, some exterminationist scholars have decided to throw Reder’s testimony overboard, or at least refrain from quoting it, in favour of minor witnesses, of whom the majority testified about the Belzec “gas chambers” in the 1960’s or even later. [...]Detailed and absurd early testimonies may thus directly have given rise to the vague and more tempered later accounts through a process of selection and coordination. That the first and most detailed accounts of the alleged gas chambers at Belzec are filled with absurdities and contradictions should in any case give rise to suspicion regarding the origins of the officially sanctioned Belzec historiography.
By translating and presenting "Belzec" M.M. Rubel has done us all a favor. That it was published in a rather obscure scholarly journal with few readers outside academia should not be blamed on him. It is however significant that the public are fed innumerable accounts of minor witnesses to the “death camps”, witnesses who at the very most describes a few flaming chimneys, dark smoke and Dr. Mengele. The actual words of the most crucial “Holocaust” witnesses, such as Reder, Gerstein, Wiernik, Tauber et al. are apparently, for some inexplicable reason, not suitable for the minds of the general public.[...]
THE CHAIM HIRSZMAN REPORT
It is often stated that Rudolf Reder (who later took the name Roman Robak) was the only Jew to have survived the “pure extermination camp” at Belzec. This, however, is incorrect even from an exterminationist viewpoint, since according to orthodox historiography there were in all seven survivors: Reder, Chaim Hirszman, Sara Beer, Hirsz Birder, Mordechai Bracht, Samuel Velser and “Szpilke”. The last person appears only within Reader’s account. Although Reder claims to have met “Szpilke” in Lemberg after the war, and states that he later lived in Hungary, yet this mysterious witness to the last days of the camp has left no historical trace whatsoever. As for Sara Beer, Belzec expert Michael Tregenza informs us (“Belzec – Das vergessene Lager des Holocaust”, in I. Wojak, P. Hayes (eds.), “Arisierung” im Nationalsozialismus, Volksgemeinschaft, Raub und Gedächtnis, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / New York 2000, p. 260) that she was transferred from the “death camp” to Trawniki together with 20-25 unnamed other Jewesses, and that she survived also Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen to be liberated by British troops in April 1945; she appears to have left no testimony on her stay in Belzec. Birder, Bracht and Velser are basically unknowns. Further, two women named Mina Astman and Malka Talenfeld are reported to have escaped after spending only some hours in the camp, and their brief impressions seems to have been recorded only second-hand (see Y. Arad,Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka.., p. 264). Only two of the survivors, Reder and Hirszman, left witness accounts. The former published the 74-page pamphlet Belzec in collaboration with Nella Rost in 1946, and also testified before a Polish investigative commission and in connection with the 1965 Munich Belzec trial. As for the latter, Carlo Mattogno informs us (Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History, p. 51):
“On March 19, 1946, Chaim Hirszman appeared before the regional historical commission of Lublin, but he was murdered the same day after his interrogation had been adjourned. Therefore, we have only a very laconic testimony from his side (Zydowski Instytut Historiczny (Jewish Historical Institute), Warsaw, Report No. 1476). As far as its content is concerned, it is so irrelevant that it does not even appear in the extract of testimonies on Belzec presented by Marian Muszkat in the official report of the Polish government on the German crimes against Poland.”
Yet, despite its extreme brevity, it is obviously of a certain importance as the only witness account left by a former Belzec prisoner besides those of Reder’s. The fact that it has gone virtually unmentioned and unquoted by Holocaust historians is likely foremost due to the aforementioned brevity and obscurity, but it cannot be wholly excluded that it also has to do with its contents, i.e. Hirszman’s statements about the alleged mass killings at Belzec.
Yitzhak Arad informs us that Hirszman and two other, unnamed prisoners escaped from the train which was taking them from the liquidated Belzec camp to Sobibor in July 1943, supposedly to be killed there (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka…, p. 265). The orthodox claim that the remaining Belzec inmates were taken to Sobibor to be executed there does not square well with the above mentioned fact that Sara Beer and other female detainees were sent to the Trawniki labor camp.
As for the ultimate fate of Hirszman, historian Martin Gilbert writes (The Holocaust. The Jewish Tragedy, Fontana Press, London 1987, p. 817) that:
“on March 9, one of only two survivors of the death camp at Belzec, Chaim Hirszman, gave evidence in Lublin of what he had witnessed in the death camp. He was asked to return on the following day to complete his evidence. But on his way home he was murdered, because he was a Jew.”
The Polish Historian Henryk Pajak states, however, that Hirszman was killed not because he was a Jew, but because he was an “active and dangerous functionary” of the new Communist regime (Konspiracja mlodziezy szkolnej 1945-1955, Lublin 1994, pp. 130-31, quoted in Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust, McFarland 1998, p. 341, note 306).
CHAIM HRISZMAN'S TESTOMONY
According to his own testimony, Hirszman was deported from Zaklikow, which was in the District of Lublin, Janow county (Gilbert, The Holocaust, p. 304). Arad informs us that a transport of 2,000 Jewish deportees departed from Zaklikow on November 3, 1942 (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka…, p. 383). Gilbert reproduces the apparently most relevant part of Hirszman’s testimony as follows:
“We were entrained and taken to Belzec. The train entered a small forest. Then, the entire crew of the train was changed. SS men from the death camp replaced the rail road employees. We were not aware of this at that time.
The train entered the camp. Other SS men took us off the train. They led us all together – women, men, children – to a barrack. We were told to undress before we go to the bath. I understood immediately what that meant. After undressing we were told to form two groups, one of men and the other of women with children. An SS man, with the strike of a horsewhip, sent the men to the right or to the left, to death – to work.
I was selected to death, I didn’t know it then. Anyway, I believed that both sides meant the same – death. But, when I jumped in the indicated direction, an SS man called me and said: ‘Du bist ein Militarmensch, dich können wir brauchen’ ['You have a military bearing, we could use you.']
We, who were selected for work, were told to dress.
I and some other men were appointed to take the people to the kiln. I was sent with the women. The Ukrainian Schmidt, an Ethnic German, was standing at the entrance to the gas-chamber and hitting with a knout [a knotted whip] every entering woman. Before the door was closed, he fired a few shots from his revolver[the SS usually had the Walther pistol, not a revolver,sic] and then the door closed automatically and forty minutes later we went in and carried the bodies out to a special ramp. We shaved the hair off the bodies, which were afterwards packed into sacks and taken away by Germans.
The children were thrown into the chamber simply on the women’s heads. In one of the ‘transports’ taken out of the gas chamber, I found the body of my wife and I had to shave her hair.
The bodies were not buried on the spot, the Germans waited until more bodies were gathered. So, that day we did not bury…” (Gilbert, The Holocaust, p. 304)
We note here first and foremost that Hirszman speaks of “gas chamber” in singularis. In many eyewitness accounts, “gas chamber” is confusingly taken to mean a building containing one or more gas chambers, but judging from Hirszman’s very brief description we are in fact dealing with only one chamber: children are thrown into “the chamber” and “the door” closes automatically once the victims are inside. According to orthodox historiography, the gas chamber building used at Belzec during this period of time consisted of six chambers arranged three and three on either side of a central corridor. There is no reason why the entrance door to the building, a opposed to the doors of the individual chambers, would be “closed automatically” before the gassing. It is also noteworthy that Hirszman for some inexplicable reason uses “kiln” as synonymous with “the gas chamber”, while at the same time he implies that the building was disguised as a bath.
The claim that the hair of the victims being shaved off after their death goes completely against all other available eyewitness testimony. We may compare here with Kurt Gerstein’s statement that the women had their hair cut off and stuffed inside potato sacks before entering the gas chambers (cf. H. Roques, he ‘Confessions’ of Kurt Gerstein, IHR, Costa Mesa 1989, p. 30) or Rudolf Reder’s claim to the same effect (cf. Rudolf Reder, “Belzec” in: Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, volume 13 (2000), p. 274).
The assertion that at the day of Hirszman’s arrival “the bodies were not buried at the spot” but instead left lying on the ground and only buried once “more bodies were gathered” is spurious for two reasons. First, no other witness has attested to this procedure; rather most witnesses imply or state that the corpses were interred right after the gassing in the burial pit open for the moment, and then covered with a sand layer. Second, the archeological evidence furnished by Andrzej Kola contradicts it. Given a theoretical maximum of 8 corpses per cubic meter, the approximately 2,000 victims (if we are to trust Arad’s figure) would have occupied 250 cubic meters. Of the 33 grave pits identified by Kola at Belzec, 10 (in their present state) have a volume of 250 cubic meters or less. There is thus no reason to believe that the SS would wait for more corpses to accumulate before burying them. Besides, the idea of letting 2,000 corpses lie around in the open for a day or more seems odd. On the other hand, the procedure described by Rajchman might be realistic if the only victims from the transport were a small number of en route deaths.
THE SECOND-HAND TESTIMONY OF POLA HIRSZMAN
The day after Chaim was shot, on March 20, 1946, Chaim’s wife Pola testified about what her husband had allegedly witnessed at Belzec. Her testimony is likewise kept in the archive of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Gilbert writes that “Chaim Hirszman’s experiences at Belzec were also set down in 1946 by his second wife, Pola, to whom he often retold them after the war” (ibid., p. 305). Needless to say, second-hand accounts are more or less worthless as evidence, but we will anyway take a look at some of her statements.
Mrs. Hirszman’s testimony starts out with a typical atrocity story about a transport consisting of small children – babies to three year olds – being murdered in a most unseemly manner:
“The workers were told to dig one big hole into which the children were thrown and buried alive.” (ibid., p. 305)
There is not really much to comment on here. The same goes for the next story, about a prisoner being hanged for a failed escape attempt; on the scaffold, the condemned man prophesized the fall of Hitler and his Reich. We are also told that typhus was prevailing in the camp, and that Chaim also contracted the disease but avoided being “murdered on the spot” by concealing his condition from the Germans. Pola also relates a story that is found with variations also in the Treblinka and Sobibor lore, about an Aryan (in this case a Ukrainian woman) arriving by mistake at the camp who is then gassed with the Jews, despite showing the SS men proper identification. Next we learn about the camp that:
“Once you crossed the gate to the camp, there was no chance to get out of there alive. Not even any Germans, except for the camp staff, had access to the camp.” (ibid., p. 305)
This claim is contradicted by several eyewitness statements. The former camp staff member Heinrich Gley declared in 1961 that a Jewish work detail had been carrying tasks far outside the camp and Polish witness Maria D. affirmed in October 1945 that some Jews in the camp “had the right to leave the camp perimeter” (Mattogno, Belzec…, p. 44). According to orthodox Belzec expert Michael Tregenza, four Polish villagers were employed in the camp proper, while, most astoundingly, other villagers were allowed inside the camp to take photographs (ibid., p. 43).
One of the stories related by Pola concerns Jews employed outside of the camp:
“Two Czechoslovak Jewesses were working in the camp office [which was located outside of the camp]. They, too, had never entered the camp. They even enjoyed a certain freedom of movement. They often went with the SS men to town to arrange different matters. One day they were told that they would visit the camp. The SS men showed them around the camp and in a certain moment they led the women to the gas-chamber and when they were inside, the door closed behind them. They finished with them in spite of the promise that they would live.” (Gilbert, The Holocaust, pp. 305-306)
This story clearly does not make much sense. On one hand, we are told that the two Jewesses had been promised that they would live, and thus they must have known that the Jews were being exterminated at Belzec – and working at the camp office, they could hardly have escaped figuring out the “true nature” of the camp (especially since this was supposedly well-known in the Belzec community from the start; cf. Mattogno, Belzec…, p. 43). But why then would the women walk gullibly into the “gas chamber”? Furthermore, we again note the singular of “door” being used in the description of the “gas chamber”.
When not carrying out a wholesale mass murder, burying small children alive or tricking Jewish secretaries into gas chambers, the SS men in the camp spent time relaxing with their victims:
“The Germans ordered the prisoners to set up a football team and on Sundays games were being played. Jews played with SS men, the same ones who tortured and murdered them. The SS men treated this as a matter of sport, and when they lost a game, they had no complaints.” (Gilbert, The Holocaust, p. 306).
On this point, at least, there is reason to believe that Pola is relating the truth. The SS man Werner Dubois mentioned during an interrogation in 1961: “It also happened that I organised a soccer match with 22 Jews on the sports ground” (quoted in Mattogno, Belzec…, p. 66). The soccer games are also confirmed by the Polish witness Tadeusz M., who further noted that the Germans had organised a string orchestra among the inmates (ibid., p.
Chaim Hirszman’s Belzec testimony is indeed largely irrelevant due to its brevity and lack of detail, but is nonetheless illuminating. Within the space of only some paragraph our witness manages to include several statements contradicting the orthodox picture of the “death camp”. Further, the second-hand recollections of his wife do not exactly help his reliability. It is a shame that Hirszman did not survive to leave a more complete testimony, as it would undoubtedly have constituted another bullet in the foot of the Belzec story. However, the stuck splinter that is Hirszman’s Belzec statement should be enough to make the defenders of the pure Shoah faith cringe with embarassment.
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES
Immediately after the war, the "District Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Lublin" determined as to what crimes had been committed at Belzec. That it was a purely Polish Commission and acted alone, was a special feature. In Sobibor and Majdanek exclusively Polish-Soviet commissions determined the German crimes in these places.
The first and only trial of German perpetrators of Belzec took place in Munich in 1964 and lasted only one day. After many years of investigations (since 1959) the proceedings took place. In the dock at that time were eight SS-offenders from Belzec with Josef Oberhauser at the top. The latter was sentenced to only four and a half years. As mitigating circumstances, the Court took into consideration that Oberhauser was sentenced in 1948 in Magdeburg to a 14-year prison sentence for involvement in the euthanasia killings. The remaining defendants were acquitted because the court came to the opinion that they had acted in a coercive situation and had been intimidated by the camp commanders Wirth and Hering. This judgement became possible in part because no surviving prisoners were present as a witness. Rudolf Reder was for reasons of age not travelling to the trial.
On the territory of the Soviet Union after the war there were some individual and collective actions against former Trawniki men from Belzec. These processes are not yet adequately researched. It is striking that the former Trawniki men there were much more open about the crimes reported than the Belzec the SS-men in German courts. [this is not surprising to me, as the SS had a code of honour "together we stand, together we fall". They would hardly ever deviate from that,and you would rarely find a "Judas" among them.sic] Some Trawniki men were aware of their own responsibility on human crimes. They described the camp and the gas chambers very accurately and pointed out that within the camp at every step and turn they acted brutally against the deportees and the Jewish working prisoners.
In the 1946/47 Trawniki men were sentenced to 25 years into Gulags in the Soviet Union. They were released as part of an amnesty after Stalin's death. In a second wave of lawsuits against guards of Belzec and other death camps were held in the 60 years during trials in Krasnodarsk, Kiev and other cities. Several dozen death sentences were pronounced, including for guard duties and crimes at Belzec. The investigations against former Trawniki men have been extended to the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States, as many had emigrated or fled in 1945 to these countries. Due to the lack of thorough scientific investigation and studies of these proceedings there is to date no exact number of Trawniki men known who stood before the courts in the Soviet Union or in other countries. [We are all aware of the Demjanjuk fiasco,sic]
Since there are few survivors, the Belzec extermination camp got into oblivion within a short time. Nobody bothered about the site, which was plundered by the "graveyard hyenas" who dug for gold and valuables. Later it was used as a forest. The first memorial was built in 1963, but which did not convey the scale of the crimes committed here. In 2004, a memorial and a museum on the history of the camp was opened then. This was made possible by the cooperation between the "American Jewish Committee" and the "Council for the Protection of the Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom" in Warsaw.
Action Erntefest (German for "Operation Harvest Festival") was a code phrase used by the German occupation forces to kill all Jews remaining in the Lublin District and the Lublin Ghetto of the General Government in two days on November 3-4, 1943. Approximately 42,000 Jews were killed during the Aktion Erntefest
The timing of the operation was apparently in response to several efforts by surviving Jews to resist the Germans (for example, the uprisings at the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, and armed resistance in the Warsaw, Bialystok, and Vilna ghettos). The SS feared additional Jewish-led revolts in the General Government. To prevent further resistance the SS decided to kill most of the remaining Jews, who were employed in forced-labor projects and were concentrated in the Trawniki, Poniatowa, and Majdanek camps.
"Erntefest" began at dawn on November 3, 1943. The Trawniki and Poniatowa labor camps were surrounded by SS and police units. Jews were then taken out of the camps in groups and shot in nearby pits dug for this purpose. At Majdanek, Jews were first separated from the other prisoners. They were then taken in groups to nearby trenches and shot. Jews from other labor camps in the Lublin area were also taken to Majdanek and shot. Music was played through loudspeakers at both Majdanek and Trawniki to drown out the noise of the mass shooting. The killing operation was completed in a single day at Majdanek and Trawniki. At Poniatowa the shootings took two days.
The preclude any misunderstanding, the material for this narrative as well as all previous ones were original written by independent researches. Belzec was first published in Polish by Robert Kuwalek and translated into German by Andrea Rudorff, and provided by the Cultural Department of the Federal Republic of Germany in "The Place of Terror" pages 331-371 which I have used. The translations into English are my own, without aProof Reader. Literature references used were: Yitzak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Bloomington, Indianapolis 1987. Robert Kuwalek, Oboz zaglady w Belscu [The Extermination Camp in Belzec],Lublin 2005. Robert Reder, Belzec, Krakau 1999 (in Polish and English languages.) "Rudolf Reder’s Belzec" – A critical reading, and others, by Thomas Kues.
Although I receive threats and hate mail, exclusively from the USA, that are abusive and bordering close to obscenity which I read with dignity, >odi profanum vulgus et arceo<, however, I would like to make it abundantly clear, that I am not a Jew nor am I associated or affiliated with any Zionist Groups, as it is claimed, and will continue writing without malice or hate, rather record historical events, no matter how graphic they may have been.