The question about the murder weapon used to kill the Jews at the Treblinka death camp came up in a comment on my blog. Why is this detail important? Remember Pat Buchanan? He ruined his chance of ever becoming President of the United States when he wrote, in the New York Post on March 17, 1990:
During the war, the underground government of the Warsaw Ghetto reported to London that the Jews of Treblinka were being electrocuted and steamed to death.
The Israeli court, however, concluded the murder weapon for 850,000 was the diesel engine from a Soviet tank which drove its exhaust into the death chamber. All died in 20 minutes, Finkelstein swore in 1945.
The problem is: Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody. In 1988, 97 kids, trapped 400 feet underground in a Washington, D.C., tunnel while two locomotives spewed diesel exhaust into the car, emerged unharmed after 45 minutes.
When I visited the Treblinka Memorial site in October 1998, I purchased a small pamphlet from the visitor’s center. I learned, from this pamphlet, that the first gas chambers at Treblinka used carbon monoxide, but 10 new gas chambers were built and these gas chambers used the poison gas known as Zyklon-B. I learned that Treblinka did not have delousing chambers which used Zyklon-B; all the clothing taken from the prisoners at Treblinka was sent to the Majdanek camp to be disinfected with Zyklon-B before being sent to Germany.
The photo above shows the 26-foot high granite memorial stone, which was designed to resemble a tombstone. It is located approximately on the spot where the gas chambers once stood, according to my tour guide. This view was taken from the front side of the memorial stone, and you can see some of the stones of the symbolic cemetery behind it. The large crack down the middle of the stone is part of the design. According to the pamphlet which I purchased at the visitor’s center, “The great monument in Treblinka is a homage of the Polish people to those ashes lie under the concrete plates of the symbolic cemetery. It is one of the most tragic monuments of martyrdom in Poland.”
It is important for Americans to know the facts of the Holocaust because some day soon, there is sure to be a law against denying the Holocaust in America. There are already laws in several states in America, which make Holocaust education mandatory. You don’t want to wind up in prison for 5 years because you don’t know that there were 10 new Zyklon-B gas chambers built at Treblinka. You may even want to run for President some day, so you have to know these things.
According to the pamphlet that I obtained from the visitor’s center, the Treblinka memorial site was built between 1959 and 1963. In February 1960, the Warsaw Regional Council selected the design of Polish sculptor Franciszek Duszenko and Polish architect Adam Haupt for the memorial stone and the symbolic cemetery which are shown in the photo above. Notice the Menorah at the top of the tombstone.
According to the Council, the design of the symbolic cemetery would consist of a field of 17,000 jagged stones that suggest a cemetery, with 700 of the stones inscribed with the names of the Jewish villages and communities in Poland that were obliterated by the Holocaust. As it turned out, there are fewer than 700 names of cities and towns on the stones. According to my tour guide, there are only 130 names of towns on the stones.
When the Treblinka death camp was in operation, there was a narrow dirt path through a “tube” covered with tree branches which led to the gas chamber building in the spot where the huge memorial now stands.
Raul Hilberg wrote in his three-volume book entitled The Destruction of the European Jews that there were 700,000 bodies buried at Treblinka; these bodies were later dug up and burned, but according to Hilberg, there were 50,000 bodies taken directly from the gas chambers and burned on pyres. How does he know this? Raul Hilberg later revealed that he had not visited any of the camps, except for a half day visit to the Auschwitz main camp, where he went on a guided tour for tourists.
The photo below shows more stones under a majestic tree in the back portion of the symbolic cemetery, behind a simulated cremation pit, which is visible in the foreground.
The 800,000 bodies, which had been previously buried, were dug up and then cremated on the orders of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, after he visited the camp in 1943, according to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert. This project required three months of intense labor by 1,000 Jewish workers who were forced to perform this grisly task in an attempt to destroy the evidence of mass murder at Treblinka.
How did the SS men get these Jewish workers to dig up the 800,000 bodies? I would have refused to do it. I would have said, “Just shoot me now because I’m not going to go down into a 30-foot deep pit and bring out the decayed bodies of 800,000 people.”
To give you an idea of the magnitude of the crime perpetrated at Treblinka, 800,000 people is the equivalent of the total population of St. Louis at that time.
The map in the pamphlet, which I purchased at the visitor’s center, shows that there were actually two cremation pyres, located just east of the 10 new gas chambers. To the right of the spot where the train platform once stood, and in front of you as you are looking into the camp with the platform on the left, is the location of the “burial pits for those who died during transportation,” according to the pamphlet. The victims were transported in freight cars, except for a few Very Important Jews, who arrived in passenger cars. The Dutch Jews were transported on passenger trains. The trains arrived at the Malkinia Junction station, which I previously blogged about here.
Near the burial pits, according to the pamphlet, was an “execution site (disguised as a hospital).” This is where those who were too weak or sick to walk into the gas chambers were shot and then buried in the pits, according to the pamphlet. Half way up the gentle slope to where the symbolic graveyard now stands, there were “3 old gas chambers” according to the pamphlet, and a short distance to the south of them were built “10 new gas chambers.”
None of the three Operation Reinhard extermination camps had a crematorium for burning the bodies of the 1.5 million Jews who were killed in these camps. This is an example of the poor prior planning of the Nazis. What were they thinking? Why didn’t they send all the Jews to either Auschwitz or Majdanek, where there were cremation ovens?
Of the other five extermination camps which were in operation during the same period (Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau), only Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek, which also functioned as forced labor camps, had crematoria with ovens for burning the bodies.