Scrapbookpages Blog

July 10, 2014

Samuel Willenberg, 91, the last living survivor of the Treblinka extermination camp

Samuel Willenberg poses with Andrew Denton on a trip to Treblinka

Samuel Willenberg poses with Andrew Denton on a trip to Treblinka

Samuel Willenberg, the man on the left in the photo above, is the last surviving Sonderkommando Jew who worked in the Treblinka death camp.  Sitting next to him is Andrew Denton, who made a trip recently to the Treblinka Memoiral Site, to see where some of his relatives were murdered. You can read about his trip to the Memorial Site here.

Sculpture at Treblinka resembles the railroad tracks into the camp

My 1998 photo of the sculpture at Treblinka, which resembles the railroad tracks into the camp

Treblinka was one of the three Operation Reinhard [Reinhardt] camps, where Jews were transported to be killed during the Holocaust; the other two camps were Sobibor and Belzec.

According to the news article, cited above, “Of the estimated six million Jews killed in Europe during World War II, more than 800,000 perished at Treblinka – in just 16 months. It is one of the most murderous places on earth.”

Historian Jerzy Halbersztadt explained to Denton “that there is little record of those who perished here at Treblinka because the killing was on such an industrial scale it was impossible to keep track of them.”

According to the news article, Denton asked Jerzy how he could be sure that his relatives (the Ditkofskys) were among the victims.

Jerzy Halbersztadt then described “a meticulous collection of German transport records showing train movements, dates and times, the number of people transported, all cross-checked against eyewitness accounts and court records. He then shows [Denton] a table with the numbers and dates of the people deported to Treblinka from the Bialystok region, where Suchowola [the city where Denton’s relatives lived] is located. The dates and numbers square with the accounts from those Poles left behind,” according to the article.

Wait a minute! Bialystok?  I previously wrote about Bialystok on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/the-fate-of-the-bialystok-ghetto-children-who-were-sent-to-theresienstadt/

The Nazis claimed that they were transporting the Jews to the East, but the Jews from Bialystok were transported WEST to Treblinaka; I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/the-trains-that-traveled-west-to-treblinka/

Original sigh that hung at the fake train station at Treblinka  Photo Credit: Yad Vashem

Original sigh that hung at the fake train station Photo Credit: Yad Vashem

Sculpture represents the train platform at Treblinka

My 1998 photo of the sculpture which represents the train platform at Treblinka

This quote is from the same article, which you can read in full here:

Once off the train, [Willenberg] continues, [the Jews] would have been first whipped and beaten, then driven through a gate into sheds and made to undress. The women’s heads would be shaved. They would then be commanded to run, naked, into the gas chambers, to be asphyxiated by carbon monoxide from a diesel engine.

In August 1943, the Sonderkommando of Treblinka staged a revolt, unheard of in the German camps, and 300 prisoners escaped. Three hundred out of the more than 800,000 sent to Treblinka. And of that 300, [Denton] was told, only one remained alive: 91-year-old Samuel Willenberg. “He lives in Israel,” said Jerzy, “and he will be here to talk to you this afternoon.”

Map of the Treblinka Camp

Map of the Treblinka Camp

The map above shows the layout of the Treblinka camp as seen by visitors today who enter the area of the former camp along the route of the train tracks, shown at the bottom of the map. The gas chambers are shown in red; the large red rectangle is where 10 new gas chambers were constructed near the one original gas chamber. The pyres where the bodies were burned are indicated by the lines just above the red rectangle that denotes the gas chamber. Today, a large monument is located in the spot where the original gas chamber once stood.

The sculpture, which represents the tracks, leads visitors to the spot where the Jews go off the train.  The fake train station where the clothing was stored is shown in blue near the bottom of the map;  the undressing rooms for the Jews are also shown in blue.

Shown in gray, on the left side, near the bottom of the map, is where the SS staff members and the Ukrainian guards lived.

Around 1,000 Jewish Sonderkommando Jews lived in the barracks that are shown in black.

On the right side of the map, the burial sites, for the Jews who died on the train, are shown in brown.   The area where the barracks once stood is now covered with trees; the area at the top of the map on the right is where the symbolic cemetery is now located.

Stone Monument stands in the spot where the first gas chamber at Treblinka was located

My 1998 photo of the stone Monument which stands in the spot where the gas chambers at Treblinka were located

The photograph above shows the 26-foot 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 in 1998. 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.

I know that some of my readers will say that carbon monoxide from diesel engines will not kill people.  But before you bring that up, just remember Pat Buchanan, whose career was ruined when he disputed the claim that 800,000 Jews were killed, using carbon monoxide: http://codoh.com/library/document/963/

Read more about Aktion Reinhardt at http://codoh.com/library/document/3052/