Scrapbookpages Blog

April 9, 2018

The Holocaust started at Treblinka camp in Poland

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 3:30 pm

Houses along the blacktop road through Poniatowo, near the Treblinka camp

From Warsaw, the route to Treblinka starts with the crossing of the river Vistula, then a turn onto Highway 18 northeast towards Bialystok, the only large town in the Bialystok province, which is located in the most remote northeast corner of Poland. It is in the Bialystok province that bison still roam, and one can see the last remaining primeval forest and wetlands on the European continent. This area could truly be called the “Wild East” of Poland.

As you can see in the photograph above, taken by me, in October 1998, the road as it nears the camp becomes a one-lane blacktop, badly in need of repair. This photo was taken in a small hamlet which my tour guide identified as Poniatowo.

Treblinka is two kilometers from the Bug River which, during World War II, formed the border between the Nazi occupied General Government of Poland and the zone occupied by the Soviet Union from September 1939 until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Two other Action Reinhard death camps, Sobibor and Belzec, were also located very close to the Bug river which was the border between the General Government and the Soviet zone of Poland.

The Soviet zone was the territory that had formerly belonged to Russia between 1772 and 1918. Known as the “Pale of Settlement” between 1835 and 1917, this was the area where all Russian Jews were forced to live until after they were liberated by the Communist Revolution in 1917.

Treblinka was located on the railroad line running from Ostrów Mazowiecki to Siedlce; at Malkinia junction, this line intersected the major railway line which ran from Warsaw to Bialystok.

Highway 18 is a two-lane concrete road with pedestrian paths on each side. There is heavy traffic of trucks from Belarus (Byelorussia or White Russia) and Estonia traveling west into Poland; traffic is slowed down by local Polish farmers driving wagons pulled by tractors or by a lone horse. The terrain is completely flat with farm land on each side of the road but not a fence in sight. Then the road goes through mile after mile of dense forest. During World War II, these woods were full of Polish and Jewish partisans, who hid there along with escaped Russian Prisoners of War, and fought the Nazis by blowing up bridges and train tracks or placing land mines to kill columns of German soldiers. If captured, these partisans were sent to Dachau or Buchenwald or the main camp at Auschwitz.

At a point 22 kilometers from Treblinka, the route turns southeast off of Highway 18. This new road is a one-lane blacktop with no space on the sides for pedestrians. The road gets progressively worse until the final leg of the journey is pockmarked with pot holes. This road is shown in the photo at the top of this page.

The Treblinka camp got its name from the tiny village of Treblinka, which is around 4 kilometers from the death camp. In 1998 when I visited, the village of Treblinka was almost deserted and the buildings were far more dilapidated than in the other nearby villages.

Cottage in Poniatowo, along the road on the way to Treblinka

I was told by my tour guide in 1998 that the closest houses to the camp were in the tiny hamlet of Poniatowo. The photo immediately above shows a house which is built of wood with painted shutters on one window; it is at the edge of the road with a fence enclosing a small patch of flowers.

Some of these rural dwellings are so humble that you would not suspect that people still live there if it were not for the lace curtains which are always hung in the windows of these cottages. Note the cobblestones along the edge of the road, which you can see clearly in the photograph above.

Houses on the way to the Treblinka camp

Bridge over Bug River