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Experiencing and Surviving the German Death Camp at Treblinka, October 10, 2012 Treblinka

jan peczkis|Monday, October 15, 2012

Jankiel (Yankiel) Wiernik is one of the few Jewish forced laborers at Treblinka to have escaped from this Nazi German factory of death, and lived to tell the world about it. He had various jobs at the camp, including the construction of more and ever-larger gas chambers (p. 18). There is no reason for questioning the veracity of what Wiernik has written. He reports the emanation of steam from intertwined layers of corpses on a hot day (p. 39). [Decomposition of bodies is an exothermic reaction]. Either Wiernik had arcane knowledge of the chemistry of putrefaction, or he actually saw what he claimed to have seen.

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On a typical day at Treblinka, 10,000-12,000 people were murdered (p. 16); with a daily high of about 20,000 victims (p. 21). At first the victims were buried in mass graves. In time, these were re-exhumed and burned, not in crematoria as at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but on huge open-air pyres. The transports to the Treblinka death camp were not limited to Jews. There were also transports of Gypsies (p. 26, 38) and Poles (p. 35).

Wiernik relates events at Treblinka to those of the outside world. He got hold of a German newspaper that described the sensational discovery of the bodies of the Soviet-murdered Polish officers at Katyn (p. 28). Evidently sensitized to the incriminating nature of the discovery of bodies, the Germans decided to re-exhume and burn the bodies of the Treblinka victims. In addition, recently-arriving Jews, the remnants of the Warsaw ghetto following the Uprising, were treated with exceptional brutality. Finally, Wiernik observed the arrival of Jews that had been caught at Hotel Polski (p. 41)--a fraudulent German offer of amnesty to Warsaw Jews still in hiding.

Many modern Holocaust materials dwell on those underworld Poles who served the Germans--the informers and the szmalcowniki (blackmailers). In contrast, Wiernik focuses on their Jewish counterparts: "Another amazing characteristic of the Germans is their ability to discover, among other peoples, hundreds of depraved types like themselves, and to use them for their own ends. In camps for Jews, there is a need for Jewish executioners, spies, stool pigeons. The Germans managed to find them, to find such vile creatures as Moshko from the vicinity of Slonim, Itzig Kobyla from Warsaw, Chaskel the thief, and Kuba, a thief and a pimp, both Warsaw born and bred." (pp. 17-18).

One particularly malicious Polonophobic Holocaust myth is the one about the Nazis' choice of Poland as the site of the death camps because Poles welcomed them or at least wouldn't object much to them. No doubt, this libelous canard is facilitated by the countless misleading accounts in the western press of "Polish death camps". Ironically, not only didn't the Germans seek any form of "permission" from the conquered and despised Polish untermenschen, but actually kept the death camps a jealously-guarded secret. So extreme was this secrecy that a German woman who had inadvertently been shipped to Treblinka was deliberately killed in order to protect the secret of what was taking place there. (p. 22-23).

Another anti-Polish canard is the one about Germans choosing Poland as the site of the death camps so that they could conveniently recruit numerous Polish volunteers to assist in the extermination of Jews. In actuality, Wiernik doesn't mention even ONE Polish collaborator serving the Germans at Treblinka! He elaborates on the work of Ukrainian collaborators numerous times. Ukrainians willingly served the Germans in roles as diverse as: Supervision of the deportations (p. 6), guarding of the overloaded death trains (p. 7), the reception of new arrivals at the camp (p. 8), the shootings at the "medical dispensary" of those unable to proceed to the "bath houses" (gas chambers) (p. 13), the running of the motor to produce carbon monoxide gas to kill those herded into the gas chambers (p.14), the supervision of the disposal of the bodies (p. 10), and all-around guard duty (p. 43).

For all of the unrelenting horror of what went on at Treblinka, it is interesting to note that there may have been a miraculous sign during one of the mass burnings of victims on a pyre, as described by Wiernik: "At one time, when the corpses were placed on the fire-grate, an uplifted arm was noticed. Four fingers were balled into a tight fist, except for the index finger, which had stiffened and pointed rigidly skyward as if calling God's judgment down upon the hangmen. It was an accident but, nevertheless, all present were unnerved. Even our fiendish tormentors turned pale and could not turn their eyes from that ghastly sight. It was as if some higher power were at work. That arm remained pointed upward for a long, long time. A portion of the pyre had long since turned to ashes but the uplifted arm still called to the heavens above for retributive justice. This small, meaningless incident, however, spoiled the high good humor of the hangmen for a while at least" (pp. 39-40).

[Postcript: Ground-penetrating radar has reportedly verified the existence of onetime deep pits at the Treblinka site.]
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