Treblinka, a camp hidden in the remote forests of northeastern Poland, functioned not as a concentration camp but as one of only six extermination centers where the Nazi 'Final Solution' and 'Operation Reinhard' were carried out in their extreme fashions. Before its Allied liberation, Treblinka was liquidated and completely destroyed by the retreating German army, leaving almost no evidence of the atrocities committed within its fences.
Today, the horrors that took place at Treblinka have come to light from a number of testimonials from Nazi SS soldiers who were stationed at the camp and carried out the Nazi murderous actions. What you are about to read are excerpts from these testimonies but have not been otherwise changed.
Second Commandant Stangl:
Michel [the sergeant-major of the camp] told me later that Wirth suddenly appeared, looked around on the gas chambers on which they were still working, and said: 'right, we'll try it out right now with those twenty-five working Jews. Get them up here'. They marched our twenty-five Jews up there and just pushed them in and gassed them. Michel said Wirth behaved like a lunatic, hitting at his own staff with his whip to drive them on...
(Quoted in BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA - the Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press - Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 184)
When I came to Treblinka the camp commandant was a doctor named Dr. Eberl. He was very ambitious. It was said that he ordered more transports than could be "processed" in the camp. That meant that trains had to wait outside the camp because the occupants of the previous transport had not yet all been killed. At the time it was very hot and as a result of the long wait inside the transport trains in the intense heat many people died. At the time whole mountains of bodies lay on the platform. The Hauptsturmfuehrer Christian Wirth came to Treblinka and kicked up a terrific row. And then one day Dr. Eberl was no longer there...
For about two months I worked in the upper section of the camp and then after Eberl had gone everything in the camp was reorganized. The two parts of the camp were separated by barbed wire fences. Pine branches were used so that you could not see through the fences. The same thing was done along the route from the "transfer" area to the gas chambers...
Finally, new and larger gas chambers were built. I think that there were now five or six larger gas chambers. I cannot say exactly how many people these large gas chambers held. If the small gas chambers could hold 80-100 people, the large ones could probably hold twice that number...
Following the arrival of a transport, six to eight cars would be shunted into the camp, coming to a halt at the platform there. The commandant, his deputy Franz, Kuettner and Stadie or Maetzig would be here waiting as the transport came in. Further SS members were also present to supervise the unloading: for example, Genz and Belitz had to make absolutely sure that there was no one left in the car after the occupants had been ordered to get out.
When the Jews had got off, Stadie or Maetzig would have a short word with them. They were told something to the effect that they were a resettlement transport, that they would be given a bath and that they would receive new clothes. They were also instructed to maintain quiet and discipline. They would continue their journey the following day.
Then the transports were taken off to the so-called "transfer" area. The women had to undress in huts and the men out in the open. The women were than led through a passageway, known as the "tube", to the gas chambers. On the way they had to pass a hut where they had to hand in their jewelery and valuables..
(Quoted in The Good Old Days - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988, p. 245-247)
I cannot say how many Jews in total were gassed in Treblinka. On average each day a large train arrived. Sometimes there were even two. This however was not so common.
In Treblinka I was commander of the Ukrainian guard unit as I had been in Belzec. In Treblinka as in Belzec the unit consisted of sixty to eighty men. The Ukrainians' main task was to man the guard posts around the camp perimeter. After the uprising in August 1943 I ran the camp more or less single-handedly for a month; however, during that period no gassings were undertaken.
It was during that period that the original camp was demolished. Everything was leveled off off and lupins were planted...
(Quoted in The Good Old Days - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 247-249)
SS Oberscharfuehrer Heinrich Matthes:
During the entire time I was in Treblinka, I served in the upper camp. The upper camp was that part of Treblinka with the gas chambers, where the Jews were killed and their corpses laid in large pits and later burned.
About fourteen Germans carried out services in the upper camp. There were two Ukrainians permanently in the upper camp. One of them was called Nikolai, the other was a short man, I don't remember his name... These two Ukrainians who lived in the upper camp served in the gas chambers. They also took care of the engine room when Fritz Schmidt was absent. Usually this Schmidt was in charge of the engine room. In my opinion, as a civilian he was either a mechanic or a driver...
All together, six gas chambers were active. According to my estimate, about 300 people could enter each gas chamber. The people went into the gas chamber without resistance. Those who were at the end, the Ukrainian guards had to push inside. I personally saw how the Ukrainians pushed the people with their rifle butts...
The gas chambers were closed for about thirty minutes. Then Schmidt stopped the gassing, and the two Ukrainians who were in the engine room opened the gas chambers from the other side.
(Quoted in BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA - the Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press - Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 121)