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The Treblinka death camp

Updated on January 1, 2012
A model of the Treblinka death camp
A model of the Treblinka death camp

Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp which was set up in a wooded area of the Masovian voivodeship of Poland near a small village which bears the same name. During the years of 1942 and 1943 more than 800,000 Jews were killed at Treblinka by the Nazis. Although part of the camp was ran as a forced labor facility the soul intent for Treblinka was to exterminate Jews.

Treblinka was split into two facilities; Treblinka I was the forced labor area where people would work in a gravel pit or in an irrigation area. an estimated 20,000 people died from exhaustion at Treblinka I. Treblinka II is where the gas chambers were. Over 99% of the people who were transported to Treblinka were immediately sent to one of the six gas chambers which were hooked up to captured soviet tank engines. In this method the Nazis used engine exhaust instead of gas to kill people. It was a very tightly ran operation headed up by an infamous Nazi Franz Stangl.

The White Death

Stangl was brought to justice in 1967 and was found in Sao Paulo, Brazil where he was living openly under no alias. During his trials he showed little regret for his actions and felt that he was merely destroying cargo. In his words Stangl described his victims as a mass of rotting flesh and it was his job to dispose of it. "That was my profession. I enjoyed it. It fulfilled me. And yes, I was ambitious about that, I won't deny it." -Franz Stangl

Stangl took much pride in his work and felt that he ran a tightly organized operation. Under his command Stangl built two Gas chambers which enabled the camp to dispose of up to 15,000 people a day.

Stangl was usually seen wearing a white uniform accompanied by a whip. This appearance prompted the prisoners to label him "the white death".

Stangle was a prime example of the dehumanization process adopted by the Nazis in which the perpetrators of excessive violence psychologically convinces themselves that their victims are neither human or subhuman, but merely objects to be disposed of. Hence Stangle felt little regret for what he had done nor did he feel that he was guilty of any wrong doing. In fact quite the opposite was true, he felt that he had done a good job as is evident from his neglect to actively hide his identity after the Germans had lost the war.

Regardless of this attempt to psychologically disconnect himself from the horrors he had perpitrated against humanity Stangle admitted in an candid interview, "My guilt, is that I am still here. That is my guilt." Six months after this feeble admission of guilt Stangl died of heart failure.

His heart failure is a testament to the fact that the mind can not simply switch off extreme and unnatural offenses against the souls of our fellow man.

The synagogue in Boćki was destroyed in 1941 just before the rest of the village was liquidated by the Nazis.
The synagogue in Boćki was destroyed in 1941 just before the rest of the village was liquidated by the Nazis.

Victims and survivors of Boćki

On a cold November night in 1942 the residents of the small town of Boćki were rounded up by the Nazis and put onto a train which took them to the larger village of Bielsk, and then to the main city of Bialystok which served as a rally point for all transports to Treblinka. There is a short story which detailed the only documented escape from the train to Treblinka from Boćki. A man by the name of Max Farber had jumped from the train after being separated from his family and was found by a close friend who hid him for three months. Not all of the residents of Boćki were taken captive that day however.

Several people due to the impending pogroms in the early years of the first world war had fled from Boćki and their progeny lives on. A man by the name of David Zagier who wrote a book titled Botchki "When doomsday was still tomorrow" gave a tedious account of life in the village before the war.

Another family who escaped before the first war was the Kam family. The elder brother Solomon (born in 1873) gave a brief account of his life as an orphan in the shtetl of Botchki. The poverty the two brothers experienced was profound, but they were fortunate enough to be raised safely by Rabbis. They had several cousins, aunts, and uncles who lived closely to each other.

Haikym Kam (born in 1863), was a baker who had a large family. They were last found in the city of Bielsk in the early 1900s. None of his children were heard from again and it is suspected that they were among those who rode the train to Treblinka.

Malka Kam (born in 1851), married into the Reshelvski family. Malka and her eight children were taken to the Lodz ghetto. There they endured hardships and disease from malnutrition those who did not starve to death were later transported to the Treblinka and Chemlo death camps.

Moshka Kam (born in 1872), who cared for the family's matriarch to her last days escaped with his family and my great grandfather Barnett and his brother Solomon into England. All of the surviving Kam family went the way of several thousand other Jews who fled from the poverty stricken Pales of Poland and Lithuania into South Africa. All except Barnett Kam who changed his last name, and fled to Canada where he and his English born wife settled for a short time with before moving to California.

It would be safe to say that there were many other cold nights in Poland when innocent families were taken from their homes in the night by ruthless Nazis, but the details of this village in particular and it's inhabitants are better known to me due to my personal ties to it, and I submit this small piece of history for the preservation of those memories.

The uprising

In august of 1943 several of the inmates at Treblinka attempted to take over the camp. Unfortunately some of the SS guards caught wind of their plans and they made their move prematurely in hopes that others would join in. After they had apprehended some weapons from the armory the prisoners fired on the guards, and set fire to two buildings. this prompted a mass of seven hundred and fifty inmates to storm the fence. Nearly 300 people escaped but only seventy of them lived after an extensive manhunt by the German SS took the lives of the rest.

The memorial at Treblinka
The memorial at Treblinka

The memorial stones

At Treblinka there are a multitude of stones placed in a field which bear the names of the many villages that were obliterated at Treblinka. Although there are several thousands of stones only a few of them actually have names written on them.

Only one individual has a stone which is dedicated to him, that is for Janusz Korczak. This man was an influential Jewish person who loved children and hosted a weekly radio broadcast for kids. He also ran an orphanage in Warsaw. When offered the chance to escape death Korczak declined and remained with the children. His fate was then sealed at Treblinka.

Where once there were many people who enjoyed a meager existence only the silent shadow of death and destruction remains.

It is said that as one journeys down the path to Treblinka you can experience an eerie feeling as though the wooded area of chestnut trees are crying.


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    • jonnycomelately profile image


      22 months ago from Tasmania

      I have sat in silence reading your story. No words can be adequate to describe what I feel. Yet anyone who does read it right through and is honest with them self will know precisely.

      So Onusonus, thank you. With great respect.

    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from washington

      You are welcome.

    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from washington

      Gmwilliams, thanks for reading, I took an interest in this place when I discovered that some of my family was sent there.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thanks for writing this hub. This hub should be required reading for all. I read about such camps while I was in high school. There was a book about the Treblinka uprising by Jean Francois Steiner which was first published in its English translation in 1969. Documentaries such as Shoah did an episode on Treblinka and The Nazis, A Warning From History discussed the extermination process of Treblinka in detail. One must study the past and be ever vigilant!

    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from washington

      DiNoSaUrSxOx, I'm glad I could help.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This helped me a lot with my research paper for school. Thank you.

    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from washington

      Josy, thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      good writing

    • Onusonus profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from washington

      phdast7, thanks for reading. I think I found out too much about the Nazis from researching this piece. I just wrote about it because I recently found out some of my family ended up in Treblinka, Chelmno, and the Lodz Ghetto. Writing about it helps me to gain more insight as to what they went through.

      I will definitely stop by some of your hubs.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for writing this HUb. Most American, well, most people do not know enough about the Nazis and their extermination plans, process, and camps. You did a good job. I write Hubs about WWII and the holocaust because that was my research area when I was in grad school. I would appreciate it if you would like at some of my Hubs when you have time and let me know what you think. Thanks.


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