The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Operation Reinhard
The Extermination Camps
Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka

The Construction of the Treblinka Extermination Camp

Construction of Treblinka began after Belzec and Sobibor were in operation. The experience gained from the installation and the extermination procedures in those two camps was taken into consideration in the planning and building of Treblinka. Thus, it became the most "perfect" extermination camp of Operation Reinhard.

The camp was situated in the northeastern part of the General Government, not far from Malkinia, a town with a railroad station on the main Warsaw-Bialystok line and close to the Malkinia-Siedlce line.

The camp was erected in a sparsely populated region, 4 km. from the village of Treblinka and the railroad station. The site chosen for the camp was wooded and thus naturally concealed. Since the spring of 1941 a punishment camp had been located a few kilometers away, where Polish and Jewish prisoners were made to process raw material from a gravel pit for frontier fortifications.

At the end of April or the beginning of May 1942, an SS-unit decided on the location. The size and master plan of Treblinka were identical to those of Sobibor. The construction of the extermination camp began at the end of May or beginning of June 1942. Richard Thomalla was in charge; he had completed his construction job in Sobibor and had been relieved by Stangl in April 1942. In building the gas chambers he was assisted by SS-Unterscharführer Erwin Lambert, a chief-of-construction for technical matters from the "Euthanasia" program. The extermination sector was located in the southwest, in an area measuring 200 x 250 m., totally separated from the rest of the camp by barbed wire. As on the outside, branches were intertwined with the barbed wire to hide it from view. For the same reason, the entrances were placed behind a special partition. The gas chambers were housed in a massive brick building in the center. The access paths, including the "tube," in Treblinka named "Street to Heaven" by the SS-men, were model led on those in Belzec and Sobibor; the same applied to the "reception camp" and "accommodation camp."

During the first stage, three gas chambers were in operation, each of them,much like those in Sobibor,4 x 4 m. in size and 2.6 m. high. A diesel engine producing poisonous carbon monoxide, as well as a generator which supplied the whole camp with electricity, were housed in a built-on room.

The entrance doors of the gas chambers opened into a passage in front of the building; each door was 1.8 m. high and 90 cm. wide. They could be hermetically closed and bolted from the outside. Inside each gas chamber, opposite the entrance door, was a thick door made of wooden beams, 2.5 m. high and 1.8 m. wide, which could also be hermetically closed. The walls in the gas chambers were covered with white tiles up to a certain height, shower heads had been installed, and water pipes ran along the ceiling -- all this so as to maintain the "showers" fiction. In reality the pipes conducted the poisonous gas into the chambers. When the doors were shut, it was compeltely dark inside.

To the east of the gas chambers were huge ditches into which the corpses were thrown. They had been dug with an excavator from the gravel pit in Treblinka. Prisoners had to participate in this work. The ditches were 50 m. long, 25 m. wide, and 10 m. deep. A narrow-gauge track had been laid from the gas chambers to transport the corpses to the ditches. Prisoners had to push the trolleys.

The main extermination installations were completed by mid-June 1942. The murder operations began on July 23, 1942.

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