From the Record of Interrogation of the Defendant
February 20, 1945. I, Lieutenant EPPEL', Investigator of the Fourth Department of the "SMERSH" Directorate of Counterintelligence of the Second Belorussian front interrogated as defendant -
LELEKO, Pavel Vladimirovich, born in 1922, native of the village of Chaplinka, Chaplinka district, Nikolayev Region, Ukrainian, citizen of the USSR.
The interrogation began at 10.10 a.m.
Question: What was the purpose of the Treblinka camp?
Answer: A camp is not a quite precise definition of what was there in reality. This was not a camp, because not counting the servicing crews, nobody was housed there, but it was an especially equipped factory for the mass extermination of people.
Question: How long were you in service in the Treblinka camp?
Answer: I was in service in the Treblinka camp for one year, from September 1942 to September 1943.
Question: What position did you hold there?
Answer: In the [**69] Treblinka camp I held the position of a guard.
Question: Where was the Treblinka camp located?
Answer: The Treblinka camp was located some 500 meters from the Malkinia-Kosow highway, about two-three km from the Treblinka railroad station, at the edge of a forest. To the West of the camp, some two km away, there is the village of Kutaska.
Question: Describe the exterior appearance of the camp?
Answer: The Treblinka camp is divided into two parts: Camp no.1, or as the prisoners called it, the "death camp", and the worker's camp, called Camp no.2. The camps were situated at a distance of some 2-3 km from each other.
Question: What did the "death camp" look like?
Answer: The "death camp" was located on an area of about 7-8 hectares, which was fenced in by two rows of barbed wire reaching 3 (three) meters in height. Beyond the barbed wire stretched a continuous line of metallic anti-tank obstacles enmeshed in barbed wire. The entire area of the camp, in the shape of an irregular quadrangle, was divided into three sections by rows of barbed wire. The barbed wire was intertwined with bushes and branches in order to prevent the possibility of seeing from one section [**70] into the other.
Question: What did the first section of the "death camp" look like?
Answer: The first section of the "death camp" contained all the service buildings of the servicing personnel. There were there four barracks housing the Russian and Ukrainian guards, three barracks housing the Germans who directed the mass extermination of the people. The commander of the camp and his secretary lived in a separate barrack. Right by the barbed wire separating the first section from the second and the third stood the barrack surrounded by barbed wire in which were housed some 1000 prisoners condemned to death. They were called the "worker crew" and were used to service the camp. In addition to the above mentioned barracks there were also two barracks one of which served as storage area and bakery in which the prisoners worked, and the other as a dining room for the Russians. A branch road led from the Malkinia-Kosow highway to the first section of the camp.
Question: What did the second section of the "death camp" look like?
Answer: The second section of the "death camp" was the receiving point of the doomed prisoners. A railroad branch extended here from Treblinka village. [**71] Near the railroad stood two wooden barracks in which the belongings and clothing of the people to be exterminated were stored. One of the barracks had been given the appearance of a railroad station. A wooden facsimile of a clock had been nailed above it. Prior to each arrival of a fresh batch of doomed people, one of the prisoners climbed on the roof of the barrack and moved the arms of the clock to make it show the time corresponding approximately to the actual time. A wooden sign representing a hammer and saw was nailed above the clock. Below the clock was a small panel on which the sechedule [sic] of departure of trains for L'vov, Rovno, Dnepropetrovsk, Tarnopol" [sic] and other Ukrainian cities was written in several languages. Still further down were two small windows above one of which was a sign that read "cashsinr," and above the other, another sign that read "station master". All this decoration was made in order to delude the people brought here to die. To complete the illusion, there were also large posters reading "Palestine waits for you", "the Ukraine will give you work and bread" and other slogans and appeals.
* * *
Two more barracks stood about 70-100 meters from [**72] the above mentioned two barracks situated by the railroad branch and serving as storage space for belongings and clothing of the doomed prisoners. One of these two barracks served as an undressing place for the women. The men were undressed near the other barrack, right there on the street, winter and summer. The food, belonging [sic] and clothing taken from the doomed prisoners were stored inside this second barrack. Inside the women's undressing room there was also a so -called "cashier's office" where the women were ordered to hand over their money, jewelry, and valuable [sic] for "safekeeping". Beyond the "cashier's office" booth was a fenced in area where the hair of the women was cut. Men handed over their valuables and money also in a special "cashier's office" situated not far from the second barrack. Both barracks were fenced in by barbed wire.
A road led from the undressing rooms [sic] the third section of the "death camp" and terminated at the building where the extermination of people took place.
Question: What did the third section of the "death camp" look like?
Answer: The road from the undressing rooms, fenced on both sides by barbed wire intertwined with branches [**73] led to the gas chamber building where people were exterminated with gas obtained from running diesel engines. As the people directed to the gas chambers were told that they were being taken to a bath-house, the outward appearance of the gas chamber building was also made to resemble a bath house. It was a single storied brick building, its exterior covered with plaster and whitewashed. It was about 25 meters long and 15 meters wide. The entrance to the building was ornate and there were stucco moldings.
Flowers grew right by in long boxes. There was no door at the entrance. Instead of it there was a heavy hanging made from a rug. Beyond it started a narrow passage which ended at the opposite wall. To the right and to the left of the passage there were five doors that closed hermetically and led into the special chambers where the poisoning took place. The chambers were about six meters long and as wide, about two to five-three meters high. In the center of the ceiling there was an electric light bulb in which there was no wiring and there were two "shower" heads through which poisonous gas was fed into the chamber.
The walls, floor and ceiling of the chamber were of cement. On the [**74] opposite side to the entrance door there was another, likewise hermetically closing door, through which the bodies of the poisoned people were removed. As many as 500 men, women and children were pushed into the chambers indiscriminately. Eight chambers out of the ten existing in the gas chamber building were used to poison people. In the two remaining ones, there were two powerful German engines, about 1.5 meters high - two engines in all. Each engine fed gas to four death chambers. Some 20 meters from the above mentioned gas chamber building stood the building of the old gas chambers, which contained only three gas chambers.
This building functioned until 1943. But as it was unable to handle the enormous number of people brought by the Germans to the "death camp", the new, large gas chamber building that I have described above was built. After it came into use, the old one was no longer utilized. An incinerator for the burning of bodies was situated about 10 meters beyond the large gas chamber building. It had the shape of a cement pit about one meter deep and 20 meters long. A series of furnaces covered on the top with four rows of rails extended along the entire length of one [**75] of the walls of the pit. The bodies were laid on the rails, caught fire from the flames burning in the furnaces and burned. About 1000 bodies were burned simultaneously. The burning process lasted up to five hours. Not far from the gas chamber building, also in the third section, there was a barrack housing the working-crew composed of doomed prisoners and which comprised up to 500 persons.
* * *
Question: What was the system of mass extermination of people in the German death camp of Treblinka?
Answer: Two to three trainloads of doomed prisoners arrived daily at the Treblinka railroad station. Each train consisted of 60 cars. The train was brought in three installments into the second section of the "death camp". Twenty cars were brought in every half hour. As soon as the cars crossed the barbed wire, the guard was changed. The policemen escorting the train remained outside the camp and left on the locomotive to fetch the next batch of prisoners. The railroads [sic] cars brought into the camp were immediately unloaded by the guards. We started to unload the cars with the help of the so-called "blue crew" consisting of doomed prisoners wearing a blue armband on the sleeve. [**76]
Those arriving were told that they must first go to the bath house and will then be sent further to the Ukraine. But the sight of the camp, the enormous flaming pyre burning at one end of the camp, the suffocating stench from decomposing bodies that spread form some 10 km around and was particularly strong within the camp itself, made it clear what the place really was. The people chased out of the cars with whips guessed immediately where they had been brought; some attempted to climb over the barbed wire of the fencing, got caught in it, and we opened fire on those who were trying to escape and killed them. We tried to quiet down the fear-crazed people with heavy clubs.
After all those who were able to walk had been unloaded, only the ailing, the killed and the wounded remained in the railroad cars. These were carried by the prisoners belonging to the "blue crew" into the so-called "infirmary", the name given to the place where the ailing and the wounded were shot and the dead were burned. This place became particularly crowded when the prisoners marked for death who were brought in the railroad cars attempted to commit suicide.
Thus in March 1943 there arrived a train in which half [**77] of the prisoners cut their throats and hands with razors. While unloading was going on, the prisoners cut themselves with knives and razors before the eyes of us, the policemen, saying: "anyhow you will kill us". The majority of those who did not die of self-inflicted wounds were shot. After the unloading, all those who could stand on their feet were chased toward the undressing place. There the women were separated from the men and pushed into a special barrack, while the men were told to undress right there outside another barrack.
During the first years of the existence of the camp, women and men undressed together in the same barrack. But it happened once that the prisoners attacked the "chief of the working crew" in the undressing barrack. Somehow the man managed to escape from there. Several policemen and Germans immediately rushed in. One of the Germans started firing into the crowd from his sub-machine gun. After they had stopped shooting, the Germans and the policemen started to beat with clubs and whips those who survived. After this incident, men were assigned to a special place in the open air in which to undress, by the barrack, across from the women's undressing place. [**78]
Pushed by the clubs of the Germans and the policemen, the men threw off their clothing, having first handed their valuables and money to a special "cashier's office". The women were obliged to remove their shoes before entering the undressing place. They were forced to remove all their clothing under the supervision of German policemen and prisoners of the so-called "red crew" [sic] Those who resisted were whipped. Very often the Germans and the policemen tore off and cut off the clothing of those who did not want to undress or undressed too slowly. Many women begged to be allowed to keep at least some clothing on their persons, but the German, [sic] smiling cynically, ordered them to undress "to the end".
The policemen or the workers threw to the ground and undressed those who refused to do so. The undressed women were told to hand over all their valuables and money to the "cashier's office". After this the women were driven in groups to another part of the barrack, where 50 prisoners - "hairdressers" were working. The women sat on a long bench and the "hairdressers" cut off their hair. The cut hair were [sic] packed in large bags and sent by trainloads to Germany. One of the Germans [**79] told me that in Germany they are used to fill mattresses, also for soft upholstery. He said that this hair make [sic] very good mattresses and the Germans buy them willingly.
After their hair was cut the women were sent in batches to the third section of the camp, to the "bath house", but in reality to the gas chamber to be exterminated there. Before entering the gas chamber building they passed along a long path bordered on both sides with a high fence made of barbed wire and branches. Along the edge of the path stood policemen and Germans. Each one held a whip or a club.
I stood repeatedly on the edge of this path with other policemen and drove along with a whip the women and the men into the gas chamber building. Many women were not quite sure that they would not be exterminated and in order to have some means of subsistence in the future, they hid some valuables on their persons.
To prevent this, the Germans placed special controllers in the center of the path. When they noticed that a woman walked along the path holding her legs close together, she was stopped at once and cynically examined, and if anything was found on her, she was beaten almost to death. The men walked more [**80] quietly down this path. Several times I heard how one, speaking to another, said: "Why are you weeping? Do you believe you can arouse compassion in those Germans?" Frequently we could hear cries of "Hail Stalin!", "Hail the Red Army!" To us Russian guards, they said: "Today you exterminate us, and tomorrow the Germans will be killing you".
When the procession of doomed people approached the gas chamber building, MARCHENKO and Nikolay, the motorists of the gas chambers shouted: "Walk faster, or the water will become cold!" Each group of women or men was pushed from behind by some German and very frequently by Franz, the camp commander himself, escorted by dogs. As they approached the gas chambers, the people stared to recoil in horror, sometimes they tried to retrace their steps.
Then whips and clubs were used. Franz immediate [sic] ordered his dog to attack the naked people. Being trained for this, it grabbed them by their genitals. Aside from the motor operators who had dogs with them, there were five or six Germans near the gas chambers. With whips and clubs they chased people into the passage of the gas chamber building and then into the gas chambers. The Germans and the motor [**81] operators then competed as to atrocities with regard to the people to be killed. MARCHENKO for instance, had a sword with which he mutilated people. He cut off the breasts of women.
When the chamber was filled to capacity, the Germans or the motorists came to the door and stated beating up the naked people with a rubber whip and at the same time set their dogs against them. The prisoners shrank away into the depth of the chamber yielding place to more prisoners. Such a pressing-in occurred several times so that some 700 to 800 people could be crowded into the not-so-large chambers.
When the chambers were filled to the very limit, the Germans started to throw in the children left by the women either in the undressing place or more frequently outside the gas chamber building. As the ceiling of the gas chambers was very low, the children thrown into the chamber hit the ceiling and then, disfigured, sometimes with broken heads, fell on the heads of the prisoners.
When loading of the chambers was completed, they were sealed off by hermetically closing doors. Motorists MARCHENKO and Nikolay started the motors. The gas produced went though the pipes into the chambers. The process of suffocation [**82] began. Some time after the motor had been started, the motorists looked into the chambers through special observation portholes situated near each door, in order to determine how the process of extermination was going on. When asked what they saw, the motorists answered that the people were writhing, crushing each other. I also tried to look through the porthole, but for some reason could see nothing. Gradually the noise in the chambers died down. Some fifteen minutes later the motors were stopped and there was an unusual silence.
While extermination of this batch of prisoners went on, a new bath of condemned people arrived into the camp. The entire process started all over again.
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