It is with deep sorrow that we received the information of the death of Zygmunt Chłopek, a former prisoner of the Treblinka I Penal Labour Camp. His unexpected death is a huge loss for the Museum. Zygmunt Chłopek was one of the last surviving prisoners of the Treblinka I Penal Labour Camp. For many years he was the Honorary Guest of the September ceremonies organized at the Treblinka Museum. His accounts are a valuable source of historical and educational knowledge.
Zygmunt Chłopek was born on May 5, 1925 in Siedlce. In September 1939, he took part in the Siege of Warsaw. During the occupation he was doing odd jobs in the city. In May 1942, he was warned that he would be arrested by the Germans, so he moved to the vicinity of Skrzeszew and Rogów in Podlaskie voivodeship. On June 9, 1943, he was arrested by the Germans together with a large group of people from Rogów. During his arrest, Zygmunt showed his Kennkarte and a fictitious vacation leave card in order to explain that he was in Rogów on vacation. The gendarme repeatedly hit him in the face and in the back, considering him a “bandit”. Zygmunt was brought along with other arrested people to Sokołów Podlaski, where the seat of the district mayor, Ernst Gramss, was located. Gramss sent all the arrested to the Treblinka I Penal Labour Camp.
Zygmunt Chłopek was imprisoned in the camp from June 9 to October 30, 1943. He worked there in the gravel pit for over two months. He quickly lost his strength. Being exhausted he was sent to work at the Holzplatz, a place where wood for constructions and firewood were pre-treated. There, he repeatedly asked himself, “Why did so many innocent people lost their lives in utter humiliation?”.
While in the camp, Zygmunt Chłopek fell ill with typhus and was taken for treatment to the hospital in Węgrów on September 1. Having being cured, he was able to escape, but decided to return to the camp, so that other prisoners would have a chance to be treated in the hospital. On October 20, 1943, he returned to the camp, among others, with Stefan Szymański. He was released from the camp after ten days and in the late evening he reached Rogów, where he stayed until mid-December 1945.