Method of killing

Treblinka II - Method of killing

The mechanism for dealing with the people deported to the camp and the method of their killing was developed by Christian Wirth, the inspector of the Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór camps. He trained the staff point by point, so that everything went according to his plans. The secret was to keep the victim unaware until the last moment, and to force obedience with surprise, speed and brutality. A typical transport contained up to 60 wagons, including at least two wagons for guards. The average number of people in a freight wagon was 80-120.

The entire transport at Treblinka railway station was divided into three parts and each of them was delivered to the camp separately. The steam engine was attached at the end, so that it pushed the wagons in front of it. After the wagons were pushed onto the camp ramp, the steam engine was detached and rolled out outside the fence wire.

After the wagons were placed on the camp ramp, the actual cycle of extermination began. After leaving the ramp and the “railway yard”, the people brought here left their luggage, taking documents and valuables with them. People with no strength, the disabled, the sick, the elderly, and unaccompanied children were separated, and then they were sent to the lazaret so that they would not delay the killing operation. Healthy people were quickly led to the undressing area while being constantly screamed at and beaten. Here they were taken over by the red unit. The newcomers were separated by gender. Women and children went into the undressing barracks on the left, and men were sent to the right. Here, too, depending on the needs, selection was made by selecting the right people to work in the camp. They were young, healthy, with the profession needed in the camp conditions. All were ordered to tie their shoes together. After entering the barrack, women had their hair cut off.

Pushing into chambers and gassing was done by two Ukrainian guards who helped each other in these activities with a metal pipe and a sabre. The gasification process of crowded people lasted about 20 minutes. Sometimes this process was extended. The corpses together with blood and excrements were pulled out on the sloping floor of the chamber through manholes opened from the outside. After removing gold teeth from the corpses and removing valuable objects hidden in the body’s holes, the corpses were thrown into the pits. Later they were transported directly to the grates with leather straps, belts or wooden stretchers.

All the work, from unloading the transport on the railway ramp until the removal of the corpses of 5-6 thousand people from the chambers, lasted for 2-3 hours. At the same time, during this killing cycle, the belongings brought here were segregated. There was even a group of tailors who searched for valuables and money hidden in garments.

Burning of corpses

The cremation of the corpses did not begin until February 1943, directly after Himmler’s visit. Herbert Floß came up with the idea of constructing grates from railway tracks. Brushwood was placed under the rails, which was poured with petrol. In this way, not only the freshest corpses were burned, but also those taken out of the graves by an excavator.

Additional grates were built, so that up to 12,000 corpses could be burned at the same time. Clouds of smoke were visible from a distance of many kilometres. By the end of July 1943, about 700,000 corpses were burned on grates.