Treblinka II - Prisoners

At one time there were about 1,000 prisoners in the entire extermination camp. This number changed depending on the needs of the German staff. The rotation among the prisoners was high. The sick and the weak were sent to the chambers, and in their place prisoners from the crowds of newcomers were selected. The prisoners were divided into units:

  • Tornungskommando specialised in fencing camouflage.
  • Kommando Rot – the red unit – sorted the murdered people’s belongings, which were on the square.
  • Kommando Gelb – the yellow unit – the so-called “ragsmen”, worked inside the barrack and separated clothes by quality, removed all signs of Jewish origin, such as the Star of David, sewn names or forgotten documents.
  • Kommando Blau – the blue unit – managed the fake station. They unlocked the wagons, carried out luggage and people who had died en route, cleaned and disinfected the wagons.
  • Desinfektionskommando – the disinfecting unit – disinfected the collected garments and cut women’s hair.
  • The Goldjuden unit segregated and estimated the valuables. There was also a group of craftsmen of various specialities, including tailors. They wore yellow bands or patches.

Prisoners got up around 5 a.m. First there was a morning roll call, then they ate breakfast consisting of dry bread and coffee or bread soup (diluted stale bread), then went to work, which lasted at least until 6 p.m. Dinner was eaten between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. When the transports came to the camp, the prisoners were relatively well nourished because they were eating the food brought by the deported people. When transports stopped arriving, the situation changed radically.

The prisoners of camp 1, which consisted of about 700 people, were led by Galewski, an engineer from Łódź, and during his illness by Rakowski. Galewski did what he could to improve the living conditions of the prisoners. He also headed the organising committee preparing the uprising.

The prisoners in camp 2 dragged the corpses out of the gas chambers and burned them. There were about 300 of them, and they were led initially by Singer, and later by a Viennese Jew named Blau.

The prisoners were punished for all kinds of offences. A common penalty was to tie the prisoner to a ladder used to climb the watchtower and beat him with whips or wooden batons at least 25 times. A prisoner was often tied, deprived of the possibility of any movement, and left for many hours. The death penalty was also carried out by hanging on a gallows, often “upside down”.