Resistance and uprising

Treblinka II - Resistance and uprising

The camp staff was afraid of the resistance of the people brought to Treblinka. Reinforced precautions had already been taken at the Treblinka railway station. However, there were incidents. There are no materials to indicate the number of these events.

The prisoners realised that working only for a short time prolongs their lives. The only effective weapon was escape. Not many managed to do so. Actually, there were only two ways. Either a prisoner escaped from the unit that worked outside the camp or left hidden in a freight wagon with garments. Some of them tried to get out with the underground tunnel. Unfortunately, the escape was unsuccessful. All those who undertook the escape and were caught, were killed, often in great tortures. The prisoners from a given unit were punished for successful escapes. Usually 10 people were shot for one fugitive.

The prisoners in the camp knew that the only way out was an armed uprising, because then they would either die in battle or escape. A secret organisation was founded, first in camp 1, then in camp 2. |The prisoners formed “fives” – groups of 5 people each, and if possible, they gathered blunt tools, wooden boards and pegs needed to push through the wire fence, as well as petrol to set the buildings on fire.

At the beginning of 1943, the Organising Committee was set up, who after many defeats (typhus epidemic, failure to acquire weapons by bribery of watchmen) prepared the uprising. The committee also included Jews who survived the Warsaw ghetto uprising and were brought to Treblinka in April and May. Its members included: Zelomir Bloch, Rudolf Masaryk, Marceli Galewski, Sudowicz, Salzburg, Samuel Rajman, Julian Chorążycki, Irena Lewkowska, Moněk, Leon Haberman, Lubling, Zeichet.

In camp 2, the Organising Committee collected 10-12 people and was operating probably since March 1943. The resistance group in camp 2 was initially formed independently, but in April 1943 Bloch was transferred there and took the lead.

In July 1943, the burning of the excavated corpses was basically completed. The transports came less and less frequently and the prisoners feared that the liquidation would take place any day. The formation of a secret organisation was possible due to a smaller rotation of prisoners, when their personal status stabilised. The staff assured the prisoners that they would stay alive if they worked well.

The plan of the uprising was to steal weapons and ammunition from the guardhouse, set fire to all camp structures, and attack the occupants by the prisoners from camps 1 and 2. It was planned to kill as many guards as possible, to carry out a mass escape of inmates and after crossing the Bug river with survivors’ groups to join partisans in the forest of Białystok. The prisoners counted on the help of about 400 detainees from the penal labour camp, who were returning on railway platforms from the railway station in Małkinia and were driving past the death camp at about 4 p.m. In case of full success, the plan was to attack the crew of the labour camp, release the prisoners and burn down the buildings.

The uprising broke out on 2 August 1943 in the afternoon. It was Monday, a day off. There were no transports on Mondays.

Before 4 p.m., the conspirators had stolen weapons, ammunition and grenades from the guardhouse, with a key that had been duplicated earlier. The action had to start before the scheduled time, because SS officer Kurt Küttner found gold on one of the prisoners who was involved in the preparation of the uprising, and began the investigation immediately. The conspirators were surprised by the situation and decided to act at once. There was a chaotic shooting, some buildings were set ablaze, and Stanislaus Lichtblau from Moravian Ostrava, employed in the garage and who was nicknamed “Standa”, blew up a tank of petrol. However, the destruction of gas chambers failed and the telephone line was not interrupted. The biggest attack was at the main gate, which was broke through after suffering heavy losses. Several kilometres away, a black column of smoke could be seen above the camp. From the commandant’s office Stangl managed to establish contact with units stationed nearby. The occupants from Małkinia, Sokołów Podlaski, Kosów Lacki, Ostrów Mazowiecka rushed to help. In total, hundreds of people were chasing the fleeing Jews. The uprising lasted 20-30 minutes, of which shooting continued for about 10 minutes.

On the day of the uprising there were 840 prisoners in the camp, of which 105 did not participate in the uprising at all – they were mentally tired and resigned people. It is assumed that only about 200 people managed to get out of the camp and escaped the chase. Of this number, at most 100 people survived the war. After the Red Army occupied these areas, about 40 survivors were found, some of whom hid in the surrounding forests. The first meeting of the former prisoners of Treblinka II took place on 21 January 1945 on the initiative of the Central Jewish Historical Commission. It was probably then that the Treblinka Former Prisoners’ Circle was formed, who held a meeting on 15 July 1945 in the apartment of Oskar Strawczyński, a former prisoner of the extermination camp. The meeting was attended by 15 prisoners from the extermination camp and 3 prisoners from the labour camp.

There are no reliable data on the casualties among SS-officers and Ukrainians, and the reports on this issue are contradictory. Most probably there were no Germans among the fatalities.

The uprising in Treblinka echoed loudly. The underground press widely commented on this event, including Informacja Bieżąca No. 32 (105) of 18 August 1943.

List of prisoners who survived the Extermination Camp Treblinka II:

  1. Augustyniak Czesław
  2. Berkowicz Jechiel
  3. Berman Minia
  4. Berżer Oskar
  5. Bomba Abraham
  6. Boraks Gustav
  7. Brener Henoch
  8. Ciechanowski Cham
  9. Ciechanowski Leizer
  10. Czarny Josef
  11. Czechowicz Baron
  12. Cymlich Israel
  13. Diament Nachman
  14. Domb Jakob
  15. Duszkiewicz Berl
  16. Jakob/Jankiel Eisner/Ejzner
  17. Epstein Pinchas
  18. Finkelstein Leon
  19. Finkelsztejn Hersz
  20. Gelbard Aron
  21. Glazar Richard
  22. Goldberg Szymon
  23. Goldfarb Abraham
  24. Gołaszewski Zenon
  25. Gostyński Zygmunt
  26. Grabinski Sonia
  27. Grinberg Tanhum
  28. Grinsbach Eliahu
  29. Gross Yosef
  30. Grynszpan Szymon (Treblinka I)
  31. Gutman Józef
  32. Helfand Adam
  33. Jakubowicz Jacob
  34. Jakóbskind Lejzer
  35. Jankowski Kalman
  36. Kelin Judah
  37. Kohn /Kon Shalom /Stanisław
  38. Kon Abe
  39. Koszycki Jacob
  40. Krawiec Kałmen
  41. Kudlik Arie /Alexander
  42. Lachman
  43. Laks Moszek /Mietek
  44. Lewi Leon
  45. Lewkowicz Sonia
  46. Lindwasser Abraham
  47. Luck Moshe
  48. Markus
  49. Miedziński Szmul
  50. Mitelberg M.
  51. Mydło Mojżesz
  52. Müller Jakub
  53. Pacanowski Moshe
  54. Petakowski Marek
  55. Perelsztejn Leon
  56. Platkiewicz Maniek
  57. Porzeczki Moshe
  58. Posowalski /Pazovalski Henryk
  59. Henryk Rajchman /Yechiel M. Reichman
  60. Rajgrodzki Jerzy /Georg
  61. Rajzman Samuel/Szmuel
  62. Rak Meir
  63. Rappaport Moshe
  64. Rojtman
  65. Rojzman Berek
  66. Rosenberg Ela/
  67. Eliahu
  68. Shneiderman Wolf
  69. Siedlecki Joseph
  70. Strawczyński Oscar
  71. Sperling Henryk/Hersz/Henry
  72. Srawczyński Zygmunt
  73. Sukno Bronka
  74. Szejnberg Wolf
  75. Szmulewicz Jacob
  76. Sztajer Haim
  77. Taigman Kalman
  78. Tobiasz Mieczysław
  79. Turowski Eugeniusz
  80. Unger Karel (Charles)
  81. Warszawski Szyja
  82. Wasser
  83. Weinstein Eddi
  84. Wiernik Jankiel
  85. Willenberg Samuel
  86. Ziegelman

Source: A. Donat, The death camp Treblinka.

A documentary, New York 1979, s. 279–291, A. Bombe(a), Moja ucieczka z Treblinki, [w:] Tam był kiedyś mój dom … Księgi pamięci gmin żydowskich. Lublin 2009, s.427 – 431. Eddi Weinstein, 17 dni w Treblince, Łosice 2008, s.47. Ustalenia Edwarda Kopówki oraz Aliny Skibińskiej.