Treblinka Death Camp Closes Operation, 1944
On This Day in Jewish History: July 23, 1944
Treblinka Extermination Camp, originally established as a forced-labor camp, quickly became one of the three killing centers alongside Belzec and Sobibor linked to Operation Reinhard, the SS plan to murder almost 2 million Jews living in the General Government, the German-administered territory of occupied Poland.
In November 1941, Treblinka I opened its doors as a forced labor camp. Built close to the railway junction in a larger village, it provided a good connection between the cities of Warsaw, Lublin, Radom and Bialystok. Less than one year later in July 1942, construction was finished on Treblinka II, the killing center. Built one mile south of the labor camp, Treblinka II was heavily wooded and hidden from view, thus concealing the true horrors of the camp.
Used for heavy labor, the inmates of Treblinka I were deployed for forced labor in a nearby gravel pit and the railway line as well as the construction of the second camp. After the completion of Treblinka II, German officials initially had the forced laborers bury the bodies of the dead in mass graves. However, they soon decided to have the laborers burn the bodies in open-air ‘ovens’ in order to destroy all evidence of mass murder.
The lack of resources, overworking of laborers, and brutality of the guards caused widespread death in Treblinka I as well as frequent transfers to Treblinka II. While German authorities ordered Treblinka II to be dismantled in the fall of 1943, 925,000 Jews had already been murdered via the gas chambers, guns, or the harsh conditions of the camps. Slide 5: With Soviet troops moving into the area, camp authorities and guards shot the remaining 300-700 Jews at Treblinka in 1944. The camp was hastily dismantled and evacuated, leaving all traces of evidence destroyed. A German farmer was then deployed at the property to camouflage the reality of Treblinka. Slide 6: While the remains of the buildings are gone, the site of Treblinka remains today as a memorial complex. Complete with stones that create the map of the camp & representing each of the full communities who perished there. May their memories be a blessing.