Death Camp Treblinka: Survivor Stories


This programme contains scenes which

some viewers may find upsetting.

In August 1944, a Red Army offensive

swept into Nazi-occupied Poland.

Following the railway toward

Warsaw, Russian scouts

came across

an eerie forest clearing.

An attempt had been made to erase

every trace

of what had happened here.

There were no buildings,

no bodies,

no mass graves.

But the earth did not conspire

in the cover-up.

This was Treblinka, the dark heart

of the Nazi Holocaust.

Its gas chambers once stood here.

Nowhere in human history

had 800,000 human beings

been murdered in such a short time.

Only two last survivors can now

tell of the hell of Treblinka.

We found small children,

newborn children.

No-one had liberated these men.

They had staged a prisoners' revolt

and fought their way out.

There were flames, smoke,

explosions, gunfire.

The swastika was burning

and fell down.

Everything was burning.

After the escape,

they would pursue vengeance,

waging war on the SS

in Warsaw's bloody uprising.

And justice,

confronting a key architect

of Nazi genocide

in the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

So you were in Treblinka 1? Yes.

The selection started right here.

Women were sent to the left,

men to the right.

Final witnesses to monstrous crimes.

This is the story

of two extraordinary men

who journeyed into the abyss

and achieved the miracle

of surviving Treblinka.

Kalman Taigman lives by the sea

in Israel,

far from his birthplace in Poland.

His Zionist father

had emigrated here in 1935,

but efforts to bring young Kalman

and his mother had failed.

In the fateful summer of 1942,

they were factory workers

in Warsaw's Jewish ghetto.

A time of bitter memory.

Since the German invasion of 1939,

Poland's Jews had been subjected

to persecution and forced labour.

The majority had been rounded up,

and corralled inside hundreds

of ghettos.

Warsaw was the biggest.

Over 400,000 were crammed

into a tiny, unliveable area,

sealed off behind high walls.

The death toll through disease

and deliberate starvation

was appalling.

Terrible days.

You'd go out in the morning,

you have to go to work.

You can see dead people

on the sidewalk.

The family, after the person died,

took from him the clothing,

to sell.

And to buy something to eat.

Yet such cruelty was just a prelude

to the unimaginable.

Many Jews in Poland

believed that the worst was over,

that if they were able to work,

if they could work for the Germans,

then they would be left alone.

They were not to know that

a decision was being taken

that would lead ultimately

to the liquidation

of all the ghettos in Poland

as part of a plan to annihilate the

entire Jewish population of Europe.

Racial hatred, military conquest

and new empire in the east

impelled Hitler in late 1941

toward a "final solution"

of the Jewish question.


SS Einsatzgruppen

had already slaughtered

hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews

in mass shootings behind the lines.

Now, Heinrich Himmler's SS

was authorised to cleanse,

or annihilate, all Europe's Jews,

by industrial means.

Adolf Eichmann would organise

the transportation of Jews,

by rail, from across the continent

to the death camps.

In May 1942, the Nazis began filming

Warsaw's doomed Jews for posterity.

Not even the children

were to be spared.

The death factory being built to

kill them all was virtually ready.

Mass deportations

began on July 23rd.

They came in the morning.

They brought together 6,000 people,

and then they sent away.

They told us

we are going to work in the east.

I didn't know I'm going to Treblinka.

I didn't know.

Samuel Willenberg is an artist

living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

He has turned searing

wartime memories into bronze.

And his drawings

give a rare illustration

of life inside Treblinka.

That tense summer of 1942, he was

on the run, outside the ghettos,

140 miles south of Warsaw.

He was in Czestochowa, a sacred

Catholic place of pilgrimage,

with his mother and two sisters.

Samuel grew up here, a headstrong

tearaway with Aryan looks

who blended easily

into Polish society.

Now fugitives with forged papers,

they had taken rooms here,

in the very shadow

of the Jasna Gora monastery.

But for Jews, the risk of betrayal

was ever-present.

But, stunned and despondent,

Samuel hesitated.

In October, he too was rounded up

and deported to the east.

Hidden just 60 miles northeast

of Warsaw, Treblinka was the last

and most lethal of three

new extermination camps.

With Sobibor and Belzec,

Treblinka served Aktion or

Operation Reinhard -

the SS plan to liquidate over

two million Polish Jews.

The three camps that were

the core of Aktion Reinhard

were constructed with one purpose,

and only one purpose.

That was mass murder.

They weren't like Auschwitz which

had a huge camp population

which was used for work purposes.

They were quite small,

about 400 metres by 600 metres.

They were near to railroads

so that Jewish populations could be

delivered to them quickly

and easily.

They were in remote locations

because they were not meant to

service any kind of industry.

They were not meant to have any

function other than mass murder.

At Treblinka's two sister camps,

SS technicians had already refined

the process of deception

and mass killing.

The German overseers numbered

just 30,

supported by over 100 troniki -

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Adam Kemp

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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