[Note: The following set of documents from Yad Vashem was transcribed by
Kenneth McVay and appeared in Newsgroups: alt.revisionism.soc.history]

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard":  
Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka 

1.   Background & Introduction 
2.   The Personnel of Operation Reinhard 
3.   The Construction of Belzec 
4.   The Construction of Sobibor 
5.   The Construction of Treblinka 
6.   Belzec, from March 17 til June 1942 
7.   Sobibor - from May to July 1942 
8.   Treblinka - from July 23 to August 28, 1942 
9.   The Construction of Larger Gas Chambers 
10.  The Attempt to Remove Traces 
11.  The Liquidation of the Camps

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
"Operation Reinhard":  
Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
Yitzhak Arad  
     SOON AFTER THE task forces had began their campaign of extermination 
in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union, the deputy of the Governor 
General Hans Frank, Secretary of State Dr. Bu"hler, remarked at the 
Wannsee Conference:  
          ...that the General Government would welcome it if a start were
     to be made on the final solution of this question in the General
     Government, because here transportation does not pose a real problem
     nor would the deployment of a labor force interfere with the process
     of this operation Jews should be removed from the area of the General
     Government as quickly as possible, because it is here that the Jew
     represents a serious danger as a carrier of epidemics, and in addition
     his incessant black marketeering constantly upsets the country's
     economic structure.  Of the approximately 2.5 million Jews in
     question, the majority are anyway unfit for work.
          Secretary of State Dr. Bu"hler furthermore stated that the
     solution of the Jewish question in the General Government is under 
     the control of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD and that
     his activities are supported by the authorities in the General
     Government.  He [Bu"hler] has only one request: that the Jewish
     question in this region be solved as quickly as possible. (The
     so-called "Wannsee Protokoll," original in the Archives of  the
     Foreign Office, Bonn.) 
     Dr.  Bu"hler's request was given a positive response.  The General 
Government consisted of the districts of Warsaw, Cracow, Lublin, Radom, 
and Lvov.  According to the estimate of the German authorities, they were
inhabited by approximately 2,284,000 Jews.  A special organization was set
up in Lublin to prepare for their extermination.  The actual killing was to
be carried out in three death camps -- Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, at
the eastern border of the General Government.
     The geographical location of the extermination sites also served as a
pretext for the claim that the Jews were to be deported to ghettos in the
East.  Their disappearance could thus be explained in terms of their
transportation to labor camps in the huge areas then occupied by the German
armed forces in the Soviet Union.

     SS-Brigadefu"hrer Otto Globocnik was entrusted with conducting
Operation Reinhard -- named after Reinhard Heydrich who had been
assassinated on May 2, 1942.  In this office he was Himmler's immediate
subordinate; as the commandant of SS and Police in the Lublin district he
was subordinate to the Supreme SS- and Polizeifu"hrer of the General
Government, Obergruppenfu"hrer Friedrich Kruger.
     The principal tasks of Globocnik and his staff in Operation Reinhard
were: the overall planning of the deportations and of the extermination
operations; the construction of extermination camps; to coordinate the
deportation of Jews from the different administrative districts to the
extermination camps; the killing of the Jews in the camps; to secure their
belongings and valuables and transfer them to the appropriate German
     Headquarters of Operation Reinhard was responsible for coordinating 
the timing of the transports with the absorption capacity of the camps.
     The organization and supervision of the respective transports from 
the entire area of the General Government and later on also from other
European countries was the task of the RSHA and its departments as well 
as of the supreme commandant of the SS and Police and his subordinate
     To date no written orders by Himmler to Globocnik concerning 
Operation Reinhard have been discovered.  A reason for this may be that
either Himmler issued no written statement on this subject, or that any
orders and directives were destroyed.  (Nuremberg Document 4024-PS

                          YAD VASHEM STUDIES XVI 
                          Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 

"Operation Reinhard":  Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
                              Yitzhak Arad  

                   The Personnel of Operation Reinhard 
     Preparations for Operation Reinhard were initiated more than six
months before Himmler's order to commence the Aktion and at the latest two
months prior to the Wannsee Conference.  The first tasks were to organize
the labor force and to construct the extermination centers.  Upon
completion of his task, Globocnik, in a letter dated October 27, 1943 to
the Personnel Headquarters in Berlin, provided a detailed report, which
sets out the total number of personnel involved in this operation -- 434
men.  (Original in the US Documentation Center, Berlin.) 
     In the construction and handling of the gassing installations, 
experienced former workers from the "Euthanasia" programs occupied leading
positions in the planning, building, and administration of the Belzec,
Sobibor, and Treblinka extermination camps.  In the late autumn of 1941 the
Belzec and later the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps were set up,
as was a training ca np for "foreign" personnel -- Ukrainian volunteers --
in Trawniki, as well as the camp in the "old airport" of Lublin where the
clothes and movable belongings of the victims were stored. 
     As head of the main department on Globocnik's staff, SS-
Sturmbannfu"hrer Ho"fle was responsible for organizing and deploying 
the work force.  He also coordinated the timing of the arrival of the
extermination transports at the different camps.  During the first months
of Operation Reinhard, all extermination camps were under Globocnik's
direct control; at the beginning of August 1942 Christian Wirth was
appointed Inspector of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. (The documents do
not specify that Wirth's area of command extended also to Kulmhof.) 
About twenty to thirty SS-men served in each camp.  Most of them had
formerly been engaged in the "Euthanasia" Operation.  The camp commandants
held the rank of SS-Ober- or Hauptsturmfu"hrer.  The others also held
noncommissioned officer ranks.  No rank-and-file SS-men were employed in
any of the camps. 
Units composed of Ukrainians with some volksleutsche (ethnic Germans) were
assigned to assist the German camp personnel.  The formation and training
of such units took place in the "Trawniki SS-Training-Camp" which had been
set up in the autumn of 1941.  Afterwards, they were distributed among the
camps in groups of 60 to 120 men with their own leaders, usually ethnic
Germans.  Some of the units assembled in Trawniki were also brought into
action in the ghettoes during the deportation of Jews, for example, at the
time of the transportation of the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the
Treblinka extermination camp.  (StA Wiesbaden AZ: 8Js 1145-60 with
plentiful evidence ; verdict in the criminal
proceedings StA Hamburg AZ: 147 Ks 2/75 of 17.5.1976 .)
The first Jews brought to the camps were those from the vicinity.  They
were used for construction work and also performed various services for the
German camp personnel.  They were generally skilled workers or craftsmen
such as carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, and shoemakers. As soon as the
construction phase was completed, most of them were killed in trial
     When the organized mass gassings began, the camp administration needed
more and more workers from amongst the death transports.  A few, especially
skilled workers, were employed in the extermination camps according to the
specific directives of the German and Ukrainian camp leaders.  Others had
to work in the gas chambers, removing and incinerating the corpses, and
also sorting the clothes and baggage of the victims.  In the initial
period, in particular, they were kept alive for only a few days or weeks
before being killed and replaced by Jews from newly arrived transports.  In
each of the camps the Jewish labor force consisted of 600 to 1,000
prisoners.  At a later stage Jewish prisoners became part of the permanent
staff of the camp.  While members of the German or Ukrainian camp personnel
were occasionally transferred to other camps, once Jewish prisoners had
entered a camp they never left it again. 

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
"Operation Reinhard":  Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
Yitzhak Arad  
            The Construction of the Belzec Extermination Camp  
Belzec, a small town in the southeast of the district of Lublin, close to
the border of the district of Lvov and on the Lublin- Zamosc-Rawa
Ruska-Lvov railroad line, was selected as the locality for the first
extermination camp.  The area specified for the camp was a railroad siding
half a kilometer from the Belzec railroad station. 
The Pole Stanislaw Kozak described the beginning of its construction: 
          In October of the year 1941 three SS-men came to Belzec and 
     demanded 20 men for the work from the municipal administrauon.
     The local council chose 20 workers from among the inhabitants of
     Belzec, and I was one of them.  The Germans selected the terrain to
     the southeast of the railroad station, which adjoined a siding.  The
     railway line to Lvov runs along this sidetrack.  We began to work on
     November 1,1941, with the construction of huts on the plot adjoining
     the siding.  One of the huts which stood right next to the siding was
     50 m.  Iong and 12.5 m.  wide.  The second hut, which was 25 m.  Iong
     and 12.5 m.  wide, was intended for the Jews who went to the baths. 
     Next to this hut we built a third hut, which was 12 m.  long and 8 m. 
     wide.  This hut was divided into three sections by wooden walls, so
     that each section was 4 m. wide and 8 m.long.  These sections were 2
     m.  high.  The interior walls of these huts were built such that we
     nailed the boards to them, filling in the empty space with sand. 
     Inside the hut the walls were covered with cardboard; in addition the
     floors and the walls, to a height of 1.10 m.  [were covered] with
     sheet-zinc.  A 3 m. broad avenue, fenced in with barbed wire, which
     was also 3 m. high, led from the first to the second of the
     above-mentioned huts.  A part of this fence, facing the siding and
     beyond it, was covered with pines and firs which had been specially
     felled, in order to conceal the siding.  From the second hut a covered
     passage, ca.  2m.  wide, 2 m.  high, and ca.  10 m. long, led to the
     third hut.  By way of this passage one reached the passage of the
     third hut, from which three doors led to its three sections.  Each
     section of this hut had a door on its northern side, approximately
     1.80 m.  high and 1.10 m.  wide. These doors, like the doors to the
     passage, were closely fitted with rubber.  All the doors in this hut
     opened toward the outside.    
          The doors were very strongly built of three-inch thick planks and
     were secured against pressure from inside by a wooden bolt that was
     pushed inside two iron hooks specially fitted for this purpose.  In
     each of the three sections of this hut water pipes were fixed at a
     height of 10 cm.  from the floor.  In addition, on the western wall of
     each section of this hut water pipes branched off at an angle to a
     height of 1 m.  from the floor, ending in an opening directed toward
     the middle of the hut.  The elbow-plpes were connected to pipes which
     ran along the walls and under the floor...  The trench has been dl.g
     by 70 "blacks," that is to say, by former Soviet soldiers who worked
     with the Germans.  It was 6 m.  deep, 20 m.  wide, and 50 m.  long. 
     This was the first ditch in which the Jews, killed in the
     extermination camp, were buried. The "blacks" dug this ditch in six
     weeks, at the time when we built the huts.  This ditch was later
     continued as far as the middle of the northern border.  That was
     already at a time when we no longer worked on building the huts.  The
     first hut which I mentioned was at a distance of approximately 20 m. 
     from the siding and 100 m.  from the southern border.  At that time
     when we Poles were building the huts, the "blacks" put up the fence
     around the extermination camp; it consisted of posts with closely
     spaced barbed wire.  After we had built the three huts described
     above, the Germans dismissed us Poles from work on December 22,
     1941.(StA Munich 1, AZ:32Js 64-83-61 .)  
     In the second half of December, Christian Wirth was appointed Camp 
Commandant of Belzec, with Josef Oberhauser as his adjutant.
SS-Scharfu"hrer Erich Fuchs reported on Wirth's arrival in Belzec: 
          One day in the winter of 1941, Wirth put together a transport to
     Poland.  I was selected along with ca.  eight to ten others and
     transferred to Belzec in three motorcars...  Upon our arrival in
     Belzec we met Friedel Schwarz and two other SS-men whose names I do
     not remember.  They served as guards during the building of a hut
     which we were to fit out as a gas chamber.
          Wirth told us that in Belzec "all Jews were to be bumped off."
     For this purpose the huts were fitted out as gas chambers.  I
     installed shower nozzles in the gas chambers.  The nozzles were not
     connected to a water pipe because they were only meant to serve as
     camouflage for the gas chambers.  The Jews who were to be gassed were
     untruthfully informed that they were to be bathed and disinfected. 
     (StA Dortmund AZ: 45Js 27-61 )  
     Wirth developed his own ideas on the basis of the experience he had 
gained in the "Euthanasia" program.  Thus, in Belzec he decided to supply
the fixed gas chamber with gas produced by the internal- combustion engine
of a motorcar.  Wirth rejected Cyanide B which was later used at Auschwitz. 
This gas was produced by private firms and its extensive use in Belzec
might have aroused suspicion and led to problems of supply.  He therefore
preferred a system of extermination based on ordinary, universally
available gasoline and diesel fuel. 
     At the end of Febraury 1942 the installations for mass extermination 
were completed.  The first two or three transports, each consisting of four
to six freight cars fully loaded with a hundred or more Jews, were used for
trial killings in order to test the capacity and efficiency of the gas
chambers and the technique of the extermination process.  The tests lasted
several days.  The last group to be killed consisted of the Jewish
prisoners who had taken part in building the camp.  (See note 6 ) 
     Bottled carbon monoxide was used for these experiments.  However, a
short while later the gassings were carried out with carbon monoxide 
from the exhaust fumes a of motorcar engine.  The engine from an armored
vehicle ("250 h.p.") was installed in a shed outside the gas chamber,
whence the gas was piped into the gas chamber.  Wirth continued to
experiment in his search for the most effective method of handling the
transports of Jews, from their arrival at the camp to their extermination
and the subsequent removal of the corpses.  Everything was arranged in such
a way that the victims should remain unaware of their impending doom.  The
intention was to convey to them the impression that they had arrived at a
work or transit camp from which they would be sent on to another camp. 
     In addition, everything was to proceed at top speed so that the
victims would have no chance to grasp what was going on.  Their reactions
were to be paralyzed to prevent escape attempts or acts of resistance. 
     The speedy process was to increase the camp's extermination capacity. 
In this way, several transports could be received and liquidated on one and
the same day. 
     The entire camp covered a relatively small, flat, rectangular area.
Its southern side measured 265 m., the other sides ca.  275 m.  It was
surrounded by a high wire fence, with barbed wire attached at the top and
camouflaged with branches.  Young trees were pianted along the fence so
that no one would be able to look into the camp from the outside.  There
were three watchtowers in the corners, two of them on the eastern perimeter
and the third on the southwestern one.  There was an additional watch tower
in the center of the camp, near the gas chambers.  A railroad track some
500 m.  in length led from the Belzec railroad station into the camp
through the gate on its northern side.  The southern and eastern boundaries
were lined with conifers. 
     Belzec was divided into two areas.  Camp I, in the northwest, was the 
reception and administrative sector; Camp II, in the eastern section, was
the extermination sector. 
     The reception sector comprised the railroad ramp, which had room for 
twenty freight cars, and two huts for the arrivals -- one for undressing
and the other for storing clothes and baggage.  Camp II, the extermination
sector, comprised the gas chambers and the mass graves which were located
in the eastern and northeastern part.  The gas chambers were surrounded by
trees and a camouflage net was spread over their roof to prevent
observation from the air.  There were also two huts in this sector for the
Jewish prisoners working here: one served as their living quarters, the
other as the kitchen.  Camp II was completely separated from the other
sector by a strictly guarded gate. 
     A low path, 2 m.  wide and 50-70m.  Iong, known as the "tube," fenced 
in on both sides with barbed wire and partly partitioned off by a wooden
fence, connected the hut in Camp I where the arrivals undressed with the
gas chambers in Camp II.  The living quarters of the SS-men were at a
distance of ca.  500 m.  from the camp, near the Belzec railroad station. 
All the SS-men were employed in the camp administration.  Each SS- man had
his specific job and some of them were assigned more than one task.  From
time to time there was an exchange in the spheres of responsibility. 
(Ibid., vol. VII, pp. 1288,1384; vol VIII, p.  1465) 
     SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Gottfried Schwarz was the Deputy Camp Commandant, 
SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Niemann was in charge of the extermination sector of
Camp II, and SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Josef Oberhauser, Wirth's adjutant, held
responsibility for the con- struction of the camp. SS-Oberscharfu"hrer
Lorenz Hackenholt, together with two Ukrainians working under him, was
responsible for the operation of the gas chambers. 
     The Ukrainian unit numbered 60-80 men, divided into two groups.  The
Ukrainians served as security guards inside the camp, at the entrance gate,
and on the four watch towers; they also carried out several patrols.  Some
of them assisted in operat- ing the gas chambers. Before the arrival of a
transport, the Ukrainians were deployed as guards around the ramp, at the
hut for undressing and along the "tube," as iar as the gas chambers. 
During the experimental killings they had to remove the corpses from the
gas chambers and bury them. Later on,Jewish prisoners were forced to do
this work.  

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
"Operation Reinhard":  Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
Yitzhak Arad  
           The Construction of the Sobibor Extermination Camp  
     Sobibor, a village in a thinly populated region on the Chelm- Wlodawa 
railroad line, was chosen by the Central Building Administration 
(SS-Zenttalbauverwaltung) in Lublin as a suitable locality for an
additional extermination camp.  (Verdict of LG Hagen AZ:II Ks 1/64,p.64
     The camp extended westward from the Sobibor railroad station, along 
the railroad track, and was surrounded by a thin coniferous wood.  Near the
railroad station buildings a siding led into the camp where the deportation
trains were unloaded.  Originally there were two wooden houses in this
locality, a former forester's house and a two-storey post office.  The
total area of the camp measured 12 hectares, forming a 600 x 400 m. 
rectangle.  Later on the area was enlarged. 
     Construction of the camp began in March 1942 after the extermination 
operations in Belzec had already started.  Richard Thomalla, head of the
Central Building Administration in Lublin, was in charge of its
construction.  The workers employed for this purpose were local people 
from the neighborhood. 
     At the beginning of April 1942 the building operations slowed down. 
In order to speed up the work, Globocnik appointed SS-Obersturmfu"hrer
Franz Stangl as camp commandant.  However, he first sent him to Belzec to
gain experience in operating a camp. (Gitta Sereny, Into the Darkness,
London, 1974.  , pp.  109 f.  The British writer and
journalist, Gitta Sereny, had the opportunity to talk to Franz Stangl, the
former commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, (while he was in
custody).  After Stangl assumed his post, the construction of the camp was
accelerated.  A group of Jews from the ghetto of the Lublin 'Bezirk' 
was brought in for construction work. 
     The first gas chambers in Sobibor were housed in a strong brick 
building with concrete foundations, in the northeastern part of the camp. 
Inside were three gas chambers; each measured 4 x 4 m.  and could hold
150-200 people at a time.  Each chamber had a separate entrance door
leading off from a platform on the long side of the terrain.  Opposite the
entrance was another door through which the corpses were removed.  As in
Belzec, the exhaust fumes were conducted through pipes from a nearby shed
into the gas chambers. 
     Upon completion of the construction work, extermination tests were 
conducted in mid-April 1942.  Wirth came to Sobibor in order to follow the
experiments.  He was accompanied by a chemist whose pseudonym was Dr.
Blaurock (or Blaubacke).  SS-Unterscharfu"hrer Erich Fuchs, who served in
Belzec, described the preparations for the first gassing trials: 

          On Wirth's instructions I travel led by truck to Lvov and
     collected a gassing engine there, which I transported to Sobibor.  In
     Sobibor...  [we] unloaded the engine.  It was a heavy Russian gasoline
     engine [probably a tank or train er.gine] with at least 200 h.p.
     [V-enginel 8 cylinders, water cooled].  We stood the engine on a
     concrete base and connected the exhaust to the pipe conduit.  Then I
     tried out the engine.  To begin with, it did not function.  I managed
     to repair the ignition and the ventils so that the motor finally
     started.  The chemist, whom I already knew from Belzec, entered the
     gas chamber with a measuring instrument in order to test the gas
     concentration.  Next, an experimental gassing was carried out.  I seem
     to recall that 30-40 women were gassed in one chamber.  The Jewesses
     had to undress on a covered piece of wooded ground near the gas
     chamber and were driven into the gas chamber by...  members of the SS
     as well as by Ukrainian volunteers.  When the women were locked into
     the gas chamber, I, together with Bauer, operated the engine. 
     Initially the engine idled.  We both stood next to the engine and
     switched from free-exhaust so that the gases were conducted into the
     chamber.  At the suggestion of the chemist, I adjusted the engine to a
     certain number of revs per minute so that no more gas had to be
     supplied.  After approximately 10 minutes all the women were dead. 
     The chemist and the SS-Fu"hrer gave the signal to switch off the
     motor.  I packed up my tools and saw how the corpses were removed. 
     Transport was by means of a rail-trolley which ran from the gas
     chamber to a distant area. (StA Dortmund AZ:45 Js 27-61 ) 
     After this experiment, which confirmed the smooth functioning of the 
gas chambers, and the completion of some other construction work, the 
Sobibor extermination camp was ready to operate.  It was an improved 
version of Belzec.  The camp was divided into three parts: an
administration sector, a reception sector, and an extermination sector. 
The administration and reception sectors were near the railroad station,
while the extermination sector was ill a distant part of the camp, even
more isolated than in Belzec. 
     The administration area in the southeastern part was subdivided into
two camps: the "Pre-Camp" ( Vorlager) and Camp I.  The Pre-Camp consisted
of the entrance gate, the railroad ramp, and the living quarters of the
SS-men, the Ukrainians, and their servants--in contrast to Belzec, here all
the SS-men lived inside the camp.  Camp I was the area set aside for the
Jewish prisoners who worked in Sobibor.  This is where their living
quarters and workshops were located and where a few of them worked as
shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths, etc. 
     The reception sector was called Camp II.  After being unloaded, the 
new arrivals were chased into this area where the huts for undressing and
the storage sheds for their valuables were situated.  The former forester's
house, which was also in this area, served as camp offices and apartments
for some of the SS-men.  A high wooden fence separated the forester's house
from the reception sector. 
     The "tube," which connected Camp II with the extermination sector,
began at the northernmost corner of this fence: it was a narrow path, ca. 
3-4 m.  wide and 150 m.  long, fenced in on both sides with barbed wire
intertwined with branches.  Along this path the victims were chased into
the gas chambers which were located at the other end of the "tube." 
     Near the entrance to the "tube" were a cow shed, a pigsty, and a
chicken pen.  Halfway along the "tube" stood a hut known as the
"hairdresser's," where the Jewish women had their hair cropped before 
entering the gas chambers. 
     The extermination sector, designated as Camp III, was in the
northwestern part.  It comprised the gas chambers, the mass graves, and
separate barracks for the Jewish prisoners working there and for the
guards.  The mass graves were 50-60 m.  Iong, 10-15 m.  wide, and 5-7 m. 
deep.  The sidewalls of the ditches sloped in order to facilitate the
unloading of the corpses.  A narrow track for a trolley ran from the
railroad station, past the gas chambers, to the ditches.  People who had
died in the trains or were too weak to walk from the ramp to the gas
chamber were driven in this trolley. 
     The extermination sector was surrounded on all sides by barbed wire
with intertwined camouflage material.  Watch towers were located along the
fence and in the corners of the camp. 
     The staffing of the camp was settled simultaneously with the
completion of its basic installations.  Stangl's deputy was
SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Herrmann Michel, replaced a few months later by 
SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Gustav Wagner. 
     The Ukrainian company of guards in Sobibor was made up of three
platoons.  Erich Lachmann, a former police official who had trained the
Ukrainians in Trawniki, was placed in charge of this unit.  Being an
outsider among the "Euthanasia" group, he was replaced by Kurt Bolender in
the autumn of 1942.  In Sobibor, as in Belzec, each member of the German
personnel had a specific function.  Upon the arrival of a transport most of
the SS-men were given additional, specific tasks connected with the
extermination procedure. SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Erich Bauer later testified at
his trial: 

          Normally, every member of the permanent staff had a specific 
     function within the camp (commandant of the Ukrainian volunteers, head
     of a work commando, responsihility for digging ditches, responsibility
     for laying barbed wire and the like).  However, the arrival of a
     transport of Jews meant so much "work" that the usual occupations were
     stopped and every member of the permanent staff had to take some part
     in the routine extermination procedure.  Above all, every member of
     the permanent staff was at some time brought into action in unloading
     the transports.  (StA Dortmund AZ:45 Js 27-61 )   At the end of April 1942 the Sobibor
     extermination camp was operational.

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 

                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard": Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka 
                              Yitzhak Arad  
          The Construction of the Treblinka Extermination Camp  
     Construction of Treblinka began after Belzec and Sobibor were in 
operation.  The experience gained from the installation and the
extermination procedures in those two camps was taken into consideration in
the planning and building of Treblinka.  Thus, it became the most "perfect"
extermination camp of Operation Reinhard. 
     The camp was situated in the northeastern part of the General
Government, not far from Malkinia, a town with a railroad station on the
main Warsaw-Bialystok line and close to the Malkinia-Siedlce line. 
     The camp was erected in a sparsely populated region, 4 km. from the 
village of Treblinka and the railroad station. The site chosen for the camp
was wooded and thus naturally concealed. Since the spring of 1941 a
punishment camp had been located a few kilometers away, where Polish and
Jewish prisoners were made to process raw material from a gravel pit for
frontier fortifications. 
     At the end of April or the beginning of May 1942, an SS-unit decided 
on the location.  The size and master plan of Treblinka were identical to
those of Sobibor.  The construction of the extermination camp began at the
end of May or beginning of June 1942.  Richard Thomalla was in charge; he
had completed his construction job in Sobibor and had been relieved by
Stangl in April 1942.  In building the gas chambers he was assisted by
SS-Unterscharfu"hrer Erwin Lambert, a chief-of-construction for technical
matters from the "Euthanasia" program. The extermination sector was located
in the southwest, in an area measuring 200 x 250 m., totally separated from
the rest of the camp by barbed wire. As on the outside, branches were
intertwined with the barbed wire to hide it from view.  For the same
reason, the entrances were placed behind a special partition. The gas
chambers were housed in a massive brick building in the center.  The access
paths, including the "tube," in Treblinka named "Street to Heaven" by the
SS-men, were model led on those in Belzec and Sobibor; the same applied to
the "reception camp" and "accommodation camp." 
     During the first stage, three gas chambers were in operation, each of 
them, much like those in Sobibor,4 x 4 m. in size and 2.6 m. high. A diesel
engine producing poisonous carbon monoxide, as well as a generator which
supplied the whole camp with electricity, were housed in a built-on room. 
 The entrance doors of the gas chambers opened into a passage in front 
of the building; each door was 1.8 m. high and 90 cm. wide. They could be
hermetically closed and bolted from the outside. Inside each gas chamber,
opposite the entrance door, was a thick door made of wooden beams, 2.5 m.
high and 1.8 m. wide, which could also be hermetically closed.  The walls
in the gas chambers were covered with white tiles up to a certain height,
shower heads had been installed, and water pipes ran along the ceiling--all
this so as to maintain the "showers" fiction. In reality the pipes
conducted the poisonous gas into the chambers. When the doors were shut, it
was compeltely dark inside. 
     To the east of the gas chambers were huge ditches into which the 
corpses were thrown. They had been dug with an excavator from the gravel
pit in Treblinka. Prisoners had to participate in this work. The ditches
were 50 m. long, 25 m. wide, and 10 m. deep. A narrow-gauge track had been
laid from the gas chambers to transport the corpses to the ditches. 
Prisoners had to push the trolleys. 

     The main extermination installations were completed by mid-June 1942.
The murder operations began on July 23, 1942. 

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard": Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
                              Yitzhak Arad  

                 Belzec -- from March 17 till June 1942  
     Organized mass extermination began with the deportation of the Jews 
of Lublin on March 17,1942.  This date marks the actual onset of Operation
     When the train entered Belzec station, its 40-60 freight cars were 
rearranged into several separate transports because the reception capacity
inside the camp was 20 cars at the most.  Only after a set of cars had been
unloaded and sent back empty was another section of the transport driven
into the camp.  The accompanying security guards as well as the German and
Polish railroad personnel were forbidden to enter the camp.  (See note 6
     The train was brought into the camp by a specially selected and 
reliable team of railroad workers.  According to the concept of the 
extermination process, the procedure was as follows: 
          The camp looked "peaceful." The victims were unable to discern
     either graves, ditches or gas chambers.  They were led to believe that
     they had arrived at a transit camp.  An SS-man strengthened this
     belief by announcing that they were to undress and go to the baths in
     order to wash and be disinfected.  They were also told that afterwards
     they would receive clean clothes and be sent on to a work camp. 
          Separation of the sexes, undressing, and even the cropping of the
     women's hair could not but reinforce the impression that they were on
     their way to the baths.  First the men were led into the gas chambers,
     before they were able to guess what was going on; then it was the turn
     of the women and children.  (StA Munich 1, AZ. 22 Js 68/61, pp. 2625
     The gas chambers resembled baths.  A group of young and strong Jews, 
a few dozen, occasionally even a hundred, was usually selected during the
unloading of a transport.  Most of them were taken to Camp II. They were
forced to drag the corpses from the gas chambers and to carry them to the
open ditches.  Several prisoners were employed in collecting the victims'
clothes and belongings and carrying them to the sorting point. Others had
to remove from the train those who had died during the transport and to
take those unable to walk to the ditches in Camp II.  These Jews were
organized into work teams with their own Capos.  They did this work for a
few days or weeks.  Each day some of them were killed and replaced by new
     SS-man Karl Alfred Schluch, a former "Euthanasia" worker, who spent 
ca. sixteen months in Belzec from the very beginning, described what else
happened to the transports inside the camp:  
          The unloading of the freight cars was carried out by a Jewish
     work commando, headed by a Capo. Two to three members of the German
     camp personnel supervised it. It was one of my duties to supervise
     here.  After the unloading, those Jews able to walk had to make their
     way to the assembly site. During the unloading the Jews were told that
     they had come for resettlement but that first they had to be bathed
     and disinfected. The address was given by Wirth, and also by his
     interpreter, a Jewish Capo. Immediately after this, the Jews were led
     to the undressing huts. In one hut the men had to undress and in the
     other the women and children.  After they had stripped, the Jews, the
     men having been separated from the women and children, were led
     through the tube. I cannot recall with certainty who supervised the
     undressing huts... Since I was never on duty there I am unable to
     provide precise details about the stripping process. I just seem to
     remember that in the undressing hut some articles of clothing had to
     be left in one place, others in a different one, and in a third place
     valuables had to be handed over...
          My location in the tube was in the immediate vicinity of the
     undressing hut. Wirth had stationed me there because he thought me
     capable of having a calming effect on the Jews.  After the Jews left
     the undressing hut I had to direct them to the gas chamber. I believe
     that I eased the way there for the Jews because they must have been
     convinced by my words or gestures that they really were going to be
     bathed.  After the Jews had entered the gas chambers the doors were
     securely locked by Hackenholt himself or by the Ukrainians assigned to
     him.  Thereupon Hackenholt started the engine with which the gassing
     was carried out. After 5 - 7 minutes -- and I merely estimate this
     interval of time -- someone looked through a peephole into the gas
     chamber to ascertain whether death had overtaken them all. Only then
     were the outside gates opened and the gas chambers aired. Who did the
     checking, that is to say, who looked through the peephole? I can no
     longer say with any certainty...  In my view, probably everyone had
     occasion to look through the peephole.  After the gas chambers had
     been aired, a Jewish work commando headed by a Capo, arrived and
     removed the coryses.  Occasionally, I also had to supervise in this
     place.  I can therefore give an exact description of what happened,
     because I myself wimessed and experienced it all.  The Jews had been
     very tightly squeezed into the gas chambers.  For this reason the
     corpses did not lie on the floor but were caught this way and that,
     one bent forward, another one backward, one lay on his side another
     kneeled, all depending on the space.  At least some of the corpses
     were soiled with feces and urine, others partly with saliva.  I could
     see that the lips and tips of the noses of some of the corpses had
     taken on a bluish tint.  Some had their eyes closed, with others the
     eyes were turned up.  The corpses were pulled out of the chambers and
     immediately examined by a dentist.  The dentist removed rings and
     extracted gold teeth when there were any.  He threw the objects of
     value obtained in this manner into a cardboard box which stood there. 
     After this procedure the corpses were thrown into the large graves
     there. (See note 6 ) 
     It is difficult to establish exactly how many of the gas chambers 
were in operation during the first three months of the mass extermination
in Belzec.  At times not all three gas chambers functioned because of
technical problems or actual defects. Problems also arose with the burial
of the victims.  When a ditch was filled with corpses, it was covered with
a thin layer of soil.  As a result of the heat, the decomposition process,
and sometimes also because water seeped into the ditches, the bodies
swelled up and the thin layer of soil burst open. 
     Those no longer able to walk were led directly to the ditch where 
they were shot.  Robert Juhrs, an SS-man who started his service in Belzec
in the summer of 1942, described how such shootings were conducted:  
          At the beginning of the autumn of 1942, upon the arrival of a
     largish transport, I was assigned to the unloading site. On this
     transport the freight cars had been seriously overcrowded, and many
     Jews were unable to walk.  It is Possible that in the confusion a
     number of Jews had been pushed onto the floor and trampled on.  In any
     case, there were Jews who could not possibly have walked via the
     undressing huts.  As usual, Hering also turned up here for the
     unloading.  He ordered me to shoot these Jews... 
          The Jews in question were taken to the gate by the Jewish work
     commando and from there conveyed to the ditch by other working Jews. 
     As I recall, there were seven Jews, both men and women, who were laid
     inside the ditch. 
          At this point I should like to stress that the victims concerned
     were those persons who had suffered most severely from the transport. 
     I would say that they were more dead than alive.  It is hard to
     describe the condition of these people after the long journey in the
     indescribably overcrowded freight cars.  I looked upon killing these
     people in that manner as a kindness and a release.  (See note 6 ) 
     The first large Jewish community taken to Belzec for extermination 
came from Lublin.  Within four weeks, from March 17 to April 14, close to
30,000 of the 37,000 inhabitants of the ghetto were deported to Belzec. 
Within the same period of time an additional 18,000 - 20,000 Jews from the
Lublin Bezirk were sent to Belzec.
     The first Jewish transport from the Lvov Bezirk came from Zolkiew, a 
town 50 km.  southwest of Belzec.  This transport consisted of
approximately 700 Jews and reached Belzec on March 25 or 26,1942. 
Subsequently, within the two weeks up to April 6, 1942, some 30,000 other
Jews from the Lvov Bezirk arrived in Belzec. 
     After 80,000 Jews had been murdered in a major operation, which lasted
about four weeks, the transports were discontinued.  Toward the end of
April or the beginning of May 1942, Wirth and his SS-men left the camp. 
     At the beginning of May 1942 SS-Obe~fu"hrer Brack from Berlin visited 
Globocnik in Lublin.  Globocnik requested the return of Wirth and his 
staff, and also asked for additional personnel from the "Euthanasia" 
     In mid-May 1942 Wirth returned to Belzec.  Until the end of June more 
transports arrived from the Lublin and Krakow districts with about 22,000
     With the onset of the deportations from the Bezirks of Cracow, Lvov, 
and Lublin, Wirth realized that the wooden gas chambers could not cope with
the arrival of the increasing number of victirns. Deportations to Belzec
therefore ceased in mid-June 1942, while new gas chambers were being built
there.  This concluded the first period of the operation in Belzec.  


                          YAD VASHEM STUDIES XVI 
                          Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard": Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
                              Yitzhak Arad  
                    Sobibor -- from May to July 1942  
     The extermination installations in Sobibor had been tested in April
1942, and mass exterminations began during the first days of May. 
Commandant Stangl introduced into his camp the extermination techniques
employed in Belzec.  He received additional advice and guidance when Wirth
visited Sobibor.  (Sereny, pp.  110,113.)  
     Ada Lichtmann, a survivor from Sobibor, reported how the arrivals 
were "greeted":  
          We heard word for word how SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Michel, standing
     on a small table, convincingly calmed the people; he promised them
     that after the bath they would get back all their possessions, and
     said that the time had come for Jews to become productive members of
     society.  They would presently all be sent to the Ukraine where they
     would be able to live and work.  The speech inspired confidence and
     enthusiasm among the people.  They applauded spontaneously and
     occasionally they even danced and sang.  (Yad Vashem Archives
     0-3/1291, p. 18.)  
     Older people, the sick and invalids, and those unable to walk were 
told that they would enter an infirmary for medical treatment.  In reality,
they were taken on carts, pulled by men or horses, into Camp II, straight
to the open ditches where they were shot.  (StA Dortmund AZ: 45Js 27/61
     During the first weeks the arrivals had to undress in the open square 
in Camp Il.  Later, a hut was erected for this purpose.  (See plan of 
Sobibor in the appendix provided with the printed material) There were
signs pointing toward the "Cash Office" and the "Baths." At the "Cash
Office" the Jews had to deposit their money and valuables.  It was located
in the former forester's house, on the route along which the naked people
had to walk on their way to the "tube" and eke gas chambers.  The victims
handed over their money and valuables through the window of this room. 
They had been warned that those trying to hide something would be shot. 
When time permitted, the Jews were given numbers as receipts for the items
handed over, so as to lull them into a sense of security that afterwards
everything would be returned to them. (Verdict of LG Hagen AZ: 11 Ks 1/64,
p. 243 )  
     Transports which arrived in the evening or at night were unloaded and 
kept under guard in Camp II until the morning, when the people were taken
to the undressing huts and then led into the gas chambers. (Yad Vashem
Archives M-2/236, p. 2.) Extermination operations did not normally take
place at night. 
     Frequently, the entire procedure, from the unloading to entry into 
the gas chambers, was accompanied by beatings and other acts of cruelty on
the part of the Germans and the Ukrainians.  There was a dog called Barry
whom the SS-men had trained to bite Jews upon being called to do so,
especially when they were naked.  The beatings, Barry's bites, and the
shouting and scream- ing by the guards made the Jews run through the "tube"
and of their own accord push on into the "baths" -- in the hope of escaping
from the hell around them. 
     Occasionally, a restricted number of skilled workers were selected 
from some transports.  These included carpenters, tailors, and shoemakers,
as well as a few dozen strong young men and women. They had to do all the
physical work.  For months on end, the extermination machinery in Sobibor
operated smoothly and uninterruptedly.  It should be recalled that fewer
transports came to Sobibor than to Belzec, and generally with fewer
deportees per train. Usually only one deportation train arrived each day;
there were also days without a transport.  The size of a transport rarely
exceeded 20 freight cars, conveying 2,000 - 2,500 persons. 
     Stangl, the leading figure, supervised operations.  His personality 
and experience of many years as a police officer in the "Euthanasia" 
program made him a very suitable camp commandant. 
     The first phase of operations in Sobibor lasted from May until the 
end of July 1942.  During this period the Jews from the ghettoes of Lublin
district were taken there.  Among these were also Czech and Austrian Jews
who had first been deported to these Polish ghettoes. Altogether, 61,330
Jews from Bezirk Lublin were taken to Sobibor. Simultaneously, transports
arrived with 10,000 Jews from Austria, 6,000 from the Protectorate of
Bohemia and Moravia, and part of the 24,378 Slovak Jews who were murdered
in this camp by the end of 1942. The first wave of extermination in Sobibor
lasted three months, claiming at least 77,000 Jewish victims, excluding
those deported from Slovakia. 

     At the end of July 1942 the large deportations to Sobibor were halted 
due to repair work on the railway line between Lublin and Chelm.  At the
beginning of August several transports reached the camp from the ghettoes
in the neighborhood; they travel led along the eastern sector of the line
which was again open to traffic.

Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard": Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
                              Yitzhak Arad  
             Treblinka -- from July 23 until August 28, 1942  
     The procedure adopted upon the arrival of the trains was the same as 
that in Sobibor: two German railroad workers, classified as being reliable,
took over the transport from the Treblinka station to the extermination
camp, a distance of 4 km.  The Pole Franciszek Zabecki described the
arrival of the deportation train from the Warsaw ghetto:  
          A small locomotive stood ready in the railroad station to
     transport the first section of freight cars into the carnp. Everything
     had been planned and prepared in advance.  The train consisted of 60
     closed freight cars fully loaded with people: young ones, old ones,
     men and women, children and babies.  The car doors were locked from
     the outside and the air holes covered with barbed wire.  On the
     running boards on both sidej and on the roof about a dozen SS-soldiers
     stood or lay with machine guns at the ready.  It was hot and most of
     the people in the freight cars were deadly exhausted...  As the train
     came nearer it seemed as if an evil spirit had taken hold of the
     waiting SS-men.  They drew their pistols, returned them to their
     holsters, pulled them out agian, as if they wanted to shoot and kill. 
     They approached the freight cars and tried to reduce the noise and the
     weeping; but then they screamed at the Jews and cursed them, all the
     while urging the railroad workers to hurry: "Quick, faster!" After
     that they returned to the camp in order to receive the deportees.
     (Franciszek Zabecki, 'Wspomnienia dawne i nowe', Warsaw, 1977 pp.39 f)
     As the train approached the extermination camp, the engine blew a
prolonged whistle which was the signal for the Ukrainians to man their
position in the reception sector and on the roofs of the buildings.  One
group of SS-men and Ukrainians took up positions on the station platform. 
As soon as the train was moving along the tracks inside the camp, the gates
behind it were closed.  The deportees were taken out of the freight cars
and conducted through a gate to a fenced-in square inside the camp.  At the
gate they were separated: men to the right, women and children to the left. 
A large placard announced in Polish and German:  
     Attention Warsaw Jews!  You are in a transit camp from which the
     transport will continue to labor camps.  To prevent epidemics,
     clothing as well as pieces of baggage are to be handed over for
     disinfection.  Gold, money, foreign currency, and jewellery are to be
     deposited at the "Cash Office" against a receipt.  They will be
     returned later on presentation of the receipt.  For physical
     cleanliness, all arrivals must have a bath before travelling
     on.(Verdict of LG Dusseldorf AZ 81 Ks 2/64, p. 81.)  
     The undressing procedure and the manner in which the victims were led 
to the gas chambers were almost identical to those described for the 
Sobibor camp. 
     During this first phase, from the beginning to the middle of August, 
5,000 - 7,000 Jews arrived every day in Treblinka.  Then the pace of the
transports increased; there were days on which 10,000 - 12,000 deportees
reached the camp, together with thousands who were already dead and others
who were utterly exhausted. 
Abraham Goldfarb, who arrived there on August 25, described the 
          When we arrived in Treblinka and the Germans opened the freight
     cars we beheld a horrible sight. The car was full of corpses.  The
     bodies were partly decomposed by chlorine. The stench in the cars made
     those still alive choke.  The Germans ordered everyone to get out;
     those still able to do so were half dead.  Waiting SS and Ukrainians
     beat us and shot at us... 
          On the way to the gas chambers Germans with dogs stood along the
     fence on both sides.  The dogs had been trained to attack people; they
     bit the men's genitals and the women's breasts, ripping off pieces of
     flesh.  The Germans hit the people with whips and iron bars to spur
     them on so that they pressed forward into the "showers" as quickly as
     possible.  The screams of the women could be heard far away, even in
     the other parts of the camp. The Germans drove the running victims on
     with shouts of: "Faster, faster, the water will get cold, others still
     have to go under the showers!" To escape from the blows, the victims
     ran to the gas chambers as quickly as they could, the stronger ones
     pushing the weaker aside.  At the entrance to the gas chambers stood
     the two Ukrainians, Ivan Demaniuk and Nikolai, one of them armed with
     an iron bar, the other with a sword.  They drove the people inside
     with blows...  As soon as the gas chambers were full, the Ukrainians
     closed the doors and started the engine.  Some 20-25 minutes later an
     SS-man or a Ukrainian looked through a window in the door.  When they
     had ascertained that everyone had been asphyxiated, the Jewish
     prisoners had to open the doors and remove the corpses.  Since the
     chambers were overcrowded and the victims held on to one another, they
     all stood upright and were like one single block of flesh.  (Yad
     Vashem Archives 0-3/2140)  
     Breakdowns and interruptions occurred in the operation of the gas 
chambers.  During the initial phase the personnel did not know how long it
would take to asphyxiate the victims.  On occasion the doors were opened
too early and the victims were still alive, so that the doors had to be
closed again.  The engines which produced the gas occasionally failed.  If
such mishaps occurred when the victims were already inside the gas
chambers, they were left standing there until the engines had been
repaired.  Some 268,000 Jews met their deaths in the first extermination
wave in Treblinka, which lasted five weeks--from July 23 to August 28. 
     The gas chambers with their technical breakdowns were unable to cope 
with such enormous numbers.  Those who could not be pressed inside were
shot in the reception camp.  Many prisoners and additional ditches were
needed in order to bury all those who had been shot, in addition to the
thousands who had died during the transports.  An excavator from the gravel
pit in the nearby Treblinka punishment camp was used for digging additional
mass graves.   But this did not solve the problem and at the end of August
chaos still reigned in Treblinka.  Reports of what went on in the camp 
reached headquarters.  Globocnik and Wirth arrived, assessed the situation,
and dismissed Eberl, the camp commandant.  Stangl, from Sobibor, who was
without work because of repairs on the tracks, was appointed commandant of

                          YAD VASHEM STUDIES XVI 
                          Edited by Aharon Weiss 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
"Operation Reinhard": Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
                              Yitzhak Arad  
                 The Construction of Larger Gas Chambers  
     The first period of operation in Belzec and Sobibor lasted about three
months, in Treblinka five weeks.  After this initial phase, those holding
key positions in Operation Reinhard decided to introduce "improvements"
into the camps so as to increase their extermination capacity.  This
decision was brought on by Himmler's order of July 19,1942 that all the
Jews in the General Government, with a few exceptions, were to be
eradicated by the end of that year. 
     The main problem was finding a way to speed up the extermination 
procedure, i.e., increasing the absorption capacity of the gas chambers.
     Belzec was the first camp in which large gas chambers were built. The
old wooden structure containing the three gas chambers was demolished, and
on the same spot a larger, strong building was erected, which was 24 m. 
Iong and 10 m.  wide.  It contained six gas chambers.  Statements differ as
to their size; they fluctuate between 4 x 4 m.  and 4 x 8 m.  The new gas
chambers were completed in mid July.  (StA Munich 1, AZ: 22 Js 68/61, pp. 
2602, 2613.) 
     Rudolf Reder was the only one to have survived the Belzec
extermination camp.  He described the new gas chambers:  
          The building was low, long, and broad.  It was built of grey
     concrete and had a flat roof made of roofing felt, with a net over it
     which was covered with branches.  Three steps without bannisters led
     into the building.  They were ca.  1 m.  wide.  In front of the
     building stood a large flowerpot with colorful flowers and a clearly
     written placard: "Bath- and inhalation Rooms.  " The steps led into a
     dark, empty corridor which was very long, but only 1.5 m.  wide.  To
     the left and right of it were the doors to the gas chambers.  They
     were wooden doors, 1 m.  wide... The corridor ant the chambers were
     lower than normal rooms, no higher than 2 m.  In the opposite wall of
     every chamber was a removable door through which the bodies of the
     gassed were thrown out.  Outside the building was a 2 x 2 m.  shed
     which housed the gas machine.  The chambers were 1.5 m.  above the
     ground... (Rudolf Reder, Berzcc, Cracow, 1946, pp. 42 ff.) 

     These new gas chambers were able to take in 1,500 persons at one and 
the same time, i.e., a transport of about 15 freight cars.  (Verdict of LG
Munich 1, AZ: 110 Ks 3/64, p.10.) 
     After he had completed the rebuilding of the Belzec gas chambers, 
Christian Wirth was appointed inspector of all three extermination camps. 
He was replaced in Belzec by SS-Hauptsturmfu"hrer Gottlieb Hering.  Wirth's
new headquarters was now in Lublin. 
     The most urgent need for an increase in the absorption capacity was 
felt in Treblinka already in the first months of operation, because the
small gas chambers there constantly led to chaos in the extermination
process.  Newly appointed Commandant Stangl therefore ordered the
construction of a new building next to the old one.  At the same time, the
old gas chambers continued to function.  Within the framework of this
reorganization, he also put an end to the chaotic conditions that had
prevailed when the deportees arrived, and he introduced soothing means of
     Wirth, in his role as Inspector of the Extermination Camps, sent 
SS-Unterscharfu"hrer Erwin Lambert and Scharfu"hrer Lorenz Hackenholt, 
who was responsible for the gas chambers in Belzec, to Treblinka to assist
in the construction of the new gas chambers. 
     The new building comprised 10 gas chambers.  In place of the three 
old ones which together measured 48 sq.m., the area now covered was 320
sq.m.  The new rooms were 2 m.  high, i.e., ca.  60 cm.  lower than the old
ones.  A low ceiling reduced the volume of the room and hence also the
amount of gas needed for killing the victims.  In addition, it shortened
the asphyxiation time. 
     The new building was rectangular.  A dark curtain from a synagogue 
hung at the entrance to the passage.  It had written on it in Hebrew: 
"This is the gate, through which the righteous may enter." 
     The pediment above the entrance door bore a Shield of David.  Five 
steps led up to it, both sides of which were decorated with pot plants. 
The new building, with its idyllic flight of stairs, plants and curtain,
stood at the end of the "tube.  " The victims who had been chased through
the "tube," ran up the stairs to the entrance and into the passage.  The
engine producing the gas was located at the end of the building, near the
old gas chambers. 
     In order to speed up the construction, a group of Jewish masons was
brought from Warsaw.  They had been selected from a transport intended for
the beginning of September 1942.  A total of 40 Jewish prisoners worked on
the gas chambers.  Jankiel Wiernik described their feelings: The
construction of the new building took five weeks. To us it seemed like
eternity.  The work continued from sunrise to sunset, accompanied by lashes
from whips and blows from rifle butts. Woronikow, one of the guards, beat
and ill-treated us mercilessly. Every day several workers were murdered. 
The extent of our physical fatigue was beyond human imagination, hut our
mental agony was still greater.  New transports arrived daily; the
deportees were ordered to undress, then they were taken to the three old
gas chambers.  They were led past the building site.  Several of us
recognized our children, wives or relatives among the victims.  If, in his
agony, someone ran to his family, he was shot on the spot.  Thus we built
the death chambers for ourselves and for our brothers!  (Jankiel Wiernik, 
'Rok w Treblmce', Warsaw, l944.) 
     The new gas chambers were able to accommodate 4,000 persons at a 
time, the old ones only 600. 
     Sobibor was the last camp to be provided with larger gas chambers. 
This construction program was carried out in September 1942 under the
supervision of SS-Unterscharfu'hrer Erwin Lambert, who had erected the new
gas chambers in Treblinka, and SS-Scharfu"hrer Lorenz Hackenholt, who was
in charge of the gas chambers in Belzec.  They had both been posted to
Sobibor by Christian Wirth. 
     The new building had six gas chambers, three rooms on each side.  Its 
layout was similar to that in Belzec and Treblinka, where the entrances to
the gas chambers branched off from a central passage. The new rooms here
were not larger than the old ones, i.e., 4 x 4 m., but the extermination
capacity was increased to 1,200-1,300 persons. 
     Another important technical change in Sobibor was a narrow-gauge 
mine-track which ran from the railroad platform to the mass graves in 
Camp III.  It was to replace the trolleys pulled by prisoners or horses,
which had transported the dead, the sick, and the invalids from the train
to the ditches.  According to Oberscharfu"hrer Hubert Gomerski, who was
responsible for Camp III, the narrow-gauge track was about 300 400 m. 
long.  It had 5 or 6 wagons and a small diesel locomotive.  (StA Dortmund
AZ:45 Js 27/61 ) In Treblinka a start was made in the spring of 1943, on
     Himmler's personal command after he had visited the camp. 
     The vacated ditch area was levelled and sown with lupins!
SS-Oberscharfu"hrer Heinrich Matthes, who was responsible for the 
extermination sector in Treblinka, testifies: 
          An SS-Oberscharfu"hrer or Hauptsch~rfuflrer Floss arrived at this
     time, who, so I presume, must previously have been in another camp. 
     He then had the installation built for burning the corpses. The
     incineration was carried out by placing railroad rails on blocks of
     concrete.  The corpses were then piled up on these rails.  Brush wood
     was placed under the rails.  The wood was drenched with gasoline.  Not
     only the newly obtained corpses were burnt in this way, but also those
     exhumed from the ditches.  (StA Dusseldorf, AZ:8 Js 10904/59 , Tel Aviv, 1983, pp 261-265.) in Belzec--600,000 and in 
Sobibor--250,000.  (Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w 
Polsce, 'Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemlach polskich 1939-1945', Warszawa,
1979, p.94 , p.462 )