Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution: Electronic Edition, by Browning, Christopher R.

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C. Documentary Evidence concerning the Camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

If the documents concerning the Einsatzgruppen and the "special trucks" speak openly about the methods of killing, i.e. shooting and gassing, such is not the case with the documents concerning the camps located in the three tiny villages of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, to which most Polish Jews were deported. Nonetheless, the quite scant surviving documentation makes clear that these were neither labor camps nor transit camps, and Jews were sent there simply to be killed.
In March 1942 the Nazi regime began two simultaneous programs: the deportation of Jews from the Third Reich and Slovakia into the General Government, and the deportation of Jews in the General Government (initially from the districts of Lublin and Galicia) to a camp at Belzec--a small village on the Lublin side of the border between these two districts. The clearing of the Lublin ghetto began on March 16, as noted in a weekly report circulated by the propaganda division on March 21, 1942:
Resettlement of the Jews. Since Monday, March 16, the ghetto of Lublin is being cleared of Jews. Daily some 2, Jews are seized and sent eastward. Only a small Jewish quarter is being preserved for the Jews who still work for German agencies. It is therefore reckoned that the action will be completed by April 1, with the deportation of 35-38,000 Jews.105
 
In preparation for the simultaneous influx of Jewish transports from outside the Third Reich and Slovakia, Hermann Höfle on Globobnik's staff met with Richard Türk of the Lublin district's Department of Population and Welfare on March 16, 1942, the same day that the clearing of the Lublin ghetto began. Türk reported the results of the conversation:
1) It would be expedient to divide the Jews in the transports coming into the district of Lublin already at the departure station into those capable and those not capable of work. If this separation is not possible at the departure station, one must then switch over to dividing the transport in Lublin according to the above-mentioned viewpoint.
2) Jews not capable of work must all go to Belzec, the furthest border station in Kreis Zamosc.
3) Hauptsturmführer Höfle intends to build a large camp, in which the Jews capable of work can by classified according to profession and requisitioned.
4) Piaski will be freed of Polish Jews and become the collection point for Jews coming from the Reich.
...In conclusion he declared, he could receive daily 4-5 transports of 1,000 at the end station of Belzec. These Jews would cross over the border and would never return again to the General Government.106
On March 20, 1942, Türk again reported on a discussion that had taken place between Höfle and two Kreishauptmänner (county heads) in the Lublin district.  
Kreishauptmann Weienmeyer has as yet been able to learn nothing about final outcome of the deportation; all that is known is the existence of a collection camp some distance from the Belzec train station on the district border, that is entirely closed off, and the arrival of a SS-commando of some 60 men.107
After the clearing of the Lublin ghetto, deportations were carried out in various parts of the Lublin district. For instance, the Kreishauptmann of Pulawy reported on May 13, 1941: "In the period from May 6-12 inclusive, 16,822 Jews from the Kreis Pulawy were expelled over the Bug on the instruction of the SS and Police Leader." (The Bug River was the demarcation line between the German and Soviet occupation zones in 1939-41 and formed the boundary between the districts of Lublin and Galicia thereafter.) With the exception of sick and old Slovakian Jews in the ghetto of Opole, only working Jews remained.108
In short, the German documents make clear that tens of thousands of Jews were being sent to the camp at Belzec in the spring months of 1942. There was no pretense that this was a work camp, for only non-working Jews were sent there. There was no pretense that such numbers of Jews could all remain in Belzec, in a tiny village guarded by a mere 60 men. Thus the explanation given by the SS was that these Jews were "expelled over the Bug," that is sent across the border into the district of Galicia, with the guarantee that they would never return. Two factors make the acceptance of such an explanation utterly untenable.
 
First, on March 27, 1942, shortly after the clearing of the Lublin ghetto began, Josef Goebbels confided to his diary about the fate of the non-working Jews, i.e. precisely those sent to Belzec:
Beginning with Lublin, the Jews in the General Government are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said about 60 percent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 percent can be used for forced labor.109
Second, German documents from the district of Galicia make clear that not only were Jews not arriving in their district from the Lublin district via Belzec, but on the contrary, Jews were simultaneously being deported from the district of Galicia westward to Belzec. The Oberfeldkommandant in Lwow (Lemberg) reported on March 19, 1942:
Within the Jewish population of Lemberg a noticeable unrest has spread in regard to a deportation action that has begun, through which some 30,000 elderly and other unemployed Jews shall be seized and allegedly transferred to a territory near Lublin. To what extent this evacuation can be equated with a decimation remains to be seen.110
The Oberfeldkommandant reported the following month:
The Jewish population displays the deepest depression, which is completely understandable because on the one hand in various locations in the district the well-known actions against the Jews occur again and on the other hand in Lemberg   the temporarily interrupted resettlement of Jews resumes; in the meantime it is whispered also among the Jews that the evacuees never reach the resettlement territory that is alleged to them as the destination. 111
The deportations from Galicia broke off during the months of May, June, and July 1942, but resumed in August. In October the Oberfeldkommandant reported again:
The resettlement actions continue undiminished. The Jews are informed of their fate. Indicative is the statement of a member of the Lwow Jewish council: We all carry our death certificates in our pocket--only the date of death is not yet filled out.112
The trains deporting Jews from Galicia did indeed go to Belzec, as can be seen in the report of Reserve Lieutenant Westermann of the 7th company of Police Regiment 24, whose men helped round up the Jews in Kolomyja and nearby towns and then guarded two transports to Belzec on September 7 and 10, 1942. The first contained 4,769 Jews in 50 train cars and went without incident. The second involved 8,205 Jews. Many had been held for days without food and force-marched 35-50 kilometers to the train in blistering heat. They were then packed into train cars, in many cases 180-200 per car, virtually without ventilation. As Lieutenant Westermann concluded: "The ever greater panic spreading among the Jews due to the great heat, overloading of the train cars, and stink of the dead--when unloading the train cars some 2,000 Jews were found dead in the train--made the transport almost unworkable." Nevertheless the train that left Kolomyja at   8:50 pm. on September 10 finally crawled into Belzec at 6:45 pm on September 11.113
As in the rest of Hitler's Europe, the Germans in Galicia were busy insuring that their district was becoming free of Jews. The SS and Police Leader, Friedrich Katzmann, reported that as of November 10, 1942, 254,989 Jews had been resettled. By June 23,1943, the total had reached 434,329 Jews "resettled" (ausgesiedelt) with only 21,000 Jews still in labor camps.114 In short, the allegation that Belzec was a transit camp through which Jews were expelled from Lublin into Galicia is totally disproven by German documentation. Month after month, in train after train, tens of thousands of Jews were taken to the little village of Belzec, and the trains came from both Lublin and Cracow to the west and Galicia to the east. If Höfle clearly lied about the purpose of Belzec, in one regard he told the truth: with the exception of a handful of escapees, the Jews sent to Belzec never returned.
The camp at Treblinka was located in a tiny village just off the main railline between Warsaw and Bialystok near the eastern border of the General Government. Massive deportations from Warsaw to Treblinka began on July 22, 1942, as can be seen in the letter from the State Secretary for the Transportation Ministry, Albert Ganzenmüller, to Himmler's adjutant, Karl Wolff: "Since July 22, one train with 5,000 Jews departs daily via Malkinia to Treblinka. Moreover, twice per week a train with 5,000 Jews departs Przemysl for Belzec."115 When deportations from the city and surrounding district of Warsaw came to an end in early   October, the district governor Fischer reported that a total of 400,000 Jews had been deported.116 Surviving fragmentary train schedules also show that Jews were deported from northern Lublin district, Radom district, and the Bialystok district to Treblinka as well.117 The deportations from Bialystok, a district east of Treblinka, are of special significance for two reasons. First, these deportations from Bialystok make clear that Treblinka was not a transit camp for the expulsion of Jews eastward from the General Government. Rather the tiny village of Treblinka, like Belzec, was a point at which transports of Jews converged from east and west. Moreover, the fate of the Bialystok Jews in the fall of 1942 was clearly stated in Himmler's report to Hitler of December 31, 1942. The Jews of Bialystok were among the 363,211 "Jews executed." The fate of the Jews sent to Treblinka is also reflected in a report noted in the October 10, 1942, entry to the War Diary of the Oberquartiermeister of the military commander in Poland.
OK Ostrow reports that the Jews in Treblinka are not adequately buried and as a result an unbearable smell of cadavers pollutes the air.118
Ostrow, it should be noted, was some 20 kilometers from Treblinka.
The documentary evidence makes clear that Belzec and Treblinka were camps to which hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to be killed, though without specifying the method of killing. The scant surviving documentary evidence concerning the purpose of Sobibor indicates that the Germans considered it in the same category as Treblinka and Belzec, but that it was   inaccessible due to railline repairs during the peak months of the killing campaign of July-October 1942. Like Belzec, Sobibor received transports of Jews deemed incapable of work, as can be seen in the report of Lieutenant Fischmann of June 20, 1942. Fischmann commanded the police guard that accompanied a train that departed Vienna with 1,000 Jews from Vienna for the Lublin district. SS-Obersturmführer Pohl of Globocnik's staff met the train in Lublin on June 16 and selected 51 Jews between the ages of 15 and 50, who were deemed capable of work. On June 17 Lieutenant Stangl took delivery of the remaining 949 Jews in Sobibor.119 In the same letter in which Ganzenmüller informed Wolff of the daily transports from Warsaw to Treblinka and the twice-per-week transports from Przemysl to Belzec, he also noted that further transports to Sobibor were not possible until October due to construction on the railline.120 The protocol of a meeting in Berlin on September 26 and 28, 1942, to plan allocation of transportation for the future "evacuation of 600,000 Jews" of the General Government noted:
After the completion of the restoration of the line Lublin-Chelm, probably from November 1, 1942, the other urgent transports can also be carried out, namely: 1 train per day from the district of Radom to Sobibor; 1 train per day from the northern Lublin district to Belzec and 1 train per day from the central Lublin district to Sobibor....121
And in his promotion recommendations to Himmler's chief of personnel, Herff, Globocnik included Franz Stangl, the commandant at Sobibor who was then transferred to Treblinka. According to   Globocnik, Stangl was "the best camp commander, who had the greatest share of the entire action...." Included on the list of promotion recommendations for the SS-Sonderkommando "Einsatz Reinhard" were personnel from all three camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.122 Clearly, Sobibor was a camp no different in purpose than Belzec and Treblinka.

Notes

105. Weekly report of Haubtabteilung Propaganda, 21.3.42, in YVA, O-53/134/1813. (Aussiedlung von Juden. Seit Montag, den 16.3.42, wird das Ghetto in Lublin von Juden geräumt. Täglich werden rund 2000 Juden erfasst und nach Richtung Osten geschafft. Es bleibt lediglich ein kleiner jüdischer Wohnbezirk erhalten für die Juden, die noch für deutsche Dienststellen arbeiten. Er wird damit gerechnet, dass bis zum 1.4. die Aktion beendet ist. Mit einer Aussiedlung von 35-38,000 Juden wird gerechnet.)
106. Türk Vermerk, 17.3.42, in YVA, O-53/79/470-1, printed in: DiM, II, 32-33. (1) Es wäre zweckmässig, die in den Distrikt Lublin kommenden Judentransporte schon auf der Abgangsstation in arbeitsfähige und nichtarbeitsfähige Juden zu teilen. Wenn diese Auseinderhaltung auf der Abgangsstation nicht möglich ist, müsste man evtl. dazu übergehen, den Transport in Lublin nach den obengenannten Gesichtspunkten zu trennen.
2)Hstuf. Höfle ist daran, ein grosses Lager zu bauen, in welchem die einsatzfähigen Juden nach ihren Berufen karteimässig erfasst und von dort angefordert werden können.
3)Piaski wird von polnischen Juden freigemacht und wird Sammelpunkt der aus dem Reich kommenden Juden.
...Abschliessend erklärte er, er könne 4-5 Transporte zu 1000 Juden mit der Zielstation Belzec aufnehmen. Diese Juden kämen über die Grenze und würden nie mehr ins Generalgouvernement zurückkommen.)
Piaksi is a small town southeast of Lublin on the rail line between Lublin and Belzlec.
107. Türk Vermerk, 20.3.42, in YVA, O-53/79/476. (Krieshauptmann Weienmeyer hatte über den Endablauf der Aussiedlung noch nichts erfahren können; lediglich bekannt ist das Vorhandsein eines Sammellagers in einiger Entfernung von Bahnhof Belzec an der Distriktgrenze, das aber völlig abgeschlossen ist und die Ankunft eines SS-Kommandos von ca. 60 Mann.)
108. Amt für In. Verw.., Kreishauptmann Pulawy, 14.5.42, to Department of Population and Welfare, Lublin, copy in YVA, O-53/83/115-16. (In der Zeit vom 6. Mai bis 12. Mai einschliesslich sind auf Weisung des SS und Polizeiführers 16,822 Juden aus dem Kreis Pulawy über den Bug ausgewiesen worden.) Documents containing numerous references to the deportation of Jews from towns in the Lublin district in the spring of 1942 can be found in this file as well as O-53/79 and O-53/85
109. Louis Lochner, ed., The Goebbels Diaries, pp. 175-76.
110. Report of OFK 365, 19.3.42, in National Archives, T-501/215/97. (Innerhalb der jüdischen Bevölkerung Lembergs hat eine merkliche Beunruhigung Platz gegriffen mit Rücksicht auf eine begonnene Aussiedlungsaktion, durch die etwa 30,000 ältere und sonstige, nicht im Arbeitsprozess stehende Juden Lembergs erfasst und, wie angegeben, in die Gegend von Lublin verbracht werden sollen. Inwieweit diese Evakuierung einer Dezimierung gleichzusetzten sein wird, bleibt abzuwarten.)
111. Report of OFK 365, 18.4.42, in National Archives, T-501/216/203. (Die jüdische Bevölkerung zeigt tiefste Niedergeschlagenheit, was auch durchaus erklärlich ist, da einmal in verschiedenen Orten des Distrikts die bekannten Aktionen gegen die Juden wieder einsetzten und zum anderen in Lemberg die vorübergehend unterbrochene Aussiedlung von Juden ihren Fortgang nimmt; es dürfte sich inzwischen auch bei den Juden herumgesprochen haben, dass die Evakuierten das Ansiedlungsgebiet, das ihnen als Reiseziel angegeben wird, niemals erreichen.)
112. Report of OFK 365. 17.10.42, in National Archives, T-501/216/1129. (Die Umsiedlungsaktionen gehen unvermindert weiter. Das Judentum ist über sein Schicksal unterrichtet. Bezeichnend ist der Ausspruch eines Mitgliedes des Lemberger Judenrates: Wir tragen alle unseren Totenschein in der Tasche--es ist nur der Sterbetag noch nicht ausgefüllt.)
113. Westermann report to KdO Lemberg, 14.9.42. Copy in: Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen, Ludwigsburg, USSR Ord. No. 116/508-10. (Die immer grosser werdende Panik unter den Juden, vorgerufen durch starke Hitze, Überfüllung der Waggons und den Leichengestank--es befanden sich beim Ausladen der Waggons etwa 2000 Juden tot im Zuge--machten den Transport fast undurchführbar.) A more legible, retyped copy of this document contains the figure 200 rather than 2,000.
114. Katzmann to Krüger, 30.6.43, printed in: IMT, vol. 37, pp. 398 and 401.
115. Nürnberg Document NO-2207, Ganzenmüller to Wolff, 28.7.42. (Seit dem 22.7 fährt täglich ein Zug mit 5000 Juden von Warschau über Malkinia nach Treblinka, ausserdem zweimal wöchentlich ein Zug mit 5000 Juden von Przemysl nach Belzek.)
116. August/September report of the Warsaw district governor to Bühler, in YVA, O-53/113/348-61.
117. Facsimile copies of these train schedules are printed in the appendices of: Raul Hilberg, Sonderzüge nach Auschwitz (Mainz, 1981), pp. 183-86, 198-202, 208-212, 216-17, 222-23, 228.
118. War Diary of the Oberquartiermeister, Mbfh Polen, 1.5..41-31.12.43, in National Archives, T-501/219/461. (OK Ostrow meldet, dass die Juden in Treblinka nicht ausreichend beerdigt seien und infolgedessen ein unerträglicher Kadavergeruch die Luft verpestet.)
119. Fischmann report, 20.6.42, copy in YVA, O-51/163/42-43.
120. NO-2207, Ganzenmüller to Wolff, 28.7.42.
121. Protocol of conference of September 26 and 28, 1942, concerning the evacuation of Jews, copy in: Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen Ludwigsburg, 8 AR-Z 151/59, p.31-32. (Nach der Beendigung der Wiederinstandsetzung der Linie Lublin-Chelm, warscheinlich ab 1. November 1942, werden auch die anderen dringenden Transporte durchgeführt werden können, nämlich: 1 Zug pro Tag vom Distrikt Radom nach Sobibor; 1 Zug pro Tag von Distrikt Lublin Nord nach Belzec und 1 Zug pro Tag vom Distrikt Lublin Mitte nach Sobibor....)
122. Globocnik to Herff, with promotion list, printed in Faschismus-Getto-Massenmord, pp. 301-2. (Der beste Lagerleiter, der den grössten Anteil an der ganzen Aktion hatte)
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