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

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5.4.4.1Many Poles in the villages around these camps saw the endless flow of transports, smelled the terrible odors of the camps, and heard all kinds of rumors of how the Jews were killed, including not only by gas but also by steam and electricity. Some Polish witnesses had particular vantage points, which enabled them to know much more about the camps than other Poles in the surrounding areas. For instance, between November 1 and December 23, 1941, a small force of Polish workers was employed to construct the initial buildings, including the first small gas chamber with only three rooms, at Belzec. Stanislaw Kozak and Edward Ferens both testified immediately after the war about their construction work in Belzec.146 According to Kozak sand was poured between the double walls of one small building, whose interior was partially covered   with zinc sheeting. The building had three rooms, each with two doors, one entering from a interior corridor and the other exiting to the outside. The doors were very strong and covered with rubber; they opened outward and were secured with crossbars on the outside. When Edward Ferens asked the German supervisor the purpose of the building, the latter merely laughed.
While the Poles worked on these buildings, the black-uniformed auxiliaries dug a large pit behind it. Beginning in March 1942 transports began arriving, sometimes 2-3 per day. In the fall the transports stopped, and an excavator was employed to open and empty the mass graves. For the next three months the terrible smell of burning bodies pervaded the area and could be detected up to 15 kilometers away. The camp was then dismantled.
Jan Jrzowski and Jan Piwonski worked at the train station in Sobibor, directly across from the ramp where the transports for the camp were unloaded.147 Three German officers arrived in the fall of 1941 and measured the station ramp. Construction on the camp began March 1942, and the observant Poles wondered about the arrival and unloading of large, heavy doors covered with rubber. The transports began arriving in April, and by fall the smell of decaying corpses was detectable. In October 1942 an excavator arrived. The graves were opened and the corpses burned. The smell of burning bodies reached Wlodawa 9 kilometers away. The fire within the camp could be seen clearly at night. On October 14, 1943, an uprising occurred in the camp, after which it was closed.

Notes

146. ZStL, 8 AR-Z 252/9 (investigation of Josef Oberhauser), vol. VI, pp. 1129-32, and p. 1195 (testimony of Stanislaw Kozak, 1945 and 1946); and p. 1222 (testimony of Edward Ferens, 1946). A long excerpt of the Kozak testimony has been printed in: Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas, pp. 152-53.
147. ZStL. II 208 AR 643/71, vol. II, p. 410-416 (testimony of Jan Krzowski) and pp. 441-50 (testimony of Jan Piwonski).
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