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    Operation Reinhard Evidence: Camps Not Hearsay

    What is the primary documentary and physical evidence concerning the existence of the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The existence of the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzes is based only on “mere hearsay” and “flimsy evidence.”[1]

    The facts are:

    Today there is nothing physically left of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor except sandy hills and modern museum on each site. However, there are photographs, railroad transport lists, documents, aerial reconnaissance photographs and the evidence from archeological studies that prove the death camps of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor existed.

    Ditlieb Felderer, a Swiss Holocaust denier, claims that the “Exterminationists” have “rigged up” three locations “purporting” to be death camps and are “dishing out” a story that belongs in the “realm of fantasy.” He states that the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor are a “fiction” and a “mental derangement foisted upon man.” [2]

    The facts about the evidence for the existence of the Operation Reinhard camps.

    It is true that today there is nothing physically left of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor where some 1,400,000 Jews were murdered. By mid-1943 the mass graves in all the camps had been emptied of the bodies of the Jews, which were then burned and the ashes reburied, and the camp buildings torn down. The sites of the camps today are hilly, sandy sites whose most prominent features are the memorials to the murdered Jews.

    However, it is not true that there is no documentary or physical evidence about these camps as the Holocaust deniers claim.

    Why there are so few documents available on Operation Reinhard.

    Odilo Globocnik, the head of Operational Reinhard, took pains to cover the tracks of the murderous activities of the three camps. He ordered that “[w]ith regard to the complete final accounts of ‘Operation Reinhard’ I must add that all vouchers should be destroyed as soon as possible, as has been done in the case of all other documents pertaining to this operation.”[3]

    Nevertheless, some documents escaped destruction.

    The facts about the documentation and physical evidence on Operation Reinhard.

    The physical and documentary evidence for the existence of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor includes:

    • Photographs taken by Kurt Franz, the last commandant of Treblinka, which show the gas chamber buildings, excavators, and mass graves. There are also photographs from Belzec while it was operational, although they do not show the death camp area.
    • Railroad transport lists which detail transports of Jews who were shipped to Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
    • Documents relating to the acquisition and use of heavy excavating equipment for digging mass graves and exhuming the bodies of the murdered Jews for cremation in these camps. There are also documents about the handling of the clothing and possessions stolen from the Jews.
    • Aerial reconnaissance photographs taken of the sites of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor which were taken after the camps were demolished. In the case of Treblinka the photographs show traces of the gas chamber buildings and camp features that correlate with the photographs taken by Franz and survivor eyewitness evidence.
    • Archeological studies and forensic examinations have been conducted on all three sites. The investigations in Sobibor and Treblinka are ongoing.

    We will now look at the documents and photographs we have of the camps. The aerial reconnaissance photographs and archeological studies will be addressed in other Debunking Denial pages in the Operation Reinhard section.

    Memorial at the Sobibor concentration camp. Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Adam Kaczowski

    NOTES

    [1] Ditlieb Felderer, “Auschwitz Notebook: Certain Impossibilities of the ‘Gerstein Statement,’” Journal of Historical Review, Volume 1(1), Spring 1980 at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v01/v01p-69_Felderer.html.

    [2] Ditlieb Felderer, “Auschwitz Notebook: Certain Impossibilities of the ‘Gerstein Statement,’”.

    [3] Stephen Potyondi, “Ziel Treblinka/”Final Destination Treblinka” citing Odilo Globocnik, “Top Secret” memo, 5 January 1944, Nuremberg Document NO-064 at http://www.holocaust-history.org/operation-reinhard/final-destination-treblinka.shtml.