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    Operation Reinhard Transit Camps: They Were Death Camps

    How do we know that the Operation Reinhard camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor were extermination camps and not transit camps sending Jews further to the east?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec were not extermination camps but transit camps where Jews were processed for further transport to the East as laborers.

    The facts are:

    German documents show that Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were not transit camps but extermination camps where some 1,400,000 Polish and European Jews were murdered.

    Mark Weber, an American Holocaust denier, writes: “The balance of evidence indicates that Treblinka II—along with Belzec and Sobibor—was a transit camp, where Jewish deportees were stripped of their property and valuables before being transferred eastwards into German-occupied Soviet territories.”[1]

    The German railway system.

    The Reichsbahn (German railway system) was one of the largest organizations in Germany. In 1942 it employed 900,000 workers and 500,000 civil servants who managed a total of 850,000 freight cars every day. The entire railway system was controlled from Berlin with three regional offices, many sub-regional offices and a vast number of local railway stations in many countries.

    The complex arrangements for booking all deportation trains originated in Berlin and had to be coordinated between several departments. The rolling stock (locomotives, boxcars and passenger cars) had to be requisitioned and assembled into trains. The timetables had to be compiled to the minute. The regional offices and local stations along the route to the final destination had to be informed.[2]

    Police escorts (one officer and at least 12 men), either German or militiamen from the various countries the transports crossed, needed to be assembled to guard the train on its journey. Finally, a report about the trip was sent back to Berlin by the German guards who accompanied it.[3]

    In Poland the Germans made no effort to list the individual names of the deportees on each transport, unlike transports from France or the Netherlands. However, an exact count did have to be made as the SS was charged one-way fares for every Jew transported and round-trip fares for the guards. Adolf Eichmann, at his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, called the whole process a “science in itself.”[4]

    What we know about the transports to the Operation Reinhard camps.

    The Jewish transports were called ‘Sonderzug’ (‘Special Trains’) and they had alphabetical codes that make them easy to identify in the surviving railway documents.

    Some of the railway records, including many relating to the Jewish transports, were captured by the Russians and taken back to the Soviet Union where they have still not been fully studied, but others were captured by the Americans and British. However, there are primary German documents available to western scholars that show that the three Operation Reinhard camps were not an intermediate destination but the final destination of a large number of the Jews from Poland and western Europe:

    July 27, 1942. A letter from Transport Ministry Secretary Albert Ganzenmüller to Karl Wolff, chief of Himmler’s personal staff, noted: “Since July 22, a train load of 5,000 Jews has departed daily from Warsaw via Malkinia to Treblinka, and in addition a train load of 5,000 Jews has left Przemysl twice a week for Belzec…”[5]

    September 26-28, 1942. The German Ministry of Transport held a conference in Berlin. Their meeting notes included the topic “Evacuation of the Polish-Jews.” The notes read:

    2 trains daily from the Warsaw district to Treblinka.

    1 train daily from the Radom district to Treblinka.

    1 train daily from the Cracow district to Belzec.

    1 train daily from the Lvov district to Belzec.

    After repairs had been completed on the Lublin-Chelm line there was to be:

    1 train daily from Radom district to Sobibor.

    1 train daily from the north Zullon district to Belzec.

    1 train daily from the central Lublin district to Sobibor.[6]

    There is no mention of further transports from these places to the East.

    Belzec - SS staff (1942)
    Belzec-SS staff (1942) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    March 26, 1943. A railway time table headed “Transportation Schedule No. 567” detailed a “special train” transporting 2,000 Jewish “resettlers.” The destination was Treblinka.[7]

    January 13, 1943. A document entitled “German Reich Railways” headed “Special trains for resettlers” listed transports from January 13 to February 28, 1943 to Auschwitz, Treblinka and several other ghettos and camps. The document lists the date, the special train code, place of origination, time of departure, destination, and time of arrival.

    The list contains five transports from Bialystok, Poland to Treblinka on February 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, 1943. Each day a train was scheduled to leave Bialystok at 9:00 a.m. and to arrive in Treblinka at 12:10 p.m. After being unloaded and cleaned up, the train left Treblinka about eight hours later and had returned to Bialystok by 1:30 a.m. The same train was used again for the next day’s 9:00 a.m. transport.[8]

    None of the documents about the trains from Bialystok to Treblinka mention anything about moving the Jews on these transports any further to the East. Instead, they were making round trips between Bialystok and Treblinka. Additionally, Bialystok was right on the Soviet border and it would have been an easy matter to have transported the Jews of Bialystok further east from that city itself. The Jews from Bialystok on these trains to Treblinka were going in the wrong direction—away from the east and back west into Poland.

    April 12, 1943. The German military police compiled a detailed report on the transport of 2,400 Jews from Yugoslavia to Belzec. The places and times the train stopped during the journey are listed precisely. The report concludes: “The final destination, Treblinka (the camp), was reached on April 5, 1943 at 07:00…”[9]

    It does not get any clearer: “Final destination, Treblinka.”

    There is corroborating evidence that the Operation Reinhard camps were the final destination and not transit points for the Jews.

    Many transports of Jews from Minsk, Vilna, Lvov, Hrubieszow, Stanislawow, and Zamosc (just to mention a few towns) traveled west back into Poland. These towns were on the border of the ex-Soviet Union or already in its former territories. Yet these Jews were not pushed a few miles east over a river or a nominal border deeper into the East. Instead they were transported by train, a hundred miles or more back into Poland.

    Jürgen Stroop, the SS general who cleared the Warsaw ghetto and put down the Jewish uprising in April 1943, sent a series of detailed daily reports to Berlin. On May 24, 1943 he sent his final report in which he totaled up his successes in the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. “Of the total 56,065 Jews apprehended, about 7,000 were destroyed directly in the course of the grand operation in the former Jewish quarter. 6,929 Jews were destroyed via transport to T II, making the total number of Jews destroyed 13,929. In addition to this figure of 56,065, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Jews were destroyed in explosions or fire.”[10]T II’ is the designation for the Treblinka death camp. It is clear that the Jews Stroop sent to Treblinka were “destroyed” not transported farther to the East.

    There is a total absence of documents or eyewitness testimony that shows the Jews were being shipped further East.

    There is no testimony from German perpetrators, Jewish survivors and bystanders that makes reference to transports of live Jews being pushed farther East into the occupied territories of the Soviet Union through the Operation Reinhard camps. No trace of some 1,400,000 Jews who were allegedly sent into the Soviet Union has ever been found. Where were they sheltered? How were they fed? Were camps built for them? Were they forced into ghettos or pushed onto the local population for support? Why would they not need their clothing, eye glasses, and at least part of their belongings to survive and be able to work? Not one single document or one single Russian citizen has spoken about the resettlement of at some 1,400,000 naked destitute Jews—including several hundred thousand Jews from countries in Europe who would not be able to even fathom their language and customs—into their midst.

    Conclusion

    Weber’s assertion that Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were transit camps, where the Jews were processed for transport deeper into the Soviet Union for labor is false. The precise paperwork of the Germans themselves shows that the “final destination” of the some 1,400,000 Polish and European Jews was death in the Operation Reinhard camps.

    NOTES

    [1] Mark Weber and Andrew Allen, “Wartime Aerial Photos of Treblinka Cast New Doubt on “Death Camp” Claims” at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p133_Allen.html.

    [2] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume II (Holmes & Meier, 1985), pp. 411-416.

    [3] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 145.

    [4] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume II (Holmes & Meier, 1985), p. 416.

    [5] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 51.

    [6] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 52.

    [7] Stephen Potyondi, “Ziel Treblinka/’Final Destination Treblinka’” at https://ia600300.us.archive.org/12/items/ZielTreblinkafinalDestinationTreblinka/MicrosoftWord-Document1.pdf. See also John C. Zimmerman, Holocaust Denial: Demographics, Testimonies and Ideologies (University Press of America, 2000), p. 19 citing Janusz Gumkowski, Poland Under Nazi Occupation (Warsaw, 1961), pp. 64, 65.

    [8] Raul Hilberg, editor. Documents of Destruction: Germany and Jewry 1933-1945 (Quadrangle Books, 1971), pp. 106-111.

    [9] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 145.

    [10] Sybil Milton, translator. The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More! at http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/stroop-report/htm/strp075.htm.en. The entire Report can be read at http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/stroop-report/htm/intro000.htm.