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    Operation Reinhard Gas Chambers: Traces of the Gas Chambers

    Are there physical traces of the gas chamber buildings in the Operation Reinhard camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    No physical traces of the gas chambers buildings in the Operation Reinhard camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec can be found; therefore, they did not exist.

    The facts:

    Although little physical evidence remains of the gas chambers in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, photographic evidence, including aerial photographs, reveals much about the physical layout of the camps, their buildings and gas chambers.

    Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, states: “Treblinka is, in fact, the most fitting landmark of the ‘Holocaust,’ a mirage of a million-fold genocide in gas chambers, of which not the slightest documentary or material trace exists . . .”[1]

    The evidence for the existence of the gas chambers in Treblinka.

    There is physical evidence for the layout of the camp generally and the gas chambers specifically in Treblinka. This evidence includes photographs taken by the perpetrators during the camp’s existence and an aerial photograph taken six months after the camp was razed to the ground and closed. Kurt Franz’s photograph collection is a particularly famous example.[2]

    Locating the gas chamber buildings in the death camp area of Treblinka on aerial photographs.

    Most of the buildings at Treblinka, including the gas chambers, were designed to be temporary constructions. The gas chambers were made of brick, wood, and concrete and had shallow foundations. When the Germans razed the camp they tore down the above ground structures and bulldozed the sandy soil over the traces of the foundation walls and concrete floors leaving little to find on the surface without conducting purposeful and extensive digging and mapping.

    However, Alex Bay, using sophisticated computer and mathematical analysis, has reconstructed a three-dimensional portrait of Treblinka using a 1944 aerial reconnaissance photograph and Kurt Franz’s photograph collection. On the aerial photograph Bay found the visible scar of the “tube” that led from the reception area, where the Jews were unloaded and forced to undress, to the gas chamber buildings. The traces of the “tube” are marked by the clear traces of the fence posts that lined its sides. Although Bay was unable to find definitive traces of the gas chamber buildings on the images, it seems reasonable to conclude that they were close to the end of the tube (in the area marked with an ‘X.’[3]

    Corroborating evidence of the aerial image and Franz’s photographs.

    When Bay examined Franz’s photographs he found an image of the excavators in the area of the mass graves that featured partial views of both the smaller and larger gas chamber buildings. Visible in the image is the end of the older and smaller gas chamber building as well as the room in which the engine was installed. Also visible, but partially blocked by the excavator, is the western end of the roof of the newer, larger gas chamber building.

    The photograph also shows a well house, a fence that shielded the view of the mass graves area, a gate and two prisoners carrying a stretcher—all details whose existence and location are corroborated by both survivor and perpetrator eyewitnesses.[4]

    By Unknown, overlay legend in Photoshop by Poeticbent, via Wikimedia Commons. Original from the National Archives Air Photo library at Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A. Cartographic Division (Record Group 373).

    There is survivor eyewitness testimony about the location of the gas chambers in Treblinka.

    Yankiel Wiernik, a survivor of Treblinka, was forced to help build the newer larger gas chambers. Wiernik described and located both the “tube” and the old and the new gas chambers in a model he constructed in the 1950s, which is now in display in Israel.

    Without any knowledge of the 1944 aerial photograph, Wiernik places the “tube” and both gas chamber buildings in the location indicated by the scars in the aerial photograph. Further, without any knowledge of Franz’s photographs, Wiernik correctly reconstructed similar-looking buildings including a peculiarity of the roof line of the new gas chamber building, which is featured in Franz’s photographs, which were not found until the 1960s.[5]

    Chil Rajchman (also known as Henryk Reichman), a survivor of Treblinka, confirms the existence of both gas chamber buildings at the end of the tube:

    At the time I began working in the death camp, there were two gassing structures in operation. The larger one had ten chambers, into each of which as many as four hundred people could enter. Each chamber was 7 metres long by 7 metres wide [23 feet by 23 feet]. People were stuffed into them in like herrings. When one chamber was full, the second one was opened, and so on. Small transports were brought to the smaller structure, which had three gas chambers, each of which could hold 450 to 500 persons.

    Yankiel Wiernick builds Treblinka camp model in Lojamey Hagetaot Museum 1
    Yaakov Wiernik builds a Treblinka camp model in Lohamey Hagetaot Museaum. By unknown. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


    Franz’s photographs, the 1944 aerial image and Wiernik’s model confirm the location of the “tube” and the two buildings at the end of it. Wiernik built his model in the 1950s when his memory was fresh. In addition, the architectural features of his model buildings are consistent with the features of the gas chamber buildings shown in Franz’s photographs, which were not found until the 1960s. The three pieces of evidence taken together make a persuasive and conclusive case that the gas chamber buildings in Treblinka existed and that their general location has been identified.


    [1] Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), 301 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/t.pdf.

    [2] Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Reiss, editors. “The Good Old Days” The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders (Free Press, 1998), 225-227, 245, 246, 248. See also “Kurt Franz” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Franz.

    [3] Alex Bay, “The Reconstruction of Treblinka at https://archive.org/details/TheReconstructionOfTreblinka.

    [4] Alex Bay, “The Reconstruction of Treblinka” at https://archive.org/details/TheReconstructionOfTreblinka. See figures 36 and 37.

    [5] You may see photographs of Wiernik’s model in “A Year in Treblinka” at http://www.zchor.org/treblink/wiernik.htm and http://www.forward.com/articles/104670/.

    [6] Chil Rajchman, The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory 1942-1943 (Pegasus Books, 2011), 65.