(1) First Investigation 10.10.1945. The Polish War Crimes Commission of the Zamosc District Court, dated 11 April, 1946. investigation was lead by Judge Czeslaw Godzieszewski from the District Court in Zamosc.
On that day, Judge Godzieszewski and his team of investigators entered Belzec camp and began their investigations. Nine pits were opened up which confirmed the existence of mass graves, some still containing human remains, and the fact that thousands of corpses had been cremated and the bones crushed into small pieces. The human remains unearthed were re-interred in a specially built concrete crypt near the NE corner of the camp.
Second Investigation The Main Commission of Enquiry, 1946
The Main Commission report opens its conclusions by stating that Belzec was the second camp to be built by the Nazis for the extermination of Jews. The report cites the first camp where extermination took place between 1941-1943 as Chelmno-on-the -Nev, which began functioning on 8 December, 1941, followed by Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.
The Main Commission had at their disposal the evidence provided on occasions by the German staff, and from the personal observations of witnesses who had either temporarily been employed in the camp and had the opportunity to see what was going on around them.
The Commission drew attention to the systematic raising of the ghettos, the transports from towns and the set-up of transit camps at Izbica and Piaski. The Commission further outlined the resettlement transports from eastern Europe to Belzec, and the inclusion in these transports of Polish non Jews who had been engaged in anti Nazi activities.
The author of this paper was present in the course of a further investigation at Belzec, to establish the locations of mass graves. All work was carried out under the auspices of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, and the Polish government. The archaeological investigation conducted by representatives from the Nicholas Copernicus University of Torun led by Dr. Mieczyslaw Gora located 33 mass graves were located:
|1. 40m x 11m x 6m deep||naked mummified corpses/black fat/hair|
|2. 15m x 5m x 2m deep||unburned corpses/carbonised wood/|
|3. 20m x 15m x 5m deep||unburned corpses/hair/bone/black fat|
|4. 20m x 8m 5m deep||unburned corpses/hair/bone/black fat|
|5. 35m x 15m x 5m deep||bones so dense - drill could not penetrate|
|6. 33m x 14m x 5m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/|
|7. 30m x 14m x 5m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/dark grey ash|
|8. 30m x 14m-extending 90m x 12m - sw||burnt bone/remains/wood|
|9. 10m x 10m x 5m deep||burnt human remains/wood/grey sand|
|10. 25m x 90m x 4m 80cm deep||large bone/fat tissue/greasy lime|
|11. 11m x 9m x 1.90 deep||burnt bone/remains/wood|
|12. L shape - 20m x 28m x 3 - 5m deep||unburned bone/remains/g/sand/burnt wood|
|13. 5m x 5m x 4.80cm deep (smallest)||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|14. 65-70m x 30m x - 8m x 4m deep (largest)||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|15. 12m x 7m||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|16. 20m x 8m x 4.10cm deep||burnt bone/remains/wood|
|17. 16m x 8m x 3.50m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|18. 15m x 10m x 3.50m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|19. 14m x 8m x 3.50m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|20. 30-35m x 10m (extends outside wire)||burnt bone/wood/dental bridge-4 f/t.|
|21. 7m x7m 1.70m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|22. 27m x 10m x 3.60 deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|23. 10m x 7m x 4.20m deep||burnt bone/remains|
|24. Narrow Trench 10m x 2m x 4.80cm deep||burnt bone/remains|
|25. 14m x 8m x 3m deep||waxy fat/greasy lime/burnt bone/corpses|
|26. 9m x 9m x 4.20m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood|
|27. 10m x 4m x 4+ deep||burnt bone/wood/grey waxy lime/remains|
|28. 6m x 6m x 4.90m deep||burnt bone/remains/fat greasy lime|
|29. 30m x 10m x 4m + deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|30. 10m x 4m x 3.80cm deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|31. 10m x 6m x 3.80cm deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand|
|32. 15m x 5m x 4.10cm deep||unburned corpses/burnt bone/remains/lime|
|33. 5m x 5m x 2.80m deep||burnt bone/remains/wood/grey sand/lime|
Number of Victims (Part 1)
According to the report of Alois Berezow, the Polish stationmaster at Belzec, the camp opened mid-March 1942, and ran continuously (except during re-building in May and June) until October 1942. it was phased out between October and December, 1942. From March until October 1942, one to three transports arrived in Belzec daily, averaging forty cars per transport and 100 persons per car. From October to December, 1942, the transports were cut to two per week.The commission estimated that not fewer than 600, 000 persons were gassed in Belzec, including 1000 to 1500 non Jewish Poles.
In its attempt to establish the total number of victims, the Polish War Crimes Commission had to rely on the evidence of witnesses, mostly Polish railway workers, among them the station master at Belzec, Alojzy Bereszowski. The Commission had no other evidence at their disposal so were only able to give an approximate estimate. They had also taken into account that after the camp ceased to exist, the Germans had taken considerable care to obliterate the evidence and all trace of their crimes. All the railway documents that undoubtedly would have been of the most authoritative source as well as that of the victims had been completely destroyed.
The Commission then began the task of coming to some kind of conclusions as to the number of Jews murdered in Belzec. This was not easy on the available evidence: The Commission accepted that the greatest time of exterminations took place in July, August and September, 1942. However, the evidence of Rudolf Reder, a survivor and witness to Belzec, and subsequent research, shows that the height of the extermination took place in the months of August, September and October (See summary p, 16). Reder: ` From August up to the end of November 1942, they came every day, without interruption, three times daily. Each train numbered fifty cars, with hundreds of people in each one of them`.
According to statements of witnesses (available to them at the time), the number of transports which arrived at Belzec during the first month (March) of the camp`s existence, and during the three summer months mentioned above - varied from 1-3 transports daily. Each transport consisted from -15 - 60 wagons; the average being about 40. Some of the wagons had the No. of victims inside marked on them in chalk; generally it varied from 100 - 130. The railway employee, Brzezowski stated to the Commission that the railway documents were, as a rule, handed over directly by the escort police guard leader to Rudolf Gockel, the German station master. However, it sometimes happened that they were given to a member of the Polish Staff, so that it was occasionally possible to obtain accurate information about the number of people brought to Belzec. The result of the Commissions calculations concluded that between 17 March and end of May, 1942 (133 days), one transport each day of 4, 000 (40 wagons x 100 people = 4000) arrived at Belzec. Between October and December, 1942, two transports arrived weekly. The Commission concluded the total number of people exterminated in Belzec to be not less than 600, 000.
Although these findings fit very nicely into a well balanced conclusion, I am very dubious that the Commissions conclusions are founded in fact. The expert`s conclusions of 100 per wagon arriving at Belzec is, if anything, not too high, but too low. We have a number of transports that were filled with between 150-200 people per wagon. Taking into account the witness evidence (from all sides), we arrive at a much larger average of persons per wagon, i.e., 120-150. Another important factor here, of course, was the European Jews were brought to Belzec in wagons and passenger coaches, not like the Galician Jews who only knew the inside of wagons. Transportation facts, numbers of victims are further obscured by the receiving camp`s policy of not recording numbers. SS-Unterschafuhrer Robert Juhrs when questioned at a later Belzec trial concerning numbers of victims, replied: `in connection with this I may emphasise that we strictly had to avoid the mention of numbers....
The final part of the Belzec Commission report dealt with the winding down activities: the cremations, the destruction of evidence, dismantling of the gas chambers, the fences removed and the ground ploughed up and planted with firs and lupines. A final inspection was carried out by a special SD Commission who satisfied themselves that everything had been done to cover up the crimes of the `Action Reinhardt` period in Belzec.
The concluding estimates of Jews murdered in Belzec has always registered in the region of 600, 000. In the following reassessment my conclusions challenge this figure which are wholly derived from collective and other miscellaneous sources. I have also stepped into 1943 (outside of the Belzec period) in order to tidy up the remaining expulsions from the Galician district.
1. Okregowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemo/Instytut Pamiece Narodowej, Lublin (hereafter OKBZ), file No.: Ds. 1604/45 - Zamosc.
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