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CHAPTER 9

Deportations to Belzec

Organized mass extermination

It is apparent that by May 1942, a decision had been made for the destruction of all Jews.[1] After the re-organization of Belzec, and in preparation for even more transports, the camp was divided into two parts, separated by a camouflaged high fence interwoven with firs. The only entrance into Camp II was by a heavily guarded security gate and, of course, the connecting camouflaged 'tube,' which ran from the undressing barracks directly to the gas chambers. Work Jews could be transferred from Camp I to Camp II but not vice versa.[2] The lower part (Camp I) was the reception area for arrivals. In Camp II there were barracks for the 500 'death brigade' Jews. This regiment of lost souls was made-up of gravediggers, body removers, and specialist artisans, including dentists and technical workers.

By late May – early June 1942 experimental and regionally based mass killings had been supplanted by a general annihilation policy of a 'Final Solution'. The mass killings now went into 'free fall' and encompassed all districts of the General Government. From mid-July the deportations to the death camps began from Western Europe, many now going directly to Auschwitz.

In July 1942, groups of T4 support personnel started to arrive at Reinhardt headquarters in Lublin where each man was sworn to secrecy and warned to keep silent about their duties. Photography was strictly forbidden. (When the police searched the home of Kurt Franz after the war, they found a photograph album containing numerous photographs taken in Treblinka. The album: Schöne Zeiten [Beautiful Times], sealed his conviction).[3]

By the time Treblinka opened on July 22, 1942, the Belzec camp had been completely reorganized and re-structured. The old wooden barracks containing three gas chambers had been demolished and were replaced by a solid building of brick and concrete double the size. The 'new' gas chambers were the only solidly constructed building in the camp.

Although the Jew Rudolf Reder did not arrive at Belzec until August 1942, he had a good idea of how the camp had been originally constructed in the first phase and was now a witness to the construction of the second phase gas chambers:

“The chamber building was made of concrete and covered with a flat roof of tarpaper. It stood on a raised surface with steps leading into it from a reception yard. Along both sides of the building was an unloading platform. The small stairs ended with a door, over which was a notice: 'Bath and inhalation room, 'and a big vase with flowers stood there by the entrance.

From the entrance door, a passage ran along the length of the building with three one-wing doors on each side. The doors led to rooms with no windows. Behind the building was a small room, which housed a petrol engine. The gas chambers were camouflaged with a net interwoven with leaves and branches that stretched over the roof on high poles. A one inch diameter pipe led from the engine room directly into the windowless rooms.”[4]


Footnotes

  1. Pohl, Judenpolitik, 129-131. Return

  2. This was a very strict rule introduced by Wirth and continued until the camp was dismantled. There were exceptions, of course - Rudolf Reder as senior maintenance worker was allowed but he was closely supervised. Return

  3. Klee, Dressen, Riess, Days, 226-7. Return

  4. Kola, Belzec, 69. Return

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