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Treblinka suvivor Isadore Helfing interview

Isadore Helfing

Treblinka Death Camp Survivor 

Selected Extracts from USHMM Interview held on the 3 September 1992   

[Photos added to enhance the text]


Isadore Helfing

Isadore Helfing was born to a Jewish family in Kielce, Poland. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Isadore and his family were forced into the Kielce ghetto, which was established in April 1941. When his parents were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942, Isadore went with them rather than remaining behind for forced labor.


After arrival at the camp, Isadore hid in a pile of bodies. His parents were killed. Isadore survived by working in the camp. On August 2, 1943, prisoners at Treblinka revolted and Isadore escaped. He was first taken in by a farmer, and then stayed with a partisan group until Soviet forces liberated the area.


Can you tell me what your transport and arrival at Treblinka was like?


It was mostly from my, from my hometown. Was picked up in those, in those trains you know where they transfer cattle, stuff like that. Yeah.


Describe what it was like when they opened the doors. What you saw and how you felt and what you did?


The minute they opened up the door, I was facing right about two storeys dead people right in front of it laying there. These were the people that came before dead right in the trains, in those uh trains, and they pushed them out because they did, they didn’t have time to haul away because another train came in, and that’s what it was, that I saw.


And what did you do?


What I did, I saw it, we’re going all, that’s it, and I see boys dragging dead bodies to the grave you know, and I jumped right in and start dragging those bodies just like I was one of them.


And we’re pulling it to the graves. And uh so this was about three or four o’clock and you know and then the night rolls around and I could not join them, so I hide, I was hiding myself between the bodies there, so.


And then in the morning, I did start doing the same thing, but I see in that they count fifty people dragging those bodies in this particular time, and two or three were killed, they, they shoot them because they couldn’t uh drag those bodies, got sick and so on.


So I joined right into the group, and I became one of the people. So like in the morning they came you know, and they count out the people, how many people there were right among the people there. If somebody is missing so they were looking what’s happened you know, maybe he escaped or something.


So you actually broke into ……


Broken right into the… to the crew, like I am one of it. Everybody was wearing the same, the same clothes, like they were, when they came in.


Now describe in detail, if you remember it, how Treblinka was laid out?


The way it’s laid out?


Well, we, they make you go, the people in a little alley go and they say, “Man at right, woman at the left,” and over there they had to take off the clothes, and they pushed them right into the gate, and while they’re coming to the gate, they come this way and they join together, and they just went, that time I didn’t know where they go, but then they went to the gas chambers, all together.


What was the camp like? Tell me about the buildings, how big it was, where you slept, tell me how everything was?


We slept in a building just like a barrack, you know. Was sandy floor, and that’s the way we were sleeping there in those barracks. This was in the beginning, the first two months when I was there. Later they built, you know a barracks, where you can sleep like a, they call this bunks.






Tell me how the whole camp was, how many buildings there were, how big it was, where the gas chambers were, describe to me?


The gas, the gas chambers were about ………….
That was the size of a single garage, something like that.  A garage- like that...


Read more here:  www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/helfing.html


 The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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