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Survivors recounts the Treblinka Death Camp!

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Hershl Sperling

Personal Testimony of the Treblinka Death Camp


Hershl Sperling and his family lived in the Czestochowa ghetto on Wilsona Street near the ghetto wall.

What follows below is his account of the deportation and incarceration in the Treblinka death camp




Czestochowa Wartime Town Map showing Wilsona Street (click text to enlarge)

In September 1942, the deportation of the Jews of Czestochowa began. We had already sensed it coming weeks before. The town was surrounded by SS units. We are all woken from sleep before daybreak by the noise of wild shooting, vehicles and people screaming and wailing.


We look out into the street and see the SS men savagely bursting into people’s houses and driving the occupants out into the street with blows from their rifle-butts. We watch them arbitrarily dividing up people after a superficial glance at their work-permits; a very small minority of them is assigned to work, and the rest are transported away en masse.


Some kind of premonition tells us that this is the route to death, and we decide to hide in the bunker, which we had already prepared. Some elderly Jews join us and we lie together, hidden in the bunker, cut off from the world, and discus our dangerous situation. We don’t dare go out in daylight, but at night we creep out into the fields to find something to eat. There are cabbages, turnips, and other vegetables. We bring them back and cook them on an electric stove. At night when it is dark, we enter the houses of the deported Jews and search through the abandoned rooms.


Our bunker is discovered almost at the end of the period of deportations. Whether we were betrayed by someone, or whether it was purely chance, we don’t know. The commander of the deportations, Degenhardt makes a personal appearance and commands us all to leave the bunker. We all comply, because we know if we were discovered during a second search, it will be certain death. We are taken to Pszemiszlaver Street, where the last deportees are just being taken away.


Of the seven thousand Jews who are rounded up here, three hundred men and ten women are assigned to a work – detail in Czestochowa. The remainder are forced into a large factory yard. They are destined for the furnace in Treblinka.


On the day before the deportation one loaf is distributed to each person, for which they have to pay one zloty. This is a carefully worked out plan of the Germans. According to the number of zlotys they will know the number of people and can estimate how many wagons they will need, and how many people should be loaded into each wagon. At four o’clock in the morning the deportation began. Everyone has to assemble. Everyone has to take off their shoes, tie them together and hang them over their shoulders. Then begins, silent and barefoot, the march to annihilation. At the exit to the factory yard a box has been placed.


Under threat of punishment by death, everybody has to throw all their valuables into it. Hardly anyone does it. As they marched on, however, their fear grows. They have second thoughts about it and from all sides valuables, foreign currency, money and so on are dropped by the wayside. The route of the death-march is littered with Jewish possessions.


When we arrive at the train, the SS shove eighty to hundred people into each of the wagons. The disinfectant calcium chloride is scattered liberally into every wagon. Each wagon receives three small loaves of bread and a little water. Then the doors are pushed shut, locked and sealed, Ukrainian and Lithuanian SS stand guard at the steps of each wagon. We are shut in like cattle, tightly crammed together. Only a tiny bit of air comes in through the one small wire-covered window, so that we can hardly breathe.


The calcium chloride hardly helps combat the unbearable smell, which gets worse all the time. Some women faint and others vomit. The natural functions also have to be performed in the wagon, which makes the situation even more terrible, and on top of everything else we are tormented by a dreadful thirst.


We become utterly desperate and keep begging the SS guards to bring us some water. They refuse for a long time but eventually they agree to give us some water, but only for money. We managed to collect a few thousand zloty and give them to the guards. The SS take the money, but no water appears. Thus in pain and torment, the journey drags on until we reach Warsaw. Then our train is shunted into a siding. It’s not until the following morning that we travel on to Malkinia, seven kilometres from Treblinka.


Here we see Poles working in the fields and try to communicate with them. We just want to find out what our fate is going to be. They, however, hardly lift their eyes from their work, and when they do, they just shout one word at us: “Death!”


We’re seized by terror. We can’t believe it. Our minds simply won’t take it in. Is there really and truly no escape for us? One of the Polish workers mentions burnings, another, shootings, and a third – gassings. Another tells of inhuman, unbelievable tortures. An unbearable state of tension mounts among us, which in some cases even leads to outbreaks of hysteria.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/sperling.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo A. Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012

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

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