Trial of Treblinka Death Camp Officials, Guards, Opens in Duesseldorf

Ten former SS officers and guards of the notorious Treblinka concentration camp heard the prosecution detail charges today of murder, man slaughter and sadistic cruelty in the opening session of their trial for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the early years of the Second World War.

In the year and a half between February 1942 and November 1943, 300,000 persons, most of them Polish Jews, were put to death at Treblinka, about 50 miles northwest of Warsaw; Some of the inmates participated in an escape attempt in 1942 but most of them were recaptured and put to death.

Chief defendant in the trial is former S.S. lieutenant Karl Hubert Franz, head of the camp’s SS guards, whose activities during the period were detailed in the prosecution indictment read to the court.

Franz, who has been under arrest since 1959, was named “Lalka” by the prisoners from the Polish word for “ghoul” He was charged with using his pistol and whip at every opportunity and with compelling prisoners to climb trees so that he could shoot them down to demonstrate his marksmanship. Other prisoners were forced to carry bottles as targets, but his bullets struck them in the head. On one occasion, he shot a dozen Jews because he found one of them wearing a Star of David.

Franz frankly admitted that Treblinke was an extermination camp which was destroyed by the SS troops at the end of 1943 when all remaining inmates were killed and the camp was replaced by a large farmhouse to hide any trace of its notorious past.

The court, composed of three judges headed by Dr. Gottfrieder and a six-member jury including one woman, decided to meet three times a week–on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays–until the end of January to hear the testimony which will include 85 prosecution witnesses.

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