Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Representatives of Polish Jews in America Publish Reports on Nazi “death Camp”

August 12, 1943
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Representation of the General Jewish Worker’s Union of Poland, which maintains contact with the Jewish underground movement in Nazi-occupied Polish territory, today made public a detailed report on the mass-executions of Jews in the Tremblinka Death Camp which is situated in the village of Tremblinka, near the railway line running from Warsaw to Bialystok. A similar report was released today also by the Representation of Polish Jewry in the United States.

“Guards, most of them Ukrainians, are placed in strategic positions around the Camp, carrying machine-guns,” the labor report says. “Strong searchlights have been installed to detect escaping prisoners. A special railway siding has been built to bring the prisoners directly from the freight-trucks into the Camp. Nearby there is a platform which can hold 3,000 men. A strange building is situated along a side road. It is newly created. It has no windows. An eye witness reports that it consists of a long corridor with small cells on both sides. A special arrangement of pipes supplies liquid gas into the cells. This is Death House No. 2.

“Death House No. 1 is also provided with special extermination machinery. Not far away is a large cemetery and special grave diggers work there en-masse. The slaughter-house is headed by an S.S. Captain called Zauaer. He is feared by everybody and is known for his brutality and cruelty.

“The Germans also established a Jewish Guard, whose job it is to sort the clothes of the victims. Jews employed as Guards cannot carry on this work for more than a fortnight because of the inhumanly cruel treatment they receive from the Germans. They are maltreated, beaten and often shot. Sometimes they will report to their Chief that they cannot carry on any longer, and beg for mercy – to be shot. The executions take place in a special square. The victim stands on the edge of the grave and is shot on the back of his head. The next in turn is ordered to throw the body of the previous victim into a large pit. It is reported that one day 500 such Guards were shot in turn, the executions going on from 7 o’clock in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. New guards are recruited from newcomers.


“Two transports of victims are brought to Tremblinka daily, sometimes more,” the report continues. “The trucks in which they are brought are cleared very quickly. The Jewish Guard is ordered by the Germans to give them instructions. ‘You can be confident of your future’ is the first thing that greets a newcomer to Tremblinka staring at him from a huge poster. The poster continues to inform him that he will go East to work and his wife will be in charge of his household. But before he goes on to his destination, the newcomer is told that he must be bathed and deloused, and must deposit his money and valuables with the cashier.

“The man in charge of the auxiliary Jewish police, called Kapos, orders all men to stand in rows of ten, to take off their boots and all their clothing, and to prepare for a bath. Everybody is entitled to a piece of soap and is allowed to take his documents with him. Meanwhile the members of the Service take away his clothes. The order to strip their clothing applies to women and children as well.”

The report then describes how the naked victims are driven into the Death House. When the cells are filled to capacity, the doors are hermetically sealed and the process of asphyxiation by liquid gas begins. The gas pours in through the apertures in the pipes. The process lasts about fifteen minutes. Sometimes there are so many victims that there is no room for them in the execution chambers. Then the surplus is held in the forest nearby, where they can hear the voices and cries coming from the slaughter house.

“Next comes the work of the grave-diggers,” the report continues. “They are driven to work by the Germans and their task is to remove the bodies of the victims from the execution chambers. Liquid gas operates in a very peculiar way. It makes the corpses stick together – bodies, legs, hands – one shapeless mass. In order to enable the grave-diggers to remove the bodies separately, they are sprayed with cold water. Then the bodies are placed on the platform and are taken away. The work has to be done very quickly, and the latest order issued by the Chief of the slaughter house is ‘One man, two corpses.’ This means that each of the grave-diggers has to bury two victims.

“It is obvious that the Germans intend to increase this process of extermination, as a new slaughter house with a capacity of eight to ten thousand victims daily is now being built,” the report concludes, emphasizing that the Tremblinka slaughter-house has been in operation since March, 1942.

Recommended from JTA