A Somber Memorial


For 15 months during World War II a 60-acre site 50 miles northeast of Warsaw became a symbol of hatred — from July 23, 1942 until Oct. 19, 1943, at least 800,000 people, Jews and some Gypsies were killed at Treblinka, one of the Nazis’ infamous killing fields on Polish soil.

For a few days recently, Treblinka became a symbol of reconciliation.

As part of an educational program under the auspices of Polish officials, Warsaw’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and Treblinka’s Struggle and Martyrdom Museum, hundreds of Polish and Israeli high school students learned about each other and about their respective histories.

As part of the project, which was launched four years ago, the students discussed the millennia-old Jewish history in Poland, and brave Poles who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. And some participants, above, met in front of a Treblinka monument during a memorial ceremony for the death camp’s victims.

Zvi Rav-Ner, Israeli’s ambassador to Poland, and Samuel Willenberg, the last surviving participant in the 1943 Treblinka prisoners’ revolt, accompanied the delegations, as did several Poles who have been honored as Righteous Gentiles by Yad Vashem.

Following the August 1943 uprising, the camp was dismantled and destroyed, in an attempt to hide evidence of its genocidal existence. A farmhouse was built on the grounds.

In 1958 Treblinka was declared a national monument; subsequently, monuments and exhibition space were erected there.

The legacy of Treblinka is unlikely to be forgotten — its history is the subject of a new documentary produced by the BBC.