Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory 1942–1943
Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Samuel Moyn, Chil Rajchman, Solon Beinfeld
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Chil Rajchman, a Polish Jew, was arrested with his younger sister in 1942 and sent to Treblinka, a death camp where more than 750,000 were murdered before it was abandoned by German soldiers. His sister was sent to the gas chambers, but Rajchman escaped execution, working for ten months under incessant threats and beatings as a barber, a clothes-sorter, a corpse-carrier, a puller of teeth from those same bodies. In August 1943, there was an uprising at the camp, and Rajchman was among the handful of men who managed to escape. In 1945, he set down this account, a plain, unembellished and exact record of the raw horror he endured every day. This unique testimony, which has remained in the sole possession of his family ever since, has never before been published in English. For its description of unspeakably cruelty, Treblinka is a memoir that will not be superseded.
In addition to Rajchman's account, this volume will include the complete text of Vasily Grossman's 'The Hell of Treblinka', one of the first descriptions of a Nazi extermination camp; a powerful and harrowing piece of journalism written only weeks after the camp was dissolved. Introduction by Samuel Moyn, Professor of History at Columbia University and author of A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France.
canteen. It doesn’t take long before his wish is fulﬁlled. They ﬁll the ﬁrst goblet, and the guest, Lyalke, says: – We drink to the imminent arrival of the Jews of England! The section chief is very pleased with the joke and laughs: – Ja, das ist gut, das kommt sicher! (Yes, that’s good, that’s sure to happen!) In winter the criminals leave the women destined for the gas chambers outside at a temperature of -25 degrees Celsius. The snow is half a metre high and the murderers laugh: – How
beautiful it is! In December 1942 the criminals began to set up ovens to burn the corpses, but they did not work well, as the corpses refused to burn. For that reason a crematorium was built with special ﬁttings. A special motor was attached that increased the ﬂow of air, and in addition a lot of petrol was poured in. But the 71 corpses still do not want to burn well. The maximum number of incinerated corpses reaches a thousand per day. The murderers are not satisﬁed with this small quantity.
laughs at the sight of them and is happy and satisﬁed with his role. After a few days he gets to work intensively. He orders the ovens to be dismantled and laughs at how things are done here. He assures our section chief that from now on the work will go much better. He lays down ordinary long, thick iron rails to a length of 30 metres. Several low walls of poured cement are built 72 to a height of 50 centimetres. The width of the oven is a metre and a half. Six rails are laid down, no more.
us. As a result, we have been able to get to know each other better. We have begun to trust one another more and to think about the possibilities of escape. We know that this is a difﬁcult undertaking and are even afraid to discuss it among ourselves for fear of denunciation. We examine various possibilities. But the plans are difﬁcult to carry out. We are unarmed and yet we plan all sorts of things. Our conversations take place in the corners of the barracks, and there is always a guard
are crawling about over all these half-rotted bits and pieces, over all these papers and photographs. We walk on over the swaying, bottomless earth of Treblinka and suddenly come to a stop. Thick wavy hair, gleaming like burnished copper, the delicate lovely hair of a young woman, trampled into the ground; and beside it, some equally ﬁne blonde hair; and then some heavy black plaits on the bright sand; and then, more and more. . . Evidently these are the contents of a sack, just a single sack