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Poland - page 2

 

 

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Christian was a Green Grocer.

Svend Aage, at age 19, was active in the Danish Resistance.

 

During their absence, the family did not know where they might be or even if they were still alive.

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17,000

 

 

Seventeen Thousand Stones

 

 

 

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It begins as one

But becomes two

 

 

and then three

 

 

 

And then Dozens

And then Hundreds

 

And Then Thousands

 

 

Seventeen Thousand Stones - Rising out of the Earth

to Represent the 800,000 Murdered Here

Eight Hundred Thousand Human Beings

 

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For we are at 

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Treblinka is a raw nasty little place, even when compared to the infamous Auschwitz.  Auschwitz was a huge camp on the outskirts of a city in the area of Poland that the Germans annexed to Germany proper.  Here the camp was carved out of virgin woods in the eastern fringes of Poland near a very small railroad stop named Treblinka, four miles distant.  It had just enough room to slaughter thousands and house the 25 SS and 100 or so Ukrainian guards and the couple hundred prisoners who served as laborers in the killing process.

 

It was designed and built to kill as cheaply and as quickly as possible.  Upon arrival the prisoners were told to get out of their clothes (#17 and 18 above) and then immediately moved to the gas chamber where a used Soviet tank diesel engine pumped its exhaust into the rooms.  Initially the bodies where dumped into mass graves, but after a failure of such a grave at Sobibor it was decided that all corpses - past and future - should be burned to ash.  (At Sobibor, thousands of bodies decomposing produced such quantities of liquids that the ground could not absorb it fast enough and the entire grave floated to the surface.  It was reported that the stench could be discerned 25 miles away).

At first the bodies were burned in piles on the ground but that proved to be very ineffective.  Thus a "grill" of railroad rails was constructed and the remains were placed on this for disposal.  The fire was usually kept burning 24 hours a day.

 

 

A recreation of the fire pit

 

Day in and day out the killing went on.  From May 1942 until August 1943.

In August 1943 the Jewish labor prisoners (Sonderkommandos) rebelled and staged an escape.  100 may have gotten out after killing many guards and burning enough of the camp to render it useless as an extermination camp.  The Germans decided to close the camp and disassemble it to hide any trace of what they did there.  (Other camps also staged revolts and all but Auschwitz where closed by the end of 1943.  Auschwitz continued until the Fall of 1944 and even then the prisoners rebelled and destroyed Crematorium number 4.)

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The Nazis almost succeeded.  At the end of the war, Poland's Jewish population numbered in the hundreds, whereas in Warsaw alone the prewar population of Jews was 460,000.

 

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Seventeen thousand stones

 

rising out of the earth.

 

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And every one of them speaks to you.

 

And every one of them says...

 

 

 

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We were the only ones to tour the site on this August morning.

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Christian was held overnight and then released.

Svend Aage was imprisoned for over 10 months at a camp near Hamburg.

At the end of the war he was released and returned home via Sweden.

He was one of the lucky ones.

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Next - back to a happier Poland 

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