Summarized and shortened from here.
http://holocaustcontroversies.yuku.com/ ... GQG9Ge6XXQ
Abraham Krzepicki: Eighteen Days in Treblinka
Source: The Death Camp Treblinka. A Documentary, edited by Alexander Donat, New York 1979
ABRAHAM JACOB KRZEPICKI was in his early twenties when war broke out in Poland in 1939. He was drafted into the Polish army and was taken prisoner by the Germans. After his release, he settled in Warsaw. On August 25, 1942, he was deported to Treblinka. However, he managed to escape 18 days later and returned to the Warsaw ghetto. He joined the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization) in the ghetto and was killed in the Warsaw ghetto uprising in April, 1943. He was a member of a Hanoar-Hatzioni group headed by Jacob Praszker. During the shelling of the Brush Workshops he was wounded in the leg. His comrades had to evacuate the burning building and were forced to abandon him and other wounded fighters.
The leaders of the ghetto underground archives (under the historian Emanuel Ringelblum) entrusted Rachel Auerbach with the task of recording the testimony given by Krzepicki (December, 1942–January, 1943). Krzepicki’s report–he was then 25 years old–was the first eyewitness account of the crimes perpetrated at Treblinka. The manuscript (in Yiddish) had been buried in the rubble of the ghetto along with other documents from the second part of the Ringelblum archives. It was recovered on December 1, 1950 by Polish construction workers beneath the ruins of 68 Nowolipki Street. The original manuscript is now at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (File #290). It was first published in the Jan. –June, 1956 issue of the Institute’s Yiddish-language publication, Bleter far Geshikhte (Vol. XI, No.1-2, 1956, Warsaw).
This is the first English translation of Krzepichi’s account.
“So Many Clothes! But Where Are the People?” We left the cars tired and exhausted. After traveling for so many hours in semidarkness, we were momentarily blinded by the sun. It was 5 p.m., but the day’s heat was at full strength. As we looked around, we saw countless piles of rags. The sight stabbed at our hearts. So many clothes! But where were the people? We began to recall stories we had heard of Lublin, Kolo, Turek and we said to each other, “Jews, this is no good! They’ve got us!” They drove us faster, faster. Through another exit, guarded by a Ukrainian, we left the platform area and entered a fenced-off area where two barracks were located.
One of the Germans rapped out a command: “Women and children to the left! Men to the right!” A little later, two Jews were stationed there as interpreters to show the crowd where to go. We men were told to sit down outside along the length of the barrack on the right. The women all went into the barrack on the left and, as we later learned, they were told at once to strip naked and were driven out of the barrack through another door. From there, they entered a narrow path lined on either side with barbed wire. This path led through a small grove to the building that housed the gas chamber. Only a few minutes later we could hear their terrible screams, but we could not see anything, because the trees of the grove blocked our view.
Beneath Machine Gun Barrels. As we sat there, tired and resigned-some of us lying stretched out on the sand–we could see a heavy machine gun being set up on the roof of the barrack on the left side, with three Ukrainian servicemen stretched out around it. We figured that any minute they would turn the machine gun on us and kill us all. This fear put some new life into me, but then I again felt the terrible thirst which had been torturing me for so many hours. The Ukrainians on the barrack roof had opened an umbrella over their heads to shield them from the sun. My sole thought at that moment was, “A cup of water! just one more cup of water before I die!”
The Corpse Processing Plant at Work. Five hundred meters farther away, a machine was at work digging ditches. This machine, together with its motor, was as big as a railroad car. Its mechanical shovels were digging up piles of dirt. The machine loaded the dirt into little wagons, which turned away and dumped it onto the side. Things were humming out there on that big field. Many Jews had already been working there earlier. They were dragging corpses into the ditches which had been dug for them by the machine. We could also see Jews pushing carts piled with bodies toward the big ditches at the edge of the field.
There it was again, that stench. They were all running, pursued by Germans, Ukrainians, and even Jewish group leaders called kapos (Kameraden-Polizei), who kept driving them on: “Faster! Faster!” All the while, we could hear the crack of pistols and rifles and the whine of bullets. But there were no cries or groans from those who were shot because the Germans shot them from the back in the neck. In that way, the person drops dead quick as lightning and never even has a chance to make his voice heard one last time.
There were various kinds of ditches in that place. At a distance, running parallel with the outermost camp fence, there were three giant mass graves, in which the dead were arranged in layers. Closer to the barracks, a somewhat smaller ditch had been dug. This was where our 60 men were put to work. A group of workers walked around the area, dusting the corpses with chlorine powder, which they dipped from big barrels with their buckets. [... ]
I should point out here that none of the gassing victims were buried in this area; only those who had died in the transports or who had been shot on arrival at the camp, before entering the “showers.”
Our team of 60 men was divided into three groups. Since I knew German, I became the leader of my group, and in fact soon had to shout at my people and chase them. If I had not done so, I could have been whipped or shot at any time.
The Personal Effects of the Victims. When we were through with the bodies in the well, we were taken to clear away the things in the left-hand barracks, where the people undressed before entering the gas chamber. Here, piled up in huge mounds, were the garments, underwear, shoes and all sorts of other items left by the men, women and children who had undressed there the day before. Various amounts of cash, large and small, were also lying around on the floor. There was Polish money as well as foreign currency, securities and jewelry. It was our job to pick up the rags as they were, and to add them to the piles of clothing near the railroad tracks
A Ukrainian Tries to Cheer Us Up.
The strangest thing of all was that a Ukrainian was among those who tried to cheer us up. He was on guard duty over the barrack and when he heard the commotion and weeping inside he walked in and spoke to us in Russian, telling us not to take things so hard. Nothing would happen, nothing would be done to us; we would go on working the same as before.
And, wonder of wonders, his prediction came true. A rare miracle occurred. To this day, I don’t know why. Some said that there had been a breakdown in the gas chamber. By morning, no one had come for us, and then we had roll call just as usual. It is true that 80 men had been taken out to be shot, but the remainder, a good few hundred people, were assigned new work..
After I had been working a few days at sorting personal effects – no new transports had yet arrived – I was assigned along with 14 other men to clean up the road to the gas chamber, or, as they called it, the “bathhouse.” That area aroused the greatest fear among all of us. But I had never been there before.
The “Trash” on the Last Road. The road leading from the left hand barracks or the roll call area to the building in the middle of the woods was concealed by trees. This was the path upon which hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children ran their last race, a narrow sandy winding path bordered on both sides with a barbed wire fence ...
As we came closer to the path, we saw the “trash” which they wanted us to clean up before new transports arrived. This “trash” consisted of a veritable windfall of banknotes which people had torn up and thrown away before they died. We were given special birch brooms and rakes for the job. With the rakes, we raked up gold coins, jewels and diamonds from the sand. One of us picked up a gold twenty-dollar coin and took it over to the Ukrainian who was standing guard over us, as an inducement to have him get off our backs as we worked.
I Already Know the Whole Camp. The next morning, 15 men, including myself, were taken out of our group and escorted once again to the gas chamber area. This time we were given a different job; we were ordered to help put up the walls of a new building. Some said that this would be a crematorium for the bodies of those who had been asphyxiated in the gas chamber because burying them took up too much space. I came to a new area with a separate barrack for the workers– a kingdom unto itself. In this way, I got an opportunity to acquaint myself with the most secret and important part of the camp–the part where the mechanical murder factory itself was located, and also the separate field for the dead where those who were murdered there were buried. One after another, I was able to learn about all the parts of the annihilation camp, Treblinka 2.
The Gas Chambers. By that time I had already become acquainted with four district parts of the camp, including the big, five-sided field of corpses, which was fenced off next to the railroad tracks, and the roll call square between the two barracks. But I had not yet become acquainted with the most terrible of all the parts of the camp-the gas chambers. That day, I was to come quite close to this, the fifth and last part of the camp. I have forgotten to mention that there were towers at all four corners of the camp, each of them three stories high, in which Ukrainian guards constantly paced back and forth. These were the watchtowers which served as observation posts to make sure that no one could run away from the camp. At the top levels of the watchtowers, there were machine guns, searchlights which sent out broad beacons every few minutes to every part of the camp, making the night as bright as midday. Only on nights when Warsaw was bombed did the searchlights remain dark.
Most of the buildings in the camp were made of wood. The gas chamber and the new building–which was in the process of being built at the time and to which we were assigned as construction helpers-were made of brick.
We were put to work slaking lime in the ditches which had been dug. Barrels of water, drawn from a special well, were standing nearby. It was from these barrels that, for the only time while I was in Treblinka, I was able to satisfy my thirst a little more. But it did not do me any good. just like others who finally got a chance to grab a little more water, I was seized by diarrhea that same day. It was very debilitating.
Aside from that little bit of water, the workers were no better off in this area than elsewhere in the camp. On the contrary, here in the “Death Camp,” as that place was known, the treatment the workers received was even harsher, if that was possible.
Toward noon, when the sun was burning at its strongest, I witnessed a scene which had a most horrible impact on me.
On my way back from the kitchen, I happened to pass by the barrack which housed those who were regularly employed in that area. In general, these people had no contact with the workers in the rest of the camp. There, I came upon three Jews lying on the ground. I didn’t know how they got there. Perhaps they hadn’t been able to make themselves go on working, or perhaps they had collapsed from exhaustion, and wanted to rest a little, and had been caught by an SS man. Now that sadist was standing over them with a thick whip in his hand, belaboring one of them. The man was lying naked and totally unconscious. But the German still refused to leave him alone and kept whipping him with all his might on his naked belly ... The others, it seems, had already received their share, since they were lying there bloody and unconscious. As I looked at this scene, I thought to myself that compared to this, the place where I had worked before had been like gold, and I resolved to get out of here no matter what the consequences and go back to the old place.
But the longish, not too large brick building standing in the middle of the “Death Camp” had a strange fascination for me: this was the gas chamber. Before I left the area, I felt I had to obtain a glimpse of this, the most terrible part of the camp where the sinister crime was perpetrated on the Jews.
I had already come quite close to it several times, when I and others had been carrying water for the lime and clay from the well which stood right next to the building. But it had not occurred to me to leave my group and move a little closer to see. Only as we were returning from our midday meal and our column halted for a while, did I sneak away from them and move toward the open door of the gas chamber.
I think I have already noted that this building was surrounded by a wooded area. Now I noticed that, spread over the flat roof of the building, there was a green wire net whose edges extended slightly beyond the building’s walls. This may have been for protection against air attacks. Beneath the net, on top of the roof, I could see a tangle of pipes.
The walls of the building were covered with concrete. The gas chamber had not been operating for a week. I was able to look inside through one of the two strong whitewashed iron exits which happened to be open.
I saw before me a room which was not too large. It looked like a regular shower room with all the accoutrements of a public bathhouse. The walls of the room were covered with small, white tiles. It was very fine, clean work. The floor was covered with orange terra cotta tiles. Nickel plated metal faucets were set into the ceiling.
That was all. A comfortable, neat little bathhouse set in the middle of a wooded area. There was nothing more to see. But as one stood in front of the entrance to this “bathhouse” one could see hills of lime, and beneath them the giant, still-open mass graves where tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of “bathers” lay in eternal rest. Later on, I was told that here, too, they had begun to cremate the bodies in the ditches.
After he had left, other Gentiles appeared, including the peasant Klimek, from whom we used to buy food. He had never visited us before and hadn’t known where we were holding out. We could see now that our hideout had been discovered and was no good to us anymore. We discussed what to do next; we decided not to remain together as a group, but to split up and let each man look out for himself. I decided to part from my Hasid (he had fled naked through the barbed wire on the path to the gas chamber; there were wounds all over his skin and he didn’t have a penny to his name). I had been glad to help him out but his fanaticism had repelled me and I decided to pick another friend. I asked him how much money he needed and he answered four zlotys. I gave him ten zlotys and we parted. His name was Wiener. The name of my new friend was Anshel Mędrzycki, a bigshot and a loudmouth. He turned out to be a nicer guy than the Hasid and we decided to stay together. He, too, had run away naked from Treblinka, and I undertook to finance his trip. In order to get some cash, I proposed that I should sell a gold watch to the peasant Klimek. Mędrzycki agreed to come along, and we struck a bargain for 500 zlotys and 5 kilos of corn which I wanted to take along so I could create the impression that I was a smuggler. I went with Klimek to get the corn, so we would be ready when the boy came back.
So it was the last week of August and the first couple of weeks of September 1942 this is supposed to have been seen.