Treblinka Extermination Camp, Poland

Treblinka is one of the three Aktion Reinhard death camps in occupied Poland during the Second World War, next to a small railroad station between Siedlce and Malkinia, relatively isolated from surrounding villages. It was meant to be the final destination for transports bringing Jews from the ghettos of the General Government and about ten other European countries to their death. The name itself refers to two camps: Treblinka I began operations in 1941 as an officially designated forced-labor camp for Jewish and Polish offenders against the occupation authorities. Both groups of inmates were deployed for forced labor in a nearby gravel pit, the railway line and for the construction of the second camp nearby. The lack of resources, overworking and brutality of the guards caused widespread death and transfers to Treblinka II for execution were commonplace. The purpose of this second camp 2 km away was exclusively mass extermination and treated by German authorities with secrecy. The latter, completed in 1942, was particular meant for deportees from the Warsaw Ghetto. Only around 50 survivors of the organized revolt on August 2nd 1943 that allowed 300 people to escape could be counted at the end of hostilities. In the fall of 1943  the German authorities ordered the extermination camp to be dismantled and all traces destroyed. Between 870,000 and 925,000 Jews perished here, along with along with approximately 2,000 Romani. Treblinka I continued operations until late July 1944, and was hastily evacuated and dismantled ahead of the advancement of the Soviet troops and a newly erected farmhouse was meant to conceal the evidence of mass murder. The memorial narratives shaping the historiography and the presentation of the site have placed Treblinka at the center of disputes regarding the Jewish-Polish relations before and after the war and contentions between the different communities of remembrance attached to the site. Today, Treblinka is a memorial complex, and the recent memorialization and investigations of the labour camp add a new dimension to the history of repression during the occupation of Poland.