Yitzhak Arad   Letter 09   04-Nov-1999   Hair factory at Treblinka
"Elsewhere in the hair factory, other guards died, blinded by hair blankets flung over their heads and beaten to death, strangled by the hair nooses." Michael Elkins

  November 4, 1999
Yitzhak Arad
Yad Vashem
PO Box 3477
91034 Jerusalem

Yitzhak Arad:

I ran across an account of Treblinka that I must ask you about.  The account is in Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996.

Reputable Author

From the blurb inside the front cover of the book, Michael Elkins would appear to be a reputable author:

For twenty years Michael Elkins was the BBC's correspondent in Jerusalem.  He is presently Associate Editor and Ombudsman of The Jerusalem Report.

True Story

That the title contains the words "true story" leads us to believe that the book is documentary, and that a blurb on the back cover lauds the book as "superbly researched" leads us to expect a grounding in reality:

"Elkin's book is stunning: superbly researched, harrowingly readable, searingly powerful." Sunday Express

Plenty of Staying Power

And from the fact that the book was first published in the United States in 1971, then in Great Britain in 1981, after that was reprinted in 1982 and 1983, and most recently re-published in Great Britain in 1996 suggests that it has been well received and widely read.

Seven Hair Warehouses and One Hair Factory at Treblinka

The part that I particularly want to ask you about has to do with the hair shorn from Treblinka victims.  In my letter to you of 09Mar99, I already pointed out that hair cut from prisoners would likely be disease-bearing, and thus would not be shipped to Germany untreated.  Well, from Elkins' account, we now discover that the hair was very thoroughly treated indeed, and this at Treblinka itself:

In this atmosphere of careful husbandry it was not to be expected that the Germans, who even probed for hidden wealth in the body apertures of their victims, would overlook the treasures more easily accessible.  All arrivals at the camps had their heads shaved.  The long hair of the women was collected and sent from all the camps in Poland to Treblinka.  It was this that saved the life of Judah Klein.

By the time Judah arrived at Treblinka, the hair had piled up until it filled seven warehouses.  There was a factory to steam and process the raw material, and cunning machines to weave it into bolts of cloth.  Very useful cloth it was, light and warm, and with an attractive lustre.  Coat linings of the stuff were much in demand, for example, among the German officers suffering the severe winters along the eastern front.  There was a room in the factory where twenty workers filled special orders.  What was it you wanted, Herr Brigadeführer? a blanket for your bed, or your friend's bed a woven dress of bright red hair to delight your wife back home? a coat of many colours for your little girl, to show that daddy loves her?  Whatever you wanted, if you were a German of sufficient status or had money in lieu thereof, and if you didn't mind such things as Jewish hair, you could get it at Treblinka.

For such projects, Judah Klein bringing the skills of eleven years as a wigmaker was a positive godsend.  He quickly became a kind of foreman, with his own handicraft limited to the really special requests arising out of the more errant flights of German fancy.  When, for example, Irma Greise, the beautiful "angel of Birkenau," had a birthday coming and Dr Josef Mengele was at his wit's end for a present to give the lady whose passionate loins he shared with several others male and female at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, he brought his problem to his friend SS Sturmbannführer Karl Mummenthey, who ran the Treblinka workshops.  Mummenthey, sweet Cupid's aid, had an idea and ordered Judah Klein to translate inspiration into reality.  So Judah crafted a whip of choice tresses brilliant black, at Mummenthey's tasteful insistence, to contrast with Miss Greise's own blond hair and tipped it with tiny knots of plaited silver wire.  It made a wonderfully thoughtful gift, considering the deviant nature of the lady's proclivities, and she was never without it.  Witnesses at her war crimes trial in 1945 testified that the whip went into bed with Miss Greise and her partners; and that she used it more publicly to rip open the breasts of young Jewish women who were brought to Birkenau.  For this latter activity, the British tribunal had her hanged.
Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996, pp. 89-90, emphasis added.

Weapons of Hair Figured in the Treblinka Revolt of 02Aug43

In the course of the Treblinka uprising of 02Aug43, some of the events took place in the hair factory which we now learn was at least two stories high and some of the products of the hair factory were used as weapons:

Judah Klein flung himself backward from the bench of the loom, rolling like a cat, and up with the strangler's cord of hair taut between his hands and on to the back of the guard, tripped and down with two of the others trying to kill him and the noose hissing beneath his head, biting into his neck as Judah thrust his hands across and heaved upward, the snap of bone clean and sharp, Judah up and away, pausing to rip the guard's pistol from his holster, that instant saving him as another guard came in the doorway his machine pistol swung in a stuttering arc that killed four men before Judah had the gun and cut him down.  ...  Elsewhere in the hair factory, other guards died, blinded by hair blankets flung over their heads and beaten to death, strangled by the hair nooses, thrown through the second-floor windows to the ground below and kicked to death when the men came rushing out into the yard.
Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996, pp. 101-102, emphasis added.

German Helicopters at Treblinka in 1943!

A separate, but related, detail is the German use of helicopters to hunt down prisoners who escaped during the revolt of 02Aug43:

For four days, the Germans prowled the forest, tracing the Jews with packs of hunting dogs, spotting them with helicopters, burning them out of the underbrush with flamethrowers, killing them on the spot, wherever they were found.
Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996, p. 103, emphasis added.

The Number of Jews Killed During the Uprising

Elkins places the number of Jewish dead at 1100:

Of the SS men, 117 were dead and wounded; 1100 Jews were dead [...].
Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996, p. 103, emphasis added.

The Number of Jews Who Escaped During the Uprising

Elkins places the number of Jews who escaped at 18:

Of the 180 Jews in the forest, only 18 survived, to find their way in time maddened and starved and hardly human to a group of Jewish partisans, survivors of the Warsaw ghetto revolt.
Michael Elkins, FORGED IN FURY: A true story of courage, horror ... and REVENGE, Piatkus, London, 1996, p. 103, emphasis added.

If the Elkins Treblinka Stories are True

If the Elkins stories of seven hair warehouses and one two-story hair factory at Treblinka are true, then it is a mystery why you made no mention of them in your 1987 testimony at the Jerusalem trial of John Demjanjuk, and why none of the five survivor eyewitnesses did either.  Your book, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, similarly makes no mention of either hair warehouses or a hair factory.  Your map of Treblinka on pp. 38-39 shows not a single hair warehouse (let alone seven), nor any hair factory (which would have been the only two-story building in Treblinka).  And not only do you fail to support the Elkins hair stories, you positively contradict them:

Once again, this hair once it was shorn, was packed and bailed and sent back to Germany.
Yitzhak Arad, Demjanjuk trial transcript, Morning Session 17Feb87, p. 257, incorrect use of "bailed" instead of "baled" is in the original.

Furthermore, the index of your book does not list any of the names that are marked in bold red in the Elkins passages above: Judah Klein, the wigmaker hero of the story; Irma Greise, the beautiful "angel of Birkenau"; Dr Josef Mengele, "angel of death" at Auschwitz; SS Sturmbannführer Karl Mummenthey, director of the Treblinka workshops suggesting that you were unaware either of the existence of these individuals, or of their connection to Treblinka.

If the Elkins hair stories are true, then many artifacts made of human hair must remain to this day, which would make you remiss in not registering such artifacts as exhibits in the Demjanjuk trail.

If the Elkins estimate of 1100 Jews killed in the uprising is true, then your own estimate of 350 to 400 killed must be false:

A large number of rebels was killed inside the camp or near the fences; the estimate is around 350 to 400 people, nearly half the prisoners who participated in the uprising and escape.
Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987, p. 298, emphasis added.

If the Elkins estimate of 18 Jews escaped is true, then your own estimate of 100 Jews escaped must be false:

Yet it can be assumed that about 100 fugitives managed to get clear of the Treblinka region and scatter throughout occupied Poland, or even beyond its borders.
Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987, p. 298, emphasis added.

Thus, if the Elkins Treblinka stories are true, one would have to suppose that you were not really an expert on Treblinka, and that the five prosecution witnesses at the Demjanjuk trial had never really been at Treblinka.  If the Elkins Treblinka stories are true, then John Demjanjuk came close to being hanged on the basis of the testimony of six prosecution witnesses who didn't know what they were talking about.

If the Elkins Treblinka Stories are False

If the Elkins Treblinka stories are false, then it must be the case that the history of the Holocaust is being adulterated by the admixture of fantastic tales created by irresponsible opportunists.  If the Elkins Treblinka stories are false, then it was your duty to inform the Demjanjuk judges that any testimony that they heard during the trial whether coming from an eyewitness or from an expert witness might well consist of just such false tales a duty which you neglected to perform.  Your particular duty during your Demjanjuk testimony was to instruct the court that Michael Elkins, and a great many like him, surpassed the Demjanjuk prosecution witnesses in credentials and coherence and credibility, and yet proved to be no better than a Holocaust fabulist, such that little reliance could be placed on the testimony of the Demjanjuk prosecution witnesses who lacked credentials, who were incoherent, who failed elementary tests of credibility.

Of course the failure of yourself, and the Jewish community generally, to decry the corruption of Holocaust history encourages the hypothesis that you and they are not opposed to such corruption, but rather participate in it, and benefit from it.  As the corruption tends to consist of inflation, an inflated story brings inflated benefits.

This hypothesis leads in turn to the further speculation that the essence of Judaism consists of the heightening of group cohesion through the incitement within Jews of fear and hatred of non-Jews.  This incitement of fear and hatred is engineered through the repetition of macabre fables and folk tales, such as those written by twenty-year BBC correspondent Michael Elkins above, such as those recited by Yaakov Bleich every Saturday in his Khmelnytsky curse, such as those created by Jerzy Kosinski in his award-winning novel, such as those invented by Morley Safer and Simon Wiesenthal in front of 30 million viewers on 60 Minutes, such as those echoed in Canada by Sol Littman, and so on, and so on, tracing all the way back to at least Nathan Hanover in the 17th century.  If such fables and folk tales are to be effective, they must be given the appearance of reality, especially if they are employed by Jews to commit judicial murder as was attempted in the case of John Demjanjuk and for this reason Jews need to gain influence over the press, the media, and the flow of information.  More particularly, if the public must be convinced of the truth of fables and folk tales, then the open discussion of the veracity of those fables and folk tales must be suppressed.  The opposition of non-Jews against this overall Jewish strategy is attributed to the psychiatric disorder of "anti-Semitism" whose putative existence is used to fuel further fear and hatred among Jews.  This strategy is repeatedly employed by Jewish leaders to enhance their power over the Jewish people, despite its inciting against them chronic resentment and sporadic violence.  This is the strategy that might constitute the essence of Judaism.

Such are the reflections that reading Michael Elkins must elicit in any mind not paralyzed by habit or fear.

Lubomyr Prytulak