Trial at Nuremberg 1945-1946: Testimony of one Treblinka survivor
Top Major Walsh Colonel Smirnov Samuel Rajzman Bottom
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Treblinka survivor
Jacob Vernik
is quoted by
Colonel Smirnov
       Treblinka survivor
Samuel Rajzman
takes the
witness stand

At the first Nuremberg Trial conducted by the International Military Tribunal in 1945-1946, Treblinka is addressed on three occasions:

  1. 14-Dec-1945.  Major Walsh briefly reads a description of Treblinka from a Polish Government Commission report, which:

    • Fails to mention the name Ivan Demjanjuk, or Ivan the Terrible, or any Ivan at all
    • Fails to mention Ukrainians
    • Identifies the surname of the monster of Treblinka as "Sauer"
    • Identifies the lethal agent introduced into the gas chambers as steam, this presumably on the theory that steam displaced oxygen in the air, such that "in a few minutes all was over"
    • Mentions burying bodies, but not burning them
    • Estimates the number killed at "several hundred thousand"

  2. 25-Feb-1946.  Colonel Smirnov reads a short poetic passage written by Jacob Vernik.  This Jacob Vernik is presumably the same person as the:

    • Ya'akov Wiernik who testified at the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann on 06-Jun-1961
    • Jankiel Wiernik who is cited for his low credibility in the Lubomyr Prytulak letter to Yitzhak Arad of 15-Jul-1999
    • Yankel Viernick (among other spellings) whose model of Treblinka was photographed, and with this photograph of deceased Wiernik's model becoming the Israeli prosecution's strongest piece of evidence beyond witness recollection for the existence of the death camp Treblinka that was being described in the Jerusalem trial of John Demjanjuk in 1987-1988

  3. 27-Feb-1946.  Treblinka survivor Samuel Rajzman testifies.  Curiously, from his position as the sole representative of the Treblinka survivors in 1946, Rajzman fails to make subsequent appearances where one might expect him to, most notably at the:

    • Eichmann trial in Jerusalem 1961
    • Kurt Franz trial in Dusseldorf 1965
    • Franz Stangl trial in Dusseldorf 1970
    • Feodor Fedorenko trial in Fort Lauderdale 1978
    • John Demjanjuk trial in Cleveland 1981
    • John Demjanjuk trial in Jerusalem in 1987

    Samuel Rajzman's testimony of Treblinka:

    • Fails to mention the name Ivan Demjanjuk, or Ivan the Terrible, or any Ivan at all
    • Fails to mention Ukrainians
    • Fails to mention the Treblinka monster "Sauer" who had been earlier identified by Major Walsh
    • Specifies three monsters at Treblinka.  Commandant Franz Stengel and Assistant Commandant Kurt Franz are singled out as "the biggest murderers in the camp," with one atrocity story being linked to Kurt Franz (the story of Freud's sister).  The third monster of Treblinka was German Scharführer Menz, the supervisor of the "lazaret" whom Rajzman mentions four times, and to whom he attributes two atrocity stories
    • Fails to specify the toxic agent pumped into the gas chambers
    • Offers no information concerning body disposal, mentioning neither burial nor burning

If (as Israeli prosecutors argued at the Jerusalem trial of John Demjanjuk) 870,000 people were really killed at Treblinka, and if Treblinka was really (as is claimed today) "the biggest cemetery of Polish Jewry," and if there really was a record-holding-monster-of-all-time at Treblinka, Ivan the Terrible (whoever he might have been), then it is hard to understand why Nuremberg prosecutors paid so little attention to Treblinka, and how the commandant of Treblinka (Franz Stangl), and the assistant commandant (Kurt Franz), and Ivan the Terrible escaped being included in the list of "major war criminals" that were selected for prosecution in the first round.  The names Franz Stangl and Kurt Franz came to the fore only years later, while the name of John Demjanjuk totally unknown to investigators and prosecutors in 1946 emerged only decades later, but then managed to eclipse all other names.

Conversely, many who were considered in 1946 to be among the major war criminals have today been forgotten by all but professional historians and a scattering of history buffs.  Among the 1946 major war criminals whom John Demjanjuk has in recent years bested in the public eye are such Nuremberg defendants as Wilhelm Frick, Walter Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Artur Seyss-Inquart, Constantin von Neurath, and Hans Fritzsche.

Of course one hypothesis that bears keeping in mind is that prosecutors in 1946 were closer to the uncontaminated data, and that during ensuing decades, disinformation already beginning to sift down from the heavens in 1946 has been blanketing the uncontaminated data in deep layers, and so that it is mainly disinformation which contemporary prosecutors have to wade through and which they find too deep to shovel aside, and which leads them to revised views compared to those prevailing in 1946 of what happened and where to ascribe guilt.  From this perspective, it is those who have been supplying disinformation that have "revised" history, and today's "revisionists" can as readily be viewed as "de-revisionists" or "anti-revisionists" as is obvious to anyone aware of how easily gratuitous self-praise can be stolen by an opponent in a debate, and how easily gratuitous insult can be returned, by means of the swapping of labels that are connotatively-laden and denotatively-flexible.

The transcript below was taken from The Trial of German Major War Criminals, Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal Sitting at Nuremberg Germany, Taken from the Official Transcript, Published under the authority of H.M. Attorney-General by his Majesty's Stationery Office.

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 2    14-Dec-1945    p. 416
Major Walsh outlines Treblinka

MAJOR WALSH:  I offer in evidence Document 3311-PS, Exhibit USA 293.  This is an official Polish Government Commission report on the investigation of German crimes in Poland.  The document described the concentration camp at Treblinka, and from Page 1, Paragraphs 3 and 4, I read as follows:

"In March, 1942, the Germans began to erect another camp, Treblinka B, in the neighbourhood of Treblinka A, intended to become a place of torment for Jews.

The erection of this camp was closely connected with the German plans aimed at the complete destruction of the Jewish population in Poland which necessitated the creation of machinery by means of which the Polish Jews could be killed in large numbers.  Late in April, 1942, the erection of the first chambers, in which these general massacres were to be performed by means of steam, was finished.  Somewhat later, the erection of the real death building, which contained ten death chambers, was finished.  It was opened for wholesale murders in early autumn 1942."
And on Page 3 of this report, beginning with the second paragraph, the Polish Commission describes graphically the procedure for the extermination within the camp:
"The average number of Jews dealt with at the Camp in the summer of 1942 was about two railway transports daily, but there were days of much higher efficiency.  From autumn, 1942, this number fell off.

After unloading in the siding, all victims were assembled in one place, where men were separated from women and children.  In the first days of the existence of the camp, necessary for bathing and disinfection, they would be sent farther East, for work.  Explanations of this sort were given by S.S. men who assisted at the unloading of the transports, and further explanations could be read in notices stuck up on the walls of the barracks.  But later, when more transports had to be dealt with, the Germans dropped all pretences and only tried to accelerate the procedure.

All victims had to strip off their clothes and shoes, which were collected afterwards, whereupon all of them, women and children first, were driven into the death chambers.  Those too slow or too weak to move quickly were driven in by rifle butts, by whipping and kicking, often by Sauer himself.  Many slipped and fell; the next victims pressed forward and stumbled over them.  Small children were simply thrown inside.  After being filled up to capacity, the chambers were hermetically closed and steam was let in.  In a few minutes all was over.  The Jewish menial workers had to remove the bodies from the platform and to bury them in mass graves.  By and by, as new transports arrived, the cemetery grew, extending in the Eastern direction.

From reports received it may be assumed that several hundred thousand Jews were exterminated in Treblinka."

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 7    25-Feb-1946    p. 297
Colonel Smirnov cites Jacob Vernic

COLONEL SMIRNOV:  I ask the Tribunal to refer to the report of the Polish Government, which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 93.  The quotation which I should like now to refer to is on Page 10 of the document book.  On Page 70 of the Russian text of this report, there is a quotation from the statement of Jacob Vernic, a carpenter from Warsaw, who spent a year's internment in the extermination camp of Treblinka 2.  Sometimes the official German documents refer to "Treblinka 2" as "Treblinka B", but it is one and the same.  This was one of the most terrible centres created by German fascism for mass extermination.  In my statement, I will submit to your Honours evidence connected with the existence of this camp.

This is what Vernic said in presenting a report on Treblinka to the Polish Government; a report which, as he stressed in the forward, was his only reason "to continue his pitiful life":

"Awake or asleep I see terrible visions of thousands of people calling for help, begging for life and mercy.

I have lost my family, I have myself led them to death, I have myself built the death chambers in which they were murdered.

I am afraid of everything, I fear that what I have seen is written on my face.  An old and broken life is a heavy burden, but I must carry on and live to tell the world what German crimes and barbarism I have seen."
Those who came to Treblinka entered, as I said, the ante-chamber of death.  But were they the only victims of this fate?  An analysis of probative facts connected with the crimes of the German fascists irrefutably testifies to the fact that the same fate was shared not only by those who were sent to special extermination camps, but also by all those who became the victims of these criminals in the temporarily occupied countries of Eastern Europe.

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 8    27-Feb-1946    p. 15
Testimony of Samuel RAJZMAN of Treblinka

COLONEL SMIRNOV:  Mr. President, I should like to take up the next section of my report, which deals with the organization by the German fascists of secret centres for the extermination of people.  These cannot even be considered concentration camps because the human beings in these places rarely survived more than ten minutes or two hours at the most.

Out of all these terrible centres organized by the German fascists I would submit to the Tribunal evidence on two such places, that is to say, on Helmno centre (Helmno is a village in Poland) and on the Treblinka camps.  In connect with this I would ask the Tribunal to summon one witness, whose testimony is interesting, because he can be considered a person who returned from "the other world," for the road to Treblinka was called by the German executors themselves

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 8    27-Feb-1946    p. 16
Testimony of Samuel RAJZMAN of Treblinka

"The Road to Heaven".  I am speaking of the witness Rajzman, a Polish national, and I beg the Tribunal's permission to bring this witness here for examination.


COLONEL SMIRNOV:  Mr. President, I would like to proceed with the interrogation of the witness.

(The witness takes the stand.)

THE PRESIDENT:  What is your name?

THE WITNESS:  Rajzman, Samuel.

THE PRESIDENT:  Will you repeat this oath after me: I hereby swear before God, the Almighty, that I will speak before the Tribunal nothing but the truth, concealing nothing of what is known to me, so help me God, Amen.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT:  You may sit down.


Q.  Witness Rajzman, will you please tell the Tribunal what your occupation was before the war?

A.  Before the war I was an accountant in an export firm.

Q.  When and under what circumstances did you become an internee of Treblinka Camp No. 2?

A.  In August 1942 I was taken away from the Warsaw ghetto.

Q.  How long did you stay in Treblinka?

A.  I was interned there for a year, until August 1943.

Q.  That means you are well acquainted with the rules governing the treatment of the people in this camp?

A.  Yes, I am well acquainted with these rules.

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 8    27-Feb-1946    p. 17
Testimony of Samuel RAJZMAN of Treblinka

Q.  I ask you to describe this camp to the Tribunal.

A.  Transports arrived there every day; their number depended on the number of trains arriving, sometimes three, four, or five trains filled with Jews from different countries Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece and Poland.  Immediately on arrival, the people had to leave the trains in five minutes and line up on the platform.  All those who were turned out were divided into groups: men, children and women, all separate.  They were all forced to strip immediately, and this procedure continued under the lashes of the German guards' whips.  Workers who were employed in this operation immediately picked up all the clothes and carried them away to barracks; then the people were obliged to walk naked through the street to the gas chambers.

Q.  I would like you to tell the Tribunal how the Germans called the street to the gas chambers?

A.  It was named "Himmelfahrt" Street.

Q.  That is to say, the "road to heaven"?

A.  Yes.  ...  If it interests the court, I can present a plan of the camp of Treblinka, which I drew up when I was there and I can point out to the Tribunal this street on the plan.

THE PRESIDENT:  I do not think it is necessary to put in a plan of the camp, unless you particularly want to?

COLONEL SMIRNOV:  Yes, I also agree that it is not really necessary.


Q.  Please tell us, witness, how long did a person live after he had arrived in the Treblinka Camp?

A.  The whole process of undressing and the walk down to the gas chambers lasted, for the men eight or ten minutes, and for the women some fifteen minutes.  The women took fifteen minutes because they had to have their hair cut off before they went to the gas chambers.

Q.  Why was their hair cut off?

A.  According to the ideas of the authorities this hair was to be used in the manufacture of mattresses for German women.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you mean that there were only ten minutes between the time when they were taken out of the trucks and the time when they were put into the gas chambers?

THE WITNESS:  As far as men were concerned, I am sure it did not last longer than ten minutes.


Q.  Including the undressing?

A.  Yes including the undressing.

Q.  Please tell us, witness, were the people brought to Treblinka in trucks or in trains?

A.  They were brought nearly always in trains, and only the people from neighbouring villages and hamlets were brought in trucks.  The trucks bore the sign "Expedition Speer," and came from Vengrova Sokolova.

Q.  Please tell us, what was the appearance of the station at Treblinka later on?

A.  At first there were no sign-boards whatsoever at the station, but a few months later the commandant of the camp built a first-class railway station with sign-boards.  The barracks where the clothing was stored had signs reading "restaurant," "ticket-office," "telegraph," "telephone," etc.  There were even train schedules for the departure and the arrival of trains to and from Grodno, Suvalki, Vienna and Berlin.

Q.  Did I rightly understand you, witness, that a kind of "make believe" station was built with sign-boards and train schedules, with indications of train departures to Suvalki, etc.?

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 8    27-Feb-1946    p. 18
Testimony of Samuel RAJZMAN of Treblinka

A.  When the person came out from the trains, they really had the impression that they were at a very large station from which they could go to Suvalki, Vienna, Grodno or other places.

Q.  And what happened later on to these people?

A.  These people were taken directly along the Himmelfahrt Strasse to the gas chambers.

Q.  And tell us, please, how did the Germans behave while killing their victims in Treblinka?

A.  If you mean the actual executions, every German guard had his special job.  I shall quote only one example.  We had a Scharführer Menz, whose special job was to guard the so-called "lazaret."  In this lazaret were exterminated all weak women and little children who had not the strength to go themselves to the gas chambers.

Q.  Perhaps, witness, you can describe this lazaret to the Tribunal?

A.  This was part of a square which was enclosed by a wooden fence.  All women, aged persons, and sick children were driven there.  At the gates of this lazaret, there was a large Red Cross flag.  Menz, who specialized in the murder of all persons brought to this lazaret, would not let anybody else do this job.  There might have been hundreds of persons who wanted to see and know what was in store for them, but he insisted on carrying out this work by himself.  Here is just one example of what was the fate of the children there.  A ten-year-old girl was brought to this building from the train with her two-year-old sister.  When the elder girl saw that Menz had taken out a revolver to shoot her two-year-old sister, she threw herself upon him crying out and asking, "Why do you want to kill her?"  He did not kill the baby, he threw her alive into the oven, and then killed the elder sister.

Another example: They brought an aged woman with her daughter to this building...

... the latter was in the last stage of pregnancy.  She was brought to the lazaret, was put on a grass plot, and several Germans came to watch the delivery.  This spectacle lasted two hours.  When the child was born, Menz asked the grandmother, that is the mother of this woman, whom she preferred to see killed first.  The grandmother begged to be killed instead.  But, of course, they did the opposite; the newborn baby was killed first, then the mother, and finally the grandmother.

Q.  Please tell us, witness, does the name Kurt Franz mean anything to you?

A.  This was the assistant commandant of the camp, the deputy to Stengel, the biggest murderers in the camp.  Kurt Franz was known for having published, in January 1943, a report to the effect that a million Jews had been killed in Treblinka, a report which had procured for him a promotion from the rank of Sturmbannführer to that of Obersturmbannführer.

Q.  Witness, will you please tell the Tribunal how Franz killed a woman who claimed to be the sister of Sigmund Freud.  Do you remember this incident?

A.  A train arrived from Vienna.  I was standing on the platform when the people left the cars.  An elderly woman came up to Kurt Franz, took out a document and said that she was the sister of Sigmund Freud.  She begged him to give her light work in an office.  Franz read this document through very seriously and said that there must be a mistake here, he led her up to the train schedule and said that in two hours a train would leave for Vienna.  She should leave all her documents and valuables and then go to a bath-house; after the bath she would have her documents and ticket prepared to be sent to Vienna.  Of course, the woman went to the bath-house, and never returned.

Q.  Please tell us, witness, how was it that you remained alive in Treblinka?

A.  I was already undressed, and about to pass through this Himmelfahrt Strasse to the gas chambers.  Some 8,000 Jews had arrived with my transport from Warsaw.  At the last minute, before we moved towards the street, an engineer

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THE TRIAL OF GERMAN MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS    Part 8    27-Feb-1946    p. 19
Testimony of Samuel RAJZMAN of Treblinka

Galevski, an old friend of mine whom I had known in Warsaw, caught sight of me.  He was overseer of workers among the Jews.  He told me that I should turn back from the street, and as they needed an interpreter for Hebrew, French, Russian and Polish into German, he managed to obtain permission to free me.

Q.  You were therefore a member of the labour unit of the camp?

A.  At first, my work was to load the clothes of the murdered persons onto the trains.  When I had been in the camp two days, my mother, my sister, and two brothers were brought there from the town of Vengrova.  I had to watch them being led away to the gas chambers.  Several days later, when I was loading clothes onto the freight cars, my comrades found the documents and a photograph of my wife and child.  That is all I have left of my family, only a photograph.

Q.  Tell us, witness, how many persons were brought daily to the Treblinka camp?

A.  Between July and December 1942 an average of three transports of sixty wagons each arrived every day.  In 1943 the transports arrived less frequently.

Q.  Tell us, witness, how many persons were exterminated in the camp on an average daily?

A.  On an average, I believe, they killed in Treblinka from 10,000 to 12,000 persons daily.

Q.  How many gas chambers were in operation?

A.  At first there were only three gas chambers, but then they built ten more.  It was planned to increase this number to twenty-five.

Q.  But how do you know that?  Why did you say, witness, that they planned to increase the number of gas chambers to twenty-five?

A.  Because all the building material had been brought and put in the square.  I asked, "Why?  There are no more Jews."  They said, "after you there will be others, and there is still a big job to do...."

Q.  What was the other name of Treblinka?

A.  When Treblinka became very well known they hung up a huge sign with the inscription "Obermaidanek".

Q.  What do you mean by "very well known"?

A.  I mean that the persons who arrived in transports soon found out that it was not a fashionable station, but that it was a death trap.

Q.  Tell us, witness, why was this make-believe station built?

A.  It was done for the sole reason that the people on leaving the trains should not get nervous, should undress calmly, and that there should not be any incidents.

Q.  If I understand you correctly, this criminal device had only one purpose, a psychological purpose of reassuring the doomed during the first moments.

A.  Yes, exactly this psychological purpose.

COLONEL SMIRNOV:  I have no further questions to ask this witness.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

(No response.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Then the witness can retire.

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