Fact of the day: 23rd July

On this day in 1942 the Treblinka extermination camp was opened.

Treblinka was an extermination camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.

It was located near the village of Treblinka in the modern-day Masovian Voivodeship north-east of Warsaw.

The camp operated officially between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the most deadly phase of the Final Solution.

During this time, it is estimated that somewhere between 800,000 and 1,200,000 Jews died in its gas chambers, along with 2,000 Romani people.

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Managed by the German SS and the Eastern European Trawnikis, the camp consisted of two separate units: Treblinka I and the Treblinka II extermination camp (Vernichtungslager).

The first was a forced-labour camp whose prisoners worked in the gravel pit or irrigation area and in the forest, where they cut wood to fuel the crematoria.

Between 1941 and 1944, more than half of its 20,000 inmates died from summary executions, hunger, disease and mistreatment.

The second camp, Treblinka II, was designed purely for extermination. A small number of men who were not killed immediately upon arrival became its Jewish slave-labour units called Sonderkommandos, forced to bury the victims’ bodies in mass graves.

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These bodies were exhumed in 1943 and then cremated on massive open-air pyres along with the bodies of new victims.

Gassing operations at Treblinka II ended in October 1943 following a revolt by the Sonderkommandos in early August.

Several ethnic German SS guards were killed and some 200 prisoners managed to cross to the other side of the fence, although fewer than a hundred survived the subsequent chase.

The camp was dismantled ahead of the Soviet advance. A farmhouse for a watchman was built on the site in an attempt to hide the evidence of genocide.

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