Monday, November 1, 2010

“G-d wasn't there. He was on vacation”

The Jerusalem Post has a moving article about the last 2 survivors of Treblinka.

Of over 850,00 Jewish people who passed through the gates of Treblinka in 1943-44, only these 2 people, Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Taigman, are still in the World of the Living.

Less is known about Treblinks than some of the other camps, notably Auschwitz, this is because after the rebellion of October 1943, the NAZIs murdered the few remaining prisoners and destroyed the camp.

67 people who managed to escape during the rebellion, these are the only people known to have survived the camp.

Of the over 850,000 Jews who entered Treblinka, less than 70 survived to the end of the war, and of those, only 2 are still with us.

In a few years, there will be nothing left, not even a memory, just a memorial site in a forest Northeast of Warsaw. A forest that sits on the ashes of close to a million human beings (maybe even more).

Our generation is still to close to the Churban in Europe to ask questions of “Why” or “Where was G-d”, all we can do is document and educate to make sure that the world never forgets.

Wikipedia has an informative article on Treblinka, but the following from the Jerusalem Post article is a much more personal account:

Taigman said he recalls…

He entered Treblinka holding the hand of his mother, who was quickly pulled away from him and murdered. He left [During the Rebellion] watching a Nazi flag burning in the distance from a blaze they had set — a small piece of revenge after nearly a year of torment.

"It was hell, absolutely hell," said Taigman, who lives in a retirement home south of Tel Aviv. "A normal man cannot imagine how a living person could have lived through it — killers, natural-born killers, who without a trace of remorse just murdered every little thing."

Taigman, who wandered in the Polish countryside for nearly a year after his escape, said his most lasting memory of Treblinka is fellow prisoners who had to remove bodies — often their own relatives — from gas chambers.

David Silberklang, a senior historian at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, said that in contrast to other camps where Jews were also used for industrial labor, Treblinka truly represented the essence of the Nazi Final Solution.
"Treblinka had nothing, just killing, and they almost finished the job. These camps left us almost nothing," he said. Without the survivors, he said "it would just be a black hole, we would know nothing. With them, we know quite a lot," he said.

One of the men most responsible for documenting the atrocities was Eliahu Rosenberg, who was tasked with removing bodies from gas chambers and dumping them into giant pits. He passed away in September, but before his death recounted his experiences in a video testimony to Yad Vashem.

"It poisoned, choked people within 25 minutes, all would suffocate. It was terrible to hear the screaming of the women and the children. They cried: "Mama!" ''Tata! (Dad)" but in a few minutes they choked to death," he said.

"The crematoriums were train rails which lay on a concrete base. On them were wood planks, we called it 'grills.' We threw the body parts onto those 'grills,' and with a match everything burnt. And we stood there ... and it burned all night, all night long."

After the revolt, the Nazis attempted to destroy all evidence of their atrocities. The camp structures were destroyed, the ground plowed and planted over. Today, all the remains at the site are a series of concrete slabs representing the train tracks, and mounds of gravel with a memorial of stone tablets representing lost communities.

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