Sobibor was one of the three camps that was build as a part of Aktion Reinhard in the General Gouvernment in Poland. The camps were meant to destroy all Jewish life with most urgency without leaving a trace of the extermination. They were highly secret and no one was allowed to speak about it. Named after Reinhard Heydrich, the father of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, the Aktion started early 1942 with the building of camp Belzec.

Camp Belzec, in which up to 600.000 Jews were killed in a period of only one year, was more the experimental phase of the Endlosung, the way to get rid of the Jews. Set up small in size the Germans rapidly learned that something bigger and proffesionally was needed. That is why a second and third camp were build, one outside the village of Sobibor deep into the woods and one outside Treblinka. In a way Belzec was the most primitive of the three camps that brought so much death transprort towards deathand horror to the Jews but it was still one of the most effective during the war. The people that arrived at this camp where killed by carbonmonoxide that was produced by a large engine, probably one of a captured Russian tank. This way of gassing was also used at the other two camps while Birkenau/Auschwitz and some other camps used Zyklon B for the killing of people. Belzec's gaschambers were smaller than the gaschambers of Sobibor and Treblinka but it didn't mean that less people were killed here. In fact, comparing the productivity, the size of the camps and the period that the camps were operational, Belzec was the most deadly.

While Belzec was small in its size, Sobibor had its problems too. The camp was not build on a right place for a large productivity in killings. The soil on which it was build was too weak for the heavy trains packed with people and their goods that arrived and the railroad track that lead amongst others to the camp was often in use for militairy transports to and from the Eastern front fighting against the Russians. That is why there were certain periods that no transports arrived at the Sobibor camp. Too often the railroad track had to be repaired and fixed especially in wet periods. This was why Sobibors killing machine could not compete with the other two camps, but its gaschambers (6 since late summer 1942) were that big like the ones in Treblinka: 4x4x2.6metres. At least 200 at one time could be gassed this way. And it all started in May 1942 when the first transports arived. The months before were used to build the camp and its facilities, occupying a total space of about 15 hectares. Treblinka's gaschambers were later doubled to six.

part two of chapter one

As we have seen, three monstruous camps were build, each bigger than the one before, to get the job done, all in eastern Poland, far away from the civilized world and completely out of sight, highly secret and.......extremely deadly.... No one was allowed to survive. That was why enormous massgraves were needed to burry the bodies of the ones that got killed. Sobibor's massgraves (2) where about, according to estimates, 60lx15wx7d(metres), a little bit smaller as the ones in Treblinka. Down below on the right side of the screen you see a hill of human ashes formed in the former Lager III part of the camp after burning all the corpses burried before. It was ordered to burn all the corpses or what was left of it because the massgraves were full and it was wished to wipe out all traces of the extermination. In Sobibor, the burning proceeded in the open air, not in special Krematoria like in they had in Birkenau/Auschwitz. With the burning of corpses a terrible smell and an enormous thick cloud of smoke was produced which made it difficult to keep the things happening in the camp a secret. It could be smelled and seen miles away.

Extremely deadly it was, Sobibor. The ones that came in by train never came out alive. At the local Sobibor trainstation an extra track was laid down of about 800metres and from that one a track of 155 metres lead to the camp itself where people were forced out of the trains after which they were seperated into groups of men and women (with the younger children).

hill of human ashes in lager 3 SobiborSituated in the northwestern part of the camp, Lager III was the part were the killing took place. A small path, called the "schlauch", of 3metres wide and about 150 metres long lead the still not knowing what was going to happen to them people from Lager II, where they had to leave the goods they brought with them (just in front of Lager II) and to undress themselves as a preparation for the "shower" they were going to take at the place where they would be gassed, with use of a big engine and the carbonmonoxide it produced, like that one in Belzec. There was also a trollytrack from the station to the graves in Lager III on which the weak, sick and handicapped were seated which brought them to the place where they were shot. In the beginning stages of the camps existence they were not killed here but on a place elsewhere. Between Lager III and Lager II the baraks in which the goods left behind were being sorted and stored were located. There was even an landingzone for small planes. Just before the victims would enter the gaschambers, the women were forced to go the barbers where their hair was cut off. Still most women were sure that they were going to take a shower and going to work after it although their hair was cut off. Walking from Lager II to Lager III happened strip naked even in the winter. Usually a "gassing session" took no longer than 20 minutes but sometimes the engine failed and people waited inside and outside the gaschambers for hours. This happened several times.

For the actual killing in Lager III several men where needed, men to do the burnings of the corpses and to drag them out of the gaschambers through a door in the back. A dirty and terrible job which must have been extremely emotional facing hundreds and thousands of dead bodies each time. In early periods the Sonderkommando was shot after each transport from which they were choosen. Later they were allowed to live a couple ariving transports. It is obviously clear that is impossible to imagine what must have gone through the minds and heads of the Sonderkommando men and the victims dying. No one can tell us about it because no one came out alive, survived the war. No one can tell about the feelings, the emotions, the fears or whatever of those who entered the gaschambers, when the doors got closed and poisonous gas blew into the room. No one survived. The waiting must have heard the screaming and yelling of the ones dying inside but they cannot tell something either: they were next. We simply shall not know and we simply cannot put ourselves into the positions of those who were in Lager III. It is a world apart and our human minds cannot go that far.

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