Late in 1941, a labour camp for Jews, later known as Treblinka-I, began operating with the majority of inmates working in the nearby gravel pits. Non-Jewish Poles were also imprisoned at the camp for violating work laws. The camp was located near the villages of Treblinka and Malkinia, some 90km or so northeast of Warsaw.
Around 1.5km from the work camp, a second site, later known as Treblinka-II, was completed during the summer of 1942. By this time, Belzec and Sobibor were already operating thus Treblinka became the third Aktion Reinhard camp. This site was established near Wolka Okraglik, a village on the main Siedlce-Malkinia railway line.
The murder site was hidden from view by tall trees, with fencing and branches interwoven to prevent anybody from being witness to the crimes within. A wooden Wachturm (watchtower) was erected at each corner for further security. The three main sections of the site, indicated in the attachment below, were a reception area, living area and extermination area. Typically, around 30 SS staff were present - a small force who were aided by the presence of around 125 police auxiliaries (including Ukrainians and Poles), trained at Trawniki. Dr.Ermfried Eberl was the first Kommandant, followed by Franz Stangl and later, Kurt Franz. Theodor van Eupen led the labour camp, Treblinka-I. Kurt Franz, the third Kommandant at Treblinka-II, infamously trained his large St.Bernard dog, Barry, to attack prisoners on command.
Deportations came mostly from the Warsaw and Radom area ghettos. From late summer to early autumn in 1942 alone, some 265,000 Jews arrived at Treblinka from the ghetto in Warsaw, with a further 346,000 arriving from the Radom district during autumn. Over 100,000 followed during winter, this time from Bialystok. Many thousands of victims also arrived from the Lublin area, the ghetto-camp Theresienstadt in the Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) and various other locations. Roma and Poles also found themselves transported to the death camp, along with the vast majority of victims, who were Jewish.
The SS went to a great deal of trouble to deceive the new arrivals, who found themselves at "transit camp Treblinka", once they arrived at the cleverly dressed train station at the camp, which even had timetables and a clock. The fact was, there would be no further transportation to a work camp, the prisoners only journey would be through "the tube", a fenced-in camouflaged path leading directly to the gas chamber. Flowers and neatly maintained surroundings all added to the evil deception, along with a sign reading "SHOWERS" located at the entrance to the gas chamber. The Sonderkommando, a Jewish work detail responsible for the disposal of the bodies, had to remove the corpses and then burn them in open mass graves. Later, the remains were exhumed and burnt on makeshift apparatus using rail tracks within large trenches.
In August 1943, a large contingent of inmates revolted, taking weapons from the armoury. Over 300 prisoners managed to escape after storming the main gate. Around 70% were later recaptured and executed. Soon after, the SS began to dismantle the camp. The labour camp continued until late summer 1944, when Soviet troops took over the former camps at Treblinka-I and Treblinka-II. The last remaining prisoners at the work camp had also been murdered prior to the Soviet arrival. During its period of operation, Treblinka accounted for around 900,000 deaths.
1) Map showing the locations of the extermination camps, with Treblinka indicated.
2) Basic plan of Treblinka-II
3) Kurt Franz (credit-wikipedia)