Eliau Rosenberg Testimony

I was in Warsaw until 1942, when the first deportations started on the 15th July 1942. I too was transported with my mother and three sisters on the 20th August 1942 – where too we did not know at that moment. 6,000 people went on this transport and the train consisted of 60 wagons, so that means 100 people were in each wagon. The transport went to the notorious death camp Treblinka, as we noticed during the journey. It was a camp approximately 83 kilometres distance from Warsaw, in the middle of a wood. At the start the camp covered an area of about 4 square kilometres and was very isolated. The next village was around 1 kilometre away from the camp - it was called Kutaski, Wolka Wignoiwska. The camp was built in 1941, by Jews, who had to clear the required area. These Jews were killed later.

Although the place to which we went first – it was called Malkinia – was only 80 kilometres away from Warsaw, where we started, the journey lasted 11 hours, because we made a huge detour, probably to hide from the people the place that they were being transported to. As already mentioned, we went first to the village of Malkinia, 2 to 3 kilometres away from the camp of Treblinka, and we were transported in groups of 20 wagons each on a side track to the main camp.

We had barely reached the camp when SS-men and Ukrainian guards with whips forced us out of the wagons and we had to sit down on the ground with our luggage, arranged in rows, men and women separated. An incredible crowd had already gathered before our arrival, which had to wait like us. As we later learned we all had to await death. After some time two SS-men arrived, the name of one of them was Franz, he was an SS- Oberscharführer. I do not remember the name of the second. Franz was called ‘Lalka’ (Doll), because he was so handsome. These two pointed with the handles of their whips to a few men, who had to form a special group. I also want to add, that it was strictly forbidden to say a single word. So I was surprised even more, when suddenly somebody whispered to me, “Get a broom and rescue yourself.” At first I had no idea what this meant, but then I instinctively grabbed a broom, which stood nearby and started to clean the wagons from which we were unloaded. I also urged my uncle who was sitting beside me to do the same, although he refused at first. In the meantime the SS-men had finished their selection and had selected about 30 men, out of the whole transport. We joined the group un-noticed. As it became obvious that the group contained 2 additional members, the SS-men started shouting and using their whips furiously.

Suddenly, they shouted, “Back to the camp at a run!” We started moving and ran as fast as we could, along the way that was shown to us. All that happened without a word from any of us. While we ran into the camp, I noticed mountains of gold and money, which was stacked in a pile, and further on a lot of shoes and clothing in every size. A huge poster was placed on a wall with words like: ‘Attention people of Warsaw – when you arrive you will be taken to a bath, get fresh clothing, then you will be sent to another camp.’

We were chased to a pile of shoes and given the task to sort them out, because the shoes of men, women and children were all mixed, and at the same time, we had to look to see if some of them contained hidden valuable objects. At this moment, I had no idea where the shoes had come from. I had agreed with my mother and my sisters that we would write to the same man in Warsaw, if we became separated, so that he could inform any of us of that, and where we were living. Because of that I asked a man I passed by, where my mother and sisters may be. He made a sign with his hand, to show me, that they were going to their deaths. I could not ask further without being at risk of being shot by a Ukrainian guard who guarded the camp.  

We worked from 8 to 12 a.m. then we were chased back into the camp, where we had to queue for food at a kitchen. Most of us were not hungry, since during the morning, we had eaten enough of the food thrown away, of course without the knowledge of the Ukrainians. We wanted only to drink and so queued at a well, which was on the square in front of the kitchen. The well was around 30 meters deep and the smell was incredible. As we learned from the camp inmates, who were already some time in Treblinka, some people had jumped into the well, and their corpses had of course rotted in the water, causing this disgusting smell. Not far away from this place I noticed a hole, perhaps 60 metres long, 7 to 8 metres wide and 4 metres deep, which was half-filled with corpses. This hole had, which I learned later, was nicknamed the ‘Lazarett’ (Field Hospital) and there people were shot who could not work or were sick. For this purpose an SS-man dressed in white clothing told the sick people they would be brought into the hospital. Indeed some people turned up, of course, only because they thought they would be brought to a real hospital. The SS-men led them away and examined them with a stethoscope, while a second shot the victims in the head. If someone noticed that two Jews talked to each other whilst working, they were brought to the ‘hospital’ too. I learned all that on the evening of the same day. I still had no idea what happened to the many people which were brought to Treblinka.

Next to our places, barracks were built in which the people, men and women in their own barracks must undress completely. From each of these barracks a small way led away which were then united in the so-called ‘Tube,’ where men and women together were led through a huge gate into the building, which was called the ‘bath.’ The first camp reached up to the gate, what happened in the second camp, the people in the first camp did not know, since it was strictly forbidden to go near to the enclosure.

I, too, noticed people going into the ‘bath’ and watched them for a while, looking for people that I knew amongst them. It was a day with oppressive heat, and when some women were calling for water, I tried to reach them with a bowl full of water, to refresh them a bit. Suddenly, I heard a frightful outcry behind me, “He is going to his death!” and at the same time I saw a Ukrainian approaching towards me and I barely escaped a blow to my head. I had no time to ask what was the matter with the whole thing, because we were chased back to work. Again I had to sort out clothing and to look for valuable objects. An acquaintance who was in the camp already for some time, led me to the border of the camp, which was built out of a wall of planted trees, and which was so thick, that nobody could see what was happening outside. He led me to a hidden gap, where we saw a strange picture; we saw 100 completely naked people who walked in a circle, to a destination we could not see. When I gave my comrade a questioning look, he whispered that all the people were going to their deaths. He could not tell me more, since he also did not know more.

On our first day in the camp we had to work until 6 p.m. then we returned to the camp. At this moment no one was left from the transport with which we had arrived, but I did not know where they were taken to, because we were not allowed to speak. Suddenly, when all the workers were assembled, the order was given, “All men line up!” The exact number was not known at this time, since new people arrived constantly and they were sent into the second camp, while many others were shot down.

As we lined up, suddenly a man of around 25 years jumped out of the rows and hit an SS-man in front of us, who was called Max, with a knife, right into his chest. We later learnt that this Jew was an Argentinean citizen, who was by chance in Warsaw, during the German invasion, and was deported on our transport. He was overpowered immediately and an SS-man shot him in the eyes, he died shortly afterwards in incredible pain.

Immediately, the camp erupted with a huge commotion and we were chased with maximum speed to a large square. Some who could not run fast enough were trampled to the ground by others who were forced to run by the SS, who hit them with their rifle butts. SS-man ‘Lalka’ ordered all the people to stand in a row, then he called the Camp Elder (Chief of the Kapo’s), whose name was Galewski to step forward and he started to hit him furiously. ‘Lalka’ cried that there were criminals in the camp and this had not been reported to him. If such a thing would happen again, he would shoot the Camp Elder too.

Then ‘Lalka’ selected ten men and killed them in front of the camp inmates that had been gathered, by shooting them in the eyes. The corpses were left lying on the square. We had to walk into the barracks, which were locked during the night. There were no beds in the barracks, only sand was scattered, and the people lay down on it, tired and dirty, as they were. This day was the day before Yom Kippur and some pious Jews started to pray and cry. While I was falling into a deep dreamless sleep, I still heard their muttering prayers. This was my first day in Treblinka.

Normally, the morning roll-call was at 4 o’clock in the morning and the people rushed to work immediately, we expected that this would be the case on the next day, but nothing like that happened. It was 7.00 a.m. and the people who looked outside, through the small windows of the barrack, noticed how the Ukrainian who stands guard outside, gesticulated that all of us would be shot. Of course the air in the barracks was very, very bad, since it was not possible to open the windows and a lot of the people, manly the older ones, lost consciousness.

This situation lasted until half an hour before 10 a.m. then suddenly the whole of the SS-garrison and the Ukrainian guards came to our camp. We all had to line up in rows, the people who provided personal services for the SS, like shoe-shine boys, grooms etc – altogether around 60 men – stood separately. We were encircled by Ukrainians who pointed their guns at us. Around 800 men stood to attention in one row on the square of the camp. The SS-man ‘Lalka’ stepped forward and called the Camp Elder (Chief of the Kapo’s) Galewski. ‘Lalka’ selected 200 men who had to step aside, just before me; he stopped counting, so that I was not called forward – my luck – as it later became obvious. He lead the people behind the camp and a short while after, we heard shots. The ‘revenge’ was over. After SS-man Max died on that day, the whole camp got nothing to eat for three days. After the morning roll-call we went back to work immediately.   

While I again sorted out clothing a SS- Scharführer Matthes  approached and demanded 30 volunteers for ‘easy work.’ Since I was afraid that we would be punished if we did not volunteer, I joined the group of volunteers and also convinced my uncle to do the same. We were chased at a run in the same direction as the people who were condemned to death. Because we thought the same fate awaited us, like those who had to walk this way before us, we were paralyzed with fear and some of us hesitated to move. But blows with butts by the SS chased us on towards a green hedge. Suddenly a gate, around 2 metres high, which was hidden before, was opened and we moved on. We were in Camp II, the so-called death camp.

The first thing we noticed was a building which was made out of crude bricks, which had more or less the appearance of a tall barn. This was the gas chambers, in which un-counted people died a horrible death, as I later learned. The building had three sections which were nearly as high as a normal living room. The floor and half of the walls were covered with red tiles made of stone, so that the blood which often covered the walls could not be seen.

There was a small window on the ceiling which was closed airtight and could not be opened – through that window the man who regulated the flow of gas looked. There was also a shower on the ceiling which was not connected with a water pipe. Since it was very dark in the chambers, no one could see the few tubes on the walls which had a diameter of around 5 centimeters through which the gas – it was the exhaust fumes of a single diesel engine – was transported into the room: 400 people were forced in one room. Since they could not move, because of the lack of space, it was impossible that they could fall down or show some kind of resistance.

The Ukrainians were interested in chasing as many people as possible into the gas chambers in one round, since in that case they needed less gas and the victims suffocated more quickly. Normally the gas was piped into the chamber for 20 minutes, and then they waited an additional quarter of an hour until the last ‘death rattle’ of the dying could not be heard any longer.

The already mentioned ‘Tube’ which led to the chambers, was flanked by trees to the right and left, so that nobody could see from the outside, what happened on the narrow path. There was a small hut on the way to the ‘bath’ in which an SS-man and a Ukrainian were standing. They ordered the passing people to raise their hands up and searched if anyone still had any valuable objects hidden. It was promised that the things would be returned to the owners when they returned from the ‘bath.’ A Ukrainian sat by a small table in the hut, he was called ‘Ivan’ and he was feared for his extraordinary brutality. It was his task to start the gassing and to check the electric turbines.

After the people were forced into the chambers, so that no-one more could find a place, a heavy oaken door, which was hermetically sealed with felt, was closed and blocked with two beams, so that it was impossible to open them. Then ‘Ivan’ pumped the gas in. This Ukrainian took special pleasure in injuring people, he harassed women the most. He cut off the noses and ears of elderly Jews, whom he disliked: hit women in the thighs or their sexual organs with a sabre: raped young women or   pretty girls. If one of us did not work exactly as he wanted, he attacked them with a huge iron pipe and crushed their skulls or mutilated them with a knife. He also loved to beat people he had forced to put their heads between two tight wires, with the result that the miserable people strangled themselves whilst they writhed in pain.

Ivan was the only Ukrainian who was allowed to visit the nearby village without special approval, where he got alcohol and food. He had an aide called Nikolai, who caused a lot of misery too.    

 Since you could not see through the window in the roof of the gas chamber, if the people inside were already dead, during every gassing two Germans stood at the rear doors which could only be seen from the outside and waited until they could not hear any noise from inside. Then the rear doors were opened and the bodies of the gassed people removed. Since we were standing relatively near to the rear doors the smoke inside after the rear doors were opened intoxicated some of us for a short time, whilst some others nearly lost consciousness in horror when they saw the scene inside the chamber. But blows from the SS-guards woke them up quickly.

The corpses of the murdered people looked horrible. The bodies were swollen a lot, the skin grey-white and it was so easy to remove that it often hung down in lumps. The eyes were nearly swollen out of their heads and their tongues were sticking out of their mouths.

Now it was our task to carry the dead on wooden stretchers, at a run, to a hole, which was around 120 metres long, 15 metres wide and 6 metres deep, which already contained tens of thousands of corpses, when I arrived in the death camp. The normal load for two men, using a stretcher, was a dead adult. If the dead was especially light or a child, then we had to carry two. If someone did not do it in this way and this was noticed by one of the SS-guards, the two men who had committed this ‘crime’ had to march back, grab the double load and return to the hole, at the run, where they were shot and thrown into the hole together with the dead.

On our way to the gas chambers we had to pass through a row of SS-men and Ukrainians, each of them was armed with a whip and they beat us furiously. You had to remain upright, not fall down, under the force of the blows, otherwise you were lost. A German dressed in white was standing on the edge of the hole, around 32 years old, who had to oversee that the corpses were thrown in the hole in the correct way. This meant the dead must stay where they were thrown, laying long, not rolling away. If they hit the ground in an incorrect way, the carriers received 25 blows with a whip. If the carriers had finished their work, they had to gallop back like horses, just to amuse the watching guards.

There were ‘dentists’ standing at a distance of around 10 metres each behind the ramp, which led from the rear doors out of the gas chambers, and they had the task to knock out gold teeth or dental bridges from the corpses with a small hammer. The teeth were thrown into a bowl of water that had been provided. When the bowl was full, the gold was sorted in lots and sent to the first camp.

If a transport arrived we must do this work from four o’clock in the morning to twelve o’clock in the night, in most cases without a break, pushed on by the blows of the Ukrainians and the SS. Many broke down, mainly elderly people, but if they did not want to share the fate of those they carried, they had to pull themselves together and carry on. If an especially large transport arrived, the whole crew had to turn out and participate in the work, even those who didn’t have to carry the corpses constantly, since there were not enough stretchers we often had to carry the dead on our shoulders, which was of course, twice as exhausting, to the hole, which was at this time 300 metres away from the chambers. Later additional holes were dug; we walked in the same way as with the wooden stretchers. If our work was finished we must walk back to our barracks where we were locked in overnight.

During the first three months of my stay, every night between ten and twenty people committed suicide by hanging every night, because they thought they could no longer bear this horrible life and the constant uncertainty. The people normally stepped onto a bench, fixed their leather straps, with a sling onto a cross-beam on the ceiling, put their heads through the sling and asked a comrade to push the bench aside, so that they must not kill themselves. If someone stands up during the night to go to the toilet, he must walk carefully, searching with his hands so that he did not collide with one of the hanging men. Later it was ordered by a German during the morning roll-call, that these suicides had to stop, and two Jews were appointed who were responsible that this order was fulfilled. They were freed from the daily work and had to keep watch during the night to stop the people from committing suicide. If they did not fulfill their duty, they were beaten terribly and then removed from their position, or they were hanged too.

There were many pious Jews in the camp and strangely enough the Germans showed no interest in disturbing these people during their prayers, on the contrary they even made it possible to run a kosher kitchen. One of the SS-men, a  Unterscharscharführer ‘Rosha’ often mocked the people praying: “Why do you pray? Your God will not help you - you have seen what is going on here.”

The camp staff of Camp I and Camp II in Treblinka consisted of circa 30 German SS-men and 110 Ukrainians. During the time from September until November 1942, every day a transport with between 4-11,000 people from Warsaw or Czestochowa arrived. I also remember the following transports: two transports of Bulgarian Jews in the summer of 1943, with 3,000 people: two transports of Austrian Jews with 1,000 to 1,500 people, they were told that they were being sent to work, they will get food and generally they were treated better during their journey. When they arrived in Treblinka they were all gassed and thrown into a mass grave: one transport of Jews from the Netherlands of 1,000 people: three Czech transports of 4,000 people, from which a group was selected for work: four German transports in 1942, of 1,000 people and around ten transports of Russian Jews from Belarus and the Ukraine. From Warsaw alone a quarter of a million, from Czestochowa district 150,000 Jews were killed in Treblinka. According to the SS-guards in Treblinka, altogether between two and a quarter and two and a half million Jews were gassed there.

Alongside the arriving transports, there were two of 70 gypsies each. While during a transport of 5-6,000 Jews a regular crew of 50 Ukrainians was needed to keep them quiet, for these transports all the guards of the SS and Ukrainians were mobilized to overpower the gypsies. They fought back against the mistreatments they suffered as hard as they could and nearly managed to break out of the camp. Their death was horrible, it lasted nearly a complete hour until they suffocated in the gas chambers.

I remember an incident which happened shortly after. In March 1943, a transport of people from Grodno arrived, and most of the transport knew what was in store for them. Around 30 young people from this transport decided to escape. They tore up the ‘Tube’ and spread into the whole camp. Of course they were chased instantly and the guards shot at them furiously. Ten men were shot; the remaining twenty were captured by the SS. They were forced into the gas chambers, but to punish them, they were not gassed. Instead of that chloride of lime was thrown into the chamber, which decomposed very slowly. It took a full day until you could hear their coughing no longer.

A short time after new gas chambers were built with the capacity up to 12,000 people. To spare gas, the chambers were built very low, so taller people could only stand inside if they bent down. Sometimes it happened in the larger chambers, where the gas mainly poured to the ceiling, that a few children stayed alive . The children were taken to the hole and mercilessly shot by the guards. It happened often that the German on watch duty was too lazy to draw his pistol; he called a Ukrainian guard and ordered him to shoot the Jews.

In the summer of 1943, it happened once that one of the men who had to carry the corpses, identified his cousin, a girl of fifteen years, who was still alive, when the gas chamber was opened. The girl was completely quiet; she knew very well what awaited her. The corpse-bearer reported the incident to his foreman and requested him to do something, so that the girl could stay alive. The foreman reported this to the Chief-Kapo of the camp, a man from Vienna, named Singer, who reported this to the chief SS- Scharführer Karl Pötzinger. The Scharführer took the girl away and shot her. He said that he could not help her.

During the time I stayed in Treblinka isolated attempted escapes happened but in most cases they failed. In November 1942, a mass attempt to escape was organised. In our barracks, in which 250 men slept on large plank beds, 12 of the healthy men and 2 who were sick, started to tear open the ground in a corner by digging a ditch. From this ditch a tunnel was dug out to the fences of the camp, which were around 5 metres away. The plan was at first made by a small group and executed without the knowledge of the others, but later all the inhabitants of the barrack knew about it and planned to use this chance too.

It was planned to leave at 12 o’clock in the night. Just on that day the first snow fell. I slept just above the tunnel, without knowing anything about the whole thing. I was asked to change my place and later I figured out why. 12 o’clock and all were freed and the first people went into the tunnel. The rest of us prepared to follow, then we heard shots from the outside and presumed that something had gone wrong. Later we heard that the coat of one of the fugitives, a man called Mechele was caught by the barbed wire. The sound of breaking free the coat revealed the fugitives to a Ukrainian who was nearby and he fired a shot towards them, which alerted the whole camp.

The five people who had fled the camp were able to escape for the moment. We hurried to return to our beds and pretended to be sleeping. A short time after, a roll-call was ordered, and all of us were taken by a SS- Hauptsturmführer, a tall man wearing a pair of glasses, out of the barracks and counted; it became obvious that five persons were missing and a patrol was sent out to bring them back.

At 9 o’clock on the next day, the patrol returned with four of the fugitives, who had been loaded on a cart. One was dead; the three others had been mistreated badly and were heavily bound by their hands and legs. The living and the dead were laid from the cart onto the snow and two Ukrainians were ordered to guard them. After the Germans left, the Ukrainians allowed us to bring water to the bound people, and during that they told us the story of their escape and arrest.

They had managed to reach the nearby village. They had planned to buy a cart there and to leave the surrounding area of the camp, disguised as peasants on it. When they reached the village they were able to get a cart and so they decided to spend the night there. They bought some spirits and since they were no longer used to drinking, as a result of this long abstinence in the camp, they all became a little bit drunk. They went to a barn to sleep. They were found there by the Germans, who had simply followed their tracks in the snow. When the Germans arrived at the barn, the Jews tried to escape a second time, but only one was able to do so, the others were hunted down by the Germans. One, who fought very hard, was shot, one called Mechele also fought hard for his life and pulled a German platoon-leader from his horse, but he was then overpowered by the Ukrainians.

The two others surrendered without a fight, so they were all brought back to the camp and laid onto the snow. Then the German’s who were afraid they might die before their execution, ordered that they should be brought to the gas chambers, and to lay them on the ground. Then a roll-call was ordered. The three fugitives were hanged right before our eyes. When he was standing under the gallows, Mechele who was hanged last, shouted: “Long live the Jewish people.” When Mechele was thrown into the hole, a small prayer book fell out of his pocket. Someone found it and gave it to the foreman, a man called Salamon, who later always recited according to the book. After this attempt there were no more escapes.


At the beginning of 1943, the SS- Reichsführer Himmler visited us. We were all locked in the barracks and were only able to see through the small windows how Himmler, whose name the Ukrainians Wachmann already had told us, walked through the camp, surrounded by high ranking SS- men. The SS-men all had their machine guns in their hands, prepared to fire. After Himmler visited the camp he ordered them to burn all the corpses, which lay in the holes. There were several experiments to carry out this work efficiently. For this purpose two rails were laid down on the ground parallel towards each other, and the corpses, which were pulled out of the holes by excavators, were stacked upon each other like wooden logs.

It happened quite often that the corpses did not burn well, especially those recently deceased, and we had to pour petrol over them. Jews with hay forks stood besides the fires and they threw down parts of the bodies which fell down into the fire. Once it happened that a mother with three children, their number was three, survived during a gassing. They were brought outside and the Scharführer who was on guard duty prepared to shoot the woman, but the children did not want to allow this and screamed that he should kill them before their mother. It was a horrible sight, even for us, who were used to horrible things, had tears in our eyes. Even some of the guards nearly showed something like human emotions. The Scharführer was standing there indecisive and did not know what to do. Instinctively, he fired his gun and hit first the woman, then her children. They were thrown into the fire immediately.

An SS-man called Hermann, his surname I do not remember, had a special favourite hobby. He started a fire and searched for an especially stout woman among the corpses, which had to be carried to where he stood. He threw the corpse into the fire and looked for hours how she burnt slowly. At this time we only had one fire-site which of course not enough, because we could only burn 100 corpses a day. They brought an SS- Oberscharführer called Herbert Floss, from the neighbouring camp Sobibor,  who organised a new method. He created five or six fire-sites and also introduced a new method for stacking up corpses.

He mentioned shortly after his arrival, during a roll-call that, if we would burn 1,000 corpses on the first day, 2,000 on the second day and 3,000 on the third, the coming Sunday we would be freed from work and we would also get more food. Our daily ration was at this time, a quarter of bread, a spoon of marmalade and turnip soup at lunchtime. If larger transports arrived we received allocations from the food which was found.

Since the foreman had the task to count the corpses and to pass on the number to the chief-Kapo, we convinced them to report every time a greater number than we in fact burned. Only the heads were counted, which often were removed from the bodies. So we worked for ten days. After this time, two new excavators were brought into the camp and to operate them, two SS-men, who stood out for their sadism. For example they let body parts fall down on the heads of the working Jews, when the shovels of the excavators were around 30 metres high. They amused themselves, if one of the people who were hit, fell down to the ground, unconscious. If they didn’t wake up quickly they were thrown into the fire.

At this time thirteen girls were brought into the camp, six of them  worked in the laundry, three in the kitchen, where until now only one adolescent had worked, one was taken by the camp doctor, as his ‘assistant’ and the others were divided among the different Kapo’s for ‘private’ use. The Germans also allowed every Kapo to ‘visit’ the girls between 6 and 10 o’clock in the evening.

In March or April 1943, a Czech Jew called Zelo came into our camp, who was before the war a Czech officer. Before he had come to us, he had worked as a foreman in the first camp. With him came a Polish Jew, called Adolf, who had been in Palestine, and in addition had served in the French Foreign Legion. These two brought to us the message that in the first camp, an uprising was being prepared. Later the two became foremen in our camp too, and they started to also prepare the people in our camp for a mass riot. Through workers who had to clean the ‘Tube’ a connection was established to the first camp. Every night the organisation of the uprising was discussed in the barracks. Nearly all the camps-crew besides the Kapo’s and the girls knew about it.

As the day for the uprising on 2nd August 1943 was determined, we were all organised in groups of five men each, with one leader. Every group had a special task, which was either to overpower and kill a certain SS-man or Ukrainian, or to cut through the wire of the fences, to burn down the barracks, to destroy the gas chambers. Four o’clock p.m. was determined as the time, the signal should come from the first camp, in the form of an explosion of a hand grenade, which should be thrown into the German canteen in the first camp, exactly at four o’clock p.m.

Around 15 SS-men and 8 Ukrainians were present in Camp II. The 8 Ukrainians were guards who were placed around the camp and on watchtowers. Groups of 5 men were tasked to go to a watchtower and lure the Ukrainians down, in the way, as it happened often, that they show him a 20-Dollar coin, after which he normally climbs down to negotiate with the Jews some business. For 20-Dollar you could get some sausage, 100 cigarettes, a loaf of bread and some schnapps.

Others had the task to cut the wires which were drawn around the camp and to take possession of all the weapons and ammunition. It was planned, as already mentioned, that both camps should strike the signal of exploding hand grenades at four o’clock p.m. The whole action could only last half an hour. After that time, this meant from half pas four until nine o’clock in the evening, the telephones should be manned by those inmates who spoke German very well, to pass on orders to the next camp, so as not to arouse suspicion among the SS-men. In the whole camp, the whole crew dressed in German uniforms, would march out en-block, like a regiment and would drive in German Wehrmacht cars, which were stationed nearby, to a third camp in Treblinka, which was a penal camp, which housed around 1,000 inmates, and liberate it.

It was oppressively hot at this time and because of the heat and the revolting stench of the many already rotting corpses, the work continued from 3 o’clock in the morning until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, after which we were locked in our barracks, so that it would be impossible to carry out the uprising at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. For this purpose one of the organizers of the uprising instructed us not to burn all the corpses during our working shift, but to let them lay near to the fire. This task was fulfilled; also we had to endure horrible blows from the Kapo’s.

After all of us were in the barracks, the man, who had given us the task, went to the SS-man called Pötzinger and asked him that together with his group of 30 men if we could burn the remaining corpses during the afternoon, if he and his group could receive a double ration of bread. The SS-man agreed, very gratefully and gave the order, that all the people of this group should receive doubled-lunch. In this way it was possible to arrange that 30 men were outside in the camp and in addition the barracks should stay open during the afternoon. We also received permission to go to the well and get some water. A Ukrainian was standing guard at the well.

At half past three in the afternoon all of us were preparing for the uprising, this meant the people were packing their personal belongings, so far as they had any. After this was done, all of us lay down and pretended to sleep. There was complete silence in the whole camp. The nerves were so tight they were nearly frayed; all were waiting for the signal for the uprising.

So the time passed until a quarter before 4 o’clock. Suddenly in the silence we heard a shot and shortly after that the explosion of a hand grenade from the first camp. We did not know what we should do at the beginning, since it was a quarter of an hour before the agreed time. Then one of the water-carriers rushed towards the barrack and shouted “Revolution in Berlin,” which was the signal.

An incredible chaos broke out; the people rushed out of the barrack and in the beginning did not know what to do, since the leaders of the uprising were not in sight at this moment. The Ukrainian who was standing at the well tried to shoot, but he was not able to do so, since before he could he disappeared into the well. After that some people rushed into the barracks of the Ukrainian guards, where among others ‘Ivan ‘ also was sleeping and they beat to death the Ukrainians with shovels. They worked on the night shift and because of that were especially tired, so they did not wake up quickly enough. Other people just armed with shovels and pitchforks went to other Germans and Ukrainians who were still stationed in the camp and overpowered them after a short scuffle.

All that happened in a very short time, while you could hear constant shooting from the first camp. It was not planned to kill all the camp guards in simple ways, but at that moment there was such chaos, that the people no longer knew what they should do. After that was done all the people rushed to the camp borders, which were fenced with wire-traps.   We did not know that before, since we saw only the camouflage, two rows of trees and bushes. The wood was just 300 metres away from the camp borders. Most of the people tried to reach the woods but were trapped in the wire-traps, from which they could not free themselves and were shot one by one by the approaching Germans from the third camp, the penal camp.

From the second camp, the so-called ‘Death Camp,’ only I and two other comrades managed to reach the wood alive. Around 20 people rescued themselves from the first camp, all the others were shot. This was the end of the uprising.

As it later emerged the wrong signal was given out because, the head of the first camp, an SS-man called ‘Kiwe’ noticed that the people who were employed on sorting out the gold, tried to hide the gold in a small sack. He called a man to come to him; he drew his revolver and killed him with a shot. The man who was designated to throw the hand grenade saw this and lost his nerve. He threw the grenade onto the murderer, who was ripped to pieces by the explosion. This happened at a quarter before 4 o’clock. If it had happened a quarter of an hour later, 1,500 people would have survived.

Elias Rosenberg


Factual Report 24 December 1947, Ghetto Fighters House, Israel 3526/4491

Translation by Marc Bartuschka and Chris Webb

© Holocaust Historical Society 2015