Wolf Sznajdman Testimony
A Statement by Wolf SZNAJDMAN (Wolf Schneiderman)
Born in 1909 in Stoczek
By profession: a butcher
I lived in Stoczek. There was no closed ghetto there. In June 1942 on Thursday the SS men came with Ukrainians and they surrounded our little town. They caught 117 people, within the town including me , they loaded us onto the cars and brought them to Treblinka. It was Treblinka “Penal“ camp. Building on the new camp had started. A spur rail line had already its starting edge, we have to finish the job. We were erecting the barracks, we dug the first pit. It measured of 10 m. deep. It was dug in levels, steps-like. It was a pit for bodies in the ”Totenlager“, in the second camp.
There was no fence there then. We walked all around. They treated us very badly. They beat us on the way, while working, they put bicycles on the head, they burn us with cigarettes on the head. We lived in the barracks which were built for us by the people from Polish Penal Treblinka. Working hard! It was hard job: to dig the pits, to build the spur lines, to eradicate the forest, to prepare the forest for building purposes. We were working here for six weeks.
I can remember the date ”Tiszebuw“ near the end of July, a first transport had come. We did not know who has come. We saw the women with children there. They have parted us from the transport. They took the black workers into the Upper camp and they ended up corpses, and we were finishing the building works. We did not know at all, that they have brought those people for execution. They have at first allowed (them) to enter the barracks on the yard, they ordered (them) to undress there. From the barracks led the road to the ”bath“, it means into the gas chamber. On the beginning, some two weeks, everything was happening during the night.
We thought over the few first days, that in the night the wagons are coming to take the transports further, into the East. We were not allowed to enter the Upper Camp. If anybody looked at this direction, they took him to work (there) and he never came back. In some weeks we were looking at the clothes, through the opened barracks doors, where the piles of clothes laid. We were then working close to this, in the carpenter shop, everything was clear to us suddenly. After this, all of the barracks were overfilled with the rags, so the people were ordered to undress on the yard, the heaps of those clothes and shoes piled up in the way you see the straw on the courts close to the barns.
We have also noticed that on the roofs of the wagons carrying the transports, were set the machine guns. They use to shoot into the transports. There were a meter high layer of bodies on the yard. Ukrainians shot on that scale. It could be seen that the process in gas chambers went too slow. It was impossible to sleep in the night, as shootings were all around, like on the front. There was always what to build, still something new, we were building till the very end, till the very uprising, without a break in order not to think about anything else. They did not allow us to talk to anybody from those transports.
There were such specialists, those who worked with transports, who could see them and to talk to them. Those who encountered the transports slept separately at the beginning they did not mingle with us. Later bunks were made and they slept with us. They were groups of “Reds” and “Blues” workers. The “Blues” workers were unloading and cleaning the wagons, and the “Red” workers were leading (victims) to the undressing room and they watched if the people were undressing correctly. All of the women, undressed, went in the later period to the barber who cut their hair. The barbers were sitting in the same barrack where the women took off their clothes.
The death camp was fenced off and inaccessible. We sometimes saw how the excavator threw away the bodies, sometimes there showed on high a hand or foot. In this way thrown bodies were taken by men to the fire. When they caught two persons with money, it seemed they were about to escape. They ordered us to build a gallows. I was building it together with my companion. They bound their hands on the backs and then they hung them both by the legs. Sometimes after that they have hung one person else in the same way. It was only twice over the entire time when this happened.
But other means of killings were very often used. They have a dog “Bari“, the dog could do better than the gallows. Who was torn by him, that one was beaten to death. The dog was treated by SS-man Franz (“Lalka“). Once Franz yelled, “Dog catch a man.” When the revolt was in progress, Franz was on holiday. He did not take the dog with him. He may have burned?
Franz himself liked to beat. I was beaten by him more than once. I had to receive 10 lashes once. A companion was being beaten. They tied the man to the little chair by the legs and backs. Franz is watching and saying: “Too soft. You do not know how to beat“. And he himself started to beat. After that it should be said “Thank you” and to take away the little chair to which the beaten one was attached to. Even I did not receive a lot of strokes, I was whipped. There were those who were receiving 50 lashes at once. One suffered for a few months after that. Franz was a sadist. He beat during every Appell and was looking for an occasion to beat. They beat with sticks until one could not stand up after such a beating. They had later a leather skin from skilled workers and they ordered them to make their whips.
I had once the opportunity to see the “Lazarett.” I was building there a small barrack for Kapo Kurland. He was an ordinary man. He wore a tie with the Red Cross on it. At the beginning against the pit there was only a fence of pine branches. Kurland used to say: Undress, a doctor will make an examination“. They afterwards sat above the pit, and then a Ukrainian approached and shot. They have come here to have a chance to convince themselves if they are good at shooting. They led there the elderly who could hardly walk, they were led under an arm; they brought the children in their buggies. The “Reds” were in charge.
When the transport were expecting we have to enter the workshop. We went into the forest for work and we walked all around. We were called “Hofjuden“. We were not observed so closely as the others were. Because of that we could enter at times into the armoury and to take a weapon, because we took an advantage of bigger freedom than others.
There were an underground organisation which for a few weeks before the uprising gathered and began preparing everything. It made an additional key for the armoury in order to enter the armoury and to take out weapons used by the Germans and Ukrainians. For the first time there was success in getting out the grenades, but it proved to be for nothing, because it was missing the igniters. They were returned back to the armoury. It was more dangerous. We got them out on the afternoon, when there was a quiet and we took them back by the evening when they (SS) make a change. Only one gun was left (with us) from that very first attempt. Later on we succeeded to get the ammunition.
Some 30 persons belonged to the Conspiracy. They liked to use the ”Hofjuden“, because we could walk freely. We could take an axe, a hammer saying that we are about to repair something. They went worse on, the others. Only a Kapo could come to us, as to arrange something. But while we went into the Conspiracy matters we also had to be able to explain everything well, why we go, for boards, or for something to repair something. It was necessary to put the exact goal in order not to rouse any suspicion.
On the last day everyone had his appointed task, where and who had to go. A disinfector, who was disinfecting the roofs - instead of liquid he walked and sprayed the roofs with gasoline. He sprayed the German quarters, sprayed also our barracks, but on this day he sprayed with gasoline. It was not necessary to do it too much - all of the barracks were made of dried boards.
There should be a sign – a grenade explosion. We arranged the beginning at 4:30 the sign should be a grenade explosion. Before that hour one person entered a barrack and he wanted to dig up money. There was a “Blockaeltester“, who was guarding, he went to Oberscharführer Küttner and reported that somebody came to the barrack. It was Kuba, the one who denounced many; many people died because of him. He died as one of the first, I saw him, laying dead. Küttner was also killed. A leader of our group appeared: Zalcberg, and he said: “You have to go and kill Küttner, otherwise he is going to take the man to the Verwaltung and he will beat him and that man will give us all away.” We ran out with anything we had. One of us had a revolver, Küttner started running. He was killed near the entrance to the barrack. The shot fired at Küttner was the beginning of uprising. There was a little bit weapons there, we have just picked out of armoury a little bit of them.
Yad Vashem – YVA 03.560
Translation by Michal Chocholaty
© Holocaust Historical Society 2015