Chil Rajchman’s Treblinka Memoirs
Thomas Kues1. Chil Rajchman and his Memoirs
Chil Rajchman, alias Yehiel Reichmann, alias Henryk Ruminowsky (his nom de guerre in the Warsaw underground resistance), was born in the Polish city of Łódź in June 1914. At the outbreak of World War II, he moved with his sister to a small town called Pruszków not far from Warsaw, from which they were later brought to the Warsaw ghetto. Rajchman managed to obtain a work permit and left for the town of Ostrów Lubelski. When the Jewish communities in the area were liquidated in October 1942 he was marched off to Lubartów and from there sent to the “pure extermination camp” Treblinka II by train on October 10. On August 2, 1943, Rajchman and a number of other prisoners managed to escape from the camp following an uprising. After hiding in the Polish countryside for a period of time and obtaining “Aryan” identification papers, he eventually returned to Warsaw, where he joined the underground resistance in the ghetto and also the Polish Socialist Party. Allegedly, Rajchman spent his free time in Warsaw during 1944 writing down in Yiddish his recollections from Treblinka, as a testimony for posterity.
On January 31, 1945, Rajchman returned to Łódź. He stayed in Poland until the end of 1946 when, despite having been given a “high position in the new Polish administration” he moved to France. After living there for about a year and a half, he migrated with his wife to Uruguay, where he enjoyed significant prosperity as the owner of a textile company.
In early 1980, the American embassy in Uruguay contacted Rajchman, and later the same year, on March 12, he was interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He then traveled to the United States, where he appeared as a witness for the prosecution in the extradition trial against John Demjanjuk. He also took the witness stand in Jerusalem when Demjanjuk was put on trial there in 1987-1988. Rajchman died in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2004.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Judging by Rajchman’s testimony at the Demjanjuk trial, the memoirs were revised and edited in 1946 by a Yiddish poet named Nachum Bomze (alternative spelling Bumse). This is the only surviving manuscript, and is the one handed over to Yad Vashem and later presented as evidence at the Demjanjuk trial. That we are dealing not with the supposed original text dating from 1944 is clear from the last passage of the memoirs (pp. 155-156):
“Yes, I have lived for a year under the worst conditions in Treblinka. After the revolt in the camp I wandered aimlessly for two months, after which I reached Piastów and lived for two years as a Pole. After the Warsaw Uprising I spent three and a half month in a bunker in the capital [i.e. Warsaw], where I was liberated on January 17, 1945.”Accordingly, the published text dates from February 1945 at the very earliest.
In this article, I will scrutinize the most critical aspects of the portrayal of Treblinka in Rajchman’s memoirs, namely the description of the alleged extermination procedure: the gas chamber killings and the subsequent cremation of the victims. In the process I will also refer to and make comparisons with, a declaration left by Rajchman to a Polish investigative commission in October 1945, his testimony from the 1987-1988 trial against John Demjanjuk in Jerusalem , and an interview with him conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in December 1988. I will also make frequent comparisons with the 1944 Treblinka account written by Jankel Wiernik, who arrived at the camp some months before Rajchman and is generally regarded as a key witness . Both Wiernik’s Rok w Treblince (published the same year in the United States as A Year in Treblinka and later re-translated and published by Alexander Donat) and Rajchman’s memoirs date from approximately the same time, and both men supposedly worked in the “death camp proper”, the section of Treblinka containing the alleged gas chamber buildings and the mass graves (Rajchman even mentions Wiernik by name on page 89 of the memoirs). One might therefore assume that both men wrote down their recollections relatively fresh from memory.
2. Arrival at Treblinka
At his arrival to the camp early in the morning on October 11, 1942, Rajchman is separated from his sister Anna and forced to put the belongings of the other deportees in a huge heap on the ground in the reception camp (pp. 34-35). While Rajchman is working on sorting pieces of clothing, an SS man asks the prisoners if there are any barbers among them. Four men step out and Rajchman joins them as the fifth barber. The men are given clothes and scissors and told that they will work on sorting clothes until a new transport arrives (pp. 41-42). At the arrival of the next transport on the following day, Rajchman and the other barbers, ten in all, are taken to the gas chambers (p. 55), where supposedly the hair of the female victims was cut during a period of re-organization of the camp in September and October 1942, before a special haircutting barrack was placed near the entrance to theSchlauch (“tube”), the camouflaged, fenced-in pathway leading from the reception camp to Camp 2, where the alleged gas chambers were located. The barbers work in one of the chambers, with both its entrance and its exterior door standing open. On the floor of the chamber are an unstated number of benches and “several dozens of trunks”. Female victims are led in through the corridor and the entrance door of the chamber. The women have their hair cut and are then showed out the exterior door (p. 56). The barbers remain in the chamber, guarded by Ukrainians, while the women are herded into the other chambers (p. 59). A few days after his arrival Rajchman is relieved of his work as a barber and brought to Camp 2 or Totenlager (p. 67), where he works on transporting corpses from the gas chambers to the grave pits, as a “dentist” pulling out gold teeth from the corpses, and as part of the work detail preparing the cremation pyres.
3. The Gas Chambers
3.1. The Two Gas Chamber Buildings and Their Capacities
Regarding the alleged gas chambers in the camp, Rajchman writes:
”It is important to note, that two gas chamber buildings were in operation at the time I started working in the Totenlager. The larger one contained ten gas chambers, each capable of holding four hundred persons. A gas chamber measured seven times seven meters. The people were packed like sardines. When a gas chamber was full, the next one was opened, and so on. For the smaller transports the older building with three gas chambers were used; four hundred fifty to five hundred people fit into each of its chambers.” (p. 87)The new, larger gas chamber building is described as follows:
”At the end of the Schlauch you reached a white building, on which a large Star of David had been attached. A German stood by the stairs, showed the way to the entrance and said with a smile: ‘Please, this way!’ The small number of steps led inside a corridor decorated with flowers. Long towels were hanging on the walls.
The gas chambers measured seven times seven meters. In the middle of the room there were shower heads, from which the gas flowed inside it. Along the wall a thick pipe ran, through which the air was sucked out. The doors were sealed all around.” (p. 39)As for the gas which streamed in through the shower heads, we are informed later on (p. 132) that it was generated by “engines” (number or type not specified).
It is further mentioned that the entrances to the chambers in the new building had “iron doors” (p. 64) with observation windows in them (p. 60). The older, smaller gas chamber building also contained a room where the “dentists” worked on sorting the extracted tooth metal (p. 85).
One may compare the above description with the information on the size and capacities of the alleged gas chambers left by Jankel Wiernik:
“When I arrived at the camp, three gas chambers were already in operation; another ten were added while I was there. A gas chamber measured 5 x 5 meters and was about 1.90 meters high.”
As for the capacity, Wiernik states that
“Between 450 and 500 persons were crowded into a chamber measuring 25 square meters.”
The above statements refer to the alleged old gas chambers. Regarding the new gas chambers, which Wiernik supposedly helped to construct, we read:
“It turned out that we were building ten additional gas chambers, more spacious than the old ones, 7 by 7 meters or about 50 square meters. As many as 1,000 to 1,200 persons could be crowded into one gas chamber.”In his testimony from the Eichmann trial, Wiernik gave the ceiling height of the new gas chambers as 1.90 m.
Historian Yitzhak Arad on the other hand states that the chambers in the old building each measured 4 x 4 x 2.6 m , while the new chambers measured 4 x 8 x 2 m. The reason for the ceiling being placed lower in the new chambers was, according to Arad, that it
“reduced the chambers’ total cubic volume, reduced the total gas requirement for killing the victims, and shortened [the] asphyxiation time.”
Although Arad does not state any sources, it is clear that he is basing his description on the verdict from the 1964-1965 Treblinka trial in Düsseldorf, which state the very same dimensions; according to the same verdict, each chamber in the old building could hold 200 to 350 people, while the corresponding figure for the new building was 400 to 700 victims.
In the table below I have summarized the above data referring to the dimensions and the capacity of the individual chambers:
Wiernik’s claim that 20-25 people could fit into one square meter is clearly absurd. Rajchman’s claim of 8 victims per square meter is certainly less so, but it is still not easily conceivable. Moreover, would not the “shower heads, from which the gas flowed inside” the chamber, have been frequently damaged by panicking victims in their death throes? It also seems extremely unlikely, that the observation windows in the doors would have been of much use, as the view would surely have been permanently blocked by someone’s head or torso.
3.2. The Time Required for the Gassings and the Appearance of the Victims
How long did it take to kill the victims in the gas chambers? Rajchman informs us:
“In this building [the smaller older building] the gassing took twenty minutes, while in the newer building it took around forty-five minutes.” (p. 87)
Some pages later we read:
”The corpses were in different states of appearance depending on if they came from the larger gas chambers or from the smaller ones. In the small ones death came more quickly and was easier. Judging by the look of their faces, one could have thought that they were merely sleeping: their eyes were closed, and only on some of the gassed was the mouth distorted with bloody foam at the lips. The corpses were covered by sweat. Before death the people let their urine and excrements. The corpses from the larger gas chambers, in which death occurred more slowly, had gone through a terrible transformation. They had completely black faces, as if they had been burnt, and their bellies were bloated and colored blue.” (pp. 90-91)It is odd that Rajchman here calls the old gas chambers “the smaller ones” and the new ones “the larger gas chambers”, whereas the capacities ascribed to them clearly point to the old chambers being of larger size than the new ones. It is possible that either Rajchman himself or the translator is confusing the size of the respective buildings with the size of the chambers (a result of the word “gas chamber” often being used as synonymous with “gas chamber building). Since the new building supposedly contained ten chambers instead of three, it was of course the larger of the two buildings.
Anyway, it is made clear that the gassings in the new chambers took at least twice as long time as in the old ones. But then, as shown above, the 1965 Treblinka trial verdict found that the new chambers had been built with a much lower ceiling in order to shorten the time required for the gassings! It hardly needs to be pointed out, moreover, that it hardly makes sense that the Germans would have constructed the new chambers to be not only of smaller size than the old ones, but also less time-effective. What happened to the famous “German efficiency”?
As for the description of the appearance of the victims, it is yet another testament to Rajchman’s unreliability. All current established “Holocaust” historians agree that the victims at Treblinka were killed with carbon monoxide from engine exhaust gas that was pumped into the gas chambers. As I have shown in another article , a distinctive cherry-red skin discoloration – resulting from the incorporation of carbon monoxide into the blood cells (carboxyhemoglobin) – appears in at least 95% of all cases of fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. Why did Rajchman not notice this peculiar cherry-pink color, and instead describe the corpses as either black and blue or lacking discoloration?
3.3. The Murder Method
As seen above, Rajchman clearly implies in his memoirs that the air was pumped out of the gas chambers and then, usually, replaced with engine exhaust gas. On October 12, 1945, Rajchman (as Henryk Reichman) testified as follows:
“The killings were carried out either by pumping out of the air or by introduction of CO [carbon monoxide]. Once, when fewer transports were arriving, the Germans conducted an experiment: They pumped out the air without introducing poison. When the doors opened after 48 hours, we found some living people inside.”It is not clear which of the two “gas chamber buildings” our witness is referring to here , but regardless, the event described is impossible, not to say absurd, given that between 450 and fifty and 500 victims were supposedly jammed inside each chamber, and that the doors to the chambers were “sealed all around”. Even without the air being pumped out, and with “only” a hundred, surely panicking, victims locked inside the hermetically sealed chamber, the oxygen would run out after a few hours , and one can only hold one’s breath for so long.
The claim that vacuum was used as the killing agent is found in many early Treblinka eyewitness reports. Another variant, found occasionally also in later witness statements (long after vacuum as well as steam had been discarded as murder weapons by the Holocaust chroniclers), is that the air was first sucked out, and then replaced with engine exhaust gas. It appears that Rajchman supports this second version. The very notion of this murder method is so patently spurious, that it is amazing that it has ever occurred to any person capable of rational thinking. Why bother introducing lethal exhaust gas into the chamber, when the victims would have died anyway, and within minutes, from the deprivation of oxygen?
It should be mentioned in passing, that during the Demjanjuk trial in Jerusalem, Rajchman was unable to point out the location of the gassing engine, and did not know the number of engines used.
4. The Mass Graves and the Number of Victims
Rajchman claims to have worked for a considerable time at the mass graves. In the following passage, he presents his estimate of the dimensions of those grave pits:
”About ten of them [the Jewish working prisoners] are standing in the pit, placing the dead head by feet, so as to fit as many corpses into the pit as possible. Another group covered each layer with sand, before the next layer of corpses was placed on top of it. The mass graves were dug by an excavator (later there were three of them). They were huge, approximately fifty meters long, thirty meters wide and several stories deep – according to my estimate: four.” (p. 91)Four stories correspond to between 8 and 12 meters. Let us, in order to make an a fortiori argument, assume a depth of 12 meters. The mass graves described by our witness would then measure 50 x 30 x 12 = 18,000 cubic meters. Assuming a theoretical maximum of 8 corpses per cubic meter , such a grave would have a capacity of (18,000 x 8 =) 144,000 corpses. Given that each layer of corpses was covered with a layer of sand, it is reasonable to reduce this capacity with one third, so that each grave could hold (144,000 x 0.66 =) 95,000. In reality, however, one would not be able to dig such a deep pit with vertical walls, since there would be a risk of collapse – the walls would have to be oblique, reducing the capacity further. Moreover, such an extreme depth seems very unrealistic due to the risk of striking ground water – and Treblinka is located only some kilometers south of the large Bug River, on sandy soil!
Regarding the dimensions of the graves we will further note that Rajchman is contradicted on this point by another witness, Eliahu Rosenberg , who like Rajchman claims to have worked in Camp 2. Rosenberg claimed in a deposition from 1947 that the graves measured 120 x 15 x 6 m, i.e. 10,800 cubic meters.
How many of these immense mass graves were there? Rajchman mentions in a passage concerning the emptying and the cleaning-up of the mass graves in June 1943:
”Also the cleaning of the pits is progressing at a quicker pace. Ten of them are already emptied. The eleventh and last is one of the four large ones, containing approximately a quarter of a million corpses.” (p. 128)
Thus there were in total eleven mass graves, of which four were larger than the others. Do the dimensions given on page 91 refer to the smaller or the larger ones? This is not clearly stated in the text, but considering the capacity ascribed to the larger pits, it seems reasonable that said dimensions refer to the smaller ones. For the sake of argument, however, we will assume the same dimensions for all the grave pits.
If four of the graves each contained “a quarter of a million corpses” or even “more than 250,000 corpses” (p. 119), it follows that those pits contained together approximately 1 million corpses. Even if we assume, that the remaining seven pits contained “merely” 80,000 corpses – the estimate given in the verdict of the 1964 Treblinka trial – this means a total victim figure of at least 1,560,000. Since we know from the Höfle document that 713,555 Jews were deported to Treblinka during 1942, and since all historians agree that only a relatively small number of Jewish deportees were sent to Treblinka during 1943, resulting in a hypothetical maximum victim figure of approximately 800,000, it follows that Rajchman has exaggerated the hypothetical number of victims by 100%.
In his 1988 interview for the USHMM, Rajchman claimed that the Germans “killed every day about 15,000 people” , i.e. 450,000 per month, and in the memoirs (p. 95), he writes that “Up until December 15 the transports arrived regularly, with about ten thousand people daily”, meaning that approximately 600,000 Jews would have been killed in the camp merely in the period stretching from Rajchman’s arrival to the date mentioned. In reality, less than half that number of Jews was deported to the camp during this time.
On the map drawn up by the surveyor Trautsolt in late 1945, Camp 2 is shown as an irregular quadrilateral with an area of approximately 14,000 square meters (1.4 hectares). The mass graves of Rajchman covers a total area of at least (50 x 30 x 11 =) 16,500 square meters! Given that the pits must have been separated from each other by thick earth walls, their total area would completely have filled up Camp 2, even if its size instead was that indicated by the “Treblinka Death Camp Memorial Map” drawn up by Peter Laponder, i.e. approximately 2 hectares. In other words, there would be no space left over in the Totenlager for the gas chambers or the “roasts” used to incinerate the victims.
The dimensions given by our witness appears even more spurious when we consider them in relation to the mass graves identified by Polish archeologist Andrzej Kola at Bełżec in the late 90s. The present volumes of those thirty-three pits totaled 21,310 cubic meters. None of the pits (which were detected by drillings but left unexcavated) were deeper than 5.20 m. Twelve of the pits covered areas lesser than 100 m2, while eleven were larger than 200 m2. The hypothetical maximum number of Bełżec victims, given by the Höfle document, amounts to 434,508. According to established historiography, those victims were all interred before being exhumed and burned. Thus the total space used for their burial roughly equaled the volume of one of Rajchman’s eleven mass graves. How does this add up if, as our witness claims, the burial detail at Treblinka utilized the available space as efficiently as possible? (In reality, the mass graves at Bełżec would have been able to contain only a fraction of the alleged victims).
In December 1945, Rajchman visited the former site of the “death camp” together with Rachel (Ruchl) Auerbach and other members of an”historical commission”. Why, we may ask, is it that those investigators failed to uncover evidence for the enormous mass graves described by the witnesses? After all, did they not have Mr. Rajchman himself for their guide?
5. The Incineration of the Corpses
5.1. When did the Cremations Commence?
On page 113 of his memoirs, Rajchman writes:
“In December 1942 pyres were erected for the cremation of the corpses. But the corpses would not burn. A pyre was therefore built following special instructions. While an engine supplied fresh air, a large amount of gasoline was poured over the corpses. Yet still they would not burn satisfactorily. At least a thousand corpses were cremated using this method, but this wasn’t enough for the murderers.”As a result of this failure, the SS called in a cremation “specialist”, identified by the French editor of the memoirs as SS-Scharführer Herbert Floß. Rajchman states that Floß arrived to the camp in January 1943 and began constructing “roasts” for the cremations already “after a few days” (p. 114). According to historian Arad on the other hand, the cremations in the camp began in March 1943.
5.2. The Construction of the “Roasts”
It is commonly held that all corpses at Treblinka were incinerated on primitive pyres equipped with grates made up of railway tracks – the so-called “roasts”. In his memoirs, Rajchman describes the construction of these open air cremation facilities as follows:
“He [the “cremation expert”] had laid out more than thirty meters of railway gauge. Right on top of the ground a pair of concrete foundations were cast, both with a height of approximately 50 centimeters. A pyre was one and a half meter wide. On top of the foundations six railway rails were placed, that was all. ”The Artist” [=the “expert”] ordered us to put women, particularly fat women, on the first layer on the roast, face down. The second layer could consist of whatever was brought – men, women or children – and so on, layer upon layer like a pyramid, up to a height of two meter.
The dead were thrown upon the pyre by a special commando, the Feuerkolonne. Two pyre workers received the corpses brought by the carriers. The first one grabbed hold of the hand and foot on the left side of the body, while the second grabbed hold of the hand and foot on the other side, whereupon they threw the dead person on top of the pyre. Around 2,500 corpses were placed on such a pyre. Then the “expert” ordered us to lay dry branches under the roast and to light them. Within a few minutes the fire would take so it was difficult to approach the crematorium from as far as fifty meters away.” (pp. 114-115)In the Polish testimony from October 1945, Rajchman maintained that
“There were no crematoria with furnaces at Treblinka. There was only a primitive arrangement of grates made from rails placed on supports of reinforced concrete which could hold 2500 corpses.”In his Demjanjuk trial testimony, Rajchman specified that each roast was 30 m long with railway tracks placed every 15 cm on the 50 cm high brick – not reinforced concrete – foundations.
In the 1988 USHMM interview, Rajchman stated that Floß
“took 5 or 6 railroad tracks each 30 meters long. Around it [sic], he built a brick wall. He laid the tracks 15 centimeters apart [...] and one and a half meters above the ground. [...] we covered them with 2,500 corpses, counting.”
Here the number of rails and their length is the same, but the foundation – here apparently a brick wall running around the entire contraption – is three times as high.
The notion that all the corpses were counted before being burned also appears in the memoirs (p. 126). Here Rajchman claims that a special group of workers had the task to count all the victims (or rather the heads of the victims, in case they were separated from the bodies – our witness does not want to save his reader from the horrific details…) and report the number to the SS officer in charge of the Totenlager.
Rajchman’s description in the memoirs and the Demjanjuk testimony is similar to the findings of the 1964 Düsseldorf Treblinka trial:
“[Each roast] consisted of a concrete base approximately 70 cm thick, upon which 5 to 6 railroad rails of perhaps 25 to 30 m length lay at small intervals. Under the rails burned a fire, while 2,000 to 3,000 of the bodies of the Jews killed in the gas chambers were loaded on the grate and then burned.”Jankel Wiernik on the other hand gave the following description of the roasts:
“This is the way in which he got the inferno started. He put a machine for exhuming the corpses into operation, an excavator which could dig up 3,000 corpses at one time. A fire grate made of railroad tracks was placed on concrete foundations 100 to 150 meters in length. The workers piled the corpses on the grate and set them on fire.”
Thus Wiernik remembered the roasts as being 3 to 5 times longer than Rajchman’s recollections would have them to be!
5.3. The Number of the “Roasts”
The total incineration capacity would naturally depend on the number of “roasts”. In the memoirs, Rajchman writes that by March 1943, “there were six of them already” (p. 117). However, this number proved insufficient:
“In the second half of April we are visited by camp staff members led by the head of our camp, Matias [Heinrich Matthes]. [...]. Another oven with a much larger capacity is to be built in the immediate vicinity of the gas chambers, so that the corpses can be burned at once. This work takes ten days. [...]. By the end of April the oven is still not yet ready. The head of the camp orders that another oven should be put up next to the gas chambers within the next few hours.” (pp. 123-124)This would mean that all in all there were eight “roasts”, one or two of them larger than the others. In the October 1945 testimony, however, the total number of cremation grates is given as five to six.
The reason for the new larger roast or roasts appears to have been – believe it or not – the planned mass murder of a group of Jews outside the reach of the Germans:
“Reichman also said the Nazis had prepared a special incinerator in Treblinka for British Jews, who were to be deported under Adolf Hitler's masterplan for a Jewish-free Europe.The mere notion that the Germans three months after Stalingrad would entertain hopes of defeating Great Britain and have all Jews of the island nation shipped over to Europe to be gassed is nothing else than laughable.
It is interesting to compare Rajchman’s claim of 6-8 roasts with the account of key witness Jankel Wiernik:
“Because they were in a hurry, the Germans built additional fire grates and augmented the crews serving them, so that from 10,000 to 12,000 corpses were cremated at one time.”
Since Wiernik claimed that 3,000 corpses could be loaded per grate, it follows that the “roasts” numbered at most four. On the other hand, Wiernik’s own map of the camp, as well as the map used during the Düsseldorf Treblinka trial, shows only two grates.
5.4. Do Decomposed Corpses Burn More Easily?
In the memoirs’ description of the cremation process we find the following statement:
”It has turned out, that the exhumed corpses burn considerably better than those fresh from the gas chambers.” (p. 117)
But is it really true that decomposed corpses will burn more easily than “fresh” ones? The answer is a simple no, since the decomposition process causes a loss of fat (an important asset in the heating balance of the cremation), and since most if not all of the methane produced during the same process (a possible asset) would have been lost during the exhumation process. A decomposed corpse is therefore harder to burn than a fresh one.
5.5. The Time Required for the Individual Cremations
Regarding how long it took to turn a pyre full of corpses into ash, Rajchman writes:
”The roasts were loaded during the day and then lit at around half past six.” (p. 117)
At the Jerusalem Demjanjuk trial, Rajchman testified:
“They used to light the fire with some dry sticks like toothpicks. They would be lit with a regular match and placed beneath the furnace and fire would start slowly, but then it would burn with such an intensity, that 50 meters away from the furnace, it was impossible to stand. Until the morning everything was almost burned in the furnace.”Also in the memoirs it is stated (p. 139) that the incineration was completed by the morning, after having started in the evening on the day before. If we generously take “until the morning” to mean until 10 PM, Rajchman’s statements would mean that the whole cremation process took around 15 hours and 30 minutes. That the duration alleged by our witness is not very realistic can be seen from the documentation of a cremation of animal carcasses which took place in Whithorn, Scotland in April 2001. On this occasion, 511 bovine, 90 sheep and 3 pig cadavers were burned on two pyres with a total surface area of 150 square meters (compared to Rajchman’s 45). The cremation lasted for three full days.
On the other hand, two Jews named Motke Zaïdl and Itzhak Dugin, who supposedly worked on burning corpses of Jews shot by the Einsatzgruppen in Lithuania on pyres similar to those reportedly used at Treblinka, have stated that the outdoor cremation process usually took no less than “seven or eight days.”
5.6. The Capacity of the “Roasts” and the Firewood Required
As seen above, most of Rajchman’s roasts had a surface area of 30 x 1.5 m = 45 m2. Given the reported construction (five to six 30 m long railway tracks placed on concrete or brick foundations) it seems most logical that the corpses were placed parallel with the shorter side of the pyre.
How many corpses could then be placed in each layer on the roast? Like Carlo Mattogno, we will assume for an average body a theoretical surface area of 1.75 x 0.50, including the necessary intervening space for the passage of the products of combustion. It follows that each layer on Rajchman’s roast could contain 60 corpses. We will assume for each layer of corpses a height of 20 centimeter. Since Rajchman states that the corpses were piled “up to a height of two meter” on top of the grate, there would be room for ten such layers, equaling 600 corpses. However, Rajchman also states that the corpses were arranged “like a pyramid”, i.e. that each new layer was shorter than the preceding one. If viewed from the side the pyre looked like a typical Egyptian pyramid, i.e. a regular triangle, the capacity would be half of 600, i.e. 300 corpses. We will be generous, however, and assume that 400 corpses were loaded. Still, this is only 16% of Rajchman’s figure of 2500 corpses loaded per roast. A roast loaded with this number of bodies would have been 9 meters tall, if each layer was of the same length, and approximately twice that height, if the pyramid shape was employed.
But how many corpses could the pyre described by our witness handle at a time, in reality? Revisionist researcher Carlo Mattogno has determined, based on documentation of outdoor incineration of human corpses on pyres with metal grates in India and incineration of cattle cadavers, as well as his own experiments, that approximately 3.5 kg of firewood is required in order to incinerate 1 kg of organic substance, even in the case of mass incineration of partially decomposed corpses. We should stress here that with firewood, we mean seasoned, i.e. dry wood. As I have shown in another article , the firewood used for cremations at Treblinka must have been green, i.e. fresh wood, which has a considerably lower thermal value due to its higher moisture content. This means that the amount of fuel wood necessary per kilogram organic substance would be up to 100% higher. Nevertheless, to make our argument stronger, we will assume a fuel requirement per kilogram corpse of 3.5 kg firewood. Thus we may disregard in our calculations the possible additional heating content provided by the hypothetical use of liquid fuel (such as gasoline or kerosene).
Like Mattogno, we will assume a medium weight of 45 kg for the corpses, taking into account the presence of children among the hypothetical victims and the loss of weight in the corpse due to desiccation. To cremate one corpse one would therefore need (45 x 3.5 =) approximately 160 kg of firewood.
The roast would be able to accommodate (30 x 1.5 x 0.5 =) 22.5 cubic meters of firewood, if we are to trust Rajchman’s memoirs, or (30 x 1.5 x 1.5 =) 67.5 cubic meters of firewood, if we are to believe Rajchman’s statement in the USHMM interview. It should be pointed out here, that while our witness mentions “dry branches” being used to lit the pyres, he never mentions the huge stacks of firewood that would have to be used to fuel the “roasts”
The weight of a cubic meter of normally stacked firewood usually lies between 340 and 450 kg. Some sources give slightly higher estimates, such as A. Marcantonio, who has given the weight of 1 cubic meter of firewood as 600 kg. While this estimate may refer to very densely stacked firewood – and the wood used in a pyre could not be too densely stacked as one would want to keep the inflow of oxygen as unhindered as possible – we will use it for the sake of the argument.
Rajchman’s roast could accordingly use a maximum amount of either (22.5 x 600 =) 13,500 or (67.5 x 600 =) 40,500 kg firewood. This in turn correspond to (13,500 : 160 =) 84 or (40,500 : 160 =) 253 corpses. The roast could thus, at the very most, handle 10% of the 2,500 corpses alleged by Rajchman. The possible counter-argument that one somehow could have added more fuel to the fire during the cremation is refuted by Rajchman’s statement that the heat from the fire made it “difficult to approach the crematorium from as far as fifty meters away”.
If we assume that the “larger roasts” mentioned by Rajchman could handle twice as large a load as the small ones, then the 6 ordinary-sized roasts and the two larger ones could burn at the most 2,530 corpses at a time. As mentioned above, it is reasonable to assume that it would take 3 days to incinerate a pyre, rather than the approximate 15 hours suggested by Rajchman. We will be generous again, to make our argument a fortiori, and assume that the cremation commando somehow managed to load, incinerate and cool down a pyre every 48 hours. This would mean a maximum incineration capacity of 1,265 corpses per day. Accordingly, it would take 632 days – or 1 year, 8 months and 23 days – to incinerate the alleged 800,000 Treblinka victims (this is the figure stated in the last edition of Raul Hilberg’s standard work The Destruction of the European Jews). As we have seen, Rajchman claims that only about 1,000 corpses were burned during December 1942 , and that the “roasts” were taken into operation in January 1943, with the last two pyres being constructed in late April. It would thus have taken at the very least until late September 1944 to complete the cremation of the alleged 800,000 victims. In reality, the Treblinka “death camp” was liquidated in September 1943, and the Red army reached the area in August 1944.
Then again, there are additional factors disadvantageous to Rajchman’s claims. First, the calculation above assumes that all roasts were taken into operation at the same time, which was not the case according to our victim. Second, it is unreasonable to assume that the roasts were in operation for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even in snow and rain. Third, it is inevitable that the rails used in the roasts would warp due to pressure and heat and have to be replaced from time to time, so that additional time would be lost. Finally, it must be stressed again that (at least as far as this author is aware) Rajchman is the only witness who claims that there were as many as 6 or 8 roasts in use at Treblinka.
All points to the fact, that corpses were cremated on grate-equipped pyres in Treblinka and the other Aktion Reinhardt camps (Bełżec and Sobibór), but that said contraptions were of dimensions woefully inadequate to handle the many hundreds of thousands of alleged victims, the reason for this being that there really were only ever some ten thousands of corpses to burn at each site, as the camps were in fact not “extermination camps”, but transit camps.
5.7. Himmler’s Visit to Treblinka
According to Rajchman’s memoirs, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler visited Treblinka to inspect the cleaning-up process:
”It is obvious that the murderers will have to finish their work by a certain date. In Camp 1 this is by July 1. We learn that a special guest is expected: Himmler. Preparations for his reception are under way. Two days before the deadline the work is completed.
It is July 1. We were supposed to have worked also in the afternoon, but at the last moment there was a counter-order.
We are locked inside our barrack. Through a small window we see that a large number of guards have been posted all around the place. A few minutes later Himmler arrives with his convoy. He inspects the gas chambers and then walks to the place where the graves once were and where now everything is spotlessly clean. Himmler looks very satisfied. He laughs, and his underlings, who are standing some meters away, are beaming with pleasure.” (p. 129)Contemporary German documents, however, shows that Himmler visited “installations of Aktion Reinhard” during March 1943. From the same material it is clear that Himmler inspected Sobibór, and although the name Treblinka does not appear, Treblinka’s commandant at that time, Franz Stangl, is listed as being recommended for promotion , which points to the likely fact that the camp was included among the “installations” visited by Himmler.
Why does Rajchman place the visit in mid-summer, while in reality it took place at the end of winter or during the first days of spring? This contradiction becomes even more evident when one considers what orthodox historiography has to say about the Himmler visit. Yitzhak Arad writes:
“The last camp where cremation of the corpses was instituted was Treblinka. During Himmler’s visit to the camp at the end of February/beginning of March 1943, he was surprised to find that in Treblinka the corpses of over 700,000 Jews who had been killed there had not yet been cremated. The very fact that the cremation began immediately after his visit makes it more than possible that Himmler, who was very sensitive about the erasure of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany, personally ordered the cremating of the corpses there.”Thus the circumstances of Himmler’s visit as described by our witness is rather the opposite of those asserted by the historians (who in turn are relying on statements from other eyewitnesses, particularly Wiernik): in the account of the former, Himmler visits Treblinka on July 1 and find the mass graves empty and “spotlessly clean”, while according to the latter, the Reichsführer-SS inspects the camp “at the end of February/beginning of March” and finds the mass graves full of unburned corpses!
As seen above, Rajchman states (on p. 128) that of eleven graves, ten had been emptied and cleaned by June 1943, and that the whole work was completed by July 1. Jankel Wiernik claims, however, that one fourth of the work remained by the end of July:
“July was drawing to a close and the weather was blistering hot. The hardest work was at the mass graves, and the men who exhumed the corpses for cremation were barely able to stand on their feet because of the sickening odors. By now about 75 per cent of the corpses had been cremated.”One might think that this contradiction is negligible. However, Wiernik’s account implies that much of the exhumation work was still left unfinished by the time of the prisoner revolt and mass escape on August 2, 1943, while Rajchman claims that the work was complete and everything “spotlessly clean” more than one month prior to the uprising. Given that the two accounts allegedly were penned at around the same time, more or less fresh out of respective author’s memory, this discrepancy is more important than it would appear at first glance.
One might possibly raise the counter-argument that Rajchman refers to another visit by Himmler, perhaps a follow-up inspection. This argument would, however, run into two serious obstacles. First, why did Rajchman forget to mention the first visit? Second, why is it that this hypothetical July 1 visit appears in no other eyewitness account?
6. Miscellaneous Anomalies and Absurdities
6.1. The “Dentists”
According to the memoirs (p. 84), the “dentist commando” in Camp 2 consisted of 20 prisoners. Some pages later, however, he notes that the pulling-out of teeth was carried out by “one or more six-man-strong groups” according to the size of the arriving transport, while the other members worked with cleaning and sorting the extracted gold teeth and dentures (p. 86). As seen above in Section 4, our witness states in his memoirs that “up until December 15  the transports arrived regularly, with about ten thousand people daily”. This would mean a daily work load of 500 corpses per “dentist”. One must consider in this context that the onset of rigor mortis (the stiffening of the dead body) would make extracting teeth from the dead problematic:
“Rigor mortis begins to appear in the muscles of the eyelids and the jaw (at earliest approx 20 minutes postmortem), the latter becoming tightened resulting from the stiffening of the masticatory muscles. After that, postmortem rigidity begins to affect larger muscle groups with stiffening of elbow or knee joints approx 2 to 6 hours after death.The “dentists” would therefore in many cases have to pry open the mouth of the victim before extracting gold teeth or dentures present. […] When fully developed, rigor mortis may lead to such a rigidity of the body that it may be capable of supporting the whole body weight. In such cases, even the most forceful efforts to break down rigor mortis may be fruitless. […] In cool and temperate climate zones loosening of rigor mortis, reflected by a secondary relaxation of the muscles (meaning a decrease in tension after full development of postmortem muscle stiffening) begins approx 24 to 36 hours postmortem.”
It should be noted that another Camp 2 witness, Eliahu Rosenberg, in a video-taped interview for Yad Vashem has stated that the “dentist commando” consisted of only 3-5 men. According to the Eichmann trial testimony of former “dentist” Avraham Lindwasser, the team originally consisted of 4-6 men, but was increased to 12 men at the time the exhumation of the mass graves began (i.e. in early 1943).
6.2. The Transport from Ostrowiec
On page 95-96 of the memoirs, Rajchman tells of a rare case of resistance from the alleged victims:
”On December 10 a Jewish transport from Ostrowiec arrived at the railway station. The camp administration was informed, that another transport would arrive at Treblinka the next morning. It was arranged that the Jews from Ostrowiec would be gassed the same evening. The order was carried out. We were locked inside the barracks and could not see anything. We only heard the usual screams. When we went to our work places the next morning, however, we discovered traces of what had happened during the night. [...]. A group consisting of several dozens of men had refused to enter the gas chambers. Naked as they were they, they used their fists for defense and would not let themselves be forced inside. Upon this the SS-men opened fire with their machine guns and killed the rebels at the spot.”The German translator adds in a footnote to page 95 that “The transport with Jews from Ostrowiec arrived in fact on October 12”. This is confirmed by Yitzhak Arad, who in his standard work on the Reinhardt camps lists no transports from Ostrowiec after October 12, 1942. The curious thing is that on page 63, Rajchman mentions a transport from Ostrowiec arriving in October 1942, just days after his own arrival! Why the need to invent a second transport from the same town?
As has already been mentioned, Rajchman appeared as a witness at the 1987-1988 Jerusalem trial against John Demjanjuk, as well as at the American extradition trial which preceded it. At the time, Demjanjuk stood accused of being “Ivan the Terrible”, a particularly vicious Ukrainian guard who not only had handled the engine providing the lethal carbon monoxide used to kill the victims in the alleged gas chambers in Treblinka, but also on his own initiative carried out a large number of monstrous atrocities against the Jews deported to the camp. In his interview for USHMM, which took place seven months after Demjanjuk had been found guilty and sentenced to death on April 25, 1988, Rajchman related:
“I was a witness at a court proceeding of Ivan Demjanjuk. Once in the United States, and now in Israel. I knew him as the ‘devil Ivan’. I didn't know then that his name was Ivan Demjanjuk. [...] He was working as a mechanic blacksmith who leaked in the gas into the gas chamber. [...] He was a sadist, taking pleasure in his work.”One especially noteworthy incident of cruelty supposedly took place in the death camp proper, when Rajchman and another inmate named Leon Finkelstein were working as “dentists” pulling out gold teeth from the corpses and cleaning them. In the memoirs the event in question is described as follows:
“One day, while I and another dentist named Finkelschtejn were washing the teeth [extracted from victims] by the well, Iwan came up to us with a poker in his hand. He ordered Finkelschtejn to lie down on the ground, and then he stabbed his behind with the poker. He called this a joke. The poor man did not cry out even once, but only moaned slightly. Iwan laughed and shouted at him: ‘Stay down, or I will shoot you!’” (p. 132)At the Demjanjuk trial Rajchman presented a virtually identical version of the story:
“He injured that Finkelstein, he was bleeding and suffering great pain, intense pain, but he was not permitted to scream, because Ivan had given him an order – ‘If you scream, I’ll shoot you’”
In the USHMM interview from 1988, however, Rajchman recounted the same tale thus:
“[He] took a drill that was used to drill hole in wood and stuck the drill into Finkelstein's backside. In the backside... laughing, continually laughing. He screamed, ‘Gevalt!’ Finkelstein then was crying... [Iwan] even told him that if he will not stop screaming, he will... he said... he had so much joy doing that.”We should note here that it is likely Finkelstein, not “Iwan” who is supposed to have screamed “Gevalt”, since this is a Yiddish exclamation of incredulity. Thus in the first version, Finkelstein does “not cry out even once”, while in the other Iwan threatens him since he will “not stop screaming”!
Most astoundingly, it would appear that neither Rajchman nor Finkelstein himself – who likewise survived the war to testify before the Polish investigative committee – thought it worthwhile to recall this grotesque torture in 1945. In an opinion piece written in 1990, while Demjanjuk was still on death row, Patrick Buchanan wrote that
“among the atrocities for which Demjanjuk must hang is using a drill to bore into the rectum of prisoner Finkelstein. Only, in his 1945 sworn testimony, Finkelstein did not mention this. Nor did Henryk Reichman, who testified at the Jerusalem trial that he saw Demjanjuk use the drill, mention the horror in his sworn statement.”
What makes Rajchman’s story even more spurious is the way he describes the general treatment of the Jewish detainees in Treblinka:
“Reichman told the court that the camp’s inmates tried to perform all their duties ‘stooped over, because if anyone stood straight he would be beaten... And you knew if you were beaten in the face, you would die that night’.”Rajchman repeated the same claim in the 1988 USHMM interview:
“We continually had to be on guard that our faces are free of injuries and show no marks or scars of the facing [sic]. Whoever had a bloody face or scars was taken out in the evening, lined up and shot. They looked if we can still pick up our legs. If not, they took it [sic] out and killed us.”But if prisoners with visible injuries, and those who could not “pick up their legs” were shot, how did Leon Finkelstein, who supposedly had been brutally stabbed by “Iwan” and bled profusely from his behind, survive his stay in the camp? Rajchman asserts in his memoirs (p. 133) that an inmate physician, Dr. Zimerman, took care of Finkelstein’s wound, but is it really plausible that he would have been able to work without the guards noticing that he was wounded?
When Rajchman was interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations in March 1980, he was shown a photograph of Demjanjuk taken in 1951, which he identified as the sadistic guard “Iwan”. At the time he was also shown a photograph of Demjanjuk taken during the war, which he did not identify as “Iwan”. However, a year later, at an extradition trial in Cleveland, Ohio, he did identify the same picture as portraying the guard in question.
In the end, Demjanjuk’s sentence was repealed. It turned out that the Jewish witnesses – including Rajchman – were “mistaken”: John Demjanjuk had not been “Iwan the Terrible”, and the most crucial piece of evidence against him, an identification card from the SS training camp at Trawniki, had turned out to be a forgery. In 1993 Demjanjuk returned to the United States as a free man (although as is well known, the witch-hunt for him did not end).
6.4. Treblinka I
In his memoirs, Rajchman writes that the insurgents had planned to assault the nearby labor camp known as Treblinka I after their escape from the “death camp”:
”As soon as we were free, we would go to the Treblinka labor camp to liberate the Christians and Jews detained there.” (pp. 140-141)When testifying at the Jerusalem Demjanjuk trial, Rajchman stated that the Germans “built 2 km away from Treblinka a second camp which was for smugglers” , and in the USHMM interview, he says that the Germans
“covered up their deeds so much that two kilometers from the original camp they established a [...] penal camp, for smugglers and criminals. That camp they also called Treblinka. They wanted this camp as a cover- up for the future. If someone will discover the real Treblinka with their [sic] gas chambers, they will have a place to show that this was a place for criminals.”One should note here the use of the word “original”. In reality, Treblinka I was established in autumn 1941, more than half a year before the opening of Treblinka II on July 22, 1942. Rajchman’s claim therefore makes no sense (although it could possibly be explained as a repetition of hearsay).
6.5. The Tall Tale of the Flammable Blood
I have saved Rajchman’s most astounding tale of horror until last:
“At one time we put up a roast beside a large grave, into which more than 250.000 corpses had been thrown. The roast was loaded as usual and lit in the evening. There was a strong wind, and the fire burned so intensely, that it spread to the large opened grave. The blood from a quarter of a million human beings went up in flame and burned until the evening of the following day.
All of the leading camp staff came to take a look at this wonder. They marveled at this fantastic fire. The blood rose to the surface of the ground and ignited like fuel.” (p. 119)That blood, whose plasma consists of 90% water, most certainly is not flammable, hardly needs to be pointed out. Rajchman’s tale is therefore nothing but nonsense.
As mentioned above, Rajchman accompanied Yiddish writer Rachel Auerbach on her visit to the former “extermination camp”. It is thus possible that our witness is the source for her sensational statement, found in the 1946 article “In the fields of Treblinka”, that blood is “a first-class combustion material”. Thus speak the voices of “truth and memory”!
Chil Rajchman’s account of the alleged extermination camp Treblinka II is fraught with more or less apparent contradictions and absurdities. To trust this man on his word that the Treblinka camp was equipped with homicidal gas chambers, where hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews were murdered in cold blood – in spite of the complete lack of material (or documentary) evidence to back up this allegation – is to be a pious fool.
As shown in the first section of this article, the published text of the memoirs dates from February 1945 at the very earliest. Since Jankel Wiernik’s book Rok w Treblince was published clandestinely in Warsaw already in 1944, it is fully possible that Rajchman read it and used it at least partially as a model for his “recollections”. On the other hand, some of Rajchman’s statements in the memoirs glaringly contradict Wiernik’s account, such as the descriptions of the capacity of the gas chambers and the size of the cremation pyres. Yet the two accounts reportedly derive from about the same time – less than a year after the escape from the alleged horrors at Treblinka. Why then the blatant discrepancies, if indeed we are dealing here with recollections of a genuine gas chamber mass murder?
The most revealing part of Rajchman’s account concerns the cremations in the camp. Like Richard Glazar, who left an important statement regarding the procurement of firewood at Treblinka , Rajchman has involuntarily and unwittingly revealed the fact that only a fraction of the Jews deported to the camp could have been cremated there. Since no-one has been able to find the remains of hundreds of thousands of uncremated corpses at the former camp site , it follows that Rajchman thus has indirectly confirmed the revisionist hypothesis of Treblinka II being a transit camp, from which the vast majority of the Jewish deportees were sent on to the occupied territories in the east.
Like in most other Treblinka accounts, the real function of the camp appears in Rajchman’s memoirs as an elaborate ruse, a clever fiction disseminated by the Germans to deceive the Jews in the ghettos:
”At my side [on the train to Treblinka] sits another friend, an engineer named Katz. He assures me, that we are going to the Ukraine, that we will be resettled there, and that we will be able to cultivate the land there. He knows this, since a German lieutenant had told him. The German was the administrator of a government-owned farm in Jedlinka, six kilometers from our Schtetl. He had told him this confidentially, in gratitude for his repair work on an electric motor.” (p. 30)The Ukrainian train guards, who are described (p. 29) as terrorizing the deportees and robbing them of their valuables, also did their part to keep up the supposed ruse:
”I asked him [a Ukrainian guard], for how long we would travel. He answered: Three daysBut of course, the orthodox historians assure us, such words were only part of a huge, cynical lie. The unquestionable, undeniable historical truth on the other hand, they tell us, is told by people such as Chil Rajchman! , since we are going to the Ukraine.” (p. 31)
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