Treblinka: Reconstruction of the Receiving Camp

The receiving camp (see Figure 27) consisted of a rectangular area of approximately 300 by 750 feet [100 x 250 meters] covering a little more than 8 acres [3.2 hectares]. The rail siding bringing the convoys defined the western boundary, and a high earthen embankment the eastern side. The siding ran in a shallow excavation and the earth removed from this cut had been mounded
on the west side. The people in the convoys stepped out onto a platform running the length of this hillock. Backing up to the platform were two large warehouses in which the belongings and clothing of the murdered members of the convoys was sorted, bundled and prepared for shipment to Germany. In 1943, this building was painted and disguised as a railroad station. In the north end of the receiving camp were another two large buildings, the so-called undressing barracks. The woman's barracks was the north-most one and its rear opened to the tube leading to the gas chambers. Women, accompanied their children, had their hair shorn here before they were killed.

In the center of the receiving complex was an open area, the 'Sortierungsplatz'. Clothing and other articles taken from each convoy was piled here where the sorting process begun. In the southeast corner there was a site, called the Lazarette, where persons too debilitated to walk through the tube were disposed of. A board fence surrounded a pit in which a fire burned. A red cross disguised the nature of this place where the sick and disabled were brought to be shot and their bodies burned.

The primary concern of the SS and their Ukrainian underlings was to process each convoy as quickly as possible. During the peak period of the Treblinka murder cycle, several convoys arrived every day. No delays or backups in the flood of humanity could be brooked. The weak and dead were removed from the rail cars and taken to the Lazarette (the false 'infirmary') by members of the resident Jewish workforce. There, the livings were killed and all the bodies dumped into a pit which burned constantly. Those were still ambulatory were directed or driven to the undressing barracks where they were required to remove their clothing. The women hair was cut off and after which they were forced into the tube leading to the gas chambers with their children. The men followed. The garments the victims had just worn, or carried in their luggage went to the sorting square and then to the sorting barracks to be processed for shipment back to Germany.

Figure 27 at top shows the receiving camp area as it
appeared in May of 1944, approximately six months after Treblinka's closure and sanitization. The berm separating the line to Treblinka I from the siding into Treblinka is clearly visible, but no signs of any structures can be seen without close examination and the use of digital image enhancements. The darker regions are the soils which remained relatively undisturbed. The lower half of Figure 27 has been annotated with the features discovered after contrast stretching and spatial filtering. It was only after this processing that it became possible to notice traces of the undressing barracks and sorting barracks. Figures 4.28 and 28B show the results of contrast stretching and spatial filtering to bring out the very faint signs of the undressing barracks buildings. In the left hand frame of Figure 28, the men's barracks footprint shows as a slightly darker tone than the surrounding area, with faint and blurry lineations making its outline. The women's building is fainter still, and would not be noticeable but for having been discovered on the frame on the right first, where the women's barracks appears as a lighter tone, and again with a very subtle rectilinear outline. Figure 28B presents this women's barracks rotated 180 degrees with a slightly different spatial filter applied (the traces are so subtle that seeing them often requires this sort of processing and viewing stratagems). The pattern of the traces of the women's undressing barracks is probably due to grass growing slightly higher around the periphery of the building before it was pulled down. If this inference is true, it indicates it was not burned in the August 2, 1943 uprising. The more diffuse, smudgy clues associated with the men's undressing barracks points to its having been being destroyed by fire.

Next