Reconstruction of Belzec

4.4 - The Ukrainian Guards Area

The SS guards contingent consisted of Soviet prisoners of war recruited by the Germans. They were primarily of Ukrainian or German ethnicity. There were about 100 in the unit.

These men were housed and messed in an area referred to as Camp I. There were a number of facilities in this part of Belzec camp. They included medical/dental, shoemaking, tailoring, and barbering. Also in the camp was a large garage which was used for repair, service and storage of the assigned vehicles. This building was subject to extensive excavations (see Kola, Reference 16) which served to pinpoint its precise location, its size, and its layout.

Unfortunately, all the other structures were sited outside the boundaries of the modern memorial site and Kola did not explore them. However, it is possible, using the Luftwaffe reconnaissance photos, to easily identify the number and approximate size of structures in the guards camp from traces left after Belzec‘s liquidation. Moreover, postwar German trials of camp staff generated a number of testaments which are useful in fleshing out the information which can be gleaned from the photography.
Figure 4.4.1 shows the Ukrainian barracks area in which one can clearly see a number of building footprints. Their signatures consist of dark toned regions surrounded by lighter tones. Roads, pathways and decorative fence lines are still visible.

Annotation1 indicates the fence line boundary of a barracks building. Annotation 2 points to pathways. Figure 4.4.2 is a photograph of two Ukrainian guards beside a barracks. The photograph was taken as shown in Figure 4.4.3.
The power line (orange annotation on aerial photo) with the braced poles in the background provided electricity to the camp and originated in a generator situated in a building next to the locomotive round house (see below). The ground photograph clearly shows the sandy, un-vegetated state of the barrack’s surrounds.

The mechanism for the creation of the signatures in the aerial views can be inferred from these observations: namely that the sandy, barren soils resulted as light tones and that after the various building were torn down, the burning of unsalvageable debris would have left a residue of charcoal and ash in the center.

Figure 4.4.4 gives an overall summary of the analysis of the aerial photographs and the available ground shots. The key to the annotations is as follows:

1 - Guard Shack
2 - Barracks
3 - Day room
4 - Unidentified
5 - Barber, medical, shoe repair
6 - Garage

The two buildings annotated number 5 were identified as to function from sketch maps drawn by former German SS staff members (see References, Internet Resources I1) . The identification of the barracks was based on their size (100 men can be easily housed in three buildings 16 by 8 meters if they are double bunked). The day room, annotation 3, was identified on context. The building having that function needed to be centrally located near the barracks, and of a smaller size.
Figure 4.4.5 was taken inside the guard’s day room, so we know that such a facility existed.

The small structure identified as a guard shack (annotation 1) appears in another snapshot of the Ukrainian guards. It is presented in Figure 4.4.6
along with its positioning and orientation in the aerial view. The correlation of these photographs is valuable because it served to locate two of the main gates into the camp: one into Camp I, and the first gate through which the rail convoys into the rail siding passed. The identification of the snapshot’s location is based on the sun azimuth and elevations determinable in the photograph and from the fact that the wire security fence in the background can be seen rising up a slope to the right of the guard shack. The time of the year was mid to late summer judging from the shirt sleeved individual on the right. From the shadow cast by the roof eave, the sun’s elevation was about 40 degrees. On September 1, 1944 the sun’s elevation is was 40 degrees and its azimuth was about 150 degrees at 9:30 AM. Under these conditions the shack locates as shown in the figure. The slope is a cut made for the railroad wye into the sandy rise to the north.

The placement of this guard post was to control access into Camp I and also to open the first gate into the siding to allow the convoys carrying the doomed Jews into the extermination camp.

The largest building in Camp I was the garage. This structure was excavated and described in detail by Kola. The foundation was masonry, There were five interior walls which divided the space into six equal sized partitions. Five of these were vehicle bays and the sixth was probably a shop and office space. A grease pit was built into the floor of one the bays.
Figure 4.4.7 presents a sketch of the foundation plan and a artist’s conception of the buildings above ground appearance. This building was razed along with all the other camp structures when the camp was liquidated. The building that is imaged in the 1944 aerial photographs was built later and probably belonged to the Reichsbahn (see Section 5.0 - Epilogue).

The last feature of interest in the Guard’s housing area
is annotated as “A” in Figure 4.4.8. This rectangular area is on a slope of a hill. The slope begins at the south end and rises to the north. A comparison is afforded by the September coverage taken with a low sun angle. One can see that there are six mounds, each about 35 meters long. They appear to be elevated beds 4-5 meters wide, separated by shallow troughs. This feature is probably a garden given to truck crops for the Ukrainian and German Staff. Gardens are known to have been cultivated at both Treblinka and Sobibor. There is no reason to believe that the practice did not originate at Belzec, and this site is the only convenient and suitable one in the camp.

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