Sunday, May 20, 2018

BERNARD LEWIS, SCHOLAR AND POLITICAL ADVISOR, DEAD AT 101


BY JPOST.COM STAFF MAY 20, 2018 01:53
Lewis was a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies. His study of antisemitism, Semites and Anti-Semites was a cry against Soviet and Arab attempts to delegitimize Israel. In other works, he argued Arab rage against Israel was disproportionate to other tragedies or injustices in the Muslim world. 




Thursday, March 8, 2018

Imbi Paju järelhüüe Mark Rõbakile - MARK RYBAK gone


Hüvasti, Eesti juudi muuseumi looja, mäluurija, kultuurisaadik Iisraeli ja Eesti vahel Mark Rõbak 
08.03.1945 - 06.03.2018
6.märtsi hommikul räägime kirjanik Igor Kotjuhiga telefoni teel Eesti kultuurist, vene vähemuste ja juudi vähemuste kultuuridest selle kultuuri pusle osana. Ma luban Igorile, et sel kevadel, kui Mark Rõbak, Eesti Juudi muusemi looja, Iisraelist Tallinna oma Eesti koju saabub, ma kindlasti tutvustan neid kahte säravat Eesti kultuuride saadikut. Õhtul helistab Igor, et on tulnud teade, et Mark on just sama hommikul oma kodus Tel Avivis lahkunud manalateed.
24. veebruaril Eesti juubeli päeva hommikul olen saatnud Markile e-kirja: "Kallis Mark, palju õnne Eesti juubeli puhul ja aitäh selle riigi mälu taastamise eest." Mark vastab mulle samaga, aga kirjutab et ei jõua rohkem kirjutada, sest on haige. Nüüd on kallis sõber ja mõttekaaslane on lahkunud, kuid lahkunud on ka Eesti kultuurile asendamatu inimene, alles on aga tema loominguline vaim ja vaimsus.
Mark Rõbak (8. märts 1945 - 6. märts 2017) jääb Eesti kultuurilukku Eesti juutide  kultuuri ja mälu kogujana ja selle asetajana Eesti kultuuri ja maailma kultuuri konteksti. Tänu Marki tööle teadvustame täna, et ajal, mil Hitler tuli Saksamaal võimule, avati Tartu Ülikoolis juudi keele ja kultuuri teaduskond, mis sai maailmas palju tähelepanu. (Selline oli olnud siiani vaid Oxfordi Ülikoolis). Tänu Markile oleme avastanud, et Eestis on sündinud maailmakuulus arhidekt Louis Kahn või et maailmakuulsa fotograafi Annie Leibovitch ema oli Eestist pärit modernse balleti tantsija. Marki töö on aidanud meil leida üles Leo Ginovkeri, šokolaadivabrikandi, kes on tänaseks vanem kui Eesti vabariik jne.

Mark on leidnud arhiividest üles rahvusvahelise juutide ajalehe The Jews Chronicles, kus on juttu suurepärasest vähemuspoliitikast 30ndate Eestis, juudi rikkast kultuurielust, kultuuriautonoomiast, raamatukogudest. Marki tööd ja tegemised on inspireerinud tavalisi inimesi, teadlasi, kultuuriinimesi ja diplomaate. Ta jätkas selle müüri ladumist, mille oli valmistanud ette kirjastaja ja juudi kultuuriseltsi üks taastajaid, kadunud Elhonen Saks või särav Avi Dobrõsh. Millegi võimsa loomine, millegi taastamine ja restaureerimine vajab pühendumist, kaaslaste innustamise oskust ja missioonitunnet: need omaduse olid vahetu käitumisega Mark Rõbakil.
Mark on jäädvustanud ennesõjaaegseid mälestusi, taastanud kultuuri ja mälu, viinud Eesti välja nõukogude narratiivist Eestist kui fašistlikust riigist 1918-40. Mark on tuletanud meelde, et Eestis ei tõlgitud kunagi Hitleri "Mein Kampf"i ja antisemitismi levitamine 1930ndate äärmusluse tõusu ajal Eestis kriminaliseeriti.
Eelkõige taastab Mark Rõbak aga oma ema ja isa kadunud lapsepõlve selles ”erakordses Eestis”, nagu ta ise seda nimetas ja millest 2014. aastal nii Marki kui suursaadik Mall Talveti ning tema abikaasa muusiku Andres Mustoneni eestvedamisel korraldatakse Tel Avivi Ülikoolis seminar pealkirja all ”Erakordne Eesti”. Seminar tõstis esile Eesti juutide kultuuriautonoomiaga saavutatud prvileege kultuuri arendamisel ja Eesti kultuuri rikastamisel. Kohal oli Isidor Levin, kes noore mehena saabus Riiast Tartusse õppima meie ülikoolis ja kelle Saksa okupatsiooni ajal päästis holokaustist tema õppejõud Uku Masing koos abikaasa Eha ja sõpradega. Levin rääkis Tartu Ülikooli ja Leipzigi Ülikooli endise professori ja Tartu Ülikooli juudi õppetooli professori Lazar Gulkovitschi tööst.

Ajaloolased Toomas Hiio, Andres Kasekamp, Anu Põltsam ja paljud teised lisasid sellele päevale oma teadmisi. Mark, kes oli üks kõneleja, jäädvustas hiljem kogu seminari ja selle materjalid Eesti juudi virtuaalsesse muusemi. Õhtu lõppes suurepärase konserdiga, mida juhatas Andres Mustonen. Saalid oli täis, eelarvamused hajusid, kultuurid said üheks. Jäin pärast seminari veel nädalaks Israeli ja Mark tegi mulle ülevaate oma teises kodumaast, tutvustas inimesi, kes on lahkunud enne sõda Eestist Iisraeli, aitas mul koguda materjali uue raamatu jaoks. Mark ütles, et see eestlaste ja juutide kultuuriline koostöö on nagu suur püha.
Mark Rõbak lahkus Iisraeli 1972. aastal koos vanematega, olles 28aastane. Ta tahtis välja sellest valelikust süsteemist. Ta käis Eestis venekeelses koolis ja oli lõpetanud Moskva ülikooli matemaatikuna. Tema sõprusringkond koosnes aga nii eestlastest kui venelastest. Mark Rõbaki eesti keel oli nii perfektne ja väljendusrikas, et ta tundus olevat terve elu elanud Eestis. Marki ema Ruth (sündinud 1913, neiupõlvenimega Golgmann) kasvas ettevõtja peres. Tema ema isa oli Osvami elektripirnide esindaja, ajas laevandusäri, tegi koostööd tekstiilivabrikant Oskar Kilgasega. Mark ütles alati, et tema ema oli enne okupatsioone preili, kes mängis tennist, õppis keeli, käis klubides ja reisis ringi Euroopas. Isa Samuel polnud nii jõukast perest, aga vanaisa oli hinnatud rätsep. 
Iisraelis töötas Mark peaaegu 30 aastat IBMis, 2001. aastal pakuti talle korralikku kompentsatsiooni, et varem pensionile minna. Mark võttis pakkumise vastu, ta oli 57aastane ja otsustas pühenduda Eesti juutide ajaloo ja mälu uurimisele ja jäädvustamisele. Ta alustas internetis. Inimesed hakaksid huvituma ja tooma pilte ja muid materjale. Muuseumi ideedele pandi alus annetuste näol, mõni pensionär andis 10 krooni ja ettvõtjad 10 000 krooni, abiks oli ka vabatahtlkikke, kes on tõlkinud Marki kogutud mälestusi inglise, vene ja eesti keelde.
Muuseum oligi algusest peale kolmkeelne, see avati 2008. aastal Tallinnas Karu 16 ja koosneb neljast osast: Põhiekspositsioonist, arhiivist, lugemissaalist ja virtuaalosakonnast. Muusemi avamisele oli tulnud hulgaliselt vanu juute, kes mäletasid Eesti Vabariigi esimest aega ja mulle näidati muusemi aknast puud, mille president Päts oli nende gümnaasiumi õuele istutanud. Markile oli tähtis  hariduslik missioon. Tema töö oli nagu armastuse sakrament. Teda ärritasid ajalehtede kommentaariumites antisemitistlikud kirjutised. Ta tahtis need vihakommentaatorid kutsuda muusemi, et nad näeksid juudi kultuuri Eesti kultuuri osana ja rikkusena. Kui ta läks Mementosse ühte sugulase fotot saama, küsiti sealt, et kas te kuulsa mõrvari Idel Jakobsoni tegusid ka oma muuseumis kajastate. Ja Mark kajastas seda muuseumi väljapanekus: Ber ­Šoher on süüdi selles, et ta on värvimistöökoja kaas­omanik. Arreteeriti ja saadeti välja Põhja-Uurali laagrisse. Allkiri – Idel Jakobson, NKVD uurimisosakonna juhataja asetäitja.
Ta otsis eestlasi, kes olid aidanud juutidel holokaustis ellu jääda ja jäädvustaska nende nimed.
Gennadi Gramberg, üks Eesti juudi kultuuri eestvedajaid, küsis pärast Mark Rõbaki lahkumisteadet, kust me leiame sarnase missiooniga ja ajaloo ning kultuuritunnetusega inimese, kes jätkaks Marki tööd?! Kultuurid kaovad, kui me neid ja meie eelmiste põlvkondade tööd pidevalt elus ei hoia.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tunnustas Mark Rõbaki Valgetähe IV klassi teenetmärgiga. Elu on alati suurem kui surm ja Marki loodu ja jäädvustatu saab elada edasi ainult meie loomingulises tegevuses ja uudishimus elu vastu. 



Friday, October 27, 2017

Top 10 Nazi Collaborators Who Were Jews



When we talk of Nazi Collaborators we are not usually referring to Jews. When we think of the Holocaust, we often imagine that the Germans were solely responsible for the identification and deportation of Jews and others to the death camps. The truth, however, is that a number of Jews worked under the Nazis and helped to identify thousands of their fellow men for deportation to the death camps.
The Nazi collaborators on this list either volunteered to help the Nazis or were forced to trade the lives of hundreds or thousands of their fellow Jews for their own lives and the lives of their families. Greed, self-preservation, and hate are the main reasons for the actions these individuals took.
10Nazi Collaborators: Calel Perechodnik

Photo credit: goodreads.comWikimedia
Calel Perechodnik is the author of Am I a Murderer? Testament of a Jewish Ghetto Policeman, which is from his memoirs about his life after joining the ghetto police in Otwock. He may seem like a victim of circumstances, but that does not change the fact that he worked on orders of the Nazis and contributed to the deaths of fellow Jews and even his wife.
Perechodnik joined the ghetto police because he thought it would save him and his family from the death camps. It was also a way to provide food for his family.
But according to his memoirs, he developed a hatred for the Jews and himself, blaming them for the way they were treated. He said that other nations hated the Jews because they claimed to be a chosen race. When Perechodnik deserted the Ghetto Police, the Nazis captured and executed him.

9Jozef Andrzej Szerynski

Jozef Szerynski did not like being a Jew. After fighting in the Russian army during World War I, he tried to distance himself from the Jews by changing his birth name from Josef Szynkman to Jozef Andrzej Szerynski.
During World War II, he was appointed the head of the police in the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw. The Gestapo charged him with identifying Jews for deportation to the death camps.
Szerynski executed his duty without any hesitation, leading thousands of men, women, and children to the Treblinka extermination camp. In August 1942, just a month after he had begun his assignment, an attempt was made on his life by a member of the Jewish underground. But Szerynski survived.
After overseeing two mass deportations that caused the deaths of 254,000 Jews, Szerynski committed suicide using cyanide in January 1943.

8Adam Czerniakow

Photo credit: ww2gravestone.com
Adam Czerniakow was born in Poland and worked as an engineer for most of his life. When the Nazis took over Poland, he was appointed head of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto. Czerniakow headed the 24-man Warsaw council that was charged with the identification and capture of Jews for deportation.
Czerniakow also recommended the appointment of Jozef Andrzej Szerynski as head of the ghetto police. Under direct orders from Nazi bosses, Czerniakow oversaw the daily deportation of 6,000 Jews.
According to The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow, he tried his best to plead for the exemption of orphans but to no avail. It is said that his wife and thousands more were held hostage to ensure that he executed his duty. Overwhelmed by the pressure, he committed suicide using cyanide. Czerniakow left a note to his family saying that suicide was the right thing to do.
7Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski

Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski was a Polish Jew appointed by the Nazis as the head of the Jewish Council of Elders in Lodz Ghetto. There, he was the most influential and powerful man. He even made his own currency called Chaimki with his face on it.
Referred to by some people as “King Chaim the Terrible,” Rumkowski personally oversaw the handover of more than 20,000 children, elderly, and sick Jews to the Nazis for deportation to the extermination camps. He is remembered for his speech, infamously named “Give Me Your Children.”
Rumkowski, however, did not survive the Holocaust. In August 1944, he and his family ended up in Auschwitz. There, he was beaten to death by fellow Jewish inmates for the role he played in the deaths of thousands of children and elderly.
6Alfred Nossig

Photo via Wikimedia
In his biography, Alfred Nossig is described as a man with a brilliant mind who studied law, science, and art. He encouraged Jews to try to assimilate as Polish citizens. But when he discovered that the Poles did not want to accept the Jews as Polish, Nossig became a Zionist.
Later, when the Germans invaded Poland during World War II, Nossig became an undercover agent for the Gestapo and produced regular reports about activities of the Jewish underground which he delivered to the Gestapo. The Jewish underground later found out about his activities and executed him.
Among the documents found at his home after the execution were a Gestapo identity card and a list of Jews engaged in anti-Nazi activities. It is believed that the identity card made it easy for him to get access to his Nazi bosses without being arrested and deported. At the time of his death, he was 78 years old.

5Abraham Gancwajch

Abraham Gancwajch was an all-out supporter of the Nazis. He believed they would win World War II, so he encouraged his fellow Jews to join the Nazis as a survival tactic. A member of the Warsaw Ghetto Council, he tried to take over from Adam Czerniakow but failed.
Gancwajch formed a notorious gang called Group 13, also referred to as the Jewish Gestapo. The things they did are so despicable that even fellow Nazi Jews like Czerniakow described Gancwajch as an evil, ugly man who would do anything for a life of luxury.
Gancwajch was known for engaging in smuggling activities and other illegal businesses that helped him live like a king within the Jewish Ghetto. The Nazis let this go on as long as he continued to fight the Jewish resistance for them.
The Underground Jews sentenced Gancwajch to death but were never able to execute him. It is not clear how he met his death, though it is believed that he died in 1943.
4Ans van Dijk

Photo via Wikipedia
The Nazi collaborators weren’t always men. Ans van Dijk was born to Jewish parents in the Netherlands. There, she lived a fairly normal life until the invasion by the German forces. At the height of the Nazi operations, she was arrested. But she was released on the condition that she would help the Nazi Intelligence find other Jews in hiding.
Van Dijk infiltrated the Jewish resistance and pretended to help families and individuals escape or obtain false papers. In reality, she would just deliver them to the Nazis for deportation. She executed this duty without any favor, going as far as trapping her brother and his family.
At the end of the war, van Dijk was arrested in The Hague, where she had moved and was involved in a lesbian relationship. In June 1945, she was charged with 23 counts of treason. She pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to death.
Van Dijk tried her best to avoid the execution. She appealed the sentence and converted to Christianity, but all that failed. In January 1948, van Dijk was executed by firing squad. She is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 85 Jews and the arrests of 145. Some scholars still regard her as a victim.
3Stella Goldschlag

Photo credit: forum.krstarica.com
Stella Goldschlag was a paid “catcher” for the Nazis. She had studied in a Jewish school and lived in the Jewish ghetto. Therefore, she knew a number of fellow Jews who were hiding underground in Germany.
Peter Wayden, her biographer, describes her as charming and beautiful. With her blonde hair and blue eyes, she hardly looked like a Jew. According to her biography, Goldschlag was arrested with her parents as they tried to leave Germany. She was tortured until she agreed to help catch fellow Jews in hiding.
The Nazis knew how much she loved her parents and that she would do anything to keep them alive. But it is also recorded that she was offered 300 reichsmarks as payment for every Jew she caught. Even after her parents were sent to a concentration camp, she continued to catch Jews for the Nazis.
Goldschlag used her good looks to gain people’s trust. She would offer them food and accommodations, only to hand them over to the Nazis for deportation. It is estimated that she helped to catch close to 3,000 Jews.
The Germans named her “blonde poison.” After the war, she served 10 years in prison, converted to Christianity, and became an outspoken anti-Semite. Goldschlag committed suicide in 1994 by jumping out a window.
2Rolf Isaaksohn

Photo credit: swr.de
Rolf Isaaksohn offered to work as a catcher for the Gestapo. He bragged that he could fill a whole train with Jews for deportation. After he married fellow catcher Stella Goldschlag, they were even more effective together than the Gestapo at arresting Jews in hiding.
Isaaksohn had a talent for forging documents. This brought many Jews to him for assistance, and he would easily hand them over. This is a man who actually loved betraying his own people, and many Jews lived in fear of Mr. and Mrs. Isaaksohn.
According to Peter Wayden, who wrote about the couple, the Isaaksohns were very innovative in the way they would get Jews in hiding. It didn’t even matter if these people were childhood friends. All told, Isaaksohn caused the deaths of over 2,000 Jews.
1Moshe Merin

Sosnowiec Council with Moszek Merin (centre) fifth from the right, middle row.

Photo via Wikimedia
In his book Nightmares: Memoirs of the Years of Horror Under Nazi Rule in Europe, Konrad Charmatz described Moshe Merin as impulsive and unstable. Merin volunteered himself to the Nazis when they invaded Poland and presented himself as the leader of the Sosnowiec Community Council.
The Nazis installed Merin as the leader of the Central Office of the Jewish council in East Upper Silesia, which put as many as 100,000 Jews under him. Merin believed that he could save the lives of other Jews by following the orders of the Nazis. When he was asked to choose 25,000 Jews for deportation, he gladly did, arguing that at least he had saved a greater percentage.
Working with the Jewish Ghetto Police, Merin fought the underground resistance and personally signed the execution warrants of those arrested. His actions, however, did not save him. Merin died in 1943 in Auschwitz, where he had sent fellow Jews to be killed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

THE TREBLINKA GOLD RUSH

After World War II, Polish peasants hunted for jewels and gold amid the human remains at former Nazi death camps


Tablet Magazine 
May 21, 2012 • 7:00 AM

(Muzeum Walki i Męczeństwa Treblinka copyright Agencja Gazeta)

It is a familiar image, one people have seen in countless variations: a group of peasants at harvest time after work, resting contentedly with their tools behind a pile of crops. Some may have taken a snapshot of this kind on summer vacations, while visiting with distant relatives in the countryside; others might carry it as a souvenir of their days as a student volunteer, when they helped farmers in the back country in their work. It was the kind of image featured every summer on the front pages of newspapers in communist countries half the world over, and visitors could find more or less artistically refined renditions in art galleries and museums.Yet despite the bucolic setting, this particular photograph is disquieting—and not just because it’s out of focus. Something feels off-kilter about the landscape, which cannot be pegged easily to a geographical location. Were palm trees rather than conifers protruding from behind the group, one might place the setting of the photograph in a desert. And when one notes what is scattered in front of the group the mystery deepens.
Where are we? Who are the people in the photograph?
We are in the middle of Europe right after World War II. The peasants in the photograph are standing atop the ashes of 800,000 Jews gassed and cremated in the Treblinka extermination camp between July 1942 and October 1943. The peasants have been digging through remains of Holocaust victims, hoping to find gold and precious stones that their Nazi executioners may have overlooked.
This innocent-looking image links two central events of the Holocaust—the mass murder of European Jews and the accompanying looting of their property. The writer Rachela Auerbach visited Treblinka on Nov. 7, 1945, as part of an official delegation organized by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes. She called one of the chapters of a small book she subsequently wrote about the Treblinka extermination camp “The Polish Colorado or About the Gold Rush in Treblinka.” She also described how plunderers with shovels were everywhere. “They dig, they search, pulling out bones and body parts. Maybe something could still be found,” she writes, “maybe a golden tooth?”
***
Dominik Kucharek, a gleaner from Treblinka who had been served with an indictment for violating foreign-exchange laws—he tried to sell in Warsaw a diamond he found at Treblinka and purchase gold coins on a black market—explained in his deposition that “everybody” from his village went to dig there. “I didn’t know that looking for gold and valuables at the site of the former camp at Treblinka was forbidden, because Soviet soldiers also went there with us to search. And they detonated explosives in places where they expected to find something.” There could be several hundred diggers working the camp at any one time. Given the size of the site, approximating that of a sports stadium, it must have looked like a busy anthill. And these digs went on for decades.
Testimonies from Bełżec tell a similar story. The main difference was that digging there had already begun during the war. Like Treblinka, Bełżec was dismantled by the Germans, and the camp’s terrain was plowed over, and trees and grass were planted to cover mass graves. Bełżec was the first death camp to close—in mid-1943. When the Germans got wind of what the Polish locals were doing, they chased them away and installed a permanent guard to make sure that no evidence of their own murderous activity would be unearthed. As soon as the guard fled before the approaching Red Army, the local people resumed their excavations.
“According to information provided by policemen stationed in Bełżec,” states a report prepared by a commission visiting Bełżec on Oct. 10, 1945, “the area of the camp has been dug up by local people looking for gold and precious stones left by murdered Jews. All over the dug-up terrain one finds scattered human bones: skulls, vertebrae, ribs, femurs, jaws, women’s hair, often in braids, also fragments of rotting human flesh, such as hands or lower limbs of small children.” After the Germans fled from Bełżec the local police tried to inhibit digging in the camp area, “but it is difficult to do anything,” explained the town’s police precinct commander, Mieczysław Niedużak, “because as soon as one group of people is chased away, another group appears.”
The commission worked conscientiously, and in addition to talking to scores of witnesses the authors of the report also surveyed the camp. Nine separate sites in the death camp were probed for depth, in one instance the bottom of the grave was over 20 feet down. “When digging the probes it was ascertained that camp graves have been previously dug up,” and also “that at the present time the entire camp area is being dug up by the local population looking for valuables.”
Death-camp harvesters usually worked alone, lest a lucky find provoke envy from a neighbor (in the vicinity of Treblinka, diggers were robbed and tortured one another). Both in Bełżec and in Treblinka it was common practice to take skulls home in order to check them out later, and “in peace.”
There were also a few entrepreneurs who hired small crews to dig for them, such as a man known as the  “banker of Bełżec,” who owned a brick factory in town and staked a claim to an area where a latrine had been previously situated in the camp. It was the most fertile spot, presumably because desperate Jews who figured out at last what awaited them threw therein valuables instead of surrendering them to camp officials. After the Red Army liberated the area near Sobibór, Soviet soldiers scooped the former camp latrine by buckets hauling loads of wristwatches. The latrine area in Bełżec yielded also small skeletons—most likely of Jewish children who had been drowned there by camp guards.
The area surrounding the death camps was indeed, as Rachela Auerbach suggested, a Polish Colorado—not just on account of what happened there after the war, but mainly during the war. Villages in the vicinities of camps prospered materially as a result of trade between camp guards and the local people, trade which according to one observer brought a “material and economic revolution” into this area. A landlord whose property was not far from Treblinka put it thus: “thatched roofs were gone, replaced by sheet metal, and the entire village seemed like a piece of Europe suddenly moved into the center of Podlasie.”
What lay behind this perceptive observation? In addition to a small staff of SS men, Treblinka’s personnel was made up of released Soviet POWs, mostly Ukrainians, trained by the SS to serve as guards. Those young men, about a hundred of them altogether, treated with contempt by their German superiors, were called Wachmanor, alternatively, “Blacks,” from the color of their uniforms. They easily communicated in pidgin Polish-Ukrainian with the local people and were welcome guests in their homes, as bearers of looted money and valuables. Treblinka guards traded with the locals, buying alcohol, tasty food, and sex, and the inflow of capital into the area was beyond anything that had happened there before or has happened since.
In Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór over a million and a half Jews were murdered, including the Jewish population of several large cities. And monies as well as valuables, which Jews took on their final journey, hoping against hope that they might survive, in some small part trickled into the hands of the locals. Warsaw native and engineer Jerzy Królikowski, who lived in the village of Treblinka while supervising construction of a railroad bridge nearby, recalled how “wrist watches were sold by the dozens, for pennies, and local peasants carried them in egg baskets offering them to whomever was interested.”
Villages around extermination camps were swept up in a gold rush akin to that in the Wild West: “Prostitutes from a nearby town, or even from Warsaw, showed up, eager to get golden coins, while vodka and food could be purchased in numerous houses. In villages close to the camp, Ukrainians, during their spare time from ‘work,’ were heartily welcomed by some peasants. Daughters in such households, people were saying, provided company to these murderers and eagerly benefited from their largesse.”
The local population was determined not to be outdone by outsiders in the provision of desired services. Camp guards paid for food and vodka “without counting the change,” and only by the time Treblinka was about to close did they start “selling diamonds by carats and not by piece.” A local informant whom we have already quoted (a well-educated prewar supporter of the National-Democratic Party and a landowner from Ceranów) described the circumstances in even more derisive terms: “The village Wólka Okrąglik is situated near Treblinka. Peasants from there used to send their wives and daughters to meet with Ukrainian guards employed at the camp. They were beside themselves if the women did not bring, in exchange for personal services, enough jewelry and valuables that belonged to the Jews. Theirs was a very profitable business.”
Mieczysław Chodźko, a Treblinka survivor, reveals in his reminiscences another interesting detail. “Guards,” he writes, “had cameras and took pornographic pictures, which they very much liked to show to each other.” This may help explain some of the mystery of the photograph. Just as it is unknown who took the picture or why, it was puzzling how a camera made it into Podlasie countryside shortly after the war in the first place. Now we know that both during and after the war it was possible to find virtually anything in the vicinity of Treblinka.
The inhabitants of Treblinka and its surroundings did not draw their income exclusively from the dead Jews. Their business activities started the moment trains filled with living Jews destined for gas chambers stopped at the Treblinka train station. Huge, 60-wagon-long trains arriving from Warsaw were filled with the condemned, who could not be disposed of at once because of the limited capacity of the gas chambers. These trains had to be split into smaller sections and rolled into the camp sequentially. Even when everything went smoothly, freight cars filled with victims awaiting their turn to be killed were parked in the station for hours. It also happened that two or three trains might reach Treblinka at the same time. And whenever a train arrived at dusk it would be kept in the station till the next morning.
After a train arrived, writes Królikowski, people from neighboring villages would come over to the station.
When I saw people near the train for the first time I thought that they came out with a noble intent to feed the hungry and bring water to the thirsty. But I was quickly told by the workers [on the construction project, which Królikowski supervised] with whom I spoke that this was regular commercial activity, selling water and food at very profitable prices. And indeed this is what it was, as I later found out. When transports were not guarded by German gendarmerie, which didn’t allow anybody to approach the trains, but by one of the auxiliary police formations [occasionally, even by the Polish police] crowds would assemble, bringing pails of water and bottles of moonshine. Water was for the people locked up in freight cars, while liquor was used to bribe the convoy guards, so they would allow the locals to approach the train. When there was no liquor, or convoy guards would not be satisfied with this form of payment, girls would come forward, put arms around their necks and cover them with kisses – anything in order to be able to come close to the wagons.
After permission was granted, trade with unfortunate prisoners dying of thirst and willing to pay 100 zlotys for a cup of water began.
Income from the “trading” with the Jews, alongside profits from selling food, alcohol, and sex to camp guards, revolutionized the local economy. A resident of Bełżec opined after the war that it had been very difficult for people in her area to “keep their decency” during the German occupation.
The killing fields of Sobibór, Bełżec, and Treblinka were neglected by the Polish authorities for decades. No attempts were made to commemorate the dead or even protect mass graves from continuous desecration. “First clean-up and inventory activities at the site of the former camp began in the Spring of 1958,” wrote a contemporary historian of Treblinka, Martyna Rusiniak. “During the initial cleaning it wasn’t uncommon for the workers and the police to join occasionally with the diggers.” Only since the mid-1960s had camp areas been marked as sites of mass murder, still neglecting to specify that the victims who had been killed there were Jewish.