- One Year in Treblinka
By early 1942, the last stage of Hitlers "Final Solution"
was finally taking shape. The goal: to systematically exterminate the
European Jews in death camps.
The Nazis had created two different kinds of death camps. The first were
"extermination camps," which were largely built with the purpose
of mass extermination. There were six of these facilities built in Polandat
Chelmno, Treblinka, Maidanek, Sobibor, Belzec, and Auschwitz. The massive
gas chambers installed in these camps could kill more than 6,000 people
at each site every day.
The other kind of death camps were "concentration camps," where
Jews, politicians, and other Nazi enemies were held and killed, but not
with the intentional purpose of mass extermination. The first of the concentration
camps was opened in Germany, at Dachau in March 1933. By the end of the
war, there were more than a hundred concentration camps throughout Europe,
some of the most notorious being Buchenwald, Belsen, and Mauthausen, where
prisoners were forced to labor to their deaths in wretched conditions
for the German war cause.
In all, the two types of death camps killed more than 6,000,000 people
in Poland, the USSR, Hungary, Romania, and Germany-Austria. The following
selection offers a glimpse of life at the extermination camp in Treblinka.
Poland, and the insane savagery by which the Nazis reached their daily
About the Author
Jankiel Wiernik (18901972), a Polish Jew, was relocated
to the Treblinka death camp in 1942, where his useful carpentry skills
ultimately saved him from death in the gas chambers. Wiernik and other
prisoners were able to escape from Treblinka during a 1943 uprising.
Wiernik joined the Jewish Underground and later wrote of his camp experience
in One Year in Treblinka (1944), which became one of the
first works about the concentration camps to be published aboard.
- 1. pallsomething that produces an effect of gloom.
- 2. resignationa state of having given up.
- 3. raucousloud; disorderly.
- 4. hermeticairtight.
- 5. menacingthreatening.
- 6. agilecharacterized by quickness, lightness, and ease
- of movement; nimble.
- 7. sadisticextreme cruelty.
- 8. protrudingto push or thrust outward.
- 9. sabera cavalry sword with a one-edged blade.
- 10. bedlama situation of noisy uproar and confusion.
Use the STUDY GUIDE below as a way to work through the selection
and improve your comprehension of the essay.
Answer the Questions to Consider questions in the book as a way
to deepen your interpretation of the selection.
1. What factors prompted Wiernik to write his account? How does he feel
about this task?
2. What is the dictionary meaning of the word resettlement? What
did resettlement mean to the Jews?
3. How were so many Jews lured unsuspecting to their deaths?
One Year in Treblinka (1944)
Lucy S. Dawidowicz. The War Against the Jews, 19331945 (1975).
A stirring and comprehensive history of the Holocaust, beginning with
its roots in anti-Semitism.
Terrence Des Pres. The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camp
(1976). A brilliant study of why some survived Hitlers and Stalins
death camps and others didnt.
Lucille Eichengreen. From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust
(1994). A survivors clear and objective account of her life in three
concentration camps, beginning when she was eight years old.
Helen Epstein. Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons
and Daughters of Survivors (1960). A series of interviews that chronicle
the effects of the Holocaust on the next generation.
Philip Friedman. Their Brothers Keepers (1978). More than
40 accounts of resistance to the Holocaust, including many photos, collected
by a distinguished Holocaust historian.
Raul Hilberg. The Destruction of the European Jews (1961). A three-volume
work that is often called the most important documentary history of the
Gerda Weissmann Klein. All But My Life (1957). A sensitive and
compassionate story of the authors struggle for survival as a teenager
Primo Levi. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity (1961).
A clear and objective account of daily life and events in Auschwitz, by
one of its most famous chroniclers.
Elie Wiesel. Night/Dawn/Day (1985). A Nobel-Prize-winning authors
trilogy of books dealing with his Holocaust experiences and their aftermath.