The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/aktion.reinhard/treblinka/leleko.002

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Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Killing System - Leleko Interrogation (2)
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Archive/File: camps/aktion.reinhard/treblinka leleko.002
Last-Modified: 1995/08/18
Source: United States Department of Justice

               From Interrogration of Defendant

February 21, 1945. Lieutenant EPPEL', Investigator of the Fourth
Department of the "SMERSH" Directorate of Counterintelligence of the
Second Belorussian Front interrogated as defendant -

      LELEKO, Pavel Vladimirovich, born in 1922, native of the village
      of Chaplinka, Chaplinka District, Nikolayev Region, Ukrainian,
      citizen of the USSR.

Question: What was the system of mass extermination of people in the
German death camp of Treblinka?

Answer: Two to three trainloads of doomed prisoners arrived daily at
the Treblinka railroad station. Each train consisted of 60 cars. The
train was brought in three installments into the second section of the
"death camp". Twenty cars were brought in every half hour. As soon as
the cars crossed the barbed wire, the guard was changed. The policemen
escorting the train remained outside the camp and left on the
locomotive to fetch the next batch of prisoners. The railroads cards
brought into the camp were immediately unloaded by the guards. We
started to unload the cars with the help of the so-called "blue crew"
consisting of doomed prisoners wearing a blue armband on the sleeve.
Those arriving were told that they must first go to the batch house
and will then be sent further to the Ukraine. But the sight of the
camp, the enormous flaming pyre burning at one end of the camp, the
suffocating stench from decomposing bodies that spread for some 10 km
around and was particularly strong within the camp itself, made it
clear what the place really was.

The people chased out of the cars with whips guessed immediately where
they had been brought; some attempted to climb over the barbed wire of
the fencing, got caught at it, and we opened fire on those who were
trying to escape and killed them. We tried to quiet down the
fear-crazed people with heavy clubs. After all those who were able to
walk had been unloaded, only the ailing, the killed and the wounded
remained in the railroad cars. These were carried by the prisoners
belonging to the "blue crew" into the so-called "infirmary", the name
given to the place where the ailing and the wounded were shot and the
dead were burned. This place became particularly crowded when the
prisoners marked for death who were brought in the railroad cars
attempted to commit suicide. Thus, in March 1943 there arrived a train
in which half of the prisoners cut their throats and hands with
razors. While unloading was going on, the prisoners cut themselves
with knives and razors before the eyes of us, the policement, saying: 
"anyhow you will kill us". The majority of those who did not die of
self-inflicted wounds were shot. After the unloading, all those who
could stand on their feet were chased toward the undressing place.
There the wormen were separated from the men and pushed into a special
barrack, while the men were told to undress right there outside
another barrack. During the first years of the existence of the camp,
women and men undressed together in the same barrack, But it happened
once that the prisoners attacked the "chief of the working crew" in
the undressing barrack. Somehow the man managed to escape from there.
Several policemen and Germans immediately rushed in. One of the
Germans started firing into the crowd from his sub-machine gun. After
they had stopped shooting, the Germans and the policemen started to
beat with clubs and whips those who survivied. After this incident,
men were assigned a special place in the  open air in which to
undress, by the barrack, across from the women's undressing place.
Pushed by the clubs of the Germans and the policemen, the men threw
off their clothing, having first handed their valuables and money to a
special "cashier's office". The women were obliged to remove their
shoes before entering the undressingplace. They were forced to remove
all their clothing under the supervision of German policemen and
prisoners of the so-called "red crew". Those who resisted were

Very often the Germans and the policemen tore off and cut off the
clothing of those who did not want to undress or undressed too slowly.
Many women begged to be allowed to keep at least some clothing on
their persons, but the German, smiling cynically, ordered them to
undress "to the end". The policemen or the workers threw to the ground
and undressed who refused to do so. The undressed women were told to
hand over all their valuables and money to the "cashier's office".
After this the women were driven in groups to another part of the
barrack, where 50 prisoners - "hairdressers" were working. The women
sat on a long bench and the "hairdressers" cut off their hair. The cut
hair were packed in large bags and sent by trainloads to Germany. One
of the Germans told me that in Germany they are used to fill
mattresses, also for soft upholstery. He said that this hair make very
good mattresses and the Germans buy them willingly.

After their hair was cut the women were sent in batches to the third
section of the camp, to the "bath house", but in reality to the gas
chamber to be exterminated there.

Before entering the gas chamber building they passed along a long path
bordered on both sides with a high fence made of barbed wire and
branches. Along the edge of the path stood policemen and Germans. Each
one held a whip or a club. I stood repeatedly on the edge of this path
with other policemen and drove along with a whip the women and the men
into the gas chamber building. Many women were not quite sure that
they would now be exterminated and in order to have some means of
subsistence in the future, they hid some valuables on their persons.
To prevent this, the Germans placed special controllers in the center
of the path. When they noticed that a woman walked along the path
holding her legs close together, she was stopped at once and cynically
examined, and if anything was found on her, she was beaten almost to
death. The men walked more quietly down this path. Several times I
heard how one, speaking to another, asked: "Why are you weeping? Do
you believe you can arouse compassion in these Germans?" Frequently we
could hear cries of "Hail Stalin!", "Hail the Red Army!" To us Russian
guards, they said: "Today you exterminate us, and tomorrow the Germans
will be killing you".

When the procession of doomed people approached the gas chamber
building, MARCHENKO and Nikolay, the motorists of the gas chambers
shouted: "Walk faster, or the water will become cold!" Each group of
women or men was pushed from behind by some German and very frequently
by Franz, the camp commander himself, escorted by dogs. As they
approached the gas chambers, the people started to recoil in horror,
sometimes they tried to retrace their steps. Then whips and clubs were
used. Franz immediately ordered his dog to attack the naken people.
Each trained for this, it grabbed them by their genitals.

Aside from the motor operators who had dogs with them, there were five
or six Germans near the gas chambers. With whips and clubs they chased
people into the passage of the gas chamber building and then into the
gas chambers. The Germans and the motor operators then competed as to
atrocities with regard to the people to be killed. MARCHENKO for
instance, had a sword with which he mutilated people. He cut off the
breasts of women.

When the chamber was filled to capacity, the Germans or the motorists
came to the door and started beating up the naked people with a rubber
whip and at the same time set their dogs against them. The prisoners
shrank away into the depth of the chamber yielding place to more
prisoners. Such a pressing-in occurred several times so that some 700
to 800 people could be crowded into the not-so-large chambers. When
the chambers were filled to the very limit, the Germans started to
throw in the children left by the women either in the undressing place
or more frequently outside the gas chamber building. As the ceiling of
the gas chambers was very low, the children thrown into the chamber
hit the ceiling and then, disfigured, sometimes with broken heads,
fell on the heads of the prisoners.

When loading of the chambers was completed, they were sealed off by
hermetically closing doors. Motorists MARCHENKO and Nikolay started
the motors. The gas produced went through the pipes into the chambers.
The process of suffocation began. Some time after the motor had been
started, the motorists looked into the chambers through special
observation portholes situated near each door, in order to determine
how the process of extermination was going on. When asked what they
saw, the motorists answered that the people were writhing, crushing
each other. I also tried to look through the porthole, but for some
reason could see nothing. Gradually the noise in the chambers died
down. Some fifteen minutes later the motors were stopped and there was
an unusual silence.

While extermination of this batch of prisoners went on, a new batch of
condemned people arrived into the camp. The entire process started all
over again.

Question: What was done with the bodies of the prisoners?

Answer: When the process of extermination by gasses was completed, the
outer doors of the chambers were opened. The disfigured, bitten
prisoners, with torn-off noses and ears lay on top of each other in
the most varied postures.

Several hundred prisoners destined for death and belonging to the
"working crews" were chased to the gas chamber building and they
started to unload the chambers. In order to facilitate the removal of
the dead bodies from the chambers, streams of water were poured over
them. The bodies were laid on stretchers. An especially assigned man
with pincers stood right there and opened the dead mouths. If he found
any gold teeth he yanked them out with his pincers. The bodies were
carried on stretchers to the special furnace about which I have
testified earlier. On the way there, under the effect of the fresh
air, some of the killed, especially pregnant women, began to revive,
to groan. We the policemen, shot them on the spot and I had to shoot
them too. The bodies were laid on the rails of the incinerator where
the fire burned already. Some 800-1000 bodies were laid on the
incinerator at one time. They continued to burn for some five hours.
This incinerator functioned ceaselessly day and night. After the
bodies had been burned, the prisoners belonging to the "working crews"
passed the ashes and remains of the bodies through a sieve. The parts
of the body that had burned but had preserved their natural shape were
put into a special mortar and pounded into flour. This was done in
order to hide the traces of the crimes committed. Later on the ashes
were buried in deep pits.

During the first year of the existence of the "death camp", the bodies
of the dead people were not burned but were buried. Starting in 1943,
after the incinerator was built, the pits with the bodies buried in
them were opened up and the content burned. All this work was done by
the prisoners waiting to die under the supervision of the Germans and
of us, the policemen.

Question: What was the purpose of the so-called "infirmary"?

Answer: The Germans gave the name of "infirmary" to that place in the
death camp where the sick and wounded prisoners were killed. The
"infirmary" covered a small area, in the center of which there was a
large pit six to eight meters in diameter and three meters deep. At
its bottom there always burned a fire into which the bodies were
thrown. The entire area of the "infirmary" was surrounded by a large
fence of barbed wire and branches. To the side of the fire, around the
corner of the fence, there was a sentry hut in which those who worked
in the "infirmary" rested and warmed themselves. Those included MATUS,
the German unterscharfu"hrer, whom we called the "doctor", the
policeman-guard and five prisoners from the "working crew". On their
sleeves they wore white bands with a red cross. When the trains
carrying the doomed prisoners came in, all those who could not move,
the ailing and the wounded were carried or assisted to the sentry hut
in the "infirmary" by the prisoners belonging to the working crews.
There the "infirmary attendants" quickly undressed them, brought them
to the fire in groups of several and sat them on the ground. MATUS
then approached them from behind and shot them one after the other
either with his pistol, his submachine gun or his rifle. The dead
rolled to the bottom of the pit to the fire. We the guards who were on
duty in the "infirmary" also took part in the shooting. When all the
wounded and the sick had been killed, the "infirmary attendants" went
down into the pit and threw the dead into the fire. At least 100
prisoners were shot daily in the "infirmary". It happened once that
among the ailing in an incoming train there were the father and mother
of one of the prisoners destined to die and belonging to a "working
crew". Pushed by policemen, he carried his father to the "infirmary"
to be shot. In the "infirmary", near the sentry hut, he and his father
fell to the ground. MATUS threw himself at him with a whip. He then
ran to the train and soon returned carrying his mother. After this he
became insane. The German shot him and then killed the father and the

Question: What were the "working crews" of the "death camp"? How were
they assembled?

Answer: As I have already testified, the servicing of the "death camp"
was carried out by special crews composed of those who had been
brought in for extermination. They camp comprised several "working
crews", such as the "blue" working crew which unloaded the trains, the
"red" working crew which serviced the undressing places, the "black"
working crew which destroyed the bodies. There was also a special crew
that sorted out the belongings of the killed. Altogether the crews
numbered up to 1,500 persons. They also included some 15 women who did
the washing of clothes. Selection into the working crew took place
according to the need for their services - from among the prisoners
brought to the camp to be exterminated. Until the end of 1942 the
working crews were assembled every two-three days and correspondingly,
every two-three days they were all exterminated in the "infirmary".

Their extermination was conducted in the following manner. After work,
around 10-11 p.m., a working crew of some 100-200 people was brought
to the "infirmary". They were then taken into the place in batches of
five and shot there by the policemen and the Germans. Those belonging
to the working crews and who happened to be then near the barbed wire
fencing in the "infirmary" could hear how their comrades were being
killed and waited for their own death. Within one and one half or two
hours hundreds of people had been shot and were burning on the fire.
Working crews were also exterminated for having done something that
displeased the Germans.

In September 1942, soon after I entered the "death camp" as they were
laying down bodies for burial in the large pits, the workers killed a
German who had shown particularly savage cruelty toward the prisoners.
Immediately the entire crew, numbering some 250 people, were grouped
at the bottom of the pit together with the bodies that they had not
yet had time to bury. The workers were executed right there over the
bodies of the dead prisoners. One after the other they were brought to
the end of the pit, laid on the dead bodies and their heads were cut
off or split up with an axe or wooden mallet. All 250 were killed in
this way.

A similar case occurred soon after in the first section of the "death
camp". During the evening inspection, a German conducting the
inspection, displeased with the workers because their answers were not
clear enough, started to beat them in turn and during this incident,
one of the workers hit him with a knife. The entire crew was
immediately surrounded by Germans and policemen. Every fifth worker
was killed with axes in full view of the entire assembly. Over 50
persons were thus hacked down.

It happened that the Germans learned that several among the working
crews were preparing a riot. These people, they were found to be ten
of them, were seized and hung by their feet. They suffered for five
hours and after they were dead they still hung on posts for three days
in the middle of the camp. It was enough for a worker not to look
pleasantly enough at a German, not to greet him, to be immediately
killed. Nevertheless, goaded on with whips and bullets, they went to
their death, led their kin, their relations to be shot, did everything
they were ordered to do. The Germans not only exterminated them, but
also used them for their own amusement. They forced them to stage
comical plays, they organized a large orchestra composed of prisoners
waiting to die, which played every day some light music under the
windows of the camp commander. They also staged amusements of a
different sort. One day the commander declared that he wanted to be
the guest at a wedding among the doomed prisoners. Right away a young
woman was picked out among the laundry women and a groom was found
among the workers. Both were dressed in appropriate fashion and
ordered to go through the complete wedding ritual. The "newlyweds"
were given a separate room. On the second day the commander of the
camp declared that the newlyweds must of necessity leave for a
"honeymoon trip". Escorted by the guards and the Germans and also the
workers, the "groom" and the "bride" were brought to the "infirmary"
and shot and then thrown into the fire. Meanwhile the Germans ordered
the workers to shout "Happy Voyage"! and "See you soon!"

Question: Name the figure for the number of people exterminated in the
Treblinka death camp?

Answer: During my stay in the "death camp", i.e. during the period
from September 1942 to September 1943, no less than two million were
exterminated there. Every day, with rare interruptions, two-three
trainloads arrived to the camp, each one bringing in some 3,500-4,000
doomed prisoners. On the average six to eight thousand were
exterminated daily. How many were exterminated in this camp during its
entire existence I do not know. [Transciption note: using this
man's own figures, the figure of two million cannot be supported - his
figures suggest 1.2 to 1.4 million, or about double the generally
accepted death toll for Treblinka. knm. Aug. 5, 1994]

Question: What was the nationality of those who were exterminated?

Answer: The crushing majority were of Jewish nationality. They were
brought to the "death camp" from Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and France.
Possibly from other countries also, but of this I do not know. Aside
from Jews, several hundred Gypsies and Poles were exterminated there.

This testimony has been written down from my words correctly, has been
read by me (signature) LELEKO

Interrogation made by: Investigator of the Fourth Department of the
SMERCH Directorate of Counterintelligence of the Second Belorussian
Front, Lietenant (signature) EPPEL'

The Excerpt is true: First Deputy Procurator of the Crimean Region,
Senior Councillor of Justice. (KUPTSOV)

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