Sunday, September 16, 2012

Film Recommendation of the Week...

BBC- Death Camp Treblinka: Survivor Stories
Release Date-August 15, 2012.
Running Time-1 Hour.

This sobering documentary tells the story of Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Teigman, the last two remaining survivors of the Nazi death camp called Treblinka. From July 1942 until October 1943, about 875,000 people were murdered in a forest clearing no bigger than 400 by 600 meters in the small Polish town of Treblinka, 100 kilometers northeast of Warsaw. The majority of the victims were Jews but the Nazis also deported Romani Gypsies to this hell hole as well.

The the total number of victims will never be known with any accuracy. But this film isn't about the staggering number of victims-it's about two men who've surely outlived the perpetrators who worked at the camp as guards or administrators.

The exact number of victims is but one of the many mysteries of this camp. There weren't meant to be any survivors of course, but about 300 escaped during a prisoner revolt in late 1943, and about 65 to 70 lived to see the end of the war. Willenberg and Teigman were among this group. They worked in Camp I, where their jobs were to sort out the clothing and other worldly belongings of the victims after they've been made to undress and leave everything behind. Willenberg also worked as a barber, whose duty was to cut the hair of the victims before entering the gas chambers.

Samuel Willenberg-

Kalman Teigman-

Fortunately, neither had the ghastly privilege of working in Camp II, where the gas chambers were located and where Jews in this particular work detail were made to dispose of the bodies. The macabre efficiency that developed at Auschwitz was not utilized in Treblinka. The victims were suffocated not with the infamous Zyklon B insecticide but with exhaust fumes from a soviet tank engine in tiny rooms where anywhere from 4-600 poor souls were crammed. The bodies were not burned in crematoria but unceremoniously chucked into ditches and buried in mass graves.

That is until the Nazis realized they were losing the war. Once the Russians began their inevitable headlong march westward (No Sleep 'til Berlin!!!), the National Socialist hierarchy realized they needed to destroy the evidence of their monstrous crimes. So Heinrich Himmler gave the command to the camp commandants to dig the bodies up and burn them.

The original railway sign to the camp, now on exhibit at the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel- 

The slave laborers in Treblinka realized after they were done with this dreadful task they too would be murdered, so a plot was hatched to escape. These two men faced the worst odds imaginable in the history of mankind to survive a death camp revolt, a 100-meter dash through a field covered in land mines while being shot at with sub-machine guns by drunken Ukrainian guards, and into the forest where antisemitic partisans roamed the wilderness just waiting for hapless motherfuckers like this to fall into their laps so they could rob and kill them.

But unimaginable odds were defied, and the last two prisoners to live and tell about Treblinka are presented here in this fascinating documentary. Unfortunately, Teigman passed away on July 26, 2012. A prayer for this brave and wonderful man who, like Willenberg, fought against incredible odds, survived this despicable death camp, made a new life for himself, had a family and lived to a ripe old age.

*For you history buffs, the biggest mystery (at least to me) of this camp was the fate of Ivan Marchenko. Nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible", he was a Ukrainain guard who operated the tank engines and along with a sidekick, escorted the Jews into the gas chambers with unimaginable cruelty.

Ivan Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker from Ohio, was deported from the United States for lying about his whereabouts and activities during World War II. He was put on trial in Israel, accused of being "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka. Turns out this man may or may not have been Ivan the terrible of Treblinka lore, but as Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz stated during a televised interview, he certainly was Ivan the very, very, very, very bad.

Ivan Demjanjuk's Trawniki identification card-a possible forgery?

Identification cards show Demjanjuk probably was a camp guard, but more than likely at Sobibor and not Treblinka. Even his identification card from the Trawniki training camp is under scrutiny as possibly being a Soviet forgery. After receiving a death sentence, it was overruled on appeal due to lack of credible evidence.

The actual whereabouts of Ivan Marchenko is unknown. He was allegedly seen sometime after the war waltzing out of a Croatian whorehouse. We'll probably never know for sure, but this evil man was in Treblinka every day, operating the murder apparatus that sent hundreds of thousands of innocent souls to their death. Someone out there must know something. Unfortunately, time if running out and the information is more than likely buried alongside all the other secrets these perpetrators took with them to their graves.

The last vestiges of the camp outer fence before dismantling was complete-

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