Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Liquidation of Sobibor Death Camp
3 SS Men Give Evidence
“Following my duties at Treblinka I arrived at the Jewish Extermination Camp at Sobibor in the autumn of 1943. At this point in time Treblinka had terminated its activities and a number of the Treblinka staff were being transferred to Sobibor. I myself was in Sobibor only a short time, namely from the autumn of 1943 until approximately Christmas of that year.
In Sobibor I was made responsible for the so-called “estate” , this comprised looking after two cows, four horses, twenty pigs and numbers of geese, chickens and rabbits. As assistants I had one Ukrainian man and several women. These were not the so-called “worker – Jews.” The Ukrainians were all volunteers.
The “estate” was in Camp ll – I was housed in one of the barracks outside the camp. The Officer – in Charge of the camp at that time was SS-Haptsturmfuhrer Gottlieb Herring
I estimate that the then personnel comprised twenty men and twenty volunteers. Some of the buildings had already been removed – I went several times into the annihilation camp, Camp lll. The aims of the camp were known to me. From the distance I could still see one building.
I did not see any ditches or mass graves. The fencing of the whole camp was still intact as were the minefields which were being cleared by Wehrmacht experts.
Some days after my arrival in Sobibor some 100 worker- Jews were transferred there from Treblinka who were employed in the dismantling and clearing up. They were not employed by me.
In November or December of that year while I was still there, these 100 Jews were shot. One morning about 7am I saw these Jews come past where I was working being led to Camp lll.
They were dressed and lined up in several rows. I did not see who was in charge of the group. A number of the staff and of the Ukrainian volunteers were the escorts.
I was not required to participate in the executions but from my place of work I could hear the shots of the execution squad in Camp lll. In my opinion these were not salvos but single shots in Camp lll.
I also heard from colleagues during the meal time on the same day that they had shot these 100 Jews that morning. Afterwards the corpses in Camp lll were cremated – I assume this was done in an open field.”
“In October 1943, a few days after the uprising in Sobibor I was called to the office in Treblinka. There I was informed by SS Officer Kurt Franz, the Camp Commandant that I was being transferred to the extermination camp at Sobibor, since a number of personnel there had fallen in the uprising.
The transfer of personnel from Treblinka to Sobibor took place in three separate groups. I was included in the first of these. Two further details arrived later.
At this time I was delighted to be leaving Treblinka. My healthy common sense told me that these worker-Jews being employed on the dismantling of the Camp would be liquidated. For understandable reasons I did not want to have anything to do with this.
With me to Sobibor came Eduard Potzinger and Hermann Sydow and two other people whose names I no longer recall. We were received in Sobibor by the Camp Commandant Franz Reichleitner and informed of our new duties. He said that the camp was being dismantled and that we had to pack the remainders of the Jewish clothes.
In this connection I remember that my immediate task was to remove the clothing of the five comrades who had lost their lives. In addition I had to sort out the personal belongings of the dead and prepare these for despatch to their families.
I know for certain that I dealt with the belongings of comrades Rudi Beckmann and Josef Wolf. I do not remember the names of the three other fallen comrades.
After my arrival in Sobibor I could find no traces of the uprising, only near the fencing by the rail track was there evidence of damage. Members of the camp staff also showed me the spots where Wolf, Stengelin and Graetschus had been killed.
I was also glad that when I arrived in Sobibor there were no Jews. Now I must amend this statement in that there were a few Jews in the camp, perhaps about twenty, who had voluntarily returned after the uprising, or had been in hiding.
In this connection I remember clearly that two Jews, a married couple from Holland were found in Camp l hidden under the floor. By way of explanation I have to say that the barracks in Sobibor were constructed on top of meter high piles to avoid the danger of flooding. The Dutch couple had loosened the floorboards and during the day hid in the space below, they were discovered because at night the barrack was used for the preparation of food.
These two Jews like all the other Sobibor Jews were killed with the Treblinka Jews to which matter I will revert in detail. In the first half of November the remaining Treblinka Jews arrived in Sobibor. I remember exactly one morning the Treblinka Jews were lined on the barrack square of Camp l.
The Jewish chief Kapo, Karl Blau, who came from Vienna stepped forward and reported to Gustav Wagner who was in charge. Then the Jews were split into groups, probably by Gustav Wagner or Karl Frenzel. Two shoemakers and six or eight tailors were allocated to me. The remaining Jews and Jewesses were put to work on the usual camp duties and on the camp dismantling operations which were taking place enormously fast.
The Jews had to work very hard while receiving little sustenance – I know about this because they came to me to complain. At this time it was an almost daily event that the Jews employed by me came to me and told me, “Boss last night another one hanged himself in the sleeping barrack.”
When I asked why they had done this it was explained to me that they had to work hard , received little to eat and from time to time were also beaten.
There existed between me and the Treblinka Jews a certain trust – the Jews also suspected that their final days in Sobibor were at hand. These suspicions were in fact justified as one day in the second half of November Gustav Wagner announced one morning at 6am, that he had been instructed to report to Lublin that same evening that the liquidation of the last of the Jews had been carried out.
It was noticeable that this angered him – he let it be known that the Jews would have to be worked extra hard on this day to tire them out and make them unable to offer resistance.
Consequently the Jews on one of the details engaged on work outside the camp were driven especially hard on that day. The unrest among the Jews was palpable. This was particularly the case with the Jews who were working for me in the tailors shop.
The chief – Kapo Karl Blau also came to me and asked, “Boss has the time now come we must die?” I replied “probably” Karl Blau then said to me, “I shall now go to the barrack with my wife to take poison.”
He then asked me to bury him and his wife decently. I was deeply shaken and promised to fulfil his last wish. This conversation with Blau took place in the Jewish cookhouse where he and his wife were working.
A short time before the Jews working for me had been collected by Ukrainian volunteers. On this day the liquidation of the Jews took place in sections. In the course of the morning the worker- Jews who had been engaged on the camp dismantling operations were taken to be executed.
I heard shooting at intervals, as the shots were barely perceptible I assume they were pistol shots. Afterwards the Jews who had been working in the workshops, the kitchens and the laundry in Camp l were taken to be executed.
I then went with my colleague Adolf Gentz and Johann Klier to the Jewish sleeping barracks as I thought of Karl Blau’s last words and wanted to carry out his wish. There we indeed found the corpses of Blau and his wife, as well as those of another couple, both doctors, who had also swallowed poison.
With the help of a handcart we took the corpses to the execution place which was located at the former practice shooting range in the wood outside Camp lll. As to the exact location of this shooting range I can say that it was to the south-west of Camp lll.
In the course of the morning the news had filtered through that this would be the place for the executions. In any case that is where we saw the corpses of the Treblinka Jews lying on a wooden structure about 15 meters long and 2 meters high made from dry branches and other easily inflammable wood. As we arrived the structure was already alight.
When I arrived in Sobibor I was lodged in a one-storey stone building near the entrance. A number of the original staff were still in the camp. Having newly arrived I had no contact with these members of the camp personnel. These so-called “Oldies” kept away from us and had nothing to do with us. They simply did not notice us. Between us and them there was an unbridgeable chasm.
I was able to move freely throughout the camp, Parts lll – extermination camp and IV – munitions store, no longer existed. There everything had been levelled to the ground.
I did not see the so-called funnel made of barbed wire which led from Camp ll to Camp lll, it had very probably already been removed. Even the inner fence was no longer there – likewise there were no ditches or buildings.
At this time there were still about 30 male worker- Jews in the camp who were employed on clearing up operations. One day while I was in Sobibor these roughly 30 Jews were shot in the area of Camp lll.
I was not present at these executions as at the time I was busy with clearing up duties in Camp l. The execution detail consisted of the old members of the camp staff and Ukrainian volunteers.
During my stay there I only heard shots from the distance. When I left Sobibor a few members of the camp staff were still present. I had to report to T4 in Berlin – there I was detailed by T4 to spend a week clearing up after air raids.
Accused of participating in the mass murder of approximately 30 Jews. Acquitted at both Sobibor and Belzec trials
In the Treblinka trial in 1965 he was sentenced to life imprisonment
At the first Treblinka trial in 1965 he was sentenced to six years imprisonment, and was released in 1969.
Adele Blau was born on the 18 February 1888 in Vienna. She was deported from Vienna to Kielce with her husband Karl. From Kielce the Blau’s were both deported to Treblinka, she committed suicide in Sobibor death camp in November 1943.
Karl Blau was born on the 15 February 1892 in Vienna. He was deported to Kielce on 19 February 1941 with his wife Adele. Blau and his wife were recognised by Commandant Stangl and selected to live, the only husband and wife partnership in Treblinka. Blau was feared and hated because of his collaboration with the SS, after serving in the Lower Camp. They were transferred to the Upper Camp. Karl Blau was described as corpulent and bandy-legged.
Blau was taken to Sobibor death camp to help clear up after the revolt in October 1943, and he and his wife committed suicide there in November 1943.
Interrogation Reports by Officers of Abteilung 15 of the Landeskriminalpolizei Nordheim- Westfalen
Mike Tregenza’s original research paper – used with authors permission.
Translation by H. Stadler
Copyright: Chris Webb H.E.A.R.T 2007