Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
The IMT Series
Franz Suchomel speaks on Treblinka
In the Preliminary Investigation of STANGL
The under mentioned witness appeared.
He was informed of the relevant law, cautioned and instructed.
He stated as to his identity:
My name is Franz Suchomel
My age is 59. I am a self employed master tailor living in Altotting, Muhldorfstrasse 61, at present in custody in Dusseldorf- Derendorf in connection with an investigation into a different matter.
I am not related to the accused either directly or through marriage.
As to the Case:
I went to Treblinka end of August 1942. Before that I was at the Welfare Institute Hadamar and occasionally worked in Berlin at T4. As I remember I came to Treblinka with Hirtreiter, Post, Loffler , Sydow and two people from Frankfurt, also with Matthes. One of the two Frankfurters could have been called Schuh, whose name has just been mentioned. I cannot remember the name of the other one. It was not Post.
When I arrived in Treblinka Dr Eberl was still Commandant. I stayed in Treblinka until October 1943 when I was posted to Sobibor. I went several times on home leave from Treblinka. Once for the birth of my youngest daughter on the 18th September 1942. Altogether there were four occasions when I had home leave from Treblinka.
From Sobibor I later went to Italy.
At the end of the war I was captured by the Americans but released as early as August 1945. Since 1949 I have lived in Alotting. I could of course not return to my home town of Krummau / Bohmerwald after the war.
Under Dr Eberl there was chaos in the camp. So many transports were arriving that it was impossible to deal with them. In my opinion, when these transports arrived two thirds of those transported were already dead. At that time I had to work on the ramp and I therefore know this accurately.
After I had been in Treblinka quite a short time, one night Wirth appeared there. He had a fierce argument with Dr Eberl. At that time my quarters and those of the other NCOs were in the Commandant’s hut and so I heard what was going on.
In the course of this dissension Wirth dismissed Dr Eberl.
Wirth then went off for a day and returned accompanied by a detail consisting of Germans and Ukrainians. In Warsaw he arranged for a three day break in the arrival of transports, and immediately commenced a total reorganisation of the camp.
The method of operation was changed and the “tube” relocated. The erection of a new gas chamber was started. At that time Wirth stayed in Treblinka throughout and supervised the new arrangements which included the creation of Jewish work details in both the upper and lower camps. Until then there had only been the so-called “Court Jews.” i.e. craftsmen and others who had to carry out personal services for the Germans.
As I remember it Stangl arrived in Treblinka at the beginning of September 1942. I know for certain that he signed my leave pass. That was on 18.9 42. My daughter was born on 19th September. I recollect that when I reached Berlin my daughter had already been born.
I also remember the date because on the advice of a railway employee from Malkinia I took a normal civilian train and not the train carrying personnel on leave. I learned later that this train had been in collision with a train from Lodz and there had been many casualties.
On my written application Stangl also granted me some additional days of leave as I needed to take my son to hospital.
When I returned to Treblinka on 1st October I ran into Hauptmann Schemmel. I assumed that Stangl was looking after Sobibor or was himself on leave. At any rate he was not in Treblinka when I returned.
I remember that the new gas chambers had been completed and were in use.
I recall the incident with Max Biala which happened before my leave. When informed that Biala had died on the evening of 11.9.42 after being taken to the sick bay and asked whether at that time Stangl was already in Treblinka, I make the following declaration.
I assume this was the case but I cannot be certain. Certainly Wirth was there. As to Wirth I can state that when he issued a command no-one else had anything to say.
On the day that Biala had been knifed I was outside the camp with a work detail. When I returned I saw corpses of Jews on the reception square.
I do not particularly recall the retribution action which took place the next day after an enquiry conducted on oath. I do know Wirth ordered apparently random shootings of worker Jews in order to spread shock and awe.
In the course of the reorganisation of the camp I was put in charge of the “Goldjews”.
When I returned from leave in 1st October 1942 Lindenmuller had been in charge and I was his deputy. Lindenmuller left at the start of February 1943. I remained so-called boss of the “GoldJews” for the rest of my time in Treblinka.
From November 1942 I was also put in charge of the tailor’s and shoemakers’ workshops. My orders concerning these workshops came from Stangl, Franz, Kuttner and the senior NCOs, i.e. Stadie.
As boss of the “GoldJews” I was only responsible to Stangl. The seized articles of value, gold, jewellery and money were packed into cases and munition boxes. The articles of value also included watches.
Lists of contents were prepared for each case or munition box. The individual articles were ever only listed by number, for example: 1000 gold watches, 500 alarm clocks, or so many thousand wedding and other rings. Paper money was sorted into separate denominations, bundled up and totalled.
These cases and boxes were handed over to Stangl in his quarters. They were collected by a SS detail from Lublin and taken there.
Any diamonds were kept separate and handed over to Stangl. I assume that inasmuch as the “GoldJews” possessed diamond rings they themselves removed the stones from the rings. In any event I ever only handed diamonds to Stangl, which to my knowledge he personally took to Lublin.
From the upper camp I received gold teeth and to a smaller extent also other valuables. I cannot now say who brought these individual items it could have been Matthes or Lindenmuller.
In a very few instances it could have been myself who collected the valuables from the upper camp, if I knew that the transport for Lublin was already waiting in the camp.
As to Lindenmuller himself I can give the following information;
His surname was as stated above and not Lindenmoller or similar. I do not recall his first name. At that time his age would have been mid to late twenties. He had a lean narrow face, was taller than myself, about 1m 74. The colour of his hair was darkish fair to brown. He was Oberscharfuhrer of the Waffen-SS.
I cannot say if he came to Treblinka from Lublin. From conversations with him I knew that he had been with a formation at the front where he had a motorcycle accident which resulted in a torn cartilage and damage to his kneecap.
When he was well again he worked in an accounting capacity for the Waffen-SS. He mentioned that he had served in Dachau after his accident. What kind of service I do not know. It could not have been guard duty. He was still limping when in Treblinka and complained of pain. In connection with Dachau he spoke of postings of higher ranking SS officers.
The way he spoke pointed to a South German origin. He was not Austrian nor Sudeten German. I do not know where he was before Treblinka. I assume he was with a unit at the front which he also mentioned during conversations with me. He said that because of the “shit” at Stalingrad there had been some “weeding out”.
I have never heard from him since.
When he was in charge of the “GoldJews” it was his responsibility to deliver the valuables to Stangl. I helped him with this from time to time. At the beginning under Dr Eberl there was a big backlog to deal with and there was a high yield from the transports as the Jews at that time apparently still believed that they were going to be resettled.
As far as I know Lindenmuller was an active member of the Waffen-SS. He told me nothing about this or that he had been a student. I do know from examination under oath of the witness Unger that this man spoke of a German who had been a doctor of psychology, who had been a decent person but had not stayed long.
I stated that this man could have been Lindenmuller. As I have already said I know nothing of whether Lindenmuller was an academic.
With Lindenmuller one could speak openly about the circumstances in Treblinka. He also made efforts to control the severity of some of his men. He particularly took a strong stand against the beatings meted out by Kuttner.
When I am informed that according to the verdict of the court Lindenmuller was said to have introduced the inspection of the genitals of unclothed Jewesses in a search for valuables, I have to state:
If that was the case that such a procedure was in place it could only have happened on the orders of Wirth. As I knew Lindenmuller, he would never have given such an order.
In Reply to Questions
Kuttner was responsible for the allocation of duties in the lower camp. This was without significance for me as I had permanent duties and was responsible to the Commandant Stangl as boss of the “GoldJews”.
As to the other workshops: after Schiffner left I was put in charge of the carpenters and the other tradesmen. So far as I can recall Schiffner left Treblinka in May 1943 after falling out with Wirth.
After the reorganisation had been completed Wirth was in Treblinka at least four weeks.
When in the winter of 1942/43 the burning of corpses in the upper camp was introduced Wirth was frequently in Treblinka. He came with Floss a cremation specialist, I believe from Belzec.
I remember how horrified Stangl was when he first heard of this change. He told me about this and asked how it could happen that corpses already in a state of decomposition should now be burnt.
Wirth then sent Hackenholt with a digger to clear the graves. I further remember that one night at that time, an alarm was sounded. Under the leadership of Rakowski the then “Senior Jew” some worker Jews had been removing rails from near the Treblinka Labour Camp. I am convinced that the Jews did not take well the fact that Rakowski had participated in this.
* Special Thanks
Harry Stadler – Translation
Holocaust Historical Society
Copyright Chris Webb H.E.A.R.T 2008