Treblinka was a Nazi German extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II. Between July 1942 and October 1943, an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people were killed there, almost all of them Jews. Its killing area measured 600 by 400 meters.  Between July 23 and September 21, 1942, about 254,000 Warsaw ghetto residents (perhaps as many as 300,000) were transported to Treblinka in freight trains and murdered there. Transports from other ghettos, such as Theresienstadt, began in September 1942.  Hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews from around Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, and Bialystok were killed, as well as Jews from Slovakia, Greece and Macedonia (Bulgaria).  In addition several thousand Gypsies were also killed in Treblinka.

Upon arrival, Jews were separated by gender, stripped of their clothes and belongings and had their heads shaved.  While a few might be selected for slave labor in the camp, the vast majority were quickly ushered off to the gas chambers and murdered.  The gas chambers were made to look like showers, so the victims did not know what would happen.  Within three hours of arrival, almost all were dead.  Those selected for labor were required to remove gold teeth from the corpses, which were then dumped into large burning pits.  The stench of burning bodies could be smelled for miles.

The camp was operated by 20–25 SS overseers (Germans and Austrians) and 80–120 guards. Camp commanders included Imfried Eberl, Franz Stangl and Kurt Franz. The historic record shows that many Treblinka camp guards were of varied ethnic groups and nationalities, not only Germans, but also a number of RussiansUkrainiansTatarsMoldovansLatvians and representatives of Soviet Central Asia, including a number of collaborating Soviet prisoners of war

The majority of the camp work was performed on a forced basis by 700–800 Jewish prisoners, organized into specialized squads called the Sonderkommando. The blue squad was responsible for unloading the train, carrying the luggage and cleaning the wagons. The red squad had the task of undressing the passengers and taking their clothes to the storage areas. The so-called “money Jews” (Geldjuden)were in charge of handling the money, gold, stocks and jewelry. They were forced to search the prisoners just before the gas chambers. Another, the dentist, would open the mouths of the dead and pull out gold teeth. Another group, dubbed the Jews of Death (Totenjuden), were forced to carry the dead from the gas chamber to the furnaces, sift through the ashes of the dead, grind up recognizable parts, and bury the ashes in pits. Yet another group took care of the upkeep of the camp. The work squads prisoners were continuously whipped and beaten by the guards and were often killed. New workers (usually the healthiest people) were selected from the daily arrivals and pressed into the commandos. 

On August 2, 1943, the prisoners in the work details rebelled. They seized small arms, sprayed kerosene on all the buildings and set them ablaze. In the confusion, a number of German soldiers were killed but many more prisoners perished: of 1,500 prisoners, about 600 managed to escape the camp, while only 40 are known to have survived until the end of the war. These survivors are almost all of the known survivors of Treblinka camp.

Following the revolt, the Nazis killed the remaining prisoners and closed down the camp. The camp had been badly damaged by the fire, and the murder of the Polish Jews was also largely complete.  Following Heinrich Himmler’s secret order to eliminate evidence of the extermination camps, the Nazis leveled everything to the ground, eliminating all traces of the mass murders committed there.  The site was quickly converted to a farm and by November 1943 all visible signs of the camp were gone.