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Wiernik's Deportation

Last Update 16 May 2006

Jankiel Wiernik: Rok w Treblince. A Year in Treblinka. Warszawa 2003, p. 48-50 - fragments.

It happend in Warsaw on 23rd August 1942, at the time of the blockade. I had been visiting my neighbors and never returned to my home again. We heard the noise of rifle fire from every direction, but had no inkling of the bitter reality. Our terror was intensified by the entry of German "squad leaders" (Scharführer) and Ukrainian "militarymen" (Wachmänner) who yelled loudly and threateningly: "Alle raus!" (All out!)
In the street Scharführer arranged the people in ranks, without any distinction as to age or sex performing his task with glee, a satisfied smile on his face. Agile and quick of movement, he was here, there and everywhere. He looked us very appraisingly, his eyes glancing up and down the ranks. With a sadistic smile he contemplated the great accomplishment of his mighty country which, at one stroke, could chop off the head of the loathsome hydra.
(...) I was standing on the line directly opposite my house on Wolynska Street. From there we were taken to Zamenhof Street. The Ukrainians divided our possessions among themselves under our very eyes. They quarrelled, opened up all bundles and assorted their contents.
Despite the large number of people, a deep quiet hung like a pall over the crowd which was seized with mute despair. Or, was it resignation? And still we were ignorant of the truth. They photographed us as if we were animals. Part of the crowd seemed pleased and I myself hoped to be able to return home, thinking that we were being put through some identification procedure. At a word of command we got under way. And then, to our dismay, we came face to face with stark reality. There were railroad cars, empty railroad cars, waiting to receive us. It seemed to us that the sun itself rebelled against this injustice. What wrong had our wives, children and mothers committed? Why all this? The beautiful, bright and radiant sun disappeared behind clouds as of loath to look down upon our suffering and humiliation.
Next came the command to entrain. As many as 80 persons were crowded into each car with no way to escape. I was dressed in my only pair of trousers, a shirt and a pair of low shoes. I had left a packed knapsack and a pair of high boots at home, which I had prepared because of rumors that we were to be taken to the Ukraine and put to work there. Our train was shunted from one track to another. In the meantime our Ukrainian guards were having good time. Their shouts and merry laughter were clearly audible.
The air in the car was becoming stiflingly hot and opressive, and stark and hopeless despair descended on us like a pall. I saw all of my companions in misery, but my mind was still unable to grasp the immensity of our misfortune. I knew suffering, brutal treatment and hunger, but I still did not realize that the hangman's merciless arm was threatening all of us, our children, our very existence.
Amidst untold torture, we finally reached Malkinia, where our train remained for the night. The Ukrainian guards came into our car and demanded our valuables. Everyone who had any surrendered them just to gain a little longer lease on life. Unfortunately, I had nothing of value because I left my home unexpectedly and because I had been unemployed, gradually selling all valuables I possessed to keep going.
In the morning our train got under way again. We saw a train passing by filled with dishevelled, half naked starved people. They spoke to us, but we couldn't understand what they were saying.
As the day was hot and sultry, we suffered greatly from thirst. Looking out of the window, I saw peasants peddling bottles of water at 100 zlotys a piece. I had but 10 zlotys on me a silver with Marshal Pilsudski's effigy on them, which I treasured as souvenirs. And so, I had to forego the water. Others, however bought it and bread too, at the price of 500 zlotys for one kilogram of rye bread.
Until noon I suffered greatly from thirst. Then a German, who subsequentely became the Hauptsturmführer, entered our car and picked out ten men to bring water for us all. At last I was able to quench my thirst to some extent. An order came to remove dead bodies, if there were any, but there were none.
At 4 p.m. the train got under way again and, within a few minutes, we came into Treblinka Camp.

Jankiel Wiernik wrote his memoirs from Treblinka in the end of 1943 in Warsaw where he was in a hiding place after the revolt in the camp and after his escape from there. Early 1944 the Polish and Jewish underground in occupied Warsaw decided to publish Wiernik's memoirs in two versions - Polish and English. The English version was smuggled from occupied Poland to London.
Jankiel Wiernik survived the war. At first he emigrated from Poland to Sweden and from there, in 1949, to Israel. He lived in Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot. In 1959 he made a model of the Treblinka death camp.
In 1961 he was a witness during the Eichmann trial. In 1964 he participated in the opening of the memorial in Treblinka. Wiernik died in Israel in 1972. He was 83 years old that time.

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