Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder

Sereny, Gitta

McGraw Hill, 1974

p. 178

“SS guards at Treblinka had a general cold indifference to the fate of prisoners. But they also occasionally cultivated ‘favorites’ among them and protected them a while. The prisoners feared being a favorite, despite its promise of reprieve, for it made them conspicuous. Anybody who was conspicuous was a target of one of the SS guard’s ‘rivals. ‘ Guards seemed to hate and despise each other and do anything . . . to ‘get at’ each other. Thus, if one of them selected a man out of a new transport for work, in other words to stay alive at least for a while, it could perfectly easily happen–and it did–that one of his rivals, and make no mistake about it, in one sense or another they were all rivals, would come along and kill that man just to spite the rival guard. All this created a virtually indescribable atmosphere of fear.”

pp. 212 - 213

A few Jewish prisoners in Treblinka were made into supervisors, administrators, or gatherers of the personal effects of other prisoners who had just arrived–”clothes, watches, spectacles, shoes, walking sticks, cooking-pots, linens, food.” When the transports slowed, or stopped for a time, or included only poor arrivees, the supervisors felt panic. Former prisoner Richard Glazar speaks: “You see, the things were our justification for being alive. If there were no things to administer, why would they let us stay alive?” Glazar then admits that after a dearth of transports, when a new one was announced, he and other Jewish supervisors cheered. “It seems impossible now. Every time I think of it, I die a small death; but it”s the truth. . . . it meant life–you see, don’t you? –safety and life. The fact that it was their death, whoever they were, which meant our life, was no longer relevant . . . The main question in our minds was, where were they from? . . . rich or poor?”