Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps

Yitzhak, Arad

University of Indiana, 1987

passim and p. 78

Journeys to the death camps in railroad cars were unimaginable hell. [This from the whole book but especially chapter 8, ‘The Trains of Death’]. A space large enough for perhaps sixty people would be crammed with twice that many under blows from whips and rifle butts. Because of the incredible mass of people the SS wanted to transport and kill, and the limited rail facilities for moving them, the system would get clogged. A three hour journey would take 24 or 30 hours–with no toilets, no food, no water (prisoners would give Ukrainian guards–who were usually drunk or vicious–a gold watch for one small cup of water in the 120 degree cars) and especially no air. Sometimes the whole carload would be dead or nearly so by suffocation by the time the train got where it was going. SS Unter Scharfuehrer Robert Juhrs, Belzec, summer of ’42, on shooting the survivors: It is hard to describe the condition these people were in, after their long journey in the unimaginably packed freight cars. I regarded the killing of these people in this way (by shooting) as a mercy and redemption . . . . I shot Jews with a machine gun, as they stood on the edge of a pit. I aimed directly at their heads so that everyone died instantly. I am absolutely sure that nobody felt any torment. . . “ Juhrs apparently wanted credit for his mercy!