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7. The Slaughtering is Perfected

We all went back to work. I continued to manufacture the rings, along with my brother Nojech was fulfilling his new duties and the Germans seemed pleased with him. In the same way Jankus was being used as a valet not only by Wagner but also by all the other officers in the camp
 
We had been freed from “Red Cake” and his cruelty, but Himmler’s visit continued to bear fruit. Suddenly, the transports ceased to come.
 
As the days went by no Jew came to Sobibor. We were surprised and happy, since this meant that the slaughtering had been interrupted. However, the construction work went on at a faster pace. They started to build new sheds in Camp 1, for the carpenters, mechanics and blacksmiths. On the other hand, they tore down the shed, which had first been erected to that aim and in which I worked. The jewels were still manufactured in the old shed we all lived in. The wrecking had been a matter of aesthetics.
 
That shed was nearly in the middle of the camp, and the Nazis thought the place should be demolished to make the yard wider to hold the hundreds of Jewish workmen who entered it everyday to be counted. While a human anthill took care of the building, we had the opportunity of watching the passage through our camp of a giant machine which we had never seen before. It was a mechanical digger called Bagger and it was accompanied by a certain amount of rails. All these things went straight to Camp 3, where they would be put into use.
 
In the meantime they were starting to build new sheds in Camp 2, which were to shelter the goods belonging to the unfortunate Jews who were exterminated. As the Germans found the ones they already had insufficient they not only enlarged them but also built new ones.
 
They built a stable too,for the thoroughbreds the henchmen rode. The man in charge of the stables was called Samuel and he has survived and lives at present, in the United States. Still, in the same place, they started assembling a powerful Diesel stationery motor which would provide the whole of the camp with light. By Wagner’s orders, I made all the installing of the electrical wiring which would connect the dynamo to various sectors in the enormous camp. As it was not a highly specialised job, I could perform it fairly well.
 
In the yard reserved for the Germans, a casino was built for the officers. From now on they would eat and drink there, as well as entertain themselves. They were at that time lodged in provisional quarters, which were somewhat precarious. Many a time they held real orgies there to celebrate the victories won by the German armies in the war. On these occasions they sang and drank until the early hours of the morning, and made terrible noise.
 
However, their troops were no longer invincible. When bad news came from the Russian or the African front they also gave themselves to alcohol, and then totally drunk, they went out blowing their whistles and summoning the poor Jews to get up and fall into formation. Once this was done , they ordered us to perform the most varied physical exercises, as if the Germans were taking revenge on us for the defeats that Montgomery and Zhukov inflicted on them in El Alamein and Stalingrad.
 
These reprisals became worse as of November 1942, when the decline of the Third Reich began. In the construction of the casino, all the carpenters were mobilised. They worked day and night, making chairs and tables, other pieces of furniture, and decorating everything to the desires of the Nazis.
 
Thus, the latter would enjoy the utmost comfort to rest their numbed spirits, from the wicked things they did to us so gladly. A German Jewess was chosen to be kitchen chef – she was a real expert in the culinary art and she was to cook all their favourite delicacies for the tyrants.
 
They also selected two boys who would be used as waiters . They would serve food and drink to the Germans and they would have to keep the casino clean. Their names were Josiek and Moshe Szklarek and the latter one still lives in Israel. A magnificent barbershop was also opened with the best there was at the time. They appointed one barber to serve only Stangl and his gang. His name was Josef. Since this was barbershop was reserved only for the Germans they built another for the Ukrainians. A barber whose son was his apprentice was recruited and both started to work for the Ukrainians.
 
As they were in Sobibor we sometimes asked them to cut our hair. This, however, was not done in the private barbershop, which was reserved for the Ukrainians, but in our quarters where they sporadically went. With the interruption of the transports, our food standard got considerably worse. Before that, we had always been able to snatch some cans or other supplies taken by the Germans from the Jews who came to Sobibor. The human shipments which came from Poland were made up of poor people who brought very little or nothing with them. However, those who came from other countries brought much luggage and lots of food were found and given to us.
 
Now, the situation was completely different, food was scarce and awful. There was no choice left to us but eat the horrible soup the Germans distributed. It was always made with hot water, a few pieces of potato and, occasionally, horsemeat was added and a handful of spaghetti. By then, there was no secret for us in Sobibor. All the hundreds of Jews who worked there in the diverse services knew all about the real objective of it all. Some of us lived in Camp 1, but we were practically free to go anywhere and we always went to Camp 2 and to the officers yard. The only place we did not know was Camp 3, but we knew everything that happened there.
 
One day I got another message from Abraham. He was still in Camp 3 and that was to be his last message, though I saw him once again. The bearer was Klatt, the Ukrainian. As usual, he demanded his pay in gold. In his writings, Abraham informed me of important changes that had been made in the Camp. The manner through which the Jews were exterminated - asphyxiated  by the combustion gases of a Diesel motor, had been abolished.
 
They had also modified the slaughterhouse – bathroom, and they had closed the hole in the wall through which went the exhaust-pipe of the motor which had been taken away. Besides, they had installed a moveable skylight in the ceiling of the fatal shed. As they did not think one “bathroom” was enough, the Nazis had erected another, which already obeyed the specifications above mentioned.
 
Everything led us to believe that they were preparing to launch an unprecedented slaughter, and had thus improved the lethal capabilities of Camp 3. Abraham went on to explain that, to direct the massacre, a chief of operations had already been appointed, the cruel Bauer. His main activities were those of checking, through the skylight, the exact moment when the shed was filled to saturation. At that moment, he issued an order and the door was hermetically closed. Next, he opened the skylight , threw a can of gas on the compact mass of condemned people, and closed it again. The gas was the deadly zyklon-B, conceived in laboratories of Germany with the only aim of answering to a demand from the killers – to discover a product which would kill more quickly.
 
After he had thrown the lethal charge down into the “bathroom” he waited in his watch-post until he was sure that all the occupants had been killed. Then, his macabre task was finished. Proceeding with his report, Abraham then mentioned the digger and the rails we had seen some days before, when they were on their way to Camp 3. He affirmed that the huge machine was in full use. It exhumed the corpses that had this far been buried in the Camp, and which came to dozens of thousands.
 
With the rails they had raised a huge trivet which was used to cremate the bodies. By using very large fans, they kindled the fire of the wood burnt at that human furnace. Before cremation, the corpses were piled between layers of wood and then fire was put to the whole thing.
 
It stood to reason that the Germans not only thought of making the killings more dynamic but also of erasing their traces. It was not convenient for them that mankind came to know about the millions of Jews who had been buried not only in Sobibor but also in other extermination camps.
 
They then decided to eliminate the traces by burning them to ashes. Abraham went on saying that immense and frightening fires were always lighting the whole of the camp where he lived, as the Germans were in a hurry to cremate, as fast as they could all the dead people who had been buried there, these last few months. The fact did not surprise us though, since we were already accustomed to seeing from our camp the reflection of the flames which rose very high, lighting the dark sky over Sobibor.
 
On these occasions when the wind blew from the direction of Camp 3 we could smell the nauseating odour of human flesh being burnt. The odour was so strong that we were constantly sick to our stomachs and quite often we threw up the little we had eaten, at the mere thought that they were incinerating human beings in an advanced stage of putrefaction. Before he ended his report, Abraham warned us about the Jewish Commander of his camp. His name was Franz
 
And he had been his childhood friend. I knew him myself for he had also been in the Opole Ghetto and he had come to Sobibor on the same transport I had. He must have been at that time, only eighteen years old. Abraham referred to him in a way which was not to his credit. On the contrary, he discredited him severely, and said he was a highly dangerous element, unworthy of our confidence.
 
He emphasised that Franz had formerly been a nice boy. However, as soon as he had been appointed by the Germans as leader of the Jews in Camp 3, his personality had been completely altered. It was as if he had been contaminated by the atrocities which he watched daily. In truth, Sobibor had made a lunatic out of him, perhaps due to the constant practice of his tragic duties.
 
He had lost his reasoning abilities completely as well as his self-criticism and had begun to think of himself as an authentic German – even worse, an intolerant defender of Nazism. He thought the Jewish race should be annihilated and his obvious paranoia had reached a stage when he fulfilled his duties with a sadism not even the Germans could equal. He was always well-dressed and wore shining black boots. With that he aimed at putting on commanding airs and thus inflict terror in all his companions, with his arrogance and endless cruelty.
 
He had become vain and he thought he was a very important person before the unfortunate Jews who passed through the camp and met death.
 
We could even forgive him if we took into consideration the fact that his mind might very possibly have been deranged by the horrors he had seen. After all , it was only thanks to Franz that Abraham was still alive, lunatic that he was, he had eliminated and replaced one by one, all his subordinates and had only spared Abraham because he liked him very much.
 
To end the letter, Abraham warned me not to send him any answer since there was no need for one and the risk would be too great for both of us. This letter, evidently, served for me to learn certain details which I did not know yet, for I already knew most of what happened in that infamous place. Some days later I had a great surprise, I was working in the machine shop when the criminal Bolender, the manic Franz and my friend came in. They had come to look for nails. While these were being supplied , Bolender strolled over our quarters, and showed them to Franz. They looked as if they were close friends.  
 
There was a large number of Jews working at that time, as he slowly walked by Franz started to deride us, calling us lazy tramps and some other bad things. He seemed to be taken for a Scharfuhrer, because he said, loud and clear, that our place should be Camp 3 and not that paradise where we lived like princes. In his sickly enthusiasm he added that he would like to see us in his camp and to show us how we would work under his command.
 
When he passed by me, he made a point of pretending he did not know me, even after our eyes had crossed. Meanwhile Bolender smiled in scorn, as if he approved of everything his faithful disciple said. A little later, Abraham gestured to me to make me understand I should not expect to see him again. He was unrecognisable. He looked extremely depressed, and was dressed in rags. He showed he was in  a state of severe moral collapse and did not in the least resemble the strong happy boy of yesterday. He was not the same one I had known.
 
Some minutes later, they left, taking the nails with them, and headed towards their hell. From that day on I never had any other news from my dear friend Abraham. Week after week went by and Sobibor still grew. In Camp 3, the digger worked night and day and the fire was never put out, throwing up in the air its reddish glare and its fetid rolls of smoke.
 
In Camp 2, the sheds were overfilled with millions of the most varied items which had been taken by the Teutonic fury from its victims. In Camp 1 a whole battalion of artisans ceaselessly worked in the enlargement and the maintenance of the monstrous engine which would devour us.
 
In the officers yard the orgies followed one another and leisure was eternal. Elegant henchmen rode shining horses on their habitual rides through the neighbourhoods of the cursed camp. One day, without any warning, a train came.
 
It was not a transport but a special armoured, luxurious train. Himmler and his retinue stepped out of it. As it happened the previous time, they inspected the the construction works of the killing machine and went through all the quarters of Sobibor. It lasted one hour. The luxurious convoy left and none of us ever came to know what happened. The truth is that our visitors must have been pleased and must have given some new instructions. Soon after the second inspection from the “Chief Hangman”  the monster became even more voracious and started to reap an unprecedented number of lives.
 
There also appeared some unforeseen things. The alcoholic and bloody Poul  had been relieved from his functions for having sexually attacked two Jewish girls. Some time later the day came for Bolender. He forcefully grabbed a girl  who had come in one of the latest transports and raped her. Both officers were sent from the Camp and sent no-one knows where. Even though they were absolute masters of the situation, the Germans considered any intimate contact with Jewesses as the acme of absurdity, as it went directly against one of the dogmas of the Nazi party.
 
That was the reason why the two transgressors had been punished with their transfer. I had been in Sobibor for a little over three months and I was still alive. Ever hour that passed, every day gained represented some more time for living on which we could not depend. Sometimes thinking of my own tragedy and of the place where I found myself, I could not understand how I could have escaped death for so long.
 
If I was still alive, it was because I worked for the bandits and they needed my help. Only this and nothing else had kept me alive, as well as the others who worked in the shops and at other services. When they no longer needed our presence, we would all be sent to inexorable death, as it usually happened to those who worked in the constructions in Sobibor.
 
As the buildings were finished, they were sent to Camp 3. The weak and inefficient were also sent there, without delay. Meanwhile, the business of cremating corpses went on. The flames kept burning and the stench persisted, even stronger. The Germans were interested in ending this task as soon as possible, to make room for new transports. Sobibor had really changed.
 
Besides all the sheds which had been built, the station ramp and the selection yards had been improved, with the consequent increase in their capacity. They also built a shed where the Jews would have their hut cut upon arrival. It was located between Camps 2 and 3, and the hair cutting operation would be performed before the “bath of death”. The Nazis started to utilise the hair which was cut and thousands of kilos were sent to Germany every month.
 
For these functions twenty or thirty boys were selected and to direct them they appointed a kapo who went by the nickname of Fip. As the hair was to be cut  very close to the skull, and this kind of job did not require any practice, the Germans chose these youths at random and supplied each one of them with the proper clippers.
 
Then the transports started to come.  How they came with impressive intensity, from everywhere. Once it was already late in the night when a passenger train appeared.  We soon learned it had come from abroad. When they gathered in Camp 1, we noticed that the newcomers were well-dressed and relatively healthy. They reminded us of a group of tourists, due to how different they looked from the shrunken Polish Jews we were used to seeing.
 
They came from Czechoslovakia, and as night had already fallen, it was decided they would spend the night, right there in the yard. At dawn I went out to look at them. I then saw something which filled me with such emotion that up to now, after twenty five years have elapsed, I still keep it in my mind. The crowd had taken a reverent posture and they had turned to the West. All of them held their feflin and Taleisiem .
 
The fervour and the cohesion of their prayers were such that they seemed to be being directed by someone, given the discipline with which they prayed to God. As soon as the holy act of faith was finished, the Germans came and sent them to death.
 
From that time on, a real avalanche of transports started to come to Sobibor. Sometimes many of them came on the same day. Many of them came from Holland, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Germany and even Rumania, not to mention those coming from other countries also occupied by the Germans. All these Jews thought when they got on board that they were being sent to agricultural farms in Poland and they bought with them everything they could. Even baby carriages were frequently found in the luggage.
 
Sometimes the coming of the transports was interrupted and for days we would not hear of any new Jews. We did not hear of any new Jews. We did not know the reason for these interruptions but, all of a sudden, they started to come again at even a faster pace.
 
From one of them, which had come from Holland they chose a technician who was to finish the new electrical wiring in Sobibor. They gave him a helper and, after long days of hard work, the huge Diesel motor was set in motion again and a torrent of light flooded all the corners of the camp – the workshops, the yards, the train station, the sheds and even the dividing fences made of barbed wire.
 
Following this improvement transports started to arrive during the night, which up to then had not been common. Besides this, the exterminating capacity was increased with the nocturnal killing of victims in Camp 3 now flooded with light.
 
September was coming when Franz Stangl paid us a visit. He entered the machine shop and made sure everything was in order.
Then he addressed me and told me he wanted to use my skills in the manufacturing of some jewels, because he was going to travel and wanted to take them with him.
 
I did not suspect anything, because not only he but all the other officers were totally free in Sobibor and they used to travel very frequently, a fact which did not happen with the soldiers on the front, who needed special leaves of absence. As a matter of fact, the kind of life the Nazis lived in Sobibor was very pleasant, and the rights they were entitled to were real privileges.
 
Some days later, Commandant Stangl came for his jewels as he had said he would. He was very pleased and left on his journey. Some time later, during one of his beats Gustav Wagner came near me and warned me; “You will never make any jewels again. From now on, you will be the head of the machine shop and, in your leisure time, you will do some things for me. You must also know that a new commandant will be coming in a few days”.
 
Before he left he gave me the nickname of Spengler, which means car body repairman.. I started thinking and came to the conclusion that Wagner was somewhat interested in not letting the future Commandant know anything about the manufacturing of Jewels in Sobibor.
 
I was pleased at my appointment as the head of the machine shop. With that I would have the mechanics, the blacksmiths and the car body repairmen under my responsibility. As my brother was still with me, we would probably have some more time to live, mainly because I would still have to make jewels for Wagner.
 
Not much later, Franz Stangl’s substitute came. He was the new Commandant of the extermination camp of Sobibor. We never learned his name. We, the Jews of Camp1 ,immediately nicknamed him Trottel, which means idiot, fool. We did that because those were the only words he used to call us by.
 
Trottel, an obese man, nearly as round as he was fat, was still very nimble and firm in the way he walked. Very red in the face, nearly as much so as Red Cake, he loved to show off his authority by talking very little even with his officers. He always shouted at us and he liked to give us continuous orders which had to be obeyed to the last dot. He was really a very tough fellow, his own subordinates respected him and promptly obeyed his orders.
 
The change in command and the transfer of some of the Scharfuhrers did not alter the rhythm of work in the Slaughterhouse. Stangl, Poul, and Bolender had left but the transports never ceased to come. The carnage went on and all the Germans who had left were replaced by worthy substitutes.
 
The machine shop was not well equipped yet and I started to gradually furnish it. The machines and other supplies, like the vices, and the sets of wrenches, were already being used. We did not know where they had come from and many of these things had been taken from the transports.
 
In September, a mixed transport was brought in. In it had travelled Polish Jews from Piaski, Lubelskie and their neighbourhoods, as well as some other people from Holland.
 
As usual, some elements were detached to do some specialised jobs. Among them were two brothers. One of them, also called Abraham, was about twenty years old and he came to work in my shop. The other Mordche, a little older, was chosen because he could paint pictures. He still lives in Israel, having escaped that hell.
 
I was exceedingly happy with the coming of Abraham because he helped and oriented me quite a bit as far as mechanical services were concerned. Though young ,he was very intelligent and skilled worker, while I hardly knew anything about that.
 
My appointment as head of the shop had been due to the fact that I had been around for a long time and also because Wagner was particularly interested in me. I would make his jewels. I had about fifteen men in my care and I would only work for the brute in my spare time and in the shack where I lived.
 
My subordinates were highly technical artisans and I was merely an outsider.
This made me feel bad but I could not tell them anything about the reasons  which had made me their boss. Wagner needed someone who could satisfy his ambition, since the new Commandant of Sobibor, was too austere, and did not know anything about the manufacturing of jewels, and the consequent leak in the gold supply.
 
From now on, everything would have to be done in utmost secrecy, because should “Trottel” learn anything , he would send me to death in Camp 3.
Any transgression always brought about punishment to the Jews, even when the German officers were the ones to blame. To them nothing would ever happen .The worst thing that could happen was for them to be transferred.
 
Right from the beginning, Abraham proved he had extraordinary creative ability. We faced countless problems, due to the shortage of material in our workshop, but he would always come up with the solution, due to his suggestions and expertise. In a few days he had invented a revolutionary forge for the blacksmiths, by adapting a bicycle wheel to it. Thus our work was really simplified.
 
Some more time went by and we warned by Wagner that a new oxygen-operated soldering kit had come which I did not know how to use at the time. However, to Abraham there seemed to be no difficulty. He taught me how to use the device so well that I became an expert welder in only a few days.
 
His inventiveness was so vast that he created a system to manufacture children’s bicycles, using the metal frames of the baby carriages which had been collected from the transports which had come from other countries.
When he first had the idea  he thought his makeshift bicycle might please some officer and he decided to make it.
 
I did not have any difficulty in getting him one of the carriages he needed, because I had free access to the sector where Nojech worked. I went there to look for him and succeeded in getting what I needed. I came back and Abraham immediately set to work to put into practice what he had created.
 
With the use of some other material he had available in our workshop, the strange bicycle was soon taking shape and we finally painted it. The first SS to see it was Wagner who was enthusiastic about it and became obsessed with the idea of owning it. He mentioned the fact to his colleagues right away and they as promptly came to see it.
 
A real torrent of orders was immediately made, since all of them wanted to take a bicycle like that to their children back in Germany. Thus the stock of baby carriages in Nojech’s care nearly finished, such was the amount taken out to make the bicycles, which had been ordered by the officers.
 
Some days later,a new transport came, from which two men were chosen. One of them was a blacksmith and the other a mechanic. Both were sent to my workshop. The blacksmith was a Dutch Jew, rather elderly, but strong as an ox and who liked to work. The mechanic was a Frenchman, by the name of Leon. He was a Jew who led a rather agitated life since he had taken part in the Spanish Civil war, many years before. This deed had left a bullet in his leg which was still there because the doctors had not been able to locate it.
 
Because of that his leg still hurt on cold nights. Even so he never lost his calm , and bore his pain with resignation. This Frenchman had no doubts about our future. He constantly urged us to escape. The answer we would always give him was – how?
 
In these days very little alteration was to be noticed in the life of the camp. Our workshop became larger, with the increase in the number of men who worked under me. Once in a while we received some new apparatus we needed, usually taken from one of the transports.
 
I would always hear the giant Wagner shout the nickname – Spengler at me and give me his orders. He was always in need of the most varied services in the shop and he would personally fetch the things he had told us to make, however, he would only address us in shouts.
 
Besides the tiresome daily tasks that I had to perform I still had to work, most nights, on jewels for Wagner, and I made them also for other officers, without his knowing. In this way I faced the problem of having to hide the different pieces in different places.
 
No one was to know what was being made for the other because, when the new Commandant arrived, it became strictly forbidden to waste gold in Sobibor. Germany was at war and needed a lot of the precious metal. So everything which was taken from the Jews, would have to be sent over to strengthen the gold ballast of the country- for that reason I had to be very careful with the jewels.
 
Notwithstanding this fact, I had my own reserves. All the gold trimmings and the used rings which I did not use were sent to Nojech for him to hide. Then, he would bury the gold along with the gold he found in the false bottoms of the containers he checked in his work as a platzmeister.
 
We had put this idea into practice aiming at taking with us, if we ever escaped, as much gold as we could. If we died, at least a large quantity would not have fallen into the hands of the Nazis, and that already was a comfort to us.
 
One day Wagner came to me with a gold coin. Even after I had examined it, I could not guess its worth or its origin. I then supposed it was a kind of heirloom or even an antique piece. The truth is that I did not know anything about it.
 
He ordered me to make a medallion out of it, with a loop on top so it could be hung. As usual I started work in the evening and in utmost secrecy, so as to make the jewel without anyone knowing about it. I had not finished it yet when one day I was not expecting him I heard a harsh order. It was Wagner who was storming into the workshop shaking with anger.
 
He immediately barked – “Go outside”. Next he dragged me to the door. I followed him with a lot of difficulty and nearly running, for the monster took very long steps. At the same time, he murmured words which I could not understand , while we crossed Camps 1 and 2. Perhaps he was wondering – should he or should he not kill me?
 
When we came near to the fence in Camp 3, I realised my fate. I already thought of myself has finished and done for. In these very dramatic moments however, I noticed he muttered panting and continuously, between clenched teeth – “Where’s my coin”.
 
A few steps from the fence which separated me from death I threw myself at his feet and took hold of his legs. While I was on my knees , my ears full of tears, raised to his face. I begged him –
 
-          “Do not take me there! Do not do that to me. Please do not forget that I was the first Jew you chose to work here”. Gustav Wagner was motionless. He seemed to be trying to control his wild rage. He thought for a few minutes, looking down at me, and then kicked me, shouting again –-          “Run – Go back to Camp 1”
 
I never ran so fast in my life. I was saved once more. I will never know what Wagner thought when he decided to give up his perverse intent. Maybe his abrupt change of attitude had been dictated by the fact that he remembered his coin. Only a few minutes before he saved me, he had asked for the medallion and I had told him it would be ready that same day. Thus, if he sent me to Camp 3, he would never get it. However this is only guessing. I was pale as a ghost when I got back to the workshop and I found my brother weeping, surrounded by all the others, which became mute as I walked in. They had not expected to see me again, since they knew I had been taken away, by the German. Nobody asked me anything.
 
As to myself, I was frantically afraid and I could not think. I looked for the cause of all that, and my confused thoughts would never come up with a plausible hypothesis. Only some time later, when I was a little more relaxed, I remembered that I had shown the coin to Szol, the shoemaker. Then I imagined that the poor man, very naively, had told Wagner that my work was coming along beautifully.
 
Maybe he had done so to flatter him, unaware that by so doing that , he had almost sent me to my death, since the situation did not permit of anything being known about the manufacturing of jewels in Sobibor.
 
I proceeded with my work in the machine shop and, unexpectedly I was told to manufacture a certain amount of clamps to fix rails to the supporting ties. I did not know at first what were these clamps to be used for. Soon, however, my doubts vanished since, in a little time a cargo of rails came and, some days later, also the ties.
 
A bunch of Jews was immediately called to start the work. All the necessary material was rapidly unloaded at diverse places in the camp where a small railroad was to be built for internal use and which would go through several quarters of the camp.
 
In continuation to the railroad on which the trains came to Sobibor, they started to build another, with a narrower gauge. The work developed at a priority rhythm and that seemed to indicate that the Germans found it extremely important for the better functioning of their genocide –activities. All of it was part of the scheme drawn by Himmler and now Trottel carried it out to perfection.
 
The ties were being set and the rails fixed night and day, meter after meter. Then the wheeling material started to come.
 
When everything was ready, we the Jews nicknamed the wagons which ran on the railroad “Loras”, since they were exactly like the small trains we had in our parks for children. The small wagons were rectangular and in them lots of corpses could be put.
 
The small railroad started at the railroad ramp of Sobibor and went up to Camp 3. Its chief object would be to transport the goods the Jews had brought with them, as well as the dead and dying people found in the transports. Everything would be placed on the “Loras”.
 
These would depart from a platform next to the old ramp and would go through the sector where the officer’s yard was located. From there, they would continue to Camp 2 and there they would leave their precious cargo to be selected and deposited in the proper shed. In that place, as soon as the little convoy stopped , a group of people dressed in rags, would be in charge of unloading the little wagons which were filled to the brim, as quickly as possible. Next they would move onto Camp 3, since their rails would stop at the cremation furnaces, where they would unload the cargo of corpses and dying people taken out of the transports.
 
The dying and sick would then be immediately sent to the “death shack”, together with the whole of the Jews who had left the train and who would have to walk there, crossing Camps 1 and 2. Then they would be exterminated.
 
In the beginning, the Israelites who had just arrived were sent to Camp 2 carrying their own luggage. Now the method had changed. The “Loras” would take care of everything and the carnage would be done without wasting any time. For that, Himmler had been to Sobibor twice.
 
There was no doubt that the Nazi regime was made up of a gang of malign technocrats and that the leader of the Gestapo and of the SS groups enjoyed more and more power among his peers, as an expert in the job he superbly performed.
 
To perfect the art of exterminating people, rapidly and efficiently, the Germans decided to build another branch to that unusual railroad. This one started in front of the “bathrooms” and ended at the entrance to the furnace in Camp 3.
In this way they saved themselves the work of manually carrying the dead to incineration and the time thus saved would increase five times the deadly capacity of Sobibor.
 
Before that, hours and hours were spent for the corpses to be taken to the furnace located at a little distance from the yard, and only after they had emptied the “bathrooms” a new batch could be locked inside it to die.
 
All the new work had been done extremely fast since there were no shortage of Jews to do the Germans work. The foreman of the railroad building team was a cursed SS Unterscharfuhrer.
 
His name was Vallaster and his most efficient method of work consisted in systematically instilling terror in his workers. This officer was short, of unpleasant appearance, even ugly. Violent and perverse he sent many Jews to their death and personally eliminated many dozens of them. He had been carefully picked out so as to guarantee that everything would be ready in the least possible time. He fulfilled his duties like an expert in the function of an implacable hangman.
 
He used to intimidate the poor devils who worked under him with a hammer. Whenever he was face to face with someone whose work he did not like he would mercilessly kill him by hitting him with the hammer, to right and left. He did that just out of dilettantism, since it did not matter to him the place the person was hit, whether the head,the feet or the hands.
 
Besides the person would not be missed, since the bandit had thousands of others available under him. Among the constellation of morons he belonged to, he was well up to their standard. Vallaster was one of the worst of all the henchmen in Sobibor.
 
Next the Waldkommando (Forest Commando) was created. It was composed of forty men who would be sent to the forests to fell trees and chop wood. This wood would be used to feed the cremation furnace. As the furnace was always on, it needed formidable amounts of fuel. With that the forests were being pitilessly devastated.
 
To start the work, the Nazis only chose French and Dutch Jews. After they had organised the first commando, the men were all sent to the forests in single file, chained to one another. The chain was attached to a handcuff on each ones left wrist, so that they looked like a slave contingent heading for the galleys. In their right hand they carried an axe.
 
The poor devils were forced to prepare the logs which would burn their own brothers to ashes. All the wood that was chopped in the forests was then carried on trucks to the terminal station of the “Loras”, since the distance up to Sobibor was five to six kilometres. Then the “Loras” did the rest by taking the cargo up to Camp 3, where the logs were piled near the furnace. The wickedness of the Germans was so great that the only reason why they did make the poor men carry the wood to Sobibor on their backs was that it would mean a waste of precious time, which they could not afford to do.
 
However, the Jews from France and Holland did not cope with the tremendous work in the forest for a long time. They were not used to working that heavily, and at the least sign of exhaustion, the Germans immediately put them to death in Camp 3. The greater the need for wood, the harder the task in the forest and even the strongest men were not able to bear it, collapsing out of physical exhaustion and sickness.
 
They were always tired, bruised and constantly whipped by the savage members of the escort, who gave them no respite whatever. They came back more dead than alive. When they were taken sick or became weaker, they were summarily excluded from the commando and sent to Camp 3. Although the availability of Polish Jews were larger, and they were fitter for that kind of work, the Germans did not use them for fear of them escaping. The Jews who had come from other places would not dare to do that because they were always shyer, and they did not know the region or the language, but this did not happen to the natives of the country, which might be successful  in escaping. Each forest Commando went to work escorted by a group made up four Nazi officers and five Ukrainian guards.      
 
The Bahnhof Kommando ( Railroad Commando) was also created. This working group would be in charge of receiving their future victims. As soon as the transports came, they took away all their luggage and put it on the “loras”.
Next , they led the Jews to be selected in Camp 1. They also did all the cleaning up of the newly arrived wagons, took off the dead and the sick of that particular trip, put them also on the “loras” and shipped them to Camp 3. The convoy was thus thoroughly cleaned so that no traces were left on them.
 
To work on these commandos twenty strong Jewish boys were selected. Their height was the same and the Germans gave them blue uniforms with caps and jackets striped in white. When they were in formation, they looked as if they were a platoon of well-drilled soldiers.
 
For them, there was no rest. The transports did not obey any schedule and some times several of them came in on the same day.
 
The amount of luggage was enormous and all of it was to be sent to Camp 2 , during the day or at night. They all had to be on duty and they were the Sobibor group that worked longer hours.
 
From all of them, only one is still alive. His name is Abraham Margulis and he is in Israel. At that time he was one of the refugees from the Warsaw Ghetto and had come to Sobibor in one of the innumerable transports which had come from Zamosc.
 
There was still another Jew who was appointed to the job of burning papers, documents and photographs which belonged to the condemned people. He still lives in Europe, and his name is Majer. He worked in the luggage storehouses located in Camp 2 and his job was ceaseless, given the enormous quantity of papers to be separated and incinerated. The Germans were very worried about eliminating these vestiges of their cruelty, so that in the future nothing could be found to indict them.
 
The way they used to deceive the Jews when they came to Camp 2 was also changed. When they arrived there and the order was given for them to undress and have a bath, a Nazi officer would appear among the crowd.
His name was Michel and he had the rank of Oberscharfuhrer.
 
He was a kind of general administrator of the camp and he also was the guard of the Gold Box of Sobibor, where all the jewels and valuable objects taken from the Jews were collected.
 
Then, Michel would step onto a small platform and make an enthusiastic speech. He always did his best to persuade the innocent people that they should undress without any resistance, because any reaction would be useless.
 
He said they should not be afraid of anything, since they were only going to have a bath, receive new clothes and then, head for work. Finally, Michel said that Sobibor was nothing but a mere labour camp.
 
Doubtlessly his words succeeded in convincing most of them, chiefly when the audience was made up of Dutch, Belgian, French and German Jews.
However, when he orated to Poles, his demagogic speech was lost in the air, since they paid no attention to him and did not believe a word of what he promised. Hardly any of them were unaware of the reason why they were here and the horrible end,which awaited them.
 
Only a few innocent people were convinced, since the Germans came to a refinement of distributing bars of toilet soap and bath towels.
 
They did all that only to facilitate the operation, because had they wished, they would have reached their aim merely using force. In some occasions, tumult would break among the women who refused to undress. Then the henchmen intervened and, under the use of brute force, all the women ended up by taking off their clothes and heading towards the “death bath”.
 
With the men the task was easier because they were not so embarrassed. Sometimes their shouts could be heard as they headed for the “bathroom” – Listen God – Listen Israel.
 
November was already coming. Now Sobibor was complete. Its fury had doubled, with the improvements made. Levy, after levy of Jews were devoured at hallucinating rhythm. All the sections now worked without ceasing and the furnace burned more vigorously than ever. The “Loras” never stopped their traffic and the forests were felled one by one. The work in the shops and in the diverse areas continued to be saturating  and the Nazi officers got more and more demanding and cruel.
 
The transports never ceased to come and the Jews never ceased to die. The war went fiercely on and there was no hope of any kind. The German were the masters of the whole situation and the machine was working the way they wanted it to – in an entirely self-sufficient way.