Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hubert Pfoch Diary of Treblinka

Source: Into that Darkness by Gitta Sereny page 158-159

Comment: Photographs and diary entered into evidence at Dusseldorf Treblinka trial.  I include some of Sereny's additional comments.  He describes going to Siedlce and seeing a transport loaded for the very short trip to Treblinka and then his troop train following the deportation train up the branch line towards Malkinia.  Normally troop trains would get priority.

Against this, however, there is the extraordinary eye-witness account recorded at the time by Hubert Pfoch, then a member of the illegal Austrian Socialist Youth Organization, and now a Vienna city councillor. As a young soldier moving up to the Eastern front, he saw a transport to Treblinka on August 21, 1942. The photographs he took - at considerable danger to himself (see pages 4 and 5 of illustrations)- were part of the evidence at the trial of ten former Treblinka guards in Düsseldorf in 1964-

“Our infantry company is en route from Vienna to Russia, via Mährisch Ostrau, Kattowitz, through the Upper Silesian industrial region to Radom, Lukow and Siedlce where we arrive in the evening and are given soup,” he wrote (he gave me photocopied pages from his wartime diary).“From time to time we can hear shooting, and when I got out to see what was going on, I saw, a little distance from our track, a loading platform with a huge crowd of people - I estimated about 7,000 men, women and children.
“All of them were squatting or lying on the ground and whenever anyone tried to get up, the guards began to shoot.
“The night was sultry, the air sticky and we slept badly.
“Early next morning - August 22 - our train was shunted on to another track, just next to the loading platform, and this was when we heard the rumour that these people were a Jewish transport. They call out to us that they have been travelling without food or water for two days. And then, when they are being loaded into cattle cars, we become witnesses of the most ghastly scenes. The corpses of those killed the night before were thrown by Jewish auxiliary police on to a lorry that came and went four times. The guards ¬Ukrainian volunteer SS, some of them drunk - cram 180 people into each car [“I counted,” Herr Pfoch told me] parents into one, children into another, they didn’t care how they separated families. They scream at them, shoot and hit them so viciously that some of their rifle-butts break. When all of them are finally loaded there are cries from all cars –‘Water,’ they plead,‘my gold ring for water.’ Others offered us 5,000 zloty [2,500 Reichsmark] for a cup of water. When some of them manage to climb out through the ventilating holes, they are shot the moment they reach the ground - a massacre

PAGE 159
that made us sick to our souls, a blood-bath such as I never dreamed of. A mother jumps down with her baby and calmly looks into a pointing gun-barrel - a moment later we hear the guard who shot them boast to his fellows that he managed to ‘do’ them both with one shot through both their heads.”»  

Hubert Pfoch told me when I met him in Vienna in 1972 that he and his friends asked their officer - a young first lieutenant - to intervene with the SS officer in charge.
"He agreed to do it," said Herr Pfoch, "but when he suggested to the SS officer that this outrageous spectacle was unworthy of Germany and German honour, the SS bellowed that if our officer and the rest of us 'Ostmarkler' (Ostmark was the Nazi term for Austria as a province of the Third Reich) didn't like it and didn't shut up about it, he'd be glad to 'add a specical car to the train for us, and we could join the Jews and warmongers and get to know Treblinka.'"  The next part of the entry in the young Pfoch's diary would seem to prove Stangl's memory correct.
"When at last our train leaves the station," Pfoch wrote, "at least fifty dead, women, men and children, some of them totally naked, lie along the track.  We saw the Jewish police remove them - all kinds of valuable disappeared into their pockets, too.  Eventually our train followed the other train and we continued to see corpses on both sides of the track - children and others.  They say Treblinka is a 'delousing camp.'  When we reach Treblinka station the train is next to us again - there is such an awful smell of decompsoing corpses in the station, some of us vomit.  The begging for water intensifies, the indiscriminate shooting by the guards continues.....Three hundred thousand ahve been assembled here," Pfoch continues (and we must remember that this diary was written in August 1942): "Every day ten or fifteen thousand are gassed and burned.  Any comment is totally superfluous.....They say that arms were found in the ghettos and that is the reason for these countermeasures."
Commenting to me on the photograph on page 5 of the illustration, Herr Pfoch said that seconds after he had taken it, the tall Ukrainian soldier in the background hit out so hard at the children who were "slow to move" that he split the butt of his rifle in two.

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