This is not a happy place, it will not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. There are various estimates of the total number of people killed at the Treblinka labor and extermination camp, however, most estimates suggest that between 700,000 to 900,000 Jewish people were killed here, making it only second to Auschwitz.
There is a small museum at the site that explains the history of the camp. A selection of items found after the site was uncovered and a model of what the camp would have been like, but nothing can really prepare you for the scale of the place.
The first section of the Extermination Camp that you approach is Treblinka II, now a seemingly never-ending stone memorial to those who died. Some of the stones are engraved with the name of towns and villages that lost residents at the camp or notable people who died here, but most are blank. These stones stretch on and on and on. The eerie quiet that hangs over the camp truly brings home the scale of the atrocities that took place here.
About two kilometers down the “Black Road,” the same path prisoners would have walked, you arrive at Treblinka I, the penal labor camp. Unlike Auschwitz, there is nothing left at the site. At the end of the war the guards destroyed all traces of the camp to hide what they had done here, all that is left is a huge empty field with foundations now no more than ankle-high. While some may need the buildings of Auschwitz to comprehend what occurred at this dark time in human history to me this was another chilling reminder of just how thoroughly traces of mass genocide can be hidden from the world.
Further on again you come to the Gravel Pit where prisoners would be forced to work, a giant empty hole in the ground it somehow manages to bring to mind the hard work that those imprisoned at this camp were forced to do. Slightly further again is the Execution Site and another silent memorial to the worst mankind is capable of. Here a small sea of crosses acts as another memorial to those who died.
During our visit this place was empty and silent, not even the birds sang. The silence was eerie but really added to the somber atmosphere of Treblinka. This place is haunting but so important if we are to ever learn to avoid these horrific events happening again.
Know Before You Go
Treblinka is not easy to get to from Warsaw unless you hire a car. To get to Treblinka from Warsaw you will need to take a train to Malkinia. There are supposed to be buses that then travel to the outskirts of Treblinka but I would recommend taking a taxi instead. Make sure you get a card to arrange a pick-up when you are finished.