The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor's Memory, 1942-1943
“Before me sits a young woman. I cut off her hair, thick and beautiful, and she grasps my hand and begsme to remember that I too am a Jew. She knows that she is lost. ‘But remember,‘ she says, ‘you see whatis being done to us. That‘s why my wish for you is that you will survive and take revenge for our innocentblood, which will never rest.‘ She has not had time to get up when a murderer who is walking betweenthe benches lashes her on the head with his whip. Blood shows on her now shorn head. That evening,the blood of tens of thousands of victims, unable to rest, thrust itself upwards to the surface.“
—from The Last Jew of Treblinka
Why do some live while so many others perish? Tiny children, old men, beautiful girls. In the gas chambers ofTreblinka, all are equal. The Nazis kept the fires of Treblinka burning night and day, a central cog in the wheelof the Final Solution. There was no pretense of work here like in Auschwitz or Birkenau. Only a train platformand a road covered with sand. A road that led only to death. But not for Chil Rajchman, a young man whosurvived working as a “barber” and “dentist,” heartsick with witnessing atrocity after atrocity. Yet he managedto survive so that somehow he could tell the world what he had seen. How he found the dress of his little sisterabandoned in the woods. How he was forced to extract gold teeth from the corpses. How every night he hadto cover the body-pits with sand. How ever morning the blood of thousands still rose to the surface.
Many have courageously told their stories, and in the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’sSurvival at Auschwitz and The Drowned and the Saved, Rajchman provides the only survivors’ recordof Treblinka. Originally written in Yiddish in 1945 without hope or agenda other than to bear witness,Rajchman’s tale shows that sometimes the bravest and most painful act of all is to remember.
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bandits barber barracks beat beaten begs Belzec blood blows bodies bundles carriers carry Chief Chil Rajchman clock strikes commando comrade cut the hair dead death camps dentists difﬁcult driven excavator extermination fall false teeth ﬁelds ﬁfteen ﬁlled ﬁlls ﬁnal ﬁnally ﬁnd ﬁnished ﬁre ﬁrst ﬁve Franz Franz Stangl friend Leybl gas chambers gassed Germans gold grab hands happen head hear Himmler Ivan Jewish Jews Kaddish Kapo Karl Spetzinger killed kilometres kitchen layer Lazarett litter look Lubartow Lyalke Mathias matzo metres minutes morning murderers Nazis open space orders oven peasant pile prisoners quickly ramp receive revolt Rojzman roll call run back sand Schlauch screams Shema Yisrael shooting shot shout sister Sobibor sort clothes Soviet stand suitcases tells thousand throw transports arrive Treblinka Ukrainians undress VASILY GROSSMAN victims Warsaw Warsaw Uprising weeping whips woman women workers Zimmermann zlotys