Extermination Camp (Treblinka II)
Over the course of several field seasons, the landscape of the extermination camp has been investigated using a number techniques, facilitating a re-interpretation of the site:
- Interviews with survivors and witnesses have been undertaken and a large body of archival material has been collated.
- Through integrated field survey and the correlation of aerial images and LiDAR data, the current marked camp boundary has been shown to be incorrectly located. Thus, the camp appears to have been considerably larger than previously thought and this has implications for the existence of features relating to the Living Camp part of the site (part of which is currently located in a forested area outside of the marked camp boundary).
- Non-invasive geophysical survey has allowed the location of a number of mass graves and cremation pits to be determined in the extermination camp. These areas were then avoided during more invasive work so as to comply with Jewish Halacha Law. These graves will hopefully be marked in the future.
- Targeted topographic and geophysical survey across the site has helped to identify the locations of key structures and features associated with the operation of the camp including the Lazarett, railway platform (which was substantially larger than the symbolic platform that is present), the Tyrolean Guard Tower, waste pits, and the camp entrance.
- Targeted excavations were carried out in 2013 in order to confirm the nature of some of the structures identified in the geophysical survey results. Deep sand and rubble deposits were identified in specific areas of the site. This material appears to have been leveled across the former death camp area, likely in an attempt by the Nazis to hide their crimes. Earlier evidence was identified beneath these deposits, including in situ structural remains.
- An apparent structure measuring 22 x 15m was identified in the Ground Penetrating Radar survey, undertaken in 2010. Targeted excavation in the middle of this area in 2013 confirmed that this structure was the Old Gas Chamber building. The discovery of tiles, sections of wall and other building furnishings proved that this building was modeled on a bathhouse. The tiles found were manufactured by Dziewulski i Lange.
- Further evidence of a structure was identified in the geophysical survey results, across an area measuring 44 x 20m. Further work is required in 2014 to confirm whether traces of the New Gas Chamber building survive in this area beneath a significant dump of imported sand.
- An important assemblage of artefacts has been recovered from the test pit excavations and walkover survey. These artefacts include personal affects, building materials, tiles, domestic utensils, and military artefacts. The finds are currently under specialist analysis and conservation, and represent an important assemblage that will enhance our understanding of the site.
- Geophysical survey and targeted test pits at Treblinka II have demonstrated the complexity of the buried environment and the considerable disturbance that was present across the entire site.
- Cremated and non-cremated human remains were located on the surface of the extermination camp area and also during the excavations. These remains were scattered remains, not buried in mass graves. All of these remains were reinterred by a representative from the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland.
The Finding Treblinka project was documented as part of a Channel 5 television programme, Treblinka: Inside Hitler’s Secret Death Camp, (produced by Furneaux and Edgar Productions) which was aired in November 2013 in the UK.
The work at Treblinka is ongoing. The evidence from the 2013 is still being examined. The LiDAR data is now being analysed in detail, the artefacts are being examined by specialists and the various data types are being assimilated as part of the Re-presenting Treblinka project. Further fieldwork is planned for 2014.
The full results of the research will be published in various journal articles over the coming year and in Sturdy Colls, C. (In Prep.) Finding Treblinka. Archaeological Investigations at Treblinka Extermination and Labour Camps [In English and Polish] in 2014.
Existing publications about the work at Treblinka can be found on Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls’ profile page