When the deportations started, the Jews did not know what Treblinka was. They were being told by the Germans that they would go to work in the East. As time passed, however, the truth reached more and more people. There was no news from the deportees, more and more rumors were circulating. Information about Treblinka, brought by those who managed to escape, began to arrive fairly quickly in the ghettos. Initially, their reports were not believed, they were accused of spreading defeatism. Nevertheless, more and more people began to realize that Treblinka meant death.
Those deported to the camp tried to save themselves. On the way to Treblinka many people would jump out of the train. Most of them died.
Some would also try to escape from the Treblinka camp – in carriages with shipments, over the barbed wire, and by digging a tunnel. In the beginning the escapes were more frequent, later, when collective responsibility was introduced, they became less common. Few of the escapes were successful.
A large group of prisoners escaped from the camp during the uprising that broke out on August 2, 1943. About 500 of the 800 prisoners in the camp at that time escaped. Less than 100 survived the war.
“Some people deported to the extermination camp tried to save themselves by jumping from the speeding train. Hundreds would take the risk. Not everyone was lucky. Some of the people who jumped out of the train lost their lives under the wheels of the wagons, some lost their legs and hands, and without medical help the wounded also died. The convoying Nazis shot at those who were jumping from the train, and so, for example, one girl lost an arm while jumping, a member of the Blue Police aimed at her and she yanked the policeman’s gun away with her good hand. But she didn’t stand a chance, the policeman was more capable – he picked up the gun and shot the girl. Others were captured by the Germans, or by Poles, or by other Nazi collaborators, and murdered. I managed to find refuge with a Catholic.”
(Written testimonies collected in the Archive of Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw; testimony number and the relationship of the witness and the deceased (if known) are provided. 301/35, rel. Estera Waldman)
In order to preserve the memory of this heroic nameless girl and other brave people, we have created a base of the fugitives from Treblinka.
Grants from the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland were an important help in creating the database.