Tanchum Grinberg was born in Błonie near Warsaw in 1913. In 1941, together with his mother, three younger brothers and a sister, he was resettled to the Warsaw ghetto. Although he was a shoemaker by profession, he worked in the workshop of the Fritz Schultz fur company from Gdańsk. One day, after returning from work, he found an empty apartment. His entire family was deported, probably to Treblinka. Soon after, Grinberg himself was deported from Warsaw to Treblinka, where he was selected to work as a shoemaker. He took an active part in the preparations for the uprising on August 2, 1943. He escaped from the camp and took refuge in the village of Sterdyń, only 18 km from Sokołów Podlaski, and then joined a partisan unit. After the war he settled in Israel and died in a car accident in 1976.
Tanchum Grinberg In the camp [in Treblinka] we had a horse and a cart that carried bricks and clay. There was also an eleven-year-old boy from Częstochowa who used a small cart to transport waste to the lazaret. At two o’clock in the afternoon our trusted man took two crates of grenades with fuses from the warehouse and the boy brought them to our workshop. We also took thirty-seven rifles, which were long and that’s why the Jew who carried the clay took them. He took them to the garage where another Jew from Częstochowa worked. This one cleaned the guns and loaded each one with five bullets. We had several revolvers under the floor. We broke the boards, took them out and distributed them. Of course, it wasn’t enough for everyone, but it was given to kapos, foremen and column leaders. The Jews from the death camp knew everything, they knew the time, but they had no weapons. At the signal, they were to disarm the Ukrainians, then we were to get to them. Everything was ready. We waited.
[…] Just before four o’clock [August 2, 1943] “Kiwe” caught up with a boy whose pockets were stuffed with money. He called him and found a lot of cash. He began to beat him terribly. Another Jew passed by. “Kiwe” stopped him and also found money and gold with him. He took both of them to our barracks and beat them. We were afraid that they would betray us and the Germans would simply surround the barracks and we wouldn’t be able to leave, we decided to act, although it wasn’t yet four-thirty. One of us went to the window and shot “Kiwe”. Suchomel rode up on a bicycle. We shot at him, but missed. He was shooting in our direction. We immediately cut off the telephone line and, as planned, we ran to set fire to the warehouses and barracks. Already an hour earlier, they had been doused with gasoline on all four sides. We set them on fire and they were all ablaze. The turrets from which the Ukrainians had been lured out were empty. We tricked the Ukrainians and they went down by themselves. They didn’t even know what was going on. Many dropped their weapons and hid. However, some people were shooting, so we shouted: “Don’t shoot, end of the war!”. The confusion was enormous. As soon as it started to burn in our place, the Germans sent help from the second camp, which was two kilometers away. Their telephone line was not damaged, so they called Małkinia, Węgrów, Sokołów and even from Siedlce came the gendarmerie, Wehrmacht, Ukrainians and the blue police. They surrounded everything and even those who managed to break free were shot.
There was an uproar in the death camp as well. One of the Czech Jews named Zelo, a former officer, snatched the gun from the Ukrainian and started shooting. The wires were also cut and the command was given: “From the barracks, run away!”. At the last moment I grabbed my jacket and in a shoemaker’s apron, with a knife in my hand, I jumped over the cut wire. Behind these wires were anti-tank wires. It was hard to cut through them, so we broke through them. More than one left a shoe there and ran away in one. Bullets whizzed around. Many fell. Treblinka was burning. The group running around me was getting smaller. After fifteen kilometers, I found myself in the forest with three other people. I told them we had to find some thick undergrowth and hide in it because it wasn’t safe to run any further. There were shots in front of us and behind us. Meanwhile the sun had set. We spent the night in the forest. First of all, I said that one mustn’t talk because there might be patrols around. It wasn’t until the middle of the night that we started debating whether we had done the right thing or the wrong thing. The most important thing is that we left the camp.
Based on: 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. Archive, testimony no 302/153 and www.holocausthistoricalsociety.org.uk