Treblinka trials

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Treblinka trials
Düsseldorf District Court (Land- und Amtsgericht Düsseldorf). Trial location, 2008 photo.

The two Treblinka trials concerning the Treblinka extermination camp personnel began in 1964. Held at Düsseldorf in West Germany, they were the two judicial trials in a series of similar war crime trials held during the early 1960s, such as the Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann trial (1961) and the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials (1963–65), as a result of which the general public came to realize the extent of the crimes that some two decades earlier had been perpetrated in occupied Poland by German bureaucrats and their willing executioners. In the subsequent years, separate trials dealt with personnel of the Bełżec (1963–65), Sobibor (1966), and Majdanek (1975–81) extermination camps.[1]

Hirtreiter trial[edit]

In 1946 Josef Hirtreiter was arrested in the course of the Allied investigations into the killing of disabled persons in the Hadamar killing centre. Although not focused on Treblinka from the beginning, and not serving as an lead-in to the later Treblinka trials, the Hirtreiter trial is viewed by some historians as being part of these.[2] Hirtreiter could not be shown to have been criminally involved at Hadamar; however, he did confess to having worked in a camp near the Polish village of Małkinia where Jews were killed in a gas chamber. Further investigations showed that Hirtreiter had been stationed at the Treblinka extermination camp, where he supervised the victims' disrobing prior to their gassing. He was charged with participation in the mass-murder of Jews, particularly the killing of more than 10 persons, including infants. On 3 March 1951 Hirtreiter was sentenced to life imprisonment (released in 1977).[3][4]

First Treblinka trial[edit]

The crimes committed in the General Government territory of occupied Poland were investigated by the Central Agency from July 1959 by the German specialist in the Nazi prosecution Dietrich Zeug, present at the Eichmann trial. His inquiry led to the first arrest of Treblinka deputy commandant on 2 December 1959. Zeug received survivor testimonies from Yad Vashem which allowed him to examine German national archives for more clues. He was the first to establish the chain of command for Operation Reinhard.[5]

The first Treblinka trial began on 12 October 1964 and concerned eleven members of the SS camp personnel, or about a quarter of the total number of SS employed in the extermination of Jews brought aboard Holocaust trains to Treblinka. More than 100 witnesses were called, with incriminating evidence presented by Franciszek Ząbecki, a dispatcher employed by the Reichsbahn during the Holocaust train departures from across occupied Poland, proven by original German waybills he collected. The verdicts were pronounced on 3 September 1965:[6]

Defendants Photograph Rank Function Sentence Reality
Kurt Franz Kurt Franz Treblinka.jpg SS-Untersturmführer Deputy commandant Life imprisonment Served 28 years, released, lived another 5 years
Otto Richard Horn SS-Unterscharführer Totenlager – Corpse detail Acquitted
Erwin Lambert Lambert, Erwin.jpg SS-Unterscharführer Built Large Gas Chambers 4 years imprisonment Time served. Died 1976
Heinrich Matthes Matthes, Heinrich.jpg SS-Scharführer Chief of Totenlager Life imprisonment
Willi Mentz Treblinka - Bredow Mentz Möller Hirtreiter.jpg SS-Unterscharführer Lazarett ("Infirmary," which actually meant shooting victims) Life imprisonment Released in 1978 and died 3 months later
August Miete Miete, August.jpg SS-Unterscharführer Lazarett – "Angel of Death" Life imprisonment Possibly released in the mid-1980s.[7]
Gustav Münzberger SS-Unterscharführer Totenlager – Gas Chambers 12 years imprisonment Served 6 years, released on good behaviour, lived another 6 years
Albert Rum SS-Unterscharführer Totenlager – Gas Chambers 3 years imprisonment
Otto Stadie SS-Stabsscharführer Camp Administration 6 years imprisonment Released early due to poor health, lived about another decade
Franz Suchomel Suchomel, Franz.jpg SS-Unterscharführer Gold and Valuables 7 years imprisonment Served 4 years, released, lived another 10 years
Kurt Küttner Küttner, Kurt.jpg SS-Oberscharführer Lower camp of Treblinka II Died before trial

Second Treblinka trial[edit]

The second Treblinka trial also known as the Stangl trial,[1] was held from 13 May to 22 December 1970, five years after the first group trial for war crimes. In this trial, camp commandant Franz Stangl, expelled three years earlier from Brazil, finally stood accused. Stangl had previously assisted in killing handicapped people during Aktion T4 (the Nazi "euthanasia" programme), and, before moving on to Treblinka, had been the first commandant of Sobibor. Under his supervision, most of the Treblinka killings took place. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and died in prison on 28 June 1971, during the appeal case.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sereny, Gitta (1974). Into That Darkness: from Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, a study of Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka. ISBN 9781446449677.
  2. ^ Bauer (1968), vol. 8; Hofmann.
  3. ^ Bryant, Michael (2014). Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966. Univ. of Tennessee Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-1621900498.
  4. ^ Webb, Chris (2014). The Treblinka Death Camp: History, Biographies, Remembrance. Columbia University Press. pp. 195–196, 233. ISBN 978-3838265469.
  5. ^ Ruth Bettina Birn. "Fifty Years After: A Critical Look At The Eichmann Trial" (PDF). Journal of International Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Ohio (1/28/2012): 6, 13–14/31. PDF file, direct download. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-03.
  6. ^ S.J. (2007), First Treblinka Trial H.E.A.R.T Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team.
  7. ^ Hans Peter Rullmann, Der Fall Demjanjuk: Unschuldiger oder Massenmörder? Verlag Helmut Wild, 1987; p. 166. (in German)


  • Bauer, Fritz, ed. (1968). Justiz und NS-Verbrechen: Sammlung deutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen 1945–1999 (Justice and Nazi Crimes: a Collection of German Verdicts on national socialist Killings) (in German). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 90-6042-000-4.
  1. Erster Treblinka-Prozess (First Treblinka Trial): vol. 8, ISBN 90-6042-008-X.
  2. Zweiter Treblinka-Prozess (Second Treblinka Trial): vol. 22, ISBN 90-6042-022-5.
  3. Dritter Treblinka-Prozess (Third Treblinka Trial): vol. 34, ISBN 90-5356-720-8.
  • Hofmann, Christian. "Die Treblinka-Prozesse (The Treblinka Trials)". (in German). Arbeitskreis e.V.
  • Rückerl, Adalbert, ed. (1977). NS-Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse (Nazi Extermination Camps mirrored by German Criminal Trials). Munich. p. 81.