Holocaust post#1: Germans gassed approx. 500,000 Jews at the Belzec Death Camp
From Silent Wall
– The construction of the extermination camp Belzec was started on 1st of November 1941. The very small camp area was located about 400 meters from the Belzec railway station and only 50 meters from the main railway line from Lublin to Lviv. The construction of the camp to the hill was completed at the end of February 1942.
– After the actual camp structure was completed, several tests were made with the toxicity of the exhaust gas produced by a Russian tank engine. In mid-March 1942 the camp was ready to receive it’s first victims, who came from the Lublin Ghetto. The mass round-ups started in the Ghetto during the 16th of March and the first transport for Belzec left on 17th of March. There were no survivors from this transport. From this point on more and more transports arrived mainly from the Lublin and Galicia area.
– As there were more and more transports arriving to the Belzec camp, the construction to expand the camp was started in April 1942. In mid-July 1942 the camp had been expanded and the new gas chambers were operational. The peak of the transports was from July to October 1942. During that time, even a three to four transports arrived daily to Belzec, where the conditions were horrible, as there was not enough time or capacity to destroy all of the bodies. The final transport to the extermination camp Belzec arrived on 11th of December 1942, after this the camp was decided to be dismantled and all evidences of the crimes committed, were to be destroyed.
– Three to four pyres were constructed so that all of the bodies could be burned. The pyres were in constant use from November 1942 to March 1943. It is estimated that 400 000 to 500 000 bodies were burned like this. In the Spring of 1943, all of the constructions in Belzec were dismantled and shipped to the KL Majdanek. After everything had been taken away and the bodies burned, the entire area was landscaped with firs and wild lupines. Only seven people are known to have survived from Belzec to the end of the Second World War. From these seven people, only one was able to give testimony about the conditions in the extermination camp Belzec.
– The first commandant of Belzec Christian Wirth was killed in 1944 in Yugoslavia while fighting against partisans. His grave is decorated with a great cross in the German military cemetery in Italy. Second commandant of Belzec Gottlieb Hering survived the war but died as a result of illness in October 1945.
– The most resent research indicates that 434 508 victims died at Belzec. Only one man was ever convicted for this crime. Josef Oberhauser was sentenced in 1964 to 4 and a half years of imprisonment. He served only half of his sentence.