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Yankel Rabinowitz's story I had a visitor today.

A guest enters my office-torn and bedraggled, weak and exhausted, and there is a strange wild look in his eyes. I remember him from some time ago. He is Yaakov Rabinowitz, the Parczever Rebbe's son, and the brother of the young Munkatcher Rebbe. He is a yeshiva-man, about twenty five years old, and a member of the religious organization HaBoneh in Warsaw. He used to live at 7 Gesia street, but hadn't I heard he'd been deported. If it wasn't true, where had he been until now? He looks at me strangely for a long time. Suddenly he blurts out, From there.... I was not quite sure what to make of this but I instinctively ask him, somewhat tentatively, From Treblinka? Yes! came the abrupt answer. I remembered that I had vaguely heard of someone from thereso this was the man. I did not want to speak about it in the office, and he too was very circumspect. There were countless officials wandering through my office and many of them had relatives who had been deported eastwards. Nach Osten. So we arranged to meet later at my apartment. He arrived exactly on time this is what he told me. (I wrote it all down to ensure I did not leave out any particulars from his report) As you know I was grabbed during the blockade on the Landau workshop at 30 Gesia street. As soon as we arrived at the Ghetto railroad station, we were loaded into boxcars-freight wagons normally used for transporting animals-about a hundred in each boxcar. Old and young, healthy and sick, men, women, and children, were all forcibly pushed into the wagons. The crush was awful, the heat stifling. Everybody stood pressed up against one another unable to move even an arm or a leg. Rivers of sweat ran down our faces, and it was difficult to breathe. I experienced an unprecedented thirst, my tongue felt glued to my palate and my body cried out for water, just a little water. This sole urge dominated my thoughts, but it was a waste of effort, there was no water provided for anyone, none at all. We stood like this for four hours. How long would they be able to keep us in these conditions? Will we be able to withstand it? Next to me stood a mother with three children, all of the crying pitifully, enough to break one's heart. The youngest one especially, a boy about two years old, would not stop sobbing, A drink! A drink! I soon forgot about my own unbearable thirst and began to worry about this poor child- where to obtain just a little water for this tiny toddler. I just couldn't bear to watch his suffering, but what could I do? The boxcar was locked, bolted, and completely closed. Only a small vent above our heads allowed a few beams of light to penetrate, as well as the screams of women and children still being forced onto the wagon. Somebody suggest I take a look through the vent, and so I perch on the back of my neighbor, and witness a horrifying scene. The large square is filled with thousands of men, women, and children, carrying their pitiful baggage. They are being forced mercilessly forward by the SS. The Ukranian Police push and shove at them ruthlessly, lash out indiscriminately with whips and clubs at those unable to run fast enough, while screeching Schnell! Schnell in tones menacing enough to make your blood run cold. I cannot watch this any longer. Better to be crushed together inside the boxcar than to witness what is taking place outside. Though I slip off my neighbor's back, I cannot blot out the terrible scene I just witnessed. For how long will we have to endure these insufferable conditions? Finally, after four hours, we move off. Even though we have an idea what this train trip entails, we still feel some relief. Let whatever is due to happen, happen, - as long as it is soon. By now, the sun is setting. A cooler wind wafts into our sealed boxcar and the pastoral scent of fields and farms reaches us. Outside the ghetto, nature still smiles on Poland; the fields and forests, birds and flowers, still thrive in the large-and free- world. Now I no longer resent the crush, though the boxcar is as crowded as before. I no longer feel thirst or hunger, even though I have tasted nothing yet. What I do experience is a sudden urge for survival. Davka today, davka here in this wretched boxcar I have this urgent desire to live. Though

there is apparently no escape, nowhere to run to, yet I repeat to myself: I want to live! I want to live! Meanwhile, our train proceeds very slowly...we have time, there is no hurry, we shall not miss our appointment....The engine moves forward only grudgingly and stops at various stations for many hours. Nobody knows where we are going but in everybody's head hammers the dreadful destination: Treblinka. Then we are distracted by minor incidents, an old man faints, they try to revive him, but to no avail- he has just died. Nobody grieves over his death. Some even envy him for coming to the end of his life; Heaven has obviously declared an end to his torment. A lucky Jew someone remarks. Yiddishe Mazel, rejoins another. Suddenly, a woman starts laughing and crying simultaneously- an attack of hysteriaand young man collapses. They shake him vigorously and he revives, his suffering is destined to continue. Beside me the children continue to cry but their wailing has grown weaker and intermittent. By now I have lost all account of time; it was a fearfully long night and it is already morning when we reach our final destination. Next to the railway line, the sign on the outbuilding reads Treblinka. So we have arrived. Nothing happens for about a half hour, then the doors are unlocked and the wild yelling begins. Araus! Araus! Soldiers of the Wehrmacht and the SS haul us out of the boxcars and march us offwhere to? To the showers! comes the reply. They bring us to a large building without windows and order us to undress for the showers. Everybody dresses slowly, apathetically, almost indifferently. I myself am in no hurry. I only take off my coat and loosen my shoelaces. Meanwhile, they begin to lead people towards another hall. Suddenly, an SS officer appears and signals for a few people to follow him. He chooses eight of us from among the youngest there who have no yet undressed- and I am among them. We are taken outside and ordered to wait. We look around us. The large area of land contains four long buildings without windows and slightly pitched roofs. We stand waiting for about two hours. Suddenly we hear the most frightful screams. Sobbing cries and desperate calls for help force their way through the walls and roof, reaching for the very heavens. Our hearts turn to stone within us, our numbed brains refuse to function, and we stand like frozen marble pillars. But our ears continue to received those agonized, unearthly sounds. (In fact, those terrifying screams still echo within me until this very minute; they give me no rest by day or by night, haunting my dreams and every waking moment. I shall never be able to put them behind me- never!) The shrieking lasted for about fifteen minutes and then there was a terrible silence. No sound or echo. At that moment the SS officer reappeared and ordered us to reenter the first hall where we had begun undressing. This hall was now completely empty of people, there were only baggage and pathetic bundles of clothes lying where they had been left on the floor. Some of the clothing had been folded neatly with little notes on top stating their owner's name to ensure these not be exchanged or taken by mistake. Apparently some people had allowed themselves to believe and hope until the very last moment that they would yet be permitted to return to reclaim their belongings. Now we are ordered to collect their orphaned clothing and transfer it to the boxcars. I fufill these commands like a mindless automaton, all emotion and personal feelings numbed. I begin by collecting footwear: girls' shoes, children's shows, men's shoes, ladies' shoes, elegant shoes, expensive shoes, battered shoes, torn shoes, large tall boots....How many footsteps had these countless shoes traveled, tap-tapping, scurrying, rushing along life's highway until they reached this abrupt barrier. Helping us collect these belongings was a team of Polish workers. When the German overseer moves away to a safe distance, I take the opportunity to ask: what exactly is going on? These hair raising screams we hear a few times every day! The Pole answered. My hair has grown white from hearing them. I have long wanted to escape from here but it is impossible, I am myself a political prisoner. Now I am already a little used to these screams but I still cannot sleep nights- these heartrending cries even intrude into my dreams

There's nothing more to be said he added brutally, pointing at the third building. From there, nobody escapes alive. Ten thousand a day, that's the daily total of people murdered with gases there fro many weeks now From that moment, only one solitary thought possessed me- I would not enter there on any account. I will have to get away from here somehow. But the Poles explain to us that after we have finished transferring these cloths, we too would be forced into the third block from which there is no escape. Above the doorway of that apparently innocuous building ought to be afixed the slogan from Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!. As I stare at the accursed place, my mind is firmly resolved: I will not go there, I just will not go.... I abandon collecting shoes and rush to gather clothes together like a madman. With sudden reserves of superhuman strength, I stagger to the train with huge bundles of clothes and fling them aside. I work at a furious pace like one possessed, throwing bundle after bundle into the boxcar until it is almost full. Then I jump in myself and burrow deeply beneath the many loose bundles. Though I am almost suffocated down there, I am simultaneously gripped by relief and hope, I have saved myself and shall live for another day... I lay there motionless for some time until I hear faint noises and sense the bundles being moved about, fortunately not near me. The Germans are searching for me and I can hear them becoming very angry before they abandon the chase. Finally, there is a welcome silence, but it is broken by more sounds- not of the Germans returning but the spine chilling sounds of my workmates being murdered. Their death cries reach my ears and penetrate deep within my soul, to remain imprinted there for the rest of my life. I lay in that boxcar for a whole day without food or water. As I sense the last reserves of my strength draining away, a new terror looms: death by hunger. But suddenly, there is a large bang as the door is closed and the train finally moves off. After about half an hour I try to extricate myself from the bundles. After a brieft struggle I manage to free my head and then my arms, soon I am sitting on top of the baggage. The door is only partly closed and through the large crack I can easily see outside. The sun is shining brightly and the clear blue heavens are not dark black. On the contrary, everything is wonderful and idyllic in Hashem's world as the annual; cycle continues and the farmers gather in the rich harvest. Only for us have the heavens darkened and sun set at noon. By now I recognize some of the areas that the train is passing through, the orchards and small parks on the outskirts of Warsaw. I push at the half-closed door with all my strength and force it open wide enough to slip through; I jump from the moving train and roll down the grass- I am saved! I lose consciousness and lie there senseless all day till nightfall. It is not important how I managed to hide with non-Jews or how I managed to return back to the ghetto. It is sufficient that I am safely back. But do not think that I am truly saved. My life has been totally ruined by the harrowing scenes I saw and witnessed. The brutal deportation of thousands on the death trains; then to be murdered by poison gases. I have heard the last cries of the dying, their screams torment my soul, day and night. I come from Treblinka, and just as surely I will return there! These were the words of someone who had somehow returned from there. To the casual observer he may still look young and healthy, but how many years has he aged in a few days? His lifespirit is broken and destroyed. Despite his youth he will never again trust another human being; to him abstract concepts like humanity or world justice have been exposed as a sham. Our eyes meet, and I can see the strange, wild fires of gehinnom in his eyes. I can only record dryly what he has told me, but I cannot speak- words fail me. All I want to do is cry, and cry, and cry, until there are no more tears. Who will turn my head to water and my eyes to a source of tears, and I will cry day and night over the slain victims of my people (Yirmeyahu 5:22)

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