Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Introduction to the Holocaust Trials
The IMT Series
The Treblinka Death Camp Trials
The first SS man brought to trial for war crimes committed in Treblinka was Josef (Sepp) Hirtreiter in 1951.
During earlier interrogations in July 1945 in Frankfurt Hirtreiter was asked questions about the euthanasia program at the Hadamar euthanasia killing centre, Hirtreiter disclosed information death camps near Trawniki in Poland, and former members of Hadamar who had served in these camps. He was released due to lack of evidence.
He was rearrested and brought to trial in Frankfurt am Main in March 1951, at his trial he was recognised by Sawek Warszawski, who left for dead in a burial pit, survived.Hirtrieier was found guilty of war crimes and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 3 March 1951.
Among the crimes of which he was found guilty of were beating two prisoners until they were unconscious, because money had been found on them, then hanging them by their feet and finally killing them with a shot in the head: killing many young children ages one and one –half to two, during the unloading of transports, by seizing them by the feet and smashing their heads against the boxcars.
The second trial of Treblinka staff was held in Dusseldorf between 12 October 1964 and 24 August 1965, and was known as the First Treblinka trial, as a number of accused were on trial.
Eleven former camp guards, one Kurt Kuttner died before the trial commenced, were brought to trial, amongst those on trial was Kurt Franz the last Commandant of Treblinka.
When Franz was arrested a search by police of his apartment discovered a photo album called Schone Zeiten. In this album among family photographs, and service in Italy, were photographs of his days in euthanasia and photographs of the Treblinka death camp.
The second Treblinka trial was also held in Dusseldorf, of Franz Paul Stangl, the second Commandant of Treblinka, who had also been the commandant of Sobibor death camp. For technical reasons he was only tried for his crimes at Treblinka.
The trial commenced on 13 May 1970 and on 22 December 1970 he was sentenced to life imprisonment, for the co-responsibility in the murder of 900,000 people during his supervision of the death camp.
Stangl died of a heart attack in Dusseldorf prison on 28 June 1971, whilst awaiting the result of his appeal, having conducted a series of interviews with Gitta Sereny.
Sereny wrote I think he died because he had finally, however briefly, faced himself and told the truth- it was a monumental effort to reach that fleeting moment when he became the man he should have been.
Of the former Ukrainian guards who had served at Treblinka, Fedor Fedorenko was deported to Russia from the USA where he had emigrated to, in December 1984. He was sentenced to death after a ten- day public trial in June 1986. His execution by firing squad was announced in July 1986.
On 16 February 1987 John (Ivan) Demjanuk was tried in Jerusalem accused of being “Ivan the Terrible” of Treblinka after being deported from Cleveland in the USA.
He was found guilty on 18 April 1988 and was sentenced to death on 25 April 1988.
Following a successful appeal, he was released as it was clear that Ivan the Terrible, was indeed Ivan Marchenko, and the court in Israel decided to release him. However, it was evident that there was conclusive proof that Demjanuk had been a guard in the death camp at Sobibor.
Belzec The Forgotten Camp – Robin O’Neil
Sobibor – The Forgotten Revolt – Thomas Blatt
Ivan the Terrible – Tom Teicholz
Into that Darkness – Gitta Sereny
The Death Camp Treblinka – Alexander Donat
Holocaust Historical Society
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