Treblinka’s unknown victims

After Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, which operated in 1942-43, was the second-deadliest extermination camp of the Holocaust.

When Melbourne communal figure Andrew Rajcher visited the memorial site at the Treblinka death camp this year, he was inspired to lend a hand in finding the names of the almost 900,000 Jews murdered there.

After Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, which operated in 1942-43, was the second-deadliest extermination camp of the Holocaust.

Known for his pioneering work in the Australian Society of Polish Jews and their Descendants (ASPJ), Rajcher notes that the vast majority of Treblinka’s Jewish victims were from Poland. Among the dead was Rajcher’s paternal grandfather Marek Mordechai Rajcher.

Rajcher has made several visits to Poland over the years, restoring the graves of three other grandparents.
On a visit this year, he accompanied Paweł Sawicki and Ewa Teleżyńska-Sawicka to the Treblinka site.

The Polish couple work with The Memory of Treblinka Foundation, founded by the late Pawel Spiewak, a director of Poland’s Jewish Historical Institute and the late Samuel Willenberg, the last survivor of a 1943 uprising at Treblinka.

Unlike at Auschwitz, the Nazis kept only scant records of Treblinka victims’ names. The site features 17,000 stones, symbolising matzevot (headstones), but only 216 carry descriptors – the localities of Jews entering Treblinka.

The names of the dead have vanished into history, explained Rajcher.

The only remaining records relate to transportees from outside Poland – 18,000 from Terezin in Czechoslovakia, 883 from Darmstadt, Germany, and 11,000 from Greece and Macedonia. The remainder were exterminated within hours of arrival and their names were never recorded.

“Paweł and Ewa felt that these victims deserved better and decided to rectify this situation,” Rajcher wrote in ASPJ publication Haynt.

“The aim of the foundation is to gather and disseminate knowledge about the camp, to collect existing reports by witnesses and survivors and to inform about historical and archaeological research.”

The Sawickis created the foundation’s Book of Names, an online database of 108,286 Treblinka victims, including Rajcher’s grandfather.

To discover victims’ names, they scour databases and documents and interview the dwindling number of witnesses and victims’ families.

In 2025-26, a Wall of Names will be established at the new Treblinka Museum, now under construction. As more names are identified, the wall will be extended.

Rajcher, who is personally supporting the funding of these projects, stated, “I encourage others, especially with family members who perished in Treblinka, to also support the foundation’s important work.”


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