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Thursday, 15 November 2012

My run-ins with Mossad at Treblinka & Majdanek



If you've watched the 2009 documentary film Defamation (film//wiki), you might recall that the film's creator Yoav Shamir, an Israeli Jew, accompanied a group of Israeli teenagers on an organised trip to Auschwitz, and mentions that 30,000 Israeli kids make these educational trips to Poland every year. During my recent trip to four former Nazi "death camps" in Poland, I saw (and this is a conservative estimate) around 1,200 of them. Shamir also shows in his film—although pixelated—a man he describes as an "Israeli Secret Service agent" who was on the trip to "protect" the kids. I saw at least two dozen of these Mossad agents, and had two run-ins with the same agents, at separate "death camps", six days and 100 miles apart.

My 3rd Death Camp Holiday in 2012:
(photos on the hyperlinks too)

I flew into Modlin airport, which is not particularly close to Warsaw, at 9pm on a Wednesday night. I had arranged to stay the night in a very plush local hotel, and have a rental company agent deliver me a hire car the following morning. I was on the road, in a little Fiat Panda, by 10am the following day, driving the 60 miles, in first snow, then rain, to my pre-booked hotel in Węgrów, which is around 18 miles from the Polish village of Treblinka and the former Nazi camps which share its name. Once I'd checked into my hotel, I was straight off to Treblinka, arriving around 1pm, having had to drive on some very poor excuses for roads, and yet being forced off them numerous times by oncoming trucks.




enlarged version of my rough guide to Treblinka

Treblinka: To the left of my death camp tourism hire car, is where Ostrów Mazowiecki to Siedlce railway line once ran. You can still see the tracks in the tarmac road. To the right of the car, is the path (which I had just driven down) where the railway branch line once ran, past Treblinka II, the "death camp", to the huge gravel quarry, and the Treblinka I labour camp.
Treblinka I's "Cellar for potatoes and beetroots", that's what the sign says

Here for enlarged version of plan of Treblinka I the labour camp

Just some of the six coach loads of Israeli kids I saw on my first day a Treblinka. It's a poor photo, the sun was just minutes from setting, it was a very overcast day, I was 40+ metres away, and my camera was on full zoom. But taking this poor photo, and some even worse ones, got me into trouble with Mossad.

On my first day at Treblinka, after visiting the very small museum, I walked the 2km+ to the Treblinka I camp, and spent about 4 hours exploring it and the Polish cemetery, which is called the "Execution Site", and is a further 0.5km south of Treblinka I. I'm very glad I did this, as I discovered that you're allowed to drive down to the Polish cemetery, partly on the 1.9km (I later clocked-it with the car's mileometer) of what's left of the cobble-stone road that runs past Treblinka II "the death camp", down to Treblinka I.

On my walk back to the car, I was passing "the death camp"—which I was intending to view the following day—and spotted several dozen young people, many of them waving Israeli flags, near the central memorial. So I stopped to take some photos. And boy-oh-boy, was somebody not happy about it.

I was approached by two men, probably in their late twenties, one of them started talking to me, but I couldn't decipher what he was saying, so I said, "English?" He replied, clearly annoyed, "I am speaking English", but in much clearer English. He told me they were "camp security", and asked: "What are you doing here. Are you carrying weapons, a gun?" I had started to answer the first part of the question, explaining I'd been at Treblinka I, before he had finished the second part, and when it registered, I made a poor job of trying not to laugh whilst assuring him I wasn't carrying a gun (I live in the U.K., even the police don't usually carry guns). This clearly annoyed him even further, and then asked me in a derogatory manner, "What is that accent. Scottish?" I have quite a pronounced London accent, and had never previously been mistaken for a Scotsman, but I took it as a touché for my initial error of mistaking his English for a different language. The other guy, started asking questions: Where are you staying? What are you doing in Poland? How did you get to this camp? I'd by this time remembered the aforementioned film Defamation, and that Mossad accompanies the kids on these trips. I judged by their accents, that they weren't Polish, nor "camp security", but I answered their questions, and their demand to see I.D., showing them my driving licenceBut we eventually got to the crux of the issue: "Why were you taking photos of the group?", I said, in all honesty as well, I was trying to get a decent photo of the flags being waved in front of the monument, I thought it would make a good photo. They, or at least one of them (not Mr. Have you got a gun) seemed to completely understand this, and visibly relaxed, and it drew to an end my interrogation by Mossad at Treblinka. We parted company, but I would see more Mossad agents at Treblinka the following day, and would meet Mr. Have you got and gun and his comrade again, six days later, 100 miles away, in Majdanek.





The central memorial at Treblinka, and there are bats living in it! I was there at dusk, and saw several flying around it, then shooting of somewhere, and returning. But photographing bats is highly specialist, so I can't prove bats live in Treblinka's memorial. Anyway, In the middle-ground of this photo are the concrete blocks which memorialise the sleepers, on which sat the rails, on which the trains filled with Jews stopped at Treblinka to unload their cargo into the suction/steam/gas chambers.

The sleepers from another angel, and the mounds of earth on the left, which I mention below


I was at Treblinka at just before 9am the next day, which was, mostly, a beautiful sunny day, great for taking photos. I stopped my car in the entrance to the memorial, to take a quick photo of the path on which the Ostrów Mazowiecki to Siedlce rail tracks once ran. I'd left my engine running, and car door open, but even so, a guy in a newish looking Honda Accord, which I hadn't noticed parked across the driveway of the building on the opposite side of the road, shouted to me in English: "Can't park there. Bus is coming". I'd later see other Honda Accords, the same colour, dark greyish-blue, following coaches filled with Israelis at Majdanek, or parked up around Majdanek with guys waiting in them.

After parking in the Treblinka memorial car park, and whilst changing into my hiking boots, coaches did start to pull into the car park, so I dashed off to Treblinka II to get some photos, before a hundred flag waving Israeli kids got there. But I needn't of bothered rushing, the kids must have been taken into the small museum for some holocaust indoctrination, it would be over an hour before I saw them, and more Mossad agents out by the central memorial on Treblinka II

I'd been wandering around Treblinka II for approximately 20 minutes, before I was approached by a guy in his mid-twenties, wearing shirt, tie, trousers and a blazer, who introduces himself as "camp security", and I thought: "Here we go again." I was asked a dozen questions, pretty much the same ones as the previous day, minus the one about the gun. But he did ask: "Are you Jewish," which the Israeli guys hadn't asked me. I thought it best to answer honestly, unless he should then ask me to prove it, the old way! But I soon realise that this guy was Polish, and far more friendly than the Israelis I'd encountered the previous day. After he'd questioned me, he went off searching around the 17,000 (surely an low estimate) memorial stones, looking for something. I even saw him check inside every single one of the sunken metal chimney things, that surround the memorial to the cremation pyre. He spent a good 30 minutes wandering about the memorial looking for something.

Shortly after the security guy disappears, the Israelis pour forth onto the memorial, waving those flags again. I know that they're given the flags on the coach, as they have to give them back when they leave. I'd later see about eight of them, left leaning in a group by the door of the coach, when the kids were boarding to leave.

Once again, Mossad were there. I spotted three of them this time, all aged around thirty, all wearing green combat trousers and black fleeces. They were standing well apart from each other and the kids. Two of them were standing on the mounds of earth in the photo immediately above, which go on for some way. They were faced with their backs to the memorial and the kids, looking into the trees that surround the memorial. 

I was done for the time being at Treblinka II, and wanted to get back in my car, and drive to the quarry. But 80-odd Israeli school-kids were directly in my path. I decided that instead of walking through the group of kids and risk getting shot, I'd take the slightly longer route back to the car park (which is next to the museum), by walking over the concrete sleepers memorial, then over the mounds of earth, and onto the cobble-stone path, which is just out of shot (to the left) in the the photo immediately above. This route involved walking past two of the Mossad guys who had positioned themselves as lookouts, as I described above. I didn't give them an invitation to speak to me this time, by taking photos, but as each of them spotted me, I became the complete focus of their attention.

Perhaps it was all my fault, as I wasn't obeying the Treblinka memorial etiquette of prostrating yourself on the ground when you see Jews there, but the staring really started to wind me up. I just stared back at the second agent I had to pass, and felt like asking him the time, just to see how he'd respond. But I thought best not to. 

Although I spent the rest of the day at Treblinka—until it was dark—that was the last I saw of Mossad at Treblinka. But I'd see them again, six days later at Majdanek.




I didn't see any coach loads of Jews at Sobibor or Belzec, in fact I saw only a couple of people at these former camps, and I spent two days at each of them. The Sobibor photo is of the "new" train station, and on the left of the Belzec photo is the "Locomotive depot," which was connect with the camp, according to flashy brochure I brought in the memorial's bookshop. I will load up the footage I shot at the camps soon, and the photos sometime after.



MAJDANEK




Visiting Majdanek during the three days of Hallowmas, is probably the worse three days of the year to visit, and precisely the three days I happened to be there. It seems that all Catholics in Poland go to visit a graveyard during Hallowmas, and Majdanek is immediately next to a huge Catholic graveyard. But I won't bore anyone with the troubles it gave me, suffice to say, that at least on All Saints Day (a public holiday in Poland), I didn't have several hundred Jewish teenagers and Mossad getting in the way of what I wanted to see and photograph, which happened on both the other days I was there.

On my first day at Majdanek, there was a beautiful red sky at sun set, which would have made for some great photos. Unfortunately for me, there were Israelis standing in front of almost everything I wanted to take pictures of. All the photos I got of them below, were taken from a reasonable distance. 

It was on this day, that I saw the two Mossad guys I'd been questioned by at Treblinka six days earlier, and we recognised each other straight away. One of them (Mr Have you got a gun's comrade) later approached me to stop me taking a picture of the reconstructed crematorium, as a couple of kids were about to walk into shot. 

On my second day at Majdanek, I had hoped to get photos of all I needed, but as it was a public holiday, the gas chambers were closed, and I needed photos of the gas chambers, so I had to return a third time. I arrived fairly early the next day, at around 8:30am, and felt liking throwing a wobbler, when I drove into the car park, and counted thirteen coach loads of Israelis already there.

The route the organised tour takes, meant that the Israelis visited the gas chambers at the beginning of the tour. So I just walked past them, hundreds, and hundreds of them, and went to see the infamous shoes of Majdanek, and the re-constructed crematorium, which features a room that the Majdanek museum once insisted was a gas chamber (note the Zyklon-B hole in the roof), but even Jean-Claude Pressac rubbished the claim.

About two hours after my arrival at the camp, I decided to go to Block 41 and take photos of the "gas chambers", hoping that by then, most of the 13 coach loads of Israelis would have seen them, and moved on to view other museum exhibits. But typically, Block 41 had about 30 of them in it when I arrived. There was a Mossad agent in there as well, who, once again, just glared at me when I walked in, and for the duration we were all in the building together (about 20 minutes), but I was well past caring by then.

I followed the kids through Block 41, waiting for them to vacate each room and move onto the next before I'd start taking any photos. But the Mossad agent, who was around 40, spent almost the entire time in the same room as me, just watching me. But eventually the kids had seen all they're suppose to see of Block 41, and moved off elsewhere on the tour of the camp, and I had the gas chambers to myself for around 20 minutes, before another group was brought in.


One of the Mossad agents I saw at Majdanek on my first day there. This guy was posted at the main entrance to the camp to watch the vehicles pulling into the car park. He had his work cut out, as literally hundreds of cars were coming and going each hour, Polish people visiting the cemetery next to Majdanek. On my third day at that camp, I stopped my car here to take a picture of the sign above his head, and on that day their was another Mossad agent at the same spot, who watched me intensely as I took a photo.
Block 41 at Majdanek, which was one of the delousing building by the camp entrance. It also contains two "homicidal gas chambers" at the rear of the building. The two guys are Israelis, there were several dozen Israeli kids in Block 41, when I took this picture. The guy on the left is wearing combat trousers, like the other Mossad agents I saw at both Majdanek and Treblinka.










5 comments:

  1. Those goons might be Shin Bet but I suppose they're all the same.

    Their motto is "Defender that shall not be seen" or "The unseen shield"...so you weren't meant to see them...No wonder they were pissed off! LOL


    I guess

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Henry. I wasn't previously aware of Shin Bet.

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    2. ''I wasn't previously aware of Shin Bet''

      That's cuz we can't see it, mate!

      That ''I guess'' at the end of my comment is a sad remnant of another thought that went into the bin and shouldn't be there. Just like Shin Bet, I wish I couldn't see it.

      Delete
  2. I wonder what the agents would have done if you printed up flyers of some of the various extermination methods originally testified to. Maybe a thousand or so,citing the holcoaster,or steamed Jews,or Holocaust by bubbles. Just start handing them out to the kids at the camps,maybe throw in a few pre WWII N.Y. Times articles of the 6,000,000 suffering,dying,starving ...It is my opinion that they would find little humor in the gesture....

    ReplyDelete

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