Treblinka is widely regarded as the...
Treblinka is widely regarded as the second most important German wartime extermination center. Only Auschwitz-Birkenau is supposed to have claimed more lives.
Treblinka became the focus of worldwide attention in 1987-1988 during the 14-month trial in Jerusalem of John (Ivan) Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born American factory worker. As Treblinka's "Ivan the Terrible," Demjanjuk supposedly operated the machinery used to gas hundreds of thousands of Jews there. Citing testimony by Jewish survivors, the Israeli court that condemned him to death in April 1988 declared that more than 850,000 Jews were killed at Treblinka between July 1942 and August 1943.
After the death sentence was handed down, Demjanjuk's family was able to discover previously suppressed evidence -- much of it from Soviet Russian archives -- indicating that the real "Ivan the Terrible" was another Ukrainian named Ivan Marchenko (or Marczenko). This new evidence discredited the courtroom testimony of five Jewish camp survivors, each of whom had "positively" identified Demjanjuk as the sadistic mass murderer of Treblinka. /1
As historians know, and as common sense would suggest, such decades-old testimony is far less trustworthy than contemporary records or forensic evidence. /2
And yet, Treblinka's reputation as a mass extermination center is based almost entirely on precisely such subjective and unprovable testimony by former prisoners -- evidence that has proven to be notoriously unreliable in several major trials of alleged "Nazi war criminals." /3
There is no documentary evidence that Treblinka was an extermination center. In fact, contemporary records suggest that the camp had a very different function.