Once the so-called “Euthanasia” murder programme had been largely wound down, the construction of the Belzec camp (one of the five camps specially created for the genocide of Jews and Poles) was placed in the hands of the diligent staff of Operation Reinhard (the specialist unit responsible for “special treatment” – the Nazi euphemism for mass murder).
Little information is available on what happened in this factory of death. It is known that at least 600,000 deportees were murdered in its gas chambers. At first, their bodies were simply buried in huge mass graves, that were then covered in petrol and set alight using braziers made out of railway tracks.
The gas chambers at Belzec functioned at a continuous pace and so in just a few months, the staff were able to declare their work done. In spring 1943, the camp was abandoned, and every trace of its existence expertly removed or destroyed.
The foundations of the barracks, uncovered during excavation work after the war, allow us to reconstruct the facilites into which, before their murder, thousands of Jews, Poles and Soviet officers and soldiers were crammed, waiting for the last “shower” that would carry them to death.
These remains are the only physical traces of the camp that it has been possible to salvage, located in the middle of a conifer forest that served to protect the Nazi death facility from prying eyes.