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Belzec - Poland

he Germans began construction of an extermination camp at Belzec on November 1, 1941, as part of Aktion Reinhard. By March 17, 1942 - the main installations of the Belzec Extermination Camp, located near a siding of the Belzec railroad line, had been constructed, tried out, and the program for mass extermination was launched. In experimental gassings conducted in late February, Jews from Lubycze Kralewska and the Jewish forced laborers who had built the camp for the Germans were murdered. Anti-tank trenches on the camp premises wegiven a new function: mass graves for the Jews who would be murdered there. At first the camp had three gas chambers, each eight meters long and four meters wide. The trip to the camp took hours, if not days, under appalling conditions that left many deportees dead en route and others on the verge of death. The survivors were unloaded from the trains with shouting, beatings, and threats. They were told that they were about to be disinfected. After they undressed and handed over their possessions, they entered the gas chambers through what the Germans called "the tube"-a passageway 20 meters long, 2 meters wide, and lined with fences, through which the victims were driven naked. The chambers were hermetically sealed and could be opened only from the outside. The gas, pumped into the chambers through hoses, killed everyone inside within 20-30 minutes. Each chamber had another aperture for the removal of the corpses. Some 80,000 Jews from Lublin, Lvov, and other ghettos in the vicinity were murdered in Belzec in the camp’s first four weeks of operation.

By the time the camp ceased operations in January 1943, more than 600,000 persons had been murdered there.