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One of the many information boards, around the enormous site, described the team of SS guards and Ukrainian soldiers as the most brutal human beings you could imagine, but before the war, they had all been just ordinary people like you and me….teachers, post workers, factory hands, farmers, bank managers….. The most shocking message behind all of this is that we all (yes, you and me) have the seeds of such brutality in us. It only takes a particular set of circumstances, a person or group of people, to draw those qualities out, and get us to do things that were formerly beyond our imagination. It is all too scary to even think about it, especially in the uncertain world we live in today.

Because Treblinka had been completely destroyed by the Nazis before the end of the war, there is very little infrastructure of the original camps, so the whole site is now symbolic. You won’t find gas chambers or cremation pits, nor any of the accommodation huts….what you will find is a beautiful pine forest

with information boards helping you recreate the scene for yourself. You will have to walk the kilometres to get to the various locations, but your walk will become a quiet act of contemplation. You are in the presence of a place where nearly one million people were murdered. For me the whole experience was one of being present…..being present in the place, and seeking a connection and understanding.

Recreation of a burial pit

I got there so early that I was the only person on the site for over an hour. I wanted to get in before the excursion buses from Warsaw. With the bike I was able to ride the old cobbled access roads and, had it not been for the historical associations, it would have been a beautiful rocky ride through a forest….but of course, it was so much more than that.