A generally known fact?It is a generally known fact that Eichmann either lied about the timeframe of this visit or was mistaken.
Or a refusal to accept because Eichmann's account simply does not fit into the preconceptions of some people?
It is certainly true that Eichmann's account of his visits to various locations in the East, given both in his 1957 interviews to Sassen and in his testimony to his Israeli interrogators is imprecise and somewhat confused, with various details scrambled.
However, certain elements in his account represent what we may call snapshot impressions, and are almost certainly true. For example, the image of the police captain working outside in his shirt-sleeves at a camp somewhere in Poland that was under construction is so vivid that it cannot be something that Eichmann made up.
Why would Eichmann invent such a scene? The reason why he specifically remembered that the police captain was in his shirt-sleeves was because he was in uniform except for his jacket, which he had taken off, and to Eichmann's petty bourgeois eyes he presented a sloppy appearance, not being dressed according to regulations, which reinforced other negative impressions that Eichmann had gained of the police captain, such as his coarse south-west German accent and his appearance of being a heavy drinker.
We can accept that when Eichmann visited the camp in a remote part of Poland, which can only have been Belzec, he did see the police captain, who can only have been Wirth, standing outside in his shirt-sleeves. That deatil indicates that the weather was warm enough to be outside wearing only a shirt, which in East Poland cannot be later than early September.
It is details like that that are often crucial for identifying the time of occurrence of particular incidents. For example, the bodies of the Polish officers found buried at Katyn were all wearing heavy winter clothing, indicating that they had not been killed in the high summer of 1941, after the German invasion, as the Soviets claimed, but rather in the early spring of 1940.
On the basis of that one vivid detail in Eichmann's testimony, we can date his visit to Belzec to late August-mid September 1941. In fact, we can be a bit more precise; in one of the versions of his testimony he stated that the trees had just started to change colour, which would not occur before the beginning of September.
That would indicate that Wirth and his men would have arrived at Belzec at the end of summer 1941 and commenced construction work, since by the time Eichmann arrived for his visit construction work was going on and a number of huts had been built.
The fact that construction work was going on at the time of Eichmann's visit does not mean that the camp was entirely new. We know from Karski's report of 1940 to the Polish Government-in-Exile in Angers that a transit camp existed on the site in about December 1939. That camp had probably been disused for a while, and whatever buildings had existed there may have dismantled (or there may not have been many buildings; Karski describes the Jews held in the camp in 1939 as being in the open air).
It is apparent that at some stage in the summer of 1941, the German authorities had decided to re-open the camp at Belzec, for which purpose new buildings were under construction, work which Wirth was supervising.
How do we know that (apart form a statement on a website)? Is there German documentation to that effect, eg a report to headquarters stating that work began on that date?We know that work on the Belzec extermination camp began on the 1. November.
Is it based on post-war testimony by Polish witnesses? A particular Pole may have been taken there on that date to do some work lasting for a period, but that does not mean that the whole recommissioning process started on that date.
In fact, the website quoted contains an error when it claims that the Belzec camp was situated five miles away from the main Lublin-Lemberg railway line. In fact the camp was situated immediately adjacent to that line, as the various maps clearly show; the siding that was used for unloading the arriving Jews ran parallel to the mainline.
Passengers in the many trains that passed through Belzec every day were clearly able to see the camp. The diary of Cornides, a German soldier who passed through Belzec by train on leave in August 1942 has a passage describing curious passengers staring out of the carriage windows at the camp perimeter, which Cornides describes as a wire fence interwoven with tree branches. When the train passed the entrance to the camp, the passengers were able to catch a glimpse into it.
What is the source for that statement? Is there German documentation to that effect?"The work camps in Belzec and nearby villages were abandoned in October 1940." http://www.deathcamps.org/belzec/labourcamps.html
It may well be true, which would simply mean that the camp was disused from October 1940 until late summer-early autumn 1941, when recommissioning began.
According to the 1940 report by Karski mentioned above, there was a transit camp at Belzec in December 1939. Its purpose was to hold Jews who were trying to cross from the German Zone of Occupation into the Soviet (at least 300,000 Jews from the German Zone made that crossing in the months after the German conquest of Poland).And were is the proof that Belzec acted as a transit camp? We have plenty of evidence of Jewish transports going to Belzec and returning empty. The evidence from Poles, Germans and Jews agree on this. You are, again, going off on a tangent.
The physical location of the Belzec camp right next to the Lublin-Lemberg mainline is ideally suited to a function as a transit camp, with persons making the transit between the German and Soviet zones able to get off the trains on which they arrived, wait at the camp, and get back on a train when the time for their departure arrived.
The location of the Belzec camp in close proximity to a main line of communication may be contrasted with tthat of the Sobibor and Treblinka camps. The Sobibor camp is situated in a remote area on a north-south branchline conected to mainlines running east-west, the northern one running from Warsaw to Brest and the southern one from Lublin to Chelm. The branchline was closed off to normal traffic, thus preserving the isolation of Sobibor while allowing trains carrying Jews to arrive there.
Treblinka was not on a through-line at all, but on a spur-line running from Treblinka station to a quarry. Thus it was even more isolated. However, it was within range of the Warsaw-Bialystok mainline, on which Malkinia Junction was situated; it was from Malkinia that the transports of Jews were diverted to the Treblinka extermination camp.
Of course, by the time the first Jews from Lublin arrived at Belzec in March 1942, it had been converted into a homicidal centre. The Jews from Lublin had been selected as unusable for labour, according to the formula recorded in the Goebbels diary entry of 27 March 1942.
But the totality of the evidence, sparse as it is, strongly suggests that the camp at Belzec was selected for recommissioning in the late summer of 1941 because of its former function as a transit camp, and because of its suitability for that function, and that it was to have that purpose again. The total evidence also suggests that at some point the Belzec camp was hastily turned into a homicidal centre through the addition of a jerry-built gas chamber.
Once the German invasion of the Soviet Union began, the German occupation authorities in the Generalgouvernement saw deportation into the conquered Soviet areas as the solution to the problem of the large Jewish population in their area. The Generalgouverneur Frank in particular was constantly lobbying for the deportation to the East to begin as soon as possible.
However, Frank's deportation proposals met with strong resistance from the Reichskommissars Ostland (Lohse) and Ukraine (Koch), who did not want any more Jews dumped on them, particularly not Jews incapable of being used for forced labour.
It may be that the decision to recommission Belzec camp was made in pursuit of Frank's aim of deporting the Polish Jews, and a subsequent decision to add an extermination function was made as a result of the opposition from the Reichskommissare. The grafting on of an extermination component onto the process of deportation meant that only a much smaller number of Jews, those fit for labour, would be sent into Ostland or Ukraine, thus accommodating the complaints of Lohse and Koch.
The fact is that the whole background to the establishment of a homicidal centre at Belzec camp is shrouded in mystery, mainly because any documentation that existed has largely disappeared, and almost none of the main decision-makers survived to be questioned after the war.