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Chil Rajchman in Poland, c. 1945-1946
June 14, 1914
Łódź, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
Diedc. May 7, 2004 (aged 89)
Known forSurvivor of revolt at Treblinka, author of Treblinka memoir
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Chil (Enrique) Meyer Rajchman a.k.a. Henryk Reichman, nom de guerreHenryk Ruminowski (June 14, 1914 – May 7, 2004) was one of about 70 Jewish prisoners who survived the Holocaust after participating in the August 2, 1943 revolt at the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland. He reached Warsaw, where he participated in the resistance in the city, before it was captured by the Soviet Union.

After the war, in which he lost all his family but one brother, Rajchman married. The couple and his brother soon emigrated from Poland, first to France and then to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they later became citizens. There he was active in the Jewish community and helped establish the Museum of the Holocaust and the Holocaust Memorial, both in Montevideo.[1]

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In 1980, Rajchman was contacted by the United States Justice Department through the consulate. He was among several survivors who testified against John Demjanjuk, by then a naturalized US citizen, who was suspected of having been a notorious Trawniki, or guard at Treblinka known as 'Ivan the Terrible'. His testimony contributed to Demjanjuk being prosecuted and convicted in Israel, but this was overturned on appeal. New records from Soviet archives raised questions about his identify. (Demjanjuk was later convicted of charges in Germany related to his documented service at the death camp Sobibor.)

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While living in Warsaw, Rajchman wrote a memoir in Yiddish about his time at Treblinka. It was published in Spanish in Uruguay in 1997 as Un grito por la vida: memorias ('A cry for life: memories').[1] In 2002 he was featured in a Uruguayan documentary, Despite Treblinka, interviewed as one of three survivors of the Treblinka revolt.[1] In addition to other editions in Spanish, his memoir was published posthumously in 2009 in both France and Germany. An English translation was published in 2011 with a preface by noted writer and activist Elie Wiesel.[2]

  1. A View of the Holocaust. By Dr Steve Paulsson. Last updated 2011-02-17. The Holocaust was one of the most brutal episodes in world history. Steve Paulsson explores the Nazi racial policies that.
  2. Vassily Grossman, a Jewish journalist from the Ukraine was known for his coverage of how the Red Army fought against the invading Germans. He was among the first journalists to visit the remains of the killing center at Treblinka and his essay on the subject appeared in the Soviet literary journal Znamya (Banner) in November 1944.


Rajchman was born on June 14, 1914 in Łódź. His mother died when he was young, and he was one of six children (four boys and two girls) raised by his widowed father.[3] They struggled to make enough money to live. As tensions increased in Europe, he said good-bye to his brother Moniek in 1939, encouraging him to flee to the Soviet Union.[1]

Treblinka was designed as a Nazi extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II.The camp, constructed as part of Operation Reinhard, operated between July 1942 and October 1943 during which time approximately 850,000 men, women and children were murdered, including more than 800,000 Jews. The Last Jew of Treblinka - A Memoir Chil Rajchman. Publisher: Pegasus Books 0 3 0 Summary From one of the lone survivors of the Treblinka concentration camp comes a devastating memoir of the Holocaust in the tradition of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz. The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir was written by Chil Rajchman. It is the chilling tale of the death camp Treblinka by one of the very few who survived. His memoir was mainly written in hiding in Warsaw before the Soviets took it over. It contains some of the best descriptions of.

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany that year, Rajchman and younger sister Anna joined the family in Pruszków, a small town in central Poland. The Jewish ghetto was created there in October 1940, and liquidated in February 1941.[4] All Pruszków Jews were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto. With the work-permit issued by the Judenrat on German orders, Rajchman was sent to live and work in Ostrów Lubelski, in eastern Poland. He was rounded up on October 10, 1942, along with other ghetto inmates, loaded onto a Holocaust train, and sent to Treblinka extermination camp.

Upon his arrival there the following day, Rajchman was separated from his sister Anna (she died at the camp), and put to work with the Jewish Sonderkommando. He was ordered to cut the hair of disrobed women before they were gassed. Later he extracted gold teeth from dead victims at the Totenlager and disposed of thousands of their bodies, mostly by burning.[2][1]

Stone memorial at the Treblinka museum, resembling the original cremation pit where the bodies were burned. The flat grave marker is constructed of crushed and cemented black basalt symbolizing burnt charcoal. Human ashes mixed with sand are spread over 22,000 square meters at the camp.[5]

On August 2, 1943, Rajchman was among 700 Sonderkommandos who revolted against the guards. He was with some one hundred prisoners who escaped during this attack. The death camp was closed in October 1943. Rajchman had reached Warsaw, where he joined the resistance. He was among the 70 men from the revolt to survive through the end of the war. During his time in Warsaw, he joined the Polish Socialist Party and the underground resistance.

On January 17, 1945 he was liberated by the advancing Soviets.[3] Fourteen days later, he returned to his hometown of Łódź, where most Jews had already been exterminated. His father and all siblings but Moniek had died in the war. He and Moniek happened to meet again in Poland, near where they had said good-bye. Rajchman married Lila in Warsaw in 1946.[1]

Together with Moniek, the three soon emigrated to France, and relatively soon to Uruguay, where they settled in Montevideo in their early 30s. Rajchman and his wife had three children together.[1] They became active in the Jewish community of Montevideo, which included other European refugees. Rajchman was among the activists who helped gain founding of the Museum of the Holocaust and the Holocaust Memorial, both in Montevideo.[1]

In 1980, Rajchman (then age 66) was contacted in Uruguay by the American embassy. On March 12, 1980 he was interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice about the Trawniki men, Treblinka guards drawn from Soviet prisoners of war. He went to the United States to testify against John Demjanjuk, who had been in the US for years and was a naturalized citizen. Demjanjuk was later extradited to Jerusalem and convicted by Israel in a war trial in 1987–1988.

Rajchman was among witnesses who identified Demjanjuk as the Trawniki guard known as 'Ivan the Terrible'. He had failed to identify him from a wartime photograph, but identified Demjanjuk at trial. Rajchman's testimony contributed to Demjanjuk's conviction, although he was later released on appeal because new evidence about his identity was found in newly declassified Soviet archives made available to researchers.[6] He was stripped of U.S. citizenship.[7] and later extradited to Germany. There he was charged with other crimes related to his documented service at the death campSobibor.

Lila Rajchman died in an accident in 1991. Rajchman died in 2004 in Montevideo, Uruguay, survived by their three children and eleven grandchildren.[1]

Legacy and honors[edit]

The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir

The Last Jew Of Treblinka Free Pdf

Rajchman wrote a memoir in Yiddish while in Warsaw in 1944–1945. He later said that his original manuscript had been edited and proofread in 1946 by poet Nachum Bomze (Bumse).[1] It was first published in Spanish in Montevideo, as Un grito por la vida: memorias ('A cry for life: memories', 1997) by Ediciones de la Banda Oriental. (Additional Spanish editions were published in 2005 and 2009.)

After Rajchman's death in 2004, three translated editions were also published posthumously. The memoir was published in French in 2009 by Les Arènes under the title Je suis le dernier Juif (I am the last Jew). It was published in German the same year as Ich bin der letzte Jude. Treblinka 1942/43. It was published in English in 2011, as The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir, with a preface by noted writer and activist Elie Wiesel.[2]


Chil (Enrique) Rajchman was featured late in life in the Uruguayan documentary film Despite Treblinka (2002), along with fellow survivors of the revolt, Kalman Taigman and Samuel (Schmuel) Willenberg, then living in Jerusalem. The film premiered at the 24th International Film Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, Cuba.[1]


  1. ^ abcdefghijkStawsky, Gerardo (June 11, 2009). 'Despite Treblinka. Protagonists'. Teaching the Holocaust to Spanish speakers. ORT Uruguay University's Film Department. Archived from the original on June 11, 2009 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ abcChil Rajchman (February 15, 2011). The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir. Pegasus (Amazon Product Details). ISBN978-1605981390. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  3. ^ ab'Chil Meyer Rajchman'. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  4. ^Virtual Shtetl (2013). 'Getto w Pruszkowie'. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  5. ^, 'Treblinka', Holocaust Museum online. Jewish Identity and Culture in Poland. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  6. ^Hedges, Chris (12 August 1993). 'Israel recommends that Demjanjuk be released'. The New York Times.
  7. ^Bill Ong Hing (2004). Defining America: Through Immigration Policy. Temple University Press. pp. 223–224. ISBN1592132332.
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Ivan the Terrible (possibly born 1911) is the nickname given to a notorious guard at the Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust. The moniker alluded to Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, the infamous Tsar of Russia. 'Ivan the Terrible' gained international recognition following the 1986 John Demjanjuk case. By 1944, a cruel guard named 'Ivan', sharing his distinct duties and extremely violent behavior with a guard named 'Nicholas', was mentioned[1] in survivor literature (Rok w Treblince by Jankiel Wiernik, translated into English as A Year in Treblinka in 1945). John Demjanjuk was first accused of being Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka concentration camp. Demjanjuk was found guilty of war crimes and was sentenced to death by hanging. Exculpatory material from Soviet archives was subsequently released, identifying Ivan the Terrible as one Ivan Marchenko leading the Supreme Court of Israel to acquit Demjanjuk in 1993.[2] Demjanjuk was later extradited to Germany where he was convicted in 2011 of war crimes for having served at Sobibor extermination camp.


Treblinka was managed by 20 to 25 SS overseers (Germans) and 80 to 120 Hiwi guards of various Soviet ethnicities, including Russian and Ukrainian Red armyprisoners of war. They were assisted by a cadre of Jewish inmates known as Kapos, who were prisoner functionaries. The name Ivan was not an uncommon name in the camp. Ivan is a common Ukrainian,[3]Russian, and Belarusian given name. Volksdeutsche were known to have Slavic given names.[4] An example would be Ivan Klatt, or a Volksdeutscher who served in the Sobibor extermination camp, as the Ukrainian guard leader.[5] According to Rajchman six men called Ivan worked at Treblinka.[3] The vast majority of Hiwi guards who were trained at the Trawniki concentration camp facility had to contend with the language barrier. However, there were a number of Volksdeutsche among them,[6][7] valued because they spoke German, Ukrainian, Russian and other languages. They could also understand basic Yiddish. The German and Austrian SS command, local Poles, and Jewish inmates often referred to guards as Ukrainians not only because of their ethnicity, or because they originated from Ukraine,[8] but because they spoke Ukrainian between themselves.[9] Most of the squad commanders however were Volksdeutsche.[7][10]


Although there were more guards known as Ivan at Treblinka,[3] Ivan the Terrible was also referred to as Ukrainian.[11] His function at the camp was to operate the two tank engines that fed the gas chambers.[11] The motors had been installed and fine-tuned by SS-ScharführerErich Fuchs.[12][13] Holocaust survivor Chil Rajchman testified that Ivan was about 25 years old at the time he worked in the camp. He was also known for his extreme cruelty.[11] Ivan the Terrible used to cut off the ears of workers as they walked by, and these people were forced to continue working as they bled. Shortly after, he would proceed to killing them outright. He tortured victims with pipes, a sword, and whips before they entered the gas chambers.[3][14]


The true identity of the guard referred to as Ivan the Terrible has not been conclusively determined. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, John Demjanjuk, a retired suburban Cleveland autoworker of Ukrainian descent, was accused of being Ivan.[15] He was tried in Israel in 1988 and sentenced to death, but the conviction was overturned.[16][17]

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One remarkable event during the trial in Israel involved a star witness for the prosecution, Eliyahu Rosenberg. Asked by the prosecution if he recognised Demjanjuk, Rosenberg asked Demjanjuk to remove his glasses 'so I can see his eyes'. Rosenberg approached and peered closely at Demjanjuk's face. When Demjanjuk smiled and offered his hand, Rosenberg recoiled and shouted, 'Grozny!' meaning, 'terrible' in Russian. 'Ivan,' Rosenberg said. 'I say it unhesitatingly, without the slightest shadow of a doubt. It is Ivan from Treblinka, from the gas chambers, the man I am looking at now'. 'I saw his eyes, I saw those murderous eyes', Rosenberg told the court, glaring at Demjanjuk. Rosenberg then exclaimed directly to Demjanjuk: 'How dare you put out your hand, murderer that you are!'[18] It was later revealed that Eliyahu Rosenberg had previously testified in a 1947 deposition that 'Ivan the Terrible' had been killed during a prisoner uprising.[19]

On July 29, 1993, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict on appeal. The ruling was based on new evidence, the written statements of 37 former guards at Treblinka (some of whom had been executed by the Soviet Union, others died of old age, and could therefore not be cross-examined) that identified Ivan the Terrible as another man named Ivan Marchenko (possibly Marshenko, or Marczenko).[20][21] One document described Ivan the Terrible as having brown hair, hazel eyes, a square face, and a large scar down to his neck; (Demjanjuk was blond with grayish-blue eyes, a round face, and no such scar.)[22][23] According to one testimony, Marchenko was last seen in Yugoslavia in 1944. According to the testimony of Nikolai Yegorovich Shelayev, a Russian Treblinka gas chamber operator, he and Marchenko together with two Germans and two Jews, operated the motor which produced the exhaust gas which was fed into gas chambers.[24] Shelayev and Marchenko were transferred from Treblinka to Trieste in July 1943 where Marchenko guarded German warehouses and a local prison. In 1944, as Allied forces approached, Marchenko and a driver named Gregory 'fled in an armored car to the partisans in Yugoslavia.'[24] Shelayev last saw Marchenko in the spring of 1945, in Fiume, where he saw him coming out of a brothel. Marchenko told Shelayev that he had joined the Yugoslav partisans. As late as 1962, the Soviet authorities were looking for him.[25] The Soviet documents created enough reasonable doubt to disqualify Demjanjuk, and his previous conviction was overturned.[26] Some of the exculpatory evidence that led to Demjanjuk's release in 1993 had come to light years before and was deliberately withheld from the Israelis by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) of the US Department of Justice, which had urged Israel to charge him with being Ivan the Terrible.[27]


Gilbert S. Merritt Jr., judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, said of the OSI's handling of the Demjanjuk case: 'Today we know that they — the OSI, the prosecution in the case and the State Department — lied through their teeth. Even then they knew without a doubt that Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible, but they hid the information from us. I am sorry that I did not have the information at the time. If I did, we would never have ruled in favor of his extradition to Israel.' Merritt claimed that what happened in his courtroom was 'nothing short of a witch hunt. In retrospect, it reminds me of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago. The prosecution, counseled by the OSI, presented documents and witnesses whose testimony was based on emotions and hysteria, but not hard evidence. To my regret, we believed them. This instance is a prime example of how justice can be distorted.'[28]

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John Demjanjuk was later extradited to Germany on charges that he was another guard by the name of Ivan Demjanjuk, who served at the Sobibor extermination camp. During the trial, the problem of identity again became a key issue. Demjanjuk claimed he was not the Ivan Demjanjuk alleged to be a guard at Sobibor, and that the Trawniki identification card supplied by the OSI to Germany, and on which the prosecution based its case, was a Soviet KGB forgery.[29] On May 12, 2011, Demjanjuk was convicted pending appeal by a German criminal court of being a guard at Sobibor extermination camp. Demjanjuk's appeal had not yet been heard by the German Appellate Court when he died in March 2012. As a consequence, the German Munich District Court declared him 'presumed innocent'. The court also confirmed that Demjanjuk's previous interim conviction was invalidated, and that Demjanjuk was cleared of any criminal record.[30]

Ivan Marchenko is not on the Most Wanted Nazis list. Marchenko, if he is still alive and were to be caught, would be 110 years old as of 2021, and therefore it is unlikely that he would be brought to trial. The Netflix documentary The Devil Next Door shows documents that indicate the birthdate of Ivan Marchenko to be March 2, 1911.

See also[edit]


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  1. ^Wiernik, Yankel. '5 - An Inmate Who Escaped Tells the Day-To-Day Facts of One Year of His Torturous Experiences'. A YEAR IN TREBLINKA. AMERICAN REPRESENTATION of the General Jewish Workers' Union of Poland 175 East Broadway New York 2, N.Y. 1945.
  2. ^Haberman, Clyde (July 30, 1993). 'ACQUITTAL IN JERUSALEM: A Mixed Verdict; Court Decision Brings Pride to Many In Israel and Dissatisfaction to Others'. The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  3. ^ abcdUnsolved History: Investigating Mysteries of the Past by Joe Nickell, The University Press of Kentucky, 2005, ISBN0813191378 (page 38)
  4. ^Hitler's Last Courier by Armin D. Lehmann, Xlibris, 2001, ISBN0738831212
  5. ^Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Aktion Reinhard Trawniki Staff Page.
  6. ^Gregory Procknow, Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers, Francis & Bernard Publishing, 2011, ISBN0986837407 (page 35).
  7. ^ abBelzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, 1987, ISBN0253342937 (page 21)
  8. ^Mirchuk, Petro. My meetings and discussions in Israel. A MEETING WITH THE 'DVAZHDI GEROY' (TWICE-OVER HERO) OF ISRAEL.[self-published source]
  9. ^Tadeusz Piotrowski (2006). Ukrainian Collaboration. Poland's Holocaust. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN0786429135. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  10. ^Gregory Procknow, Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers, Francis & Bernard Publishing, 2011, ISBN0986837407 (page 35)
  11. ^ abcBill Ong Hing, Defining America: Through Immigration Policy, Temple University Press, 2003, ISBN1592132332 (page 223)
  12. ^Arad, Yitzhak (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps(Google Books preview). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 31. ISBN0-253-21305-3. Testimony of SS Scharführer Erich Fuchs in the Sobibor-Bolender trial, Düsseldorf.
  13. ^McVay, Kenneth (1984). 'The Construction of the Treblinka Extermination Camp'. Yad Vashem Studies, XVI. Jewish Virtual Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  14. ^Alexander Kimel. 'Holocaust Bystanders – The Ukrainians'. Archived from the original on April 22, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  15. ^'In pictures: The story of John Demjanjuk'. BBC News. May 12, 2011.
  16. ^'Profile: John Demjanjuk'. BBC News. November 30, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  17. ^In memory of John Demjanjuk, Kyiv Post (March 21, 2012)
  18. ^Broder, Jonathan (February 26, 1987). '2d Witness Calls Demjanjuk 'Ivan The Terrible''. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
  19. ^Pyle, Christopher H. (2001). Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights. Temple University Press. ISBN1-56639-823-1; Chapter 19. Ivan Who? Getting the Wrong Man
  20. ^Nickel, Joe (2010). Unsolved History: Investigating Mysteries of the Past. University of Kentucky Press. Ch. 4
  21. ^'WORLD: Lawyer Asks Demjanjuk Release'. Los Angeles Times. December 31, 1990.
  22. ^Williams, Daniel (December 21, 1991). 'KGB Evidence Reopens the Case of 'Ivan the Terrible' : Holocaust: Recently released files bolster the appeal of the man convicted as a Nazi death camp monster'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  23. ^Deseret News, news article dated March 9, 1992. `IVAN' FLED TO YUGOSLAVIA, DEMJANJUK DEFENSE SAYS; downloaded on July 5, 2012
  24. ^ abCourt Proceedings Extracts & Interrogations. Former Trawniki SS and Ukrainian Civilians serving in the Treblinka Death Camp. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team.
  25. ^Draaisma, Douwe (2012). Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past, Cambridge University Press. p.129
  26. ^Hedges, Chris. Article in New York Times dated July 30, 1993. Acquittal in Jerusalem; Israel Court Sets Demjanjuk Free, But He Is Now Without a Country. Downloaded on July 4, 2012.
  27. ^Raab, Scott. 'John Demjanjuk: The Last Nazi'. Article in Esquire Magazine dated August 11, 2010.
  28. ^Melman, Yossi. News article dated November 14, 1997. 'Who Lied About Demjanjuk?,' Ha'aretz Israeli News,
  29. ^The Local. 'Demjanjuk's SS identity card was forged, his lawyer says.' News article dated April 13, 2012.
  30. ^Convicted Nazi criminal Demjanjuk deemed innocent in Germany over technicality, at, retrieved March 23, 2012, viz. statement by Munich state court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel.

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