My work investigates a period in 1942, referred to as Operation Reinhard, when the Nazis efficiently shuttled about 1.7 million victims—often whole Jewish communities—across the European railway network in train carriages to Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. Almost all of those who arrived at these death camps were murdered, usually within hours in the gas chambers. Because the Nazis destroyed nearly all records of the massacre, it is important to try to uncover what actually happened at the time.
My study looks at the “kill rate,” or murders per day. My graph of the kill rate reveals a sudden massive slaughter after Hitler “ordered all action speeded up,” as one SS officer put it, on July 23, 1942. Approximately 1.5 million Jews were murdered in only 100 days, including shootings outside the death camps. On average, 450,000 victims were killed each month during August, September and October of that year. That’s approximately 15,000 murders every day.