Excavating Nazi Extermination Centres

Isaac Gilead, Yoram Haimi, Wojciech Mazurek


The paper deals with the archaeology of the Nazi extermination centres at Chełmno, Treblinka, Sobibór and Bełżec. Aspects of sub-field identity are discussed first. The archaeology of extermination centres is the subject matter of a number of sub-disciplines, ranging from Forensic Archaeology, through Combat and Industrial Archaeology, to Public and Historical Archaeology. We regard the extermination process as a past reality, a series of historically established events which do not need to be proven by archaeological excavations. Archaeology, in our case, has the role of supplementing and filling gaps, especially in terms of sites’ layout, structures and artifacts. We describe the research of the extermination centres since the mid 1980s, discuss facets of site destruction processes, and emphasize the role of looting and other activities in determining the past and future layout and contents of the sites. These points are illustrated by some results of the archaeological research we carried out at Sobibór in 2007 and 2008. We indicate that the exact locations of important features of the extermination centres, for example gas chambers, are still unclear. Thus, archaeology is indispensable in reconstructing and preserving the physical layout of the extermination centres, as well as in studying and interpreting the artifacts embedded in their sediments.

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How to cite: Gilead, I, Haimi, Y and Mazurek, W 2010. Excavating Nazi Extermination Centres. Present Pasts 1, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pp.12

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Published on 8 January 2010.

ISSN: 1759-2941 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.