Belzec was a death camp in the strictest sense of the term. It had essentially no features of a concentration camp, but was used instead exclusively for the purposes of extermination. Established on the eastern fringe of the Generalgouvernement, near the village of Belzec in the forest along the road and railway line from Lublin and Zamosc to Lwow. The camp existed only a short time-from March to December 1942. During those ten months, however, the Nazis killed over 600,000 people there. These were almost exclusively Jews, but also Roma and Poles who had been helping Jews.
Very few direct sources exist, and most of these are the rare testimonies of witnesses in the area, aerial photographs and just one survivor testimony. After the war, excavations were carried out at the site of the former camp, followed by more recent excavations in 1997-1999. The camp had barracks for Nazi functionaries (Germans and Ukrainians) as well as barracks for a small number of prisoners who were working for the extermination machine and six gas chambers, where people were killed with exhaust fumes. In the beginning, the bodies were buried, but the large number of victims forced the Nazis to burn the corpses.

From the fragments of the camp that remain today, the transcribed witness testimonies and architectural details, one can conclude that the process of extermination there was not unlike that occurring at similar sites. The prisoners were brought to a ramp that was constructed at the siding leading from the main Lublin-Lwow rail line. Then, the victims' baggage was taken and they were herded to the changing room, and then to the gas chambers.

In 1943, the Germans dismantled the camp and planted a forest in its place. In 1944, a detachment of the Home Army took the area around Belzec and held it until the Red Army arrived.
After the war, although a memorial was erected at the site, the infrastructure supporting such commemorative activities soon disintegrated. Moreoever, the plaques dating back to the communist period contain erroneous information. Part of the camp remains unfenced.

For these and other reasons, a decision was made to renew efforts to commemorate the camp at Belzec. In 1997, as the result of cooperation between an organization committed to preserving the memory of past victims of wars and persecution (Rada Ochrony Pamieci Walk i Meczenstwa) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, a jury was formed to select the design of the new memorial. The necessary excavations were carried out before actual construction work began. The American Jewish Committee was also involved on the American side. The new memorial consists of one enormous slab with a crack in it, through which the visitors pass. At the end of the crack is a wall with the names of the people who were killed there.

There are rail connections to Zamosc, Krakow and Wroclaw, and bus connections to Przemysl and Lublin.

Today, Belzec is a small town having with just over three thousand residents. There is a wooden Orthodox church there dating back to the nineteenth century, which has some elements from the eighteenth century. The town has not much in the way of shops or restaurants. The nearest town with such amenities is Tomaszow Lubelski, which is five kilometers away. The town of Narol is less than twenty kilometers from Belzec, and has an eighteenth century palace that serves as a conference center and is in the process of being renovated.

The closest functioning Jewish Community is the branch of the Warsaw Community located in Lublin. Even closer, just on the other side of the border, are the Jews of Lwow (about ninety kilometers).

Concentration Camps and Death Camps: Typological Differences
Former Nazi Camps
 - Auschwitz
 - Belzec
 - Gross Rosen
 - Majdanek
 - Stutthof
 - Treblinka
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