When the former commander Treblinka, Kurt Franz, was arrested in 1959, a search of his home yielded a scrapbook with horrific photos of the massacre titled “Beautiful Years”


Kurt Hubert Franz (born on 17 January 1914 — died on 4 July 1998) was an officer of the SS and one of many commanders at the Treblinka extermination camp. He was one of the biggest war criminals of the Holocaust period who was responsible for genocide.

Born in Düsseldorf in 1914, Franz first went to the public school in his birthplace from 1920 through to 1928, after which he began to work as a messenger. Before taking his final exams, he had begun an apprenticeship at the age of 15 – first as a cook for the “Hirschquelle” restaurant, and then later at the Hotel Wittelsbacher Hof.

Franz had one sister, and his mother was a practicing Catholic. When his father, who was a merchant by profession, died early, his mother remarried a man who had an outlook that was greatly influenced by strong right-wing nationalist ideas, which probably, in turn, influenced Franz’s joining several right-wing national groups and serving in the voluntary labor corps. In addition to all this, he also trained for over a year with a butcher.


After joining the Nazi Party in 1932, Franz joined the German Army in 1935. He got discharged in October 1937, after fulfilling his military obligations and after that went on to join the SS-Totenkopfverbände. Having first received training with the Third Death Head Regiment Thuringia at Weimar, he began his service at the Buchenwald concentration camp as a cook and guard and went on to rise to the rank of Unterscharführer (Corporal).

Having been recruited to Hitler’s Chancellery in the later period of 1939, Franz had been assigned to participate in the Action T4 euthanasia program. After serving as a cook at Sonnenstein Brandenburg, Grafeneck, and Hartheim, he was finally assigned as a cook at T4 headquarters in the later part of 1941.

Having been promoted to Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant) on 20 April 1942, Franz, along with further veterans of Action T4, proceeded to Lublin concentration camp complex in the Generalgouvernement and was assigned to the Bełżec extermination camp; he stayed here until the end of August 1942.

After the chain of command in the Operation Reinhard death camp system changed, Franz was reassigned to the Treblinka extermination camp, where he rose to the rank deputy commandant under Christian Wirth. He served as the last camp commandant from August to November 1943 to oversee the conclusion of the Holocaust on the territory of occupied Poland..

His first tasks at Treblinka involved supervising work commandos, unloading transports, and transferring Jews from the undressing rooms to the gas chambers. In spite of having a very innocent-looking face (for which he was often called “Lalke” – the Yiddish word for ‘doll’ by the prisoners), his intentions were extremely sinister, to say the least.

A dominant overseer in day-to-day interactions with prisoners in Treblinka, he went on to become the most feared man at Treblinka who was known for his unflinching cruelty.