Trawniki concentration camp

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Trawniki concentration camp
Forced labour and the SS training facility
Trawniki KL Lageplan (1942).jpg
Original German map of the Trawniki camp as of June 21, 1942. Left side: slave labor camp for condemned Jewish prisoners. Centre-left: supply road with two gates, north and south. On the right side: training compound for the Hiwi shooters around the military training plaza (1) located to the north of former sugar refinery (hand-coloured in brown, with kitchen). German SS quarters (with infirmary and storeroom) hand-coloured in red (east). Comandant's house lower down.

From the original German legend:
1 & 2. Unterkünfte der Ukrainer des Ausbildungslagers (Accommodations for Ukrainians at training compound)
3. Garage (Squad deployment vehicles)
4. Unterkünfte der Esten und Letten des Ausbildungslagers (Accommodations for Estonians and Latvians)

11. Ställe in Steingebäuden (Livestock for Hiwi food supply)
Operated by SS-Totenkopfverbände
Original use POW camp for 1941 Operation Barbarossa
Operational 1941 – November 1943
Killed at least 12,000 Jews [1]

The Trawniki concentration camp was set up by Nazi Germany in the village of Trawniki about 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Lublin during the occupation of Poland in World War II. Throughout its existence the camp served a dual function. It was organized on the grounds of the former Polish sugar refinery of the Central Industrial Region, and subdivided into at least three distinct zones.[1]

The Trawniki camp first opened after the outbreak of war with the USSR, intended to hold Russian POWs, with rail lines in all major directions in the General Government territory. Between 1941 and 1944, the camp expanded into an SS training facility for collaborationists auxiliary police, mainly Ukrainian.[2] And in 1942, it became the forced-labor camp for thousands of Jews within the KL Lublin system of subcamps as well.[3] The Trawniki inmates provided slave labour for the nearby industrial plants of SS Ostindustrie to work in appalling conditions with little food.[1]

There were 12,000 Jews imprisoned at Trawniki as of 1943 sorting through train sets of clothing delivered from Holocaust locations.[4] They were all massacred during the Operation Harvest Festival on November 3, 1943 by the units of Trawniki men augmented by the Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg. The first camp commandant was Hermann Hoefle, later replaced by Karl Streibel.[1][5][6]

Concentration camp operation[edit]

The Nazi German camp at Trawniki was first established in July 1941 to hold Soviet prisoners of war captured in the Soviet occupied eastern Poland after the implementation of Operation Barbarossa.[1] The new barracks behind the barbed-wire fence were erected by the Red Army prisoners and soon, the camp became the SS-Arbeitslager meant for the Polish Jews from across General Government. Within a year, under the management of Odilo Globocnik, the camp included a number of forced labour workshops such as the fur processing plant (Pelzverarbeitungswerk), the brush factory (Bürstenfabrik), the bristles finishing (Borstenzurichterei), and the new branch of Das Torfwerk in Dorohucza.[1][7][8]

The Jews who worked there from June 1942 to May 1944 as forced labour for the Nazis were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto as well as selected transit ghettos across Europe (Germany, Austria, Slovakia), initially under Operation Reinhard, and from September 1943 as part of the Majdanek concentration camp system of subcamps such as the Poniatowa concentration camp and several others.[3]

Trawniki Men[edit]

Company of Hiwis in winter coats at the camp training plaza (some still wearing their Soviet Budionovkas), inspected by Karl Streibel (with potbelly, smiling) in front of the former sugar refinery in Trawniki

From September 1941 until July 1944,[3] the expanded camp was also utilized for the training of Schutzmannschaften recruited directly from other POW camps. They were known as "Hiwi" (German abbreviation for 'Hilfswilligen', lit. "those willing to help"), for service with Nazi Germany in the General Government. In 1941 Globocnik had selected Karl Streibel from Operation Reinhard as the key person for that initiative. Streibel visited all new Soviet POW camps in the vicinity with the assistance of his officers and recruited Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian "volunteers" as ordered.[3][9]

The German SS trained 2,500 Hiwi Wachmänner (police guards), known as Trawniki men (Trawnikimänner) at Trawniki training camp between September 1941 and September 1942; for the total of 5,082 men before the end of 1944,[3] organized into two Sonderdienst battalions.[10]:366 Although the majority of Trawniki men or Hiwi came from among the prisoners of war, there were also Volksdeutsche from Eastern Europe among them,[11][12] valued because of their ability to speak Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and other languages of the occupied territories. All the officers at Trawniki were ethnic Germans, and most of the squad commanders were Volksdeutsche.[13] The Trawniki men took major part in Operation Reinhard,[14] the Nazi plan to exterminate Polish Jews. They also served at extermination camps and played an important role in the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (see the Stroop Report).

Key role of Trawniki men in the Final Solution[edit]

"Trawniki" men during the pacification of Warsaw Ghetto. Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report, May 1943

The "Trawniki men" (German: Trawnikimänner) were deployed at all major killing sites of the "Final Solution" – it was their primary purpose of training. They took an active role in the executions of Jews at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka II, Warsaw (three times), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek as well as Auschwitz, not to mention Trawniki itself.[1][3]

Between 70 and 120 Trawniki Hiwi men (wrote Kudryashov) were selected to act as the guard unit at each of the Reinhard death camps and came under the jurisdiction of the relevant camp commandant. Almost all of the Trawniki guards were involved in shooting and beating Jews at some point in their careers.[14] The Russian historian Sergei Kudryashov, who made a study of the Trawniki guards, claimed that there was little sign of any attraction to National Socialism or anti-Semitism with the Trawniki men.[14] Most of them volunteered in order to leave the POW camps and/or because of self-interest.[14] This statement however, is contradicted by information provided by Holocaust historian Christopher R. Browning (Ordinary Men) who wrote that Hiwis "were screened on the basis of their anti-Communist (and hence almost invariably anti-Semitic) sentiments."[15] Despite the generally apathetic views of the Trawniki guards, the vast majority faithfully carried out the SS's expectations of how to treat Jews, and that mistreatment of Jews was "systematic and without any particular cause".[14] Many, though not all of the Trawniki men as part of their training executed Jews.[14] Following the lead of the American historian Christopher Browning in his 1992 book Ordinary Men, Kudryashov argued that the Trawniki men were examples of how ordinary people could become willing killers.[14]

The Hiwi shooters were assigned to the worst of the "on-the-spot dirty work" by Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel (wrote Browning),[15] so the Germans from the parallel Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the Ordnungspolizei "would not go crazy" from the horror of hands-on killing for hours or days on end. Trawnikis used to arrive in squads numbering around 50 at the killing site, and start by sitting down to a sandwich and bottles of vodka from their knapsacks behaving like guests,[15] while the Germans dealt with unruly crowds of thousands of ghetto inhabitants: as in Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations.[15]

Trawnikis shot so fast and so wildly that the German policemen "frequently had to take cover to avoid being hit."[16] They were seen as indispensable. In Łomazy, the Germans were "overjoyed" to see them coming after the messy Józefów massacre. The killing in Międzyrzec was conducted by a Trawniki unit of about 350 to 400 men, the same as in Parczew.[17] Some Nazi Ordnungspolizei felt uneasy about killing non-Jewish Poles. Their unit shot 4,600 Jews by September 1942, but only 78 Poles (a grossly disproportionate number). In contrast, the Hiwis, saw ethnic Poles as equal opportunity offenders. When they got too drunk to show up in Aleksandrów, Major Wilhelm Trapp ordered the release of prisoners rounded up for mass execution.[18]

Later careers of Trawniki personnel[edit]

The Trawniki training camp was dismantled in July 1944 because of the approaching frontline.[3] The last 1,000 Hiwis forming the SS Battalion Streibel led by Karl Streibel himself,[19] were transported west to continue their dirty deeds at the still functioning death camps.[3] The Jews of the adjacent labor camp were long-dead and incinerated by a Sonderkommando from Milejów and executed on site upon the completion of their task by the end of 1943. The Soviets entered the completely empty facility on July 23, 1944.[3] After the war, they captured and prosecuted hundreds, possibly as many as one thousand Hiwis who returned home to USSR.[3] Most were sentenced to a Gulag, and released under the Khrushchev amnesty of 1955.[20]

The number of Hiwis tried in the West was very small by comparison. Six defendants were acquitted on all charges and set free by a West German court in Hamburg in 1976 including commandant Streibel.[19][21] The main difference between them and the Trawnikis apprehended in Russia was that the former claimed lack of awareness and left no live witnesses who could testify against them,[22] while the latter were charged with treason and therefore were doomed from the start. In the U.S. some 16 former Hiwi guards were denaturalized.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Hitlerowski obóz w Trawnikach" [The Nazi camp at Trawniki]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (2006). "Ukrainian Collaboration". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 0786429135. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (permission granted to be reused, in whole or in part, on Wikipedia; OTRS ticket no. 2007071910012533). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Text from USHMM has been released under the GFDL." 
  4. ^ Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). ""Dożynki"" [Operation Harvest Festival]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  5. ^ Jack R. Fischel (Jul 17, 2010). "Trawniki labor camp". Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust. Scarecrow Press. pp. 264–265. ISBN 0810874857. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  6. ^ Donald L. Niewyk, Francis R. Nicosia (2012). "Trawniki. A labor camp". The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. Columbia University Press. p. 210. ISBN 0231528787. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Żydzi w Trawnikach" [The Jews of Trawniki village]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Ucieczki z obozu" [Escapes from the concentration camp]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ Browning 1992; 1998, p. 52.
  10. ^ David Bankir, ed (2006). "Police Auxiliaries for Operation Reinhard by Peter R. Black" (Google Books). Secret Intelligence and the Holocaust. Enigma Books. pp. 331–348. ISBN 192963160X. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  11. ^ Gregory Procknow, Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers, Francis & Bernard Publishing, 2011, ISBN 0986837407 (page 35).
  12. ^ Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, 1987, ISBN 0253342937 (page 21)
  13. ^ Arad, Yitzak (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253342937, p 22
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Sergei Kudryashov, “Ordinary Collaborators: The Case of the Travniki Guards” (in) Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy Essays in Honour of John Erickson edited by Mark and Ljubica Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004; pages 226-227 & 234-235.
  15. ^ a b c d Browning, Christopher R. (1992; 1998). "Arrival in Poland" (PDF file, direct download 7.91 MB complete). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Penguin Books. pp. 52, 77, 79, 80. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Also: PDF cache archived by WebCite." 
  16. ^ Browning 1992; 1998, p. 95.
  17. ^ Browning 1992; 1998, p. 93.
  18. ^ Browning 1992; 1998, p. 77.
  19. ^ a b Ralph Hartmann (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß". Den Aufsatz kommentieren. Ossietzky 9/2010. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  20. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (ibidem). USHMM. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  21. ^ USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Trawniki: Chronology". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  22. ^ Georg Bönisch, Jan Friedmann and Cordula Meyer (July 10, 2009). "A Very Ordinary Henchman". Germany > The Holocaust. Spiegel International. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 


  • Browning, Christopher R. (1992; 1998), "Arrival in Poland" (PDF file, direct download 7.91 MB complete), Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Penguin Books): 1–298, retrieved July 12, 2014, "also: PDF cache archived by WebCite." 
  • Kudryashov, Sergei, "Ordinary Collaborators: The Case of the Travniki Guards," in Mark and Ljubica Erickson (eds), Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy Essays in Honour of John Erickson (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004), 226-239.
  • Steinhart, Eric C., "The Chameleon of Trawniki: Jack Reimer, Soviet Volksdeutsche, and the Holocaust," Holocaust & Genocide Studies, 23,2 (2009), pp. 239-262.
  • Edward Kopówka, Paweł Rytel-Andrianik (2011). "Treblinka. Załoga obozu" [Treblinka concentration camp staff] (PDF file, direct download 15.1 MB). Dam im imię na wieki 'Iz 56,5' (Will give them names for ever). Drohiczyńskie Towarzystwo Naukowe. Kuria Diecezjalna w Drohiczynie. p. 87. ISBN 978-83-7257-496-1. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Archiwum Państwowe w Siedlcach (APS), Akta Gminy Prostyń (AGP), t. 104, "Budowa i odbudowa, 1946–1947"." 
  • S.J. (2007). "Trawniki Staff Page. Alphabetical Listing". Aktion Reinhard. H.E.A.R.T. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Source: Yitzhak Arad, Thomas (Toivi) Blatt, Alexander Donat, Rudolf Reder, Tom Teicholz, Samuel Willenberg, Richard Glazar; museums and private collections." 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°08′21″N 22°59′35″E / 51.139267°N 22.993140°E / 51.139267; 22.993140