Trawniki concentration camp
The Trawniki concentration camp, 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, had a dual function throughout its existence. It was organized into at least two distinct zones, on the grounds of the former Polish sugar refinery of the Central Industrial Region.
The 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, it was a SS training camp for collaborationists auxiliary police, mainly Ukrainian. And in 1942, it became the forced-labor camp for thousands of Jews within the KL Lublin system of subcamps as well. It provided slave labourers for the nearby industrial plants of SS Ostindustrie to work in appalling conditions with little food. The Jews were all massacred during the Operation Harvest Festival on November 3, 1943. The Trawniki camp was commanded initially by Hermann Hoefle, and later by Karl Streibel.
The Nazi German camp in Trawniki was established in July 1941 to hold Soviet civilians and prisoners of war captured in the Soviet occupied eastern Poland after the implementation of Operation Barbarossa. From June 1942 to May 1944 it served also as a forced labor camp for Jews 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.
From September 1941 until July 1944, the expanded camp was also utilized for the training of auxiliary police 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 Himmler instructed Globocnik to start recruiting non-Polish auxiliaries in the border regions as soon as they were conquered by the Wehrmacht. Globocnik had selected Karl Streibel from Operation Reinhard as the key person for that role. 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.
The German SS and police inducted, processed, and trained 2,500 auxiliary police guards (Wachmänner, also known as Trawniki men) at Trawniki training camp between September 1941 and September 1942; for the total of 5,082 men before the end of 1944, organized into two Sonderdienst battalions. The number may as well have been much greater, if it hadn't been for mass desertions among conscripts. Some 1,000 Hiwis are known to have run away during field operations. One Polish farm boy was lashed nearly to death in public, when he refused to serve after learning about the purpose of the training. He perished at Majdanek three months later.: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, 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. The conscripted civilians and former Soviet POWs included Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Tartars, Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The "Trawnikis" took part in Aktion Reinhard, 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
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.
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. 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. Most of them volunteered in order to leave the POW camps and/or because of self-interest. 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." 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". Many, though not all of the Trawniki men as part of their training executed Jews. 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.
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The Hiwi shooters were assigned to the worst of the "on-the-spot dirty work" by Karl Streibel (wrote Browning), so the Germans from the parallel Reserve Police Battalion 101 "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, while the Germans dealt with unruly crowds of thousands of ghetto inhabitants: as in Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations.
Trawnikis shot so fast and so wildly that the German policemen "frequently had to take cover to avoid being hit." 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. 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 who were indoctrinated in Russia, saw 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.
Later careers of Trawniki personnel
The Trawniki training camp was dismantled in July 1944 because of the approaching frontline. The last 1,000 Hiwis forming the SS Battalion Streibel led by Karl Streibel himself, were transported west to continue their dirty deeds at the still functioning death camps. 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. After the war, they captured and prosecuted hundreds, possibly as many as one thousand Hiwis who returned home to USSR. Most were sentenced to a Gulag, and released under the Khrushchev amnesty of 1955.
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. 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, 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.
In 1984 Feodor Fedorenko was extradited to the USSR where he was sentenced to death and executed in short order. Another former Hiwi, Vladas Zajančkauskas deployed to help with the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 2005 at the age of ninety-five. Trawniki guard, Jaroslaw Bilaniuk, a friend of Palij, was placed into denaturalization proceedings, but it is not clear if those proceedings had concluded or if he was still a U.S. citizen at the time of his death in 2007. In March 2009 Josias Kumpf a Yugoslav who served as a guard in Trawniki, was deported from the U.S. to Austria. In May 2009 John Demjanjuk was deported from the U.S. to Germany. Demjanuk was convicted of being a guard at Sobibor and sentenced in May 2011. Demjanjuk was released pending an appeal. He died in March 2012 before his appeal could be heard. In July 2010 a former Soviet POW, Samuel Kunz, was charged with being a Belzec guard who had been trained at Trawniki. Kunz died in November 2010 before his trial. Jakiw Palij, another Hiwi guard, was stripped of his United States citizenship for having "made material misrepresentations in his application for a visa to immigrate to the United States".
Known names of Trawnikis serving at death camps
The notoriety of crimes committed by selected "Trawniki men" at extermination camps in Belzec [Be], Sobibor [So], and Treblinka [Tr] during Operation Reinhard, have led to many specific names being publicized in postwar literature and by Holocaust museums, based on Jewish and Polish survivor-testimonies and archives. The long list of names of camp guards mentioned mostly in English and Polish translation (or transliteration from Cyrillic), include the following in alphabetical order.
Peter Aleksejev [Be] Andreyev [Tr] construction of gas chambers in autumn 1942, supervised Yankiel Wiernik Wasil Antonov [So] Ilya Badin [So] Iwan Bartels [Be], Volksdeutscher Sabit Barandtimov [So] Aglam Batarinov [So] Michali Belyi [So] Ivan Bender [Be] Wasil Bialakow [Be] Jan Bialowas [So] Ivan Bilik [So] Bodessa [So], took part in the final executions of about 30 Jewish workers on 23 November 1943 in Camp III Dimitri Bogunow [So] Mikolaj Bondarenko [Tr] Peter Bondave (Bondare) [Tr] Dimitriy Borodin [Tr] Felix Brandecki [So] Wasyl Bulji [Be] Achmed Chaibulin [So] Volodymr Cherniavshy [Tr] Chariton Chromenko [So] Heinrich Dalke [Be] [So], Volksdeutscher Ignat Danylchenko [So], served with Demjanjuk from March 1943, later at Flossenbürg Ivan Demjanjuk, testimony of Ignat Danylchenko, emigrated to the United States with his wife Vera, extradited to Israel in 1986, found guilty, appeal commenced in 1990 Vasilii Deptyarev [So] Konstantin Dimida [So] Piotr Dmitrenko [Tr] Jakub Domeratzki [So] Wladimieraz Duda [So] Michail Dudko [So] Fiodor Duszenko [Tr] Karl Dzirkal [So], Volksdeutscher Jakow Engelhard [So], Volksdeutscher Fedor Federenko (Fedorenko) [Tr], Soviet POW recruited from Stalag 319 at Chełm, guard at Jewish ghetto in Lublin, sent to Warsaw and to Treblinka in September 1942, settled in the U.S., extradited to Russia in December 1984, trial and execution pronounced in July 1986 Ivan Federenko [So] Miron Flunt [So] Gennardi Frolov [So] Anatoli Goncharenko [So] Nikolai Goncharenko [So] Efim Goncharov [So] Pyoter Goncharov [Tr] Mikolaj Gonzural [Tr] Nikolai Gordienko [So] Fedor Gorlov [So] Pavel Stepanovich Grigorchuk [Tr] Wasyl Gruzin [Be] Wasil Hetmaniec [So] Jan Hotowrowiecz [So] Michal Huber [Be], Volksdeutscher Vasyl Huleyt [Be] Wasyl Hutyt [Be] Iwan Huzij [Be], photographed in Belzec village Ivan Indyukov [So] Alexsai Isaenko [So] Ivan Ivchenko [So] Piotr Iwashenko [So] Stefan Jadziol [Be], photographed with Boris Kotychin and in the Trawniki bar Diner Jakovevits [Be] Ivan Jaryniuk [So] Iosof Jechal [So] Wasili Jefimov [So] Sasha Jeger [Tr] Wasil Jelentschuk [Tr] Ivan Jermoldayev [So] Adolf Jeschke [Be], Volksdeutscher Nikolai Judin [So] Nurgail Kabroiv [So] Alexander Kaiser [So], Volksdeutscher, photographed in Italy with Gomerski and Hodl Ivan Kakorach [So] Pavel Karas [So] Fetich Karimov [So] Alexander Karpenko [So] Viktor Kisilew [So] Ivan Klatt [So], Volksdeutscher, Ukrainian guard leader killed in the revolt on 14 October 1943 Boris Kolisyn [Be] Kolashnikov [Tr] Adolf Kolenko [Be] Piotr Koschekuk [So] Jakow Koschemykin [So] Volodia Koshewadzki [So], deserted with stash of money taken from Jews Kostenko [Tr], remembered by Wiernik as the older one Emil Kostenko [So] Kyril Kostenko [Be] Boris Kotychin [Be], photographed with Stefan Jadziol Piotr Kozaczuk [So] Mikolay Kozende [Be] Ivan Kozlowski [Be] Filip Krawchenko [So] Nikolaii Krupinewich [So] Iwan Kuczercha [Be] Pavel Kudin [So] Nikolai Kulak [Tr] Wasyl Kulychin [Be] Samuel Kunz [Be], Volksdeutscher, photographed at the camp entrance in Belzec holding a mandolin Leonard Kurckov [So] Ivan Kurinnoy [Tr] Michali Kusevanov [So] Ananiy Grigoryevich Kuzminski [Tr] Nikolay Lebedenko [Tr] Pavel Vladimirovich Leleko [Tr] Filip Levchishin [Tr] Peto Litus [Be] Friedrich Lorenz [So], Volksdeutscher Gregoril Lyachov [So] Nikolay Makoda [Tr] Nikolay Petrovich Malagon [Tr], b. 1919 in the Red Army since 1941, POW camps in Zhitomir, Rovno and Chełm in Poland, in 1942 sent to Zamosc, returned to Trawniki, posted to Warsaw and to Treblinka, in February 1943 transferred to Belzec, in March/April 1943 transferred to Auschwitz, also at Buchenwald Ivan Ivanovych Marchenko [Tr] b. 1911, in the Red Army since 1941, POW camp in Chełm before Trawniki, guard at Jewish ghetto in Lublin and in Treblinka along with Nikolay Shalayev herding Jews to gas chambers, the “motorists” cranking up the gas engine when asked to “turn on the water”, called by Jews “Ivan the Terrible” (Ivan Grozny), exhibited special savagery during the killing process, photographed with Ivan Tkachuk in Treblinka, in 1943 transferred to Trieste, in 1944 fled to Yugoslavia, fate unknown, never tried Pawel Markarenko [So] Moisei Martoszenko [Tr] Nikolai Martynov [So] Terentij Martynov [So] Andrei Mashenko [So] Nikolay Matwijenko [Be] Nikolai Medvedev [So] Theodozy Melnik [Tr] Pavel Mordwinichev [So] Bari Nabiyew [So] Andrej Nagornyi [So] Mikolaj Nidosrelow [Tr] Ivan Nikoforov [Be] [So] Wasily Nijko [So] Anatoli Olexenko [So] Daniel Onoprijenko [Tr] Vasilij Orlovski [Be] Peter Oster [Be], Volksdeutscher Mikolaj Osyczanski [Tr] Franz Pamin [Be], Volksdeutscher Ivan Panashuk [So] Anatoli Pankov [So] Aleksander Paraschenko [Tr] Yevdokim Parfinyuk [Tr] Nikolai Pavli [Be] Nikolay Payevshchik [Tr] Gygori Peczenyt [Be] Dimitrii Pickerov [So] Alexey Pietka [Be] Pinneman [Tr], Volksdeutscher photographed with August Hengst Genrikh Pitnowij [Be], photographed in the Trawniki bar Michal Pocholenko [Be] Wasyl Podienko [Be] Wasyl Podionak [Be] Leon Polakow [Tr] Michal Polenko [Be] Gregor Preczony [Be] Samuil Martinovich Prits ( Prishch) [Tr] Wasyl Prochenko [Be] Dimitri Prochin [Be] Alexander Prus [Be], a Volksdeutscher Michali Reschetnikov [So] Igor Rezverchy [So] Alexander Rittich [Tr] Robertus [Tr], an Oberwachman cut on the neck in Totenlager by Jew from work commando resulting in liquidation of the unit on orders of Kurt Franz Heinrich Rohle [Be], a Volksdeutsher Boris Rogoza [Be] [Tr], head of Ukrainian guards particularly brutal as remembered by Willenberg and Glazar Rosenholz [Be], Volksdeutscher photographed with other guards at the main gate at Belzec Arnold Rosenko [Be] Grigorij Rubez [Tr] Piotr Rudenko [So] Wasyl Rudenko [Tr] Fyodor Ryabeka [Tr] called Rebeka in Malgon’s statement, guarded Lazaret, boasted that the barrel of his gun gets red-hot from killing Jews "unfit" to enter gas chambers Prokofiy Ryabtsev [Tr] Vasilii Ryschkov [So] Viktor Sabat [Be] Chares Sabirov [So] Samuel [Be], Volksdeutscher photographed at the main gate at Belzec with other Volksdeutscher guards Petro Sbesnikov [So] Mikolay Scheffer [T], Volksdeutscher Dimitrii Schevchenko [So] Pavel Shicavin [So] Wasil Schischajew [T] Kamil Schirpev [So] Iwan Schmidkin (Schwidkin) [Tr] Heinz Schmidt [Be], Volksdeutscher from Latvia in charge of Sonderkommando, personally shot its 30–40 members daily, later in Italy, committed suicide Klaus Schreiber [So], Volksdeutscher, killed in the revolt on 14 October 1943 Aleksander Schultz [Tr], Volksdeutscher Emanuel Genrikhov Schultz [Tr] [So], Volksdeutscher Ernst Schumacher [So], Volksdeutscher Mikolaii Seleznev [So] Nikolay Senik [Tr] Mikolay Senykow [Tr] Gregorij Sergienko [So] Dimitriy Serik [So] Nikolay Shalayev b. 1921 [Tr], from September 1942 on with Marchenko cranking up engine feeding fumes to gas chambers Ivan Shevchenko [Tr] Ivan Shukow [So] Ivan Danilovich Shvidkoy [Tr] Maxim Sirenko [So] Vladimir Sirotenko [So] Nikolay Skakodub [Tr] Grigoriy Skydan [Tr] Semion Sokorev [So] Kuzma Sokur [So] Jakub Systola [Be] Wasyl Szacholij [Be] Oswald Strebel [Tr], Volksdeutscher, settled in its farmhouse after the camp was dismantled Dimitri Szpak [Be] Profiry Szpak [Be] Heinrich Szpliny [So] Alexander Szwab [Be] Ivan Terekhov [Tr] Fiodor Tichonowski [So] Iwan Tichonowski [Be] Ivan Tischenko [So] Ivan Tkachuk [Tr], photographed with Ivan Marchenko Wilhelm Trautwein [Be], Volksdeutscher photographed at main entrance to Belzec with other Volksdeutscher guards Wasyl Tribenko [Be] Wladimir Tscherniewskij [Tr] Alexander Twerdochlib [Be] Jakub Urnan (Unrau) [So] Ivan Ustinnokov [So] Ivan Vakutenko [So] Sergey Vasilenko [Tr] Kuzma Vaskin [So] Aleksander Voleshenko [Tr] Efim Volynieytz [So] Yakob Wasem [So] Iwan Wasilenko [Tr] Fiodor Wedenko [So] Fiodor Wedryhan [Be] Petro Wedryhan [Be] Ivan Werdenik [Be] Edward Wlasiuk [Be], gassing mechanic, first assistant of Hackenholt in the chambers photographed a number of times Wasyl Woloszyn [Be] [Tr] Michal Wonk [Be] Vasily Woronkow [Tr], remembered by Wiernik as brutal, maimed and killed Jews building gas chambers in autumn 1942 Jakub Wysota [Be] Aleksander Yasko [So] Alexander Ivanovich Yeger [Tr], b. 25 June 1918, Zugwachmann, Volksdeutscher Vasily Yelenchuk [Tr] Konstantin Zabertnev [So] Iwan Zajczew [So] [Be] Trofim Zavidenko [Tr] Emil Zischer [So] Ivan Zuk [Be].— Trawniki Staff Page. Aktion Reinhard by Holocaust Research Project.
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- Belzec: Stepping Stone to Genocide, Sources of Manpower