Trawniki concentration camp
|Trawniki concentration camp|
|Forced labour (left) and the SS training base (right)|
Original German site plan of the Trawniki camp (as of June 21, 1942).
Left: Slave labor camp for condemned Jewish prisoners.
|Commandant||Hermann Höfle, Karl Streibel|
|Original use||POW camp for 1941 Operation Barbarossa|
|Operational||1941 – November 1943|
|Killed||At least 12,000 Jews at the labour camp (left) |
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.
The Trawniki camp first opened after the outbreak of war with the USSR, intended to hold Soviet 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. And in 1942, it became the forced-labor camp for thousands of Jews within the KL Lublin system of subcamps as well. The Trawniki Jewish inmates provided slave labour for the makeshift industrial plants of SS Ostindustrie to work in appalling conditions with little food.
There were 12,000 Jews imprisoned at Trawniki as of 1943 sorting through trainsets of clothing delivered from Holocaust locations. They were all massacred during Operation Harvest Festival of November 3, 1943 by the auxiliary units of Trawniki men stationed at the same location, helped by the travelling Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Orpo. The first camp commandant was Hermann Hoefle, replaced by Karl Streibel.
Concentration camp operation
The Nazi German camp at Trawniki was first established in July 1941 to hold prisoners of war captured in the Soviet occupied eastern Poland after the implementation of Operation Barbarossa. The new barracks behind the barbed-wire fence were erected by the prisoners themselves. In 1942 the camp was enlarged to include the SS-Arbeitslager meant for the Polish Jews from across General Government. Within a year, under the management of Gauleiter 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.
The Jews who worked there from June 1942 to May 1944 as forced labour for the Nazi war effort were brought in from the Warsaw Ghetto as well as selected transit ghettos across Europe (Germany, Austria, Slovakia) 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 facility served as the full-fledged training base with dining rooms and sleeping quarters for the new Schutzmannschaften recruited from POW camps for service with Nazi Germany in the General Government territory. Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel and his officers used to induce Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian men already familiar with firearms to take the initiative of their own free will. The total of 5,082 men were prepared at Trawniki for duty in German Sonderdienst battalions before the end of 1944 – across from the forlorn Jewish camp separated by an inner fence.:366
Although majority of Trawniki men (or Hiwis) came from among the willing prisoners of war of Ukrainian ethnicity, 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. They became the only squad commanders. Trawniki men took major part in Operation Reinhard, the Nazi plan to exterminate Polish and foreign Jews. They served at extermination camps, and played an important role in the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (see the Stroop Report) and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising among other ghetto insurgencies.
Key role of Trawniki men in the Final Solution
Trawniki men (German: Trawnikimänner) were deployed from Trawniki to all major killing sites of the "Final Solution" – it was their primary purpose of training. As guards, they took an active role in the extermination of Jews at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka II. They conducted large-scale massacres in Warsaw (three times), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek as well as Auschwitz, not to mention Trawniki itself. During training, many executed Jews who were imprisoned right across the double-row barbed-wire fence. All of them were involved in shooting and beating Jews. They were screened by Streibel for their anti-Semitic sentiments beforehand.
The Hiwi shooters were dispatched by Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel to the worst of the "on-the-spot dirty work" at the Jewish ghettos in occupied eastern Poland, 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, 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 under Wilhelm Trapp "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 battalion 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.
Camp liquidation, November 3, 1943
The Jews of KL Lublin thought that nothing worse could possibly happen because their labour was urgently needed. Towards the end of October, the entire slave-labour workforce of KL Lublin/Majdanek including Jewish prisoners of the Trawniki concentration camp were ordered to begin the construction of anti-tank trenches. They remained unaware of their true purpose. The massacres, later assumed to have been revenge for German defeat at Stalingrad, were set by Christian Wirth for November 3, 1943 under the codename Aktion Erntefest, simultaneously at Majdanek, Trawniki, Poniatowa, Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy and Lipowa subcamps. The bodies of Jews shot in the pits one-by-one by Trawniki men aided by Battalion 101 were later incinerated by a Sonderkommando from Milejów which was executed on site upon the completion of their task by the end of 1943.
Operation Harvest Festival (Aktion Erntefest in German), with approximately 43,000 victims, was the single largest German massacre of Jews in the entire war. It surpassed the notorious massacre of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar outside Kiev by 10,000 victims. 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 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 Trawniki men apprehended in Soviet Union were charged with treason (not the shootings) and therefore were guilty of enlistment from the start of judicial proceedings. In the U.S. some 16 former Hiwi guards were denaturalized, some of whom were very old.
Failed attempts at recruiting
In January 1943 the SS Germanische Leitstelle in occupied Zakopane in the heartland of the Tatra mountains embarked on a recruitment drive with an idea of forming a brand new Waffen-SS highlander division. Some 200 young Goralenvolk signed up, while offered unlimited supply of alcohol. They boarded a passenger train to Trawniki, but most left the train in Maków Podhalański once already sober. Only twelve men arrived in Trawniki. At the first opportunity they got into a major fistfight with the Ukrainians, causing havoc. They were arrested and sent away. The whole idea was abandoned as impossible by SS-Obergruppenführer Krüger in occupied Kraków by an official letter of April 5, 1943. The failure has inevitably contributed to his dismissal on November 9, 1943, by Governor General Hans Frank. Krüger committed suicide in upper Austria two years later.
- 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.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski (2006). "Ukrainian Collaboration". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 0786429135. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- 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.
- Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Dożynki" [Operation Harvest Festival]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Jack R. Fischel (Jul 17, 2010). "Trawniki labor camp". Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust. Scarecrow Press. pp. 264&ndash, 265. ISBN 0810874857. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Browning & 1992; 1998, p. 52.
- David Bankir, ed (2006). "Police Auxiliaries for Operation Reinhard by Peter R. Black" (Google Books). Secret Intelligence and the Holocaust. Enigma Books. pp. 331&ndash, 348. ISBN 192963160X. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Markus Eikel (2013). "The local administration under German occupation in central and eastern Ukraine, 1941–1944". The Holocaust in Ukraine: New Sources and Perspectives (PDF). Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 110–122 in PDF.
Ukraine differs from other parts of the Nazi-occupied eastern territories because the local administrators were able to form the Ukrainian Hilfsverwaltung in support of the extermination policies in 1941 and 1942, providing assistance for the deportations to camps in 1942 and 1943.
- Gregory Procknow, Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers, Francis & Bernard Publishing, 2011, ISBN 0986837407 (page 35).
- Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, 1987, ISBN 0253342937 (page 21)
- Arad, Yitzak (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253342937, page 22.
- 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.
- Browning, Christopher R. (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.
- Browning & 1992; 1998, p. 95.
- Browning & 1992; 1998, p. 93.
- Browning & 1992; 1998, p. 77.
- Estera Rubinstein (testimony). "Nazistowski obóz pracy przymusowej w Poniatowej". Virtual Shtetl (in Polish). Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- Jennifer Rosenberg. "Aktion Erntefest". 20th Century History. About.com Education. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- ARC (2004). "Erntefest". Occupation of the East. ARC. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
- Browning & 1992; 1998, p. 135-136.
- Ralph Hartmann (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß". Den Aufsatz kommentieren. Ossietzky 9/2010. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (ibidem). USHMM. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Trawniki: Chronology". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Georg Bönisch, Jan Friedmann and Cordula Meyer (July 10, 2009). "A Very Ordinary Henchman". Germany > The Holocaust. Spiegel International. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Rafał Kuzak (12 September 2012). "Jak zrobić z górali esesmanów? Legion Góralski Waffen SS" [How to make highlanders into SS men. The story of Goralenvolk Legion]. Ciekawostki historyczne. Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy Znak sp. z o.o. (page two).
- Thompson, Larry V. (1967). "Nazi Administrative Conflict. The Struggle for Executive Power in the General Government of Poland 1939–1943". Dissertation. University of Wisconsin: 260. OCLC 3417584.
- Lester, David (2005). "Who Committed Suicide?". Suicide and the Holocaust. Nova Publishers. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-1-59454-427-9. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- Browning, Christopher R. (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. 1–298, retrieved July 12, 2014,
- 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.
- Witold Mędykowski, "Obóz pracy dla Żydów w Trawnikach," Wojciech Lenarczyk, Dariusz Libionka (eds.), Erntefest 3–4 listopada 1943. Zapomniany epizod Zagłady" (Lublin: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, 2009), 183–210. ISBN 9788392518754.
- 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.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Trawniki
- In depth overview of the Trawniki Camp, Trawniki Staff, Photos. - All about Trawniki
- Belzec: Stepping Stone to Genocide, Sources of Manpower
- Circuit Judge (July 13, 2010). "Vladas Zajanckauskas". Petitioner. United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- "Nazi camp guard Demjanjuk dies". BBC News. March 17, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Aderet, Ofer. (Haaretz, Mar 23, 2012), "Convicted Nazi criminal Demjanjuk deemed innocent in Germany over technicality."
- Semotiuk, Andrij A. (Kyiv Post, Mar 21, 2012). "In Memory of John Demjanjuk." Retrieved Apr 24, 2012.
- BBC July 29, 2010
- BBC November 22, 2010
- Kilgannon, Corey (November 1, 2003). "Accused Nazi Guard Speaks Out, Denying He Had Role in Atrocities". New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Report on Palij (in Ukrainian) "Яків Палій." Україна Молода, June 17, 2004. Retrieved May 1, 2013.