Trawniki concentration camp

Coordinates: 51°08′21″N 22°59′35″E / 51.139267°N 22.993140°E / 51.139267; 22.993140
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Trawniki concentration camp
Forced labour (left) and the SS training camp
Original German site plan of the Trawniki camp (as of June 21, 1942).

Left: Slave labor camp for condemned Jewish prisoners.
Centre: Supply road with two gates, north & south.
Right: Training compound for the Hiwi shooters around the military training plaza
( handwritten with red arrow ).
north of the former sugar refinery with kitchen ( hand-coloured in brown ).
German SS quarters with infirmary & storeroom ( hand-coloured in red ).
Commandant's house ( [lower down] ).
From the original German legend:
1 & 2. Unterkünfte der Ukrainer des Ausbildungslagers
"Accommodations for the Ukrainians at the training camp"
3. Garage  [Squad deployment vehicles]
4. Unterkünfte der Esten und Letten des Ausbildungslagers
"Accommodations for the Estonians and Latvians at the training camp"
11. Ställe in Steingebäuden
"Stables in stone building" [Livestock for Hiwi food supply]

Location of Trawniki on the map of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland
Operated bySS-Totenkopfverbände
CommandantHermann Höfle, Karl Streibel
Original usePOW camp for 1941 Operation Barbarossa
Operational1941 – November 1943
KilledAt least 12,000 Jews at the labour camp (left) [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 Soviet Union, 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 camp for collaborationist auxiliary police, mainly Ukrainian.[2] in 1942, it became the forced-labor camp for thousands of Jews within the Majdanek concentration camp system as well.[3] The Jewish inmates of Trawniki provided slave labour for the makeshift industrial plants of SS-Ostindustrie, working in appalling conditions with little food.[1]

There were 12,000 Jews imprisoned at Trawniki as of 1943 sorting through trainsets of clothing delivered from Holocaust locations.[4] 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.[1][5][6]

Concentration camp operation

The Nazi camp at Trawniki was first established in July 1941 to hold prisoners of war captured in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.[1] 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.[1][7][8]

The Jews who worked there from June 1942 to May 1944 as slave labour for the German 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.[3]

Trawniki training camp

Company of Hiwis at the camp training plaza (some still wearing their Soviet Budenovkas), inspected by Karl Streibel (centre)

From September 1941 until July 1944,[3] 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. Karl Streibel, the camp commander, and his officers used to induce Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian men already familiar with firearms to take the initiative of their own free will.[9] 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.[3][10]: 366 

Although the majority of Trawniki men (or Hiwis) came from among the willing prisoners of war of Ukrainian ethnicity,[11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14][15]

Camp liquidation, November 3, 1943

Majdanek subcamps on the map of General Government territory of occupied Poland with Zakopane at Kreis Neumarkt am Dohnst (extreme southwest) and Trawniki in the centre

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 trenches that would become mass graves. Although the trenches were supposedly for defense against air raids, and their zigzag shape granted some plausibility to this lie, the prisoners guessed their true purpose.[16]:232[17]:403–404[18]:285–286 The massacres, later assumed to have been revenge for German defeat at Stalingrad,[4] were set by Christian Wirth for November 3, 1943, under the codename Operation Harvest Festival,[19] simultaneously at Majdanek, Trawniki, Poniatowa, Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy and Lipowa subcamps.[20] The bodies of Jews shot in the pits by Trawniki men aided by Battalion 101 were later incinerated by a Sonderkommando from Milejów, who were executed on site upon the completion of their task by the end of 1943.[3]

Operation Harvest Festival, 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.[21] The Trawniki training camp was dismantled in July 1944 because of the approaching front line.[3] The last 1,000 Hiwis forming the SS Battalion Streibel led by Karl Streibel himself,[22] were transported west to work at the still functioning death camps.[3] 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 Gulags, and released under the Khrushchev amnesty of 1955.[23]

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.[22][24] 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.[25] In the U.S. some 16 former Hiwi guards were denaturalized, some of whom were very old.[3]

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.[26] The failure probably contributed to his dismissal on November 9, 1943, by Governor General Hans Frank.[27] Krüger committed suicide in upper Austria two years later.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (2006). Ukrainian Collaboration. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 0786429135. Retrieved July 12, 2014. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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. ^ a b Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Dożynki" [Operation Harvest Festival]. The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Jack R. Fischel (Jul 17, 2010). Trawniki labor camp. Scarecrow Press. pp. 264–265. ISBN 978-0810874855. Retrieved July 12, 2014. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Donald L. Niewyk, Francis R. Nicosia (2012). Trawniki. A labor camp. Columbia University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0231528788. Retrieved July 12, 2014. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Browning 1998, p. 52.
  10. ^ David Bankir, ed. (2006). Police Auxiliaries for Operation Reinhard by Peter R. Black (Google Books). Enigma Books. pp. 331–348. ISBN 192963160X. Retrieved July 12, 2014. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Gregory Procknow, Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers, Francis & Bernard Publishing, 2011, ISBN 0986837407 (page 35).
  13. ^ Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, 1987, ISBN 0253342937 (page 21)
  14. ^ Arad, Yitzak (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps by Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253342937, page 22.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Browning, Christopher R. (2017) [1992]. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-230303-5.
  17. ^ Silberklang, David (2013). Gates of Tears: The Holocaust in the Lublin District. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 978-965-308-464-3.
  18. ^ Mędykowski, Witold Wojciech (2018). Macht Arbeit Frei?: German Economic Policy and Forced Labor of Jews in the General Government, 1939–1943. Boston: Academic Studies Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv75d8v5.13. ISBN 9781618115966. JSTOR j.ctv75d8v5.13.
  19. ^ Jennifer Rosenberg. "Aktion Erntefest". 20th Century History. Education. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  20. ^ ARC (2004). "Erntefest". Occupation of the East. ARC. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  21. ^ Browning 1998, pp. 135–136.
  22. ^ a b Ralph Hartmann (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß". Den Aufsatz kommentieren. Ossietzky 9/2010. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (ibidem). USHMM. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  24. ^ USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Trawniki: Chronology". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  25. ^ Georg Bönisch, Jan Friedmann and Cordula Meyer (July 10, 2009). "A Very Ordinary Henchman". Germany > The Holocaust. Spiegel International. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  26. ^ 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).
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.


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