Reinhard’s Foot-Soldiers

Soviet Trophy Documents and Investigative Records as Sources
  • David Alan Rich


Operation Reinhard, the Nazis’ effort to murder Jews in Poland and the cornerstone of their ‘final solution of the Jewish question’ in Europe, ran from late 1941 until the end of 1943. Its success at every stage depended on organized, trained, and reasonably well disciplined manpower. Trawniki Training Camp in Lublin District of the Government General provided the most important element of that manpower from the beginning of the operation. Until recently, historical understanding of the operation of Trawniki and its detachments has come from postwar West German criminal proceedings.1 In those trials, the prime movers in ‘Reinhard’ had a greater stake in obscuring their own role than in explaining satisfactorily the system’s operation or the employment of Trawniki men in the genocidal undertaking. Their remarks about Trawniki’s operational purpose have been indirect, sometimes tendentious, and framed from the perspective of Reich German officers and non-commissioned officers rather than the rank-and-file guards who carried out ‘Reinhard’. Testimony of the auxiliary guards was as rare as the wartime documentation that should have shown how this system operated.2 Both the wartime documentation and postwar investigative records existed, but lay beyond the reach or knowledge of German prosecutors.


Government General Special Train Archival File Labour Camp Death Camp 
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  1. 2.
    Trawniki Training Camp is mentioned tangentially in various works on ‘Operation Reinhard’, including: Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Blooming-ton, Ind., 1987);Google Scholar
  2. Adalbert Ruckerl, NS-Vemichtungslager in Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse (Munich, 1977);Google Scholar
  3. Helga Grabitz and Wolfgang Schefler, Die letzte Spüren. Ghetto Warschau, SS-Arbeitslager Trawniki, Aktion Erntefest (Berlin, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Avieh J. Kochavi, Prelude to Nuremberg. Allied War Crimes Policy and the Question of Punishment (Raleigh, North Carolina: 1998), pp.64–66, 239; most recently.Google Scholar
  5. Amir Weiner, ‘Nature, Nurture, and Memory in a Socialist Utopia: Delineating the Soviet Socio-Ethnic Body in the Age of Socialism,’ American Historical Review, 4/1999 (October 1999), pp. 1135–1149.Google Scholar
  6. 26.
    ibid., p.58. Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), ch. 7 (Józefów) and ch. 9 (Lomazy), recounts two field operations (Judenaktion) of the type in which Trawniki-trained guards would have participated in 1942. Materials from the German post-war trial of Hoffmann (KdS in Lublin) document the mass shooting of Jews at Majdan-Tatarski and in the Krepiec Woods (as well as at the Jewish hospital and orphanage) during the four week, two phase operation.Google Scholar
  7. 48.
    Browning, Ordinary Men, ch. 15, calls Erntefest the ‘single largest killing operation against Jews’ undertaken by Germans during the war (p. 135), eclipsing even Babi Yar. See also AA Grabitz and AA Schefler, Die letzte Spüren, for the 3–4 November 1943 liquidations of Jewish labour camps in Trawniki, Poniatowa, and Lublin (Majdanek) in which some 42,000 Jews were shot.Google Scholar
  8. Thomas Sandkühler, ‘Endlösun’ in Galizien: Der Judenmord in Ostpolen und die Rettungsinitiativen von Berthold Beitz 1941–1944 (Bonn: Dietz, 1996), p.270, places the blood-letting at the Janowska camp in Lemberg (L’vov) a little later (4,000 killed on 19/20 November) but still squarely within the intent of higher orders to terminate SS economic undertakings in the Government General. Janowska camp fell under Katzmann, SSPF-Lemberg, rather than Globocnik; cf.Google Scholar
  9. Dieter Pohl, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1997), conclusion.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • David Alan Rich

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