Operation Reinhard: Wikis


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Operation Reinhard
Treblinka's Memorial in Winter.JPG
Memorial at Treblinka extermination camp.
(Each stone represents a Jewish population that was exterminated at the camp.)
Also known as German: Aktion Reinhardt
or Einsatz Reinhard
Location Occupied Poland
Date October 1941 - November 1943
Incident type Deportations to extermination camps
Perpetrators SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik
Participants Germany Nazi Germany
Organizations SS Police Battalions
Camp Belzec
Ghetto Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Warsaw and others
Victims Approximately 2 million
Memorials On camp sites
Notes This was the most lethal phase of the Holocaust.

Operation Reinhard (German: Aktion Reinhard or Einsatz Reinhard) was the code name given to the Nazi plan to murder Polish Jews in the General Government, and marked the beginning of the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, the use of extermination camps. During the operation, as many as two million people were murdered in Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka, almost all of whom were Jews.[1]



Originally, when the concentration camps were established in 1933, they were used for forced labour, imprisonment, and for re-education purposes, not for mass murder. But as the National Socialist regime developed, so did camp brutality. By the time of World War II, people were dying from starvation, untreated disease and murder in Germany and Austria, at places such as Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Mauthausen-Gusen.

From this situation, the next stage in this downward spiral was the creation of camps that had only one purpose: to kill thousands of people quickly and efficiently. In this respect, the camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka differed from those of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek, as these also functioned as forced labour factories.[2]

Operation's name

SS-Gruppenführer und General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich.

It is hypothesized that the operation was named after Reinhard Heydrich, the coordinator of the Endlösung der Judenfrage (Final Solution of the Jewish Question) - the extermination of the Jews living in the European countries occupied by the German Third Reich during World War II. After the plans for the Final Solution were laid down at the Wannsee conference, Heydrich was assassinated by SOE agents on May 27, 1942; he died of his injuries eight days later.

This has been disputed by some researchers who argue that, since the more mainstream designation of the operation was "Aktion Reinhardt" (with "t" after "d"), it could not have been named after Reinhard Heydrich. They argue that it was named after German State Secretary of Finance Fritz Reinhardt. However, official documents using Reinhard Heydrich's name were also written as "Reinhardt".

Death factories

SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik in charge of Operation Reinhard.

On October 13, 1941, SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik received a verbal order from Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler to start immediate construction work on the first extermination camp at Belzec, in the General Government, Poland.

The construction of 3 more extermination camps, Sobibór, Chelmo, and Treblinka, at Małkinia Górna, followed in 1942. Globocnik then oversaw Operation Reinhard, which was the systematic killing of more than 1,5 million Jews and non-Jews from Poland, and also Czechoslovakia, France, the Reich (Austria and Germany), the Netherlands and the Soviet Union.

The structure of all camps was nearly identical. From the reception area, with ramp and undressing barracks, the victims entered a narrow, camouflaged path (called tube) that led to the extermination area, with gas chambers, pits and cremation grids. The SS guards and Ukrainers Trawnikis lived in a separate area. Wooden watchtowers and barbed-wire fences, partially camouflaged with pine branches, surrounded these camps.

Unlike the camps such as Dachau or Auschwitz, no electric fences were used, as camp inmate numbers were low. There were only slaves that were used to assist arriving transport, for clearing away bodies, or for seizing property and valuables from dead victims.

Extermination process

The operation of extermination camps was similar to the killing methods used in some of the concentration camps such as Birkenau. First, victims would be asked to voluntarily hand over their valuables (which then became property of the German Reichsbank). Next, they were ordered to get undressed. Later, their clothes would be searched for hidden jewelry and other valuables. The naked victims were then force-marched into the gas chamber. Once packed tightly inside (to minimize available air), the chamber doors were closed. Finally, gas, which was initially carbon monoxide made by an gas-driven engine, was discharged inside. Twenty minutes later, the gas doors would be re-opened. Bodies were then removed by Sonderkommando; these were special teams of camp inmates given the job of disposing of the corpses in large mass graves.

The Höfle Telegram totals the numbers of people sent to the Aktion Reinhard Camps in 1942 as 1,274,166. It is likely nearly every one was killed shortly after arrival.

Initially during Operation Reinhard, bodies were just thrown into mass graves and covered with lime. From early 1943 on, all buried victims were excavated and burned in open air pits in order to hide the evidence of this war crime. But they still left a paper trail, an intercepted telegram sent by Hermann Höfle on January 11, 1943, to Adolf Eichmann in Berlin, listed 1,274,166 total arrivals to the four camps of Aktion Reinhard through the end of 1942, as well as the total arrivals by camp for the last two weeks of 1942.

Disposition of the property of the victims

Approximately 178m German Reichsmark worth of Jewish property (today's value: around 700m USD or 550m Euro) was taken. This money went not only to German authorities, but also to single individual SS and police men involved; however, the SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen was not allowed to investigate further the apparent corruption in these camps.

Aftermath and cover up

A timetable listing the Jewish transports being sent to Treblinka on August 25, 1942.

Operation Reinhard ended in November 1943. Most of the staff and guards were then sent to northern Italy for further Aktion against Jews and local partisans. Globocnik went to the San Sabba concentration camp, where he supervised the detention, torture and killing of political prisoners.

At the same time, to cover up the mass murder of more than two million people in Poland during Operation Reinhard, the Nazis implemented the secret Sonderaktion 1005, also called Aktion 1005 or Enterdungsaktion ("exhumation action"). The operation, which began in 1942 and continued until the end of 1943, was designed to remove all traces that mass murder had been carried out. Leichenkommando ("corpse units") were created from camp prisoners to exhume mass graves and cremate the buried bodies, using giant grills made from wood and railway tracks. Afterwards, bone fragments were ground up in specialized milling machines and all remains were then re-buried in freshly-dug pits. The Aktion was overseen by squads from the SD and Orpo.

After the war, some guards were tried and sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials for their role in Operation Reinhard and Sonderaktion 1005; however, many others escaped justice.

Alternative reference

In a report he wrote in Polish custody in Krakow in November 1946, Rudolf Höss, the former Auschwitz commandant, described Operation Reinhardt as the code name given to the collection, sorting and utilization of all articles which were acquired as the result of the transports of Jews and their extermination.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Aktion Reinhard" (PDF). Yad Vashem. http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/microsoft%20word%20-%205724.pdf.  
  2. ^ Sereny, Gita, The Healing Wound -- Experiences and Reflections on Germany 1938-1941, at 135-46, Norton, 2001 ISBN 0-393-04438-9
  3. ^ Höss, Rudolf. Commandant of Auschwitz. Phoenix Press, London, 2000, p. 194.

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