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Aktion Reinhard

Last Update 5 September 2006


"Einsatz Reinhard" - code name for the extermination of Polish Jewry in the former Generalgouvernement and the Bialystok area, better known as "Aktion Reinhard".
The term was taken in remembrance of SS-Obergruppenführer 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 German troops during WW2. Members of the Czech underground resistance fighters assassinated Heydrich on 27 May 1942.

Chain of Command
Chain of
The head of Aktion Reinhard was SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik, (SS- and police chief of the district Lublin), appointed by Heinrich Himmler. SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, chief of Hauptabteilung Reinhard (Main Department Reinhard), was responsible for personnel and organization of deportations, extermination camps and realization of the victims' valuables.

Polizei-Kriminalkommissar Christian Wirth and his staff of the euthanasia programme ("Aktion T4") - experienced in killing innocent victims such as the mentally and terminally ill - were not sent to the front but ordered to Lublin and became the hard core in the extermination camps in eastern Poland (Complete Staff of Germans and Austrians). The camp guards were recruited from Soviet POWs, mainly Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche volunteer auxiliaries who were trained at the Trawniki camp near Lublin. Those T4 men who had no basic military training because they were police men, workers or male nurses, underwent this in Trawniki.
Many of them were promoted because of their atrocities in the death camps.

The Aktion Reinhard headquarters were located in Lublin, the construction department in Zamosc. The clothes and belongings of the victims were stored and sorted in Lublin (Chopin Street and at disused hangars of the Lublin Airfield).

Starting from 1 November 1941 (Timeline, Time Table, and Comparison of Dimensions), three extermination camps were constructed to cope with the population of adjacent ghettos and other victims from surrounding areas: first Belzec, then Sobibor, and finally Treblinka. They were located in the far east of Poland near the borders with Byelorussia and Ukraine. The camps had to be located near main railway lines as victims were to be transported by rail, and in sparsely populated areas because of secrecy. As a guise the victims were told that they were being transported (Deportation Transports) east for resettlement and work.

The extermination process in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka was similar to the "well-tried" method used in the six euthanasia killing centers in Germany and Austria:
Deception ("You must get a shower in the bathroom!").
Handing over the valuables (enrichment for the German Reichsbank).
Undressing (realization of the clothings and finding of hidden jewelry).
Cooping up the victims in the gas chamber (as narrow as possible to minimize the air volume).
Use of carbon monoxide gas (CO) (discharged through gaspipes).
Cremating the corpses (covering up all tracks).

The structure of all camps was nearly identical:
From the reception area with ramp and undressing barrack the Jews entered a narrow, camouflaged path (called sluice or tube) to the extermination area with gas chambers, pits and cremation grids. The SS and Trawnikis stayed in a separate area, the Jewish work command too. Barbed wire fences, partially camouflaged with pine branches, surrounded the camp and separated the different parts. Electric fences like in Auschwitz were not used. Wooden watchtowers completed the camp.

In course of Aktion Reinhard approximately 2 Million Jews lost their lifes in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek. Jewish property to the value of 178,045,960 German Reichsmark (todays value around 760,000,000 US$) was robbed and fell into the hands of German authorities but single persons too (SS and police men, camp guards, non-Jewish inhabitants of towns and villages with ghettos or adjacent camps). Aktion Reinhard Economics

Aktion Reinhard ended in November 1943. After they finished their bloody work in Poland, most of the men were sent to northern Italy for actions against remaining Jews and partisans. Many of them turned up again in the concentration camp San Sabba near Trieste. The group disintegrated after the surrender of the German Wehrmacht in Italy. See Himmler's thank-you letter to Globocnik.

The Police State
What was known, what was done by the Allies
Aktion Reinhard and Historical Perspective
Aktion Reinhard PRO Decodes
Aktion Reinhard Economics
Globocnik's Staff in Lublin
The Nazi Police School in Rabka
Aktion Reinhard Books
Camp Songs and Music

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