The Holocaust in Poland: Operation Reinhard/ Aktion Reinhard (1941-43)

Figure 1.--These Jews from the Lublin Getto are beinbg forced into boxcars for transport to the Belzec death camp as part of Aktion Reinhard in 1942. Source: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

Operation Reinhard was the systematic plan to kill Polish Jews on an industrial basis. The NAZIs began the Holocaust by driving Jews outof Germany. This substantially reduced the number of Jews in the Reich. Subsequent NAZI aggressions: Austria (1938), Czechoslovakia (1938-39), and especially Poland (1939) brought many more Jews under NAZI control. The NAZI policy was not to kill these Jews in large numbers, but to concentrate themm in medieval ghettos located in occupied Poland. NAZI officials debated what to do with the Jews. There were inpractical schemes flosated like deporting them to Madagascar. Confinement in the ghettos allowed the NAZIs to strip them of their property. Many NAZIs wanted to use them as slavce labor and this was the general aprroach (1939-41). The invasion of the the Soviet Union was the turning point (June 1941). Hitler decided to simply kill Soviet Jews. This was the first major killing operation of the Final Sollution. There were some short term ghettos formned in the Baltics, but most Soviet Jews were killed when ever they were found by specially formed Einsatzgruppen and local auxileries. Next the NAZIs turned to the 2.3 million Jews in occupied Poland, mostly the Government General. This was the second major killing operation of the Final Sollution. The Germands began killing Jews from the first day of the invasion of Poland (September 1939), but in disorganized, largely small scale actions. The plan to kill every Polish Jew on an organized, industrial basis was named Operation Reinhard in honor of SS SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. The planning began in 1941, but was only named Operation Reinhard after British-Czech agents killed Heydrich (May 1942). At the time the killing process was already underway.

General Government

Hitler was insistent that Poland should be wiped off the map. After seizing Poland (September 1939), the Nazis created the so-called Generalgouvernement (General Government). This was NAZI occupied Poland. The term Generalgouvernement was selected as it was the term the Germans used for the administration they set up in the Polish territory seized from the Russians during World War I (1915). The General Government was divided into four districts: Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin. The Governor-General, Frank, was located in Krakow. It was an autonomous part of "Greater Germany", similar to the status of occupied Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia). The NAZI General Government was central Poland. Western Poland (the Polish Corridor, Lodz and Polish Silesia were annexed into the German Reich. Eastern Poland was seized by the Soviets. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler by decree ordered the Polish voivodeships of Eastern Galicia (with a largely Ukrainian population) were added to the Government General as Galicia District. The NAZIs administed the Government General differently than other areas, in part because they could not find ny suitable Polish Quislings. It was not administered as a pupper state like Slovakia and Bohemia-Moravia. The NAZIs were not really interested in finding Poles to collaborate with. The NAZIs avoided even using the term Poland. The purpose of the occupation was to destroy Poland and much of the population that could not be aranized. There were no Polish puppet offucials. The Government was administered by Germans. Hitler appointed Hans Frank Governor-General (October 26, 1939). Frank served in that post until the Red Army approached Krakow in early 1945. He was known for his brutality. As Govenor General he oversaw one of the most brutal occupation regimes in history. An estimated 6.5 million Poles perished during the War, about a quarter of the population.


Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Security Police, ordered that all Jews in Poland and Czechoslovakia be isolated and concentrated in ghettos (Sepember 21, 1939). This did not take place immediately because of the level of organization involved. The Jews were to be concentrated in ghettos set up in in Poland's larger cities. The NAZIS used Jewish neighborhoods in the major cities for the major ghettoes (Warsaw , Lódz, Kraków, Lublin, and Lvov). Hans Frank was the leading NAZI Jurist. He was made the commander of the Government General, the area of NAZI controlled Poland not annexed by the Reich. He implemented Heydrich's orders. The ghettos were a key part of the evolving NAZI plan of dealing with Jews. From the NAZI perspective there were various advantages. 1) Once confined in ghettoes the Jews could be easily forced to work as slave labor. 2) Their consumption of food and goods could be restricted to help avoid war time shortages in Germahny. 3) As they were concentrated and separated from the general Polish popultion, future actions could be nore easily conducted. Here the NAZIs may hve originally been thinking of deportation east, but this soon turned to mass murder. The decession to establish the ghettos appears to have been taken befor the decssion to commit genocide, but once that decession was taken the concebntration made the killing opperation easier. 4) The process of stripping Jews of their property could be completed. The Jews were foirced out of their homes and required to hand over valuables as they entered the ghettoes. NAZI propaganda maintained that Jews were genetic carriers of various diseases (particularly typhus) and thus there were public health considerations. The German people were told that the Jews were natural enemies of the Reich and Aryan race and thus encarcerating the Jews was a nececessary war-time measure.

SSPF Odilo Globocnik (1904-45)

Odilo Globocnik was born in Trieste while it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1904). His parents ware Austrian–Slovenes. Such intermarriage was quite common in the cosmopolitan, multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a Habsburg cavalry officer who became a senior postal official. His mother was born in Hungary. Globocnik did have grandmothers with German names. The family moved from Trieste (Italy) to Klagenfurt (Austria) after World War I. Sources vary as to just when they moved. As a young man he apparently sought work as a stone mason. He joined the Austrian NAZI Party (1931). He joined the SS (1934). His less than steller German credentials are interesting as the SS at first was very strict asbout membership, requiring geneological background searches. His pro-Nazi activities in Austria resulted in prison terms. Some believe he helped kill Jewish jeweller Norbert Futterweit (June 1933). Actual evidence is limited.) is open to speculation (Futterweit was killed in a Nazi bomb attempt in Wien). Globocnik helped form NAZI Party cells in the provinces. He was appointed provincial party leader in Kärnten (Carinthia) in recognition of his work (1936). He played an important role in the Anschluss (March 1938). Hitler gave him personal instructions at the Reichskanzlei (Reich's Chancellery) in Berlin. He thus received the key assignment as Gauleiter of Vienna (May 28). His performance as Gauleiter outraged even his SS superiors, not because of vicious attacks on Jews, but because he was athief. He was respnsible for financial irregularities such as setting up personsal accounts for funds extorted or sdtolen from Jews. He was also charged with mismanaging Party funds. He was removed (January 1939). In recognition of his contributions, however, he was not tried and sentenced. SS Reichführer Himmler not only pardoned him, but after the invasion and occupation of Poland appointed him SS- und Polizeiführer (SSPF) für den Distrikt Lublin (November 9, 1939) and promoted him from SS-Oberführer to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor. He was thus responsible for SS and police matters in Lublin. Lublin was in Frank's General Government, but Himmler and Frank disagreed on many matters, thus there was tension between Globocnik and Frank. (This was often the case and reflected jurisdictional disputes between the NAZI Party and its gauleiters and Himmler's SS. Hitler to Himmler's frustration often supported the gauleiters who were for themost part old Party comrads.) Globocnik moved himself into a posh villa on Wieniawska Street in Lublin and by extoring and srtealing Jewish and Polish property lived a luxrious lifestyle. He was the mnost powerful man in the region, a region for rich Himmler had great plans. Globocnik soon surrounded himself with a several fellow Austrians who had worked with him in Carinthia. Killing Jews was, however, not one of the issues on which they disagreed. After the laubch of Barbarossa, Himmler appointed Globocnik as his "Plenipotentiary for the Construction of SS- and Police bases in the former Soviet areas" (July 1941). His base commanders were: Georg Michalsen (Riga), Kurt Classen (Bialystok and Minsk), Hermann Höfle (Mogilew), Richard Thomalla (Starakonstantinow, Zwiahel and Kiev). Hermann Dolp was also prominent in the construction of these bases at Minsk and Mogilew. Himmler also gave Globocnik orders to proceed with what would become Operation Reinhard. The five SS officers appointed as base commanders would play leading roles in Operation Reinhard.

Preliminary Killing

SS Brigadeführer (brigadier) Odilo Globocnik as the raking police official in the Lublin area began to kill Jews well before the death camps were ready. Consruction took some time. They began killing Jews from the General Government after the onset of Basrbarossa. The invasion of the Soviet Union and the killing of Jews there seems to have disolved any hesitation the NAZIs had about the mass murder of Jews. Globocnik's men were killing large numbers of Jews by the autumn, using "Eastern Methods", meaning primarily shooting. Jews were lined up in available depressions, abandoned tank ditches were a favorite, and shot. Sometimes the victims were fiorced to \dig their own graves. Using these methods, Jews were killed in the hundeds. But the General Government held over 2 million Jews. Thus it was clear that a more efficent killing operation was needed.

Decession to Kill

It is not etirely clear precisely clear when SS Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik received his orders to proceed with the muder of the Jews in the General Government. They almost certainly were verbal orders delivered by SS Reichführer Himmler. We know that Himmler visited with Globocnik and his staff in Lublin (September 1941). This was when the oirders were probanly delivered. They also almost certainly discussed killing methods. Shooting was cklearly an unsatisfactory method because it was slow. Gas vans were being used at Chelmo. Zyklon-B was being tested at A\uschwitz. Globocnik was in touch with exoperts that had used gas in the T4 program. [Musial, p. 127.] Shortly afterward, Globocnik's men had find a suitable site for the first death camp--Belzc. Globocnik met with FRan (October 17). Frank's highest priority was to do away with the Jews that the SS had cramed into the General Government. He thus concured with Globocnik's plans to "evacuate" the Jews East. This was a common NAZI euphenism for murder. And Rosenberg who was Minister for the Eastern Territories to the easdt of the General Government had previously made in clear that therec would be no transports across the Bug River. Frank did not have the facilities to kill more than 2 million Jews, Globocnik was offering him just such facilities within the Government General. On the same day that Frank and Globocnik, Hitler was regaling his dinner guests with his vision of the future for the East (October 17). This was a subject he had written about at some length in Mein KJampf more tan 15 years earlier. But now much of the East and its people was actually in his hands. He told his guests that the only task for German administrators in the General Government was Germinization of the land. The natives would be treated like "Red Indians". Hitler greatly admired how the Americans and Canadians dealt with Native Americans. "We eat Canadian cornand don't think of the Indians." [Jochmann, p. 91.] Here he was actually thinking beyond the Jews as to what was to be done with the Poles.


The planning and conduct of Opperation Reinhard was overseen by SS Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik and SS Hauptsturmführer (captain) Hermann Höfle. Globocnik had virtually unlimited police power in the Lublin district of the General Government. The only real restriction on his authority was the distribution of the property stolen from the victims. This was not Globocnik's principal assignment. It was just a task assigned to him. Höfle was Globocnik was Chief of Operations and assigned responsibility for organization and manpower. The name for the operation was only adopted after British-Czech agents killed Heydrich (May 1942). Heydrich at the time was the NAZI Reich Protector of Bohemia Moravia, but he had been a key figure in planning the Holocaust. Globocnik reported directly to SS Reichfüwas Heinrich Himmler. The killing process was made much easier by the fact that Polish Jews had already been concentrated into enclosed ghettos. The tasks Himmler assiged Globocnik were to 1) planning of deportations from the ghettos in the General Government to the death camps, 2) construction the death camps and killing the Jews as they arrived. 3) collecting and sorting the possssessions of the victims. To accomplish this, Globocnik had a staff of 450 people headquartered in Lublin. An especially important part of his staff was SS men who had been members who had been involved in the n: T-4 Euthanasia program, part of the NAZI eugenics program in the Reich. The managers NAZIs had been forced to close down the T-4 program because of adverse public reaction when information leaked out. (It had not been a SS operation and thus security was lax..) Actually it was nevver stopped, but continued at amaller raste and more desretely. Individuals working in the program had acquired considerable expertiese in how to efficently kill large numbers of people. They had begun using carbon monoxide exhaust fumes before the program was officially closed down.


The principal facilities operated by the Operation Reinhard staff was the three death camps. Other facilities were the SS training camp at Trawniki and the SS clothing workshops at Lublin. The SS at Trawniki trained the personnel conducting Operation Reinhsard. The SS at Trawniki over 2½ years trained an estimated 2,000-3,000 people on how to round up Jews, transport them to the death camps, and finally to kill them. All of the individuals involved were volunteers, although for the Soviet POWs the alternative was a grim camp and starvation. The trainees included Volksdeutsche, Red Army POWs (mostly Ukrainians). The clothing workshops used Jewish slave labor to disinfect, repair and sort the clothing of the victims collected at the death camps after the killong. It was then shipped to Germany. The distri\bution of more valuable personal belongings, especially watches and jewelry, varied. Much of this was distributed or sold to SS personnel. Admiral Dönitz liked to awatd watches toi hisd U-boat commanders. There were also gold bars and currency. This was to be delivered to the SS, but some of it was pilfered by the SS involved in the Operation. Much of the proceeds was turned over to the Department for Volksdeutsche. This was an SS organization overseeing the Volksdeutsche in German-occupied countries, especially occupied western Poland. Other prooceeds were turned over to the Reichsbank or the Ministry of Economics.

Death Camps

The ghettos were not death camps, although JHews died there in lsarge numbers because the SS who managed them restriucted food deliveries. Jews there were able for ca ime to restore some normsalcy to their lives. NAZI sauthorities established a variety of highly productive enterprises supporting the war effort. But for Hitler and thus Himmler, the death rate was not high enough. Thus death camps were established with the sole puropse of killing. There was no pretense at work. Jews arriving at these camps were killed shoirtly after the arrival of the transports. The first death camp was Belzec. There were two other death camps opened for Opersation Reinhard: Sobibor and Treblinka. These camps were not just used to kill Polish Jews. Jews from oter parts of NAZI occupied Europe were killed there, but their primary purpose was to kill Polish Jews. There were other NAZI death camps: Chełmno, Majdenek, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, but they were not part of Operation Reinhard and used to kill the Jews in the Government General. The sites for the camps were carefully chosen. They had to be close to rail lines. Rail was the principal means of transport. They also needed to be sited in isolated places, distant from major population centers so there would be few witnesses to the killing. (The actual killing could be screened, but not the rail traffic, noise, smoke, oder, and oter side affects. The planners also wanted sites in eastern Poland. There were several reasons for this. There were few local Germans that might observe the actions and ther local population did not dare report on it. And the NAZIs had plans for the local population as well--Generalplan Ost. It also lent a thin veneer of truth to what the Jews in the ghettos were being told, that they were being resetteled in the East. The concern here was to make them easier to handel.

Soviet Offensive before Moscow (December 1941)

Hitler and OKW had thought they had won the War. The Germans had killed or captured 4.5 million Red Army soldiers. No country seemed capable of surviving such casualties. In fact, as aesult of mobilization, the Red Army was larger by the end of November than at the onset of Bsarbarossa. Thus the Red Army offensive before Moscow came as a great shock (December 1941) The Soviet offensive for a time threatened the entire Eastern Front. German losses were staggering and unlike the Soviets, losses which could not be replaced. The Wehrmacht did, however, finally managed to sabilizing the front (mid-April 1942). The Soviet offensive also threatened the whole process of the Holocaust. The NAZIs had been denied victory, but they still controlled Poland. Rather than bring Hitler to rethink the idea of mass murder, the failure of Barbasrossa caused him and Himmler to speed up the work on Belzac and the other death camps. The idea of waiting until until after the War and using Jewish labor for the War effort was not completely discarded. The priority would be to kill Jews, both the children and elderly as well as those capable of labor.

Gamp Designs

The design of thethree death camps varied, but the general concept was very similar. They were all very small camps as there was no need for work sites or housing for the victims. Common features included housing for the guards, basic housing for the camp workers (prisoners who were periodically killed and replaced), reception area, undressing area (the victims were told they had to shower), and disguised gas chambers. There was also a sorting area to go through the clothes and suitcases and other of the victims. These camps did not have cremsatoria. The victims were just to be burried in large pits. This was because the basic concept for the camps came duriuing Barbarossa when it looked like the Red Army would collapse and victory was imminent. After the Red Army offensive before Moscow, this changed and eventually the Germans decided it would be wiser to dispose of any incrimating evidence. They thus began the more labor intensive operating of burning the boddies in laege pyres.

Gas Chambers

The three Operation Reinhard camps were designed to kill Jews in gas chambers. Drawing from the T4 expperiences. the gas chambers, actually sealed rooms, at the Reinhard cames were designed to use carbon monoxide fumes pumped into the sealed rooms as the killing agent. Thee SS did not yet have the Zyklon B used at Auschwitz. Thus the killing process took longer, but no less deadly. .

The Killing (March 1942)

The killing process, timetable, and victims varied from camp to camp. We now know a great deal about the killing process at each of the Reinhard camps. Reports every 2 weeks were sent by SS Major Hüfle, Globocnik's Chief of Staff to to SiPO/SD Headquaters in the General Government. We have some of these reports because they were transmitted and picked up by the British in the Ultra decrypts. The report sent January 11, 1943 reported that the arrivals for the last 2 weeks of December 1942 totaled: "L 12761, B 0, S 515, T 10335." The letters referred to the different camps. The message also provided a total of arrivals as part of Operation Reinhard: ""L 24733, B 434508, S 101370, T 71355(0), together 1274166". As the Belzec, Sorbibor, and Treblinka were death camps, "arrivals" was essentially a report of Jews killed there. Thus we have evidence from the Reinhard directors of just how effective the death camps were, 1.3 million Jews killed after only 10 months by the end of 1942.


The killing operation began when Belzec started to operate (March 1942). The killing boperations began with Jews from Krakow and Lvov districts (March 17). The NAZIs succeeded in killing about 74,000 Jews from Lublin and Galacia in one month. A total of 0.4-0.5 million Jews are believed to have been murdered at Belzac. Many of the Jews confined, starved, and eventually murdered at Belzac were from Eastern and Western Galicia. Mamy German Jews and Jews from areas of occupied countries incorporated into the Reich were also killed at Belzac. About 1,500 Poles accused of helping Jews, Gypsies, and thousands of Soviet prisonors of war were also killed at Belzec. [Gilbet, p. 421.] The bodies were buried in 33 massive pits. the NAZis attempted to hide what was done at Belzac by destroying the buildings and planting trees. They also built a small farm house there. A joint Isreali-Polish Belzac Memorial Project is now building a memorial at the site to remember the victims murdered there.


Sorbibor was another death camp The vast majority of those sent to Sorbibor to be killed were Jews. Most were murdered within hours of their arrival by gas. About 0.25 million Jews were killed at Sorbior, many from the surrounding area. Some Dutch Jews were also killed at the camp. There was no significant forced labor work at Sorbibor. The sole purpose was to kill Jes as soon as they arrived. As in all the death camps, Jews were forced to participate in the killing by the SS. The Jews and Soviet POWs stage a sucessful rising (October 14, 1943). They managed to kill a few SS and Ukranian guards. A few of the priosoners managed to escape, most of those who broke out were tracked down and killed by the SS as were all prisinors who did not participate in the uorising. The camp was subsequently closed, in part because of the advancing Red Army and in part because the number of avaible Jews in NAZIs has been significantloy reduced by the killings in 1942-43.


Treblinka I was one of the three secret camps of Operation Reinhardt (the others were Belzec, and Sobibórk). The NAZIs killed more than 0.75 million Jews at Teblinka. Some estimates are as high as 0.85 million Jews. Almost all of the victims were Jews. A small number of Gypseys (Roma) were also killed here. The Jews killed at Treblinka were primarily Polish Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto and more than a hundred villages in the area around Warsaw. But not just Polish Jews were killed at Trblinka. Jews from as far as Greece were murdered there. Jews stage a revolt at Treblinka (August 2, 1943). They killed a few Germans and a few of the Jews managed to escape. Most were subsequently executed. The gassings at the camp, however, stopped (October 1943).


The pace of killing decline in 1943. Few transports arrived at Treblinka after May 1943. The Jewish prisoners working as psart of Operation 1005 attempted a break out (August 1943). There was an uprising at Sorbibor (Octiober 1943). Himmler terminated Operation Reinhard (December 1943). He ordered the remaining ghettoes to be liquidated in Operation Harvest Festival. He ordered thedeath camps closed and torn down. Almost all of the Jews in the General Government had been killed. The only concentratioins of Jews remaining in Poland were in Auschwitz and the much reduced Lodz ghetto. Some of the few survivors were working in Luftwaffe clothing factories. Finally Himmler transferred Globocnik to Trieste. He brouht some of his staff with him and they immmediately set about killing Jews and partisans and shipping others to Auschwitz, He opened the only gas chamber in Italy.

Operation 1005/Aktion 1005 (1942-44)

Operation 1005 was the SS effort to cover up evidence physical evidence of the Holocaust--2-3 million bodies burried in thosands of locations throughout Eastern Europe. When the NAZIs launched upon the killing phase of the Holocaust, the idea of destoying the evidence was not aajor concern. The Whermacht dominated Europe and Hitler and Himmler expected the Wehrmacht would destroy the Soviet Red Army in a short summer campaign. There seemed to be no real need to bother with destroying the evidence. After the Soviet counter offensive before Moscow (December 1941) and then the Stalingrad disaster (January 1943), the situation in the East changed dramatically. And Himmler began to destroy the evidence. We are not sure if he discussed this with Hitler as it confronted the possibility that Germany might lose the War. Himmle ordered that the bodies of the vicgtims be dug up and cremated--Aktion 1005. The largest number of bodies were located around the Reinhard camps, but there were large numbers of locations where smaller numbers of bodies were burried. That is not to say small numbers of bodies of course, only smaller than the mountains of bodiess buried around the Reinhard camps. The Reinhard camps, unlike Auschwitz, did not have crematoria to destroy the evidence of the killing operation. Bodies at the camps through 1942 bodies were buried or burned in huge pits which left evidence of the massive killing operatin in tact. The NAZIs were not too woried about this when they were sure they would win the War. As German fortunes wained in the battledied, it became more of a concern. This became even more apparent when the Germans found the bodies of Polish officers killed in the Katyn Forest by the NKVD (around late-1942). Priopaganda Chief Goebbels began using the discovery in his propaganda broadcasts (April 1943). The SS at the Reinhard camps in early-1943 began using above ground pyres to incinerate the corpses this was faster and destroyed the evidence. The problem for the NAZIs was they had let million of corpses buried in counless sites scattered all over Eastern Europe. The SS-Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union were responsible for most of these sites. SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich gave SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel command of Aktion 1005 (March 1942). Blobel was not only a military, but was involved with the Einsatzgruppen, including the killing operation at Babi Yar outside Kiev. The assisination of Heydrich by SOE British-Czech operatives (June 1942) delayed the operation. SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo, gave Blobel his orders (late-June 1942). The primary goal was to destroy the evidence of the killing of Jews, NAZI buchery was not limited only to Jews. The men chosen for Operation 1005 were SiPo/SD men sworn to secrecy. Aktion 115 set out to also destroy the evidence of non-Jewish killed by the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union. [Arad. Operation] Blobel decided to begin his work closder to home at the Chelmno death camp. He experimented with various approsaches to destroying the buried corpses. Incendiary bombs were used to to destroy exhumed bodies, but set off forest fires. After some experimentation, Blobel concluded thsat the bodies had to be exhumed and stacked in giant pyres on iron grills. This meant constructing pyres with with alternating layers of corpses and firewood on railway tracks. Bone fragments which remained were crushed in a grinding machine. The remaining ash was reburried. The operation commenced at Sorbibor even as the killing operations were in progress. Leichenkommando exhumed the bodies from the many mass graves around the camp and burned them. The Jewish prisoners forced to do this were then shot. The process was repeated at Belzec (December 1942) and then Treblinka. Operation 1005 faced a more difficult task further east as there were many more sites and they were widely scattered. What Himmler hoped to avoid was illustrated when a Wehrmacht officer discovered the mass graves of Polish officers shot by the Soviet NKVD in 1940. The Germans announced the discovery (April 1943). Goebbels launched a major propaganda campaign. Blobel undaunted returned to the major killing sites at Babi Yar, Ponary and the Ninth Fort. Blobel reached Babi Yar (August 1943). He found the Jewish corpses covered by more recent NAZI victims (POWs, opartisans, and civilians). Finally Blobel reached sites in Belorussia and the Baltics. Red Army troops entering Estonisa in 1944 found the Operation 1005 pyres still burning. Blobel and his commnd reported to SS Col . Adolf Eichmann in Hungary that the mission of Kommando 1005 had been completed (1944). He had destroyed evidence at the larger sites, but the killing was to massive and too widespread to have destoyed all of the evidence. As many as 60,000 people, miodstly Jews, are believed to have been used in the process and then killed. At the Nuremberg trials he insisted that he "only" killed 10,000-15,000 people. As Soviet forces moved into Poland, SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Koppe, head of the Reichsgau Wartheland (occupied western Poland) ordered that each of the General Government's five districts set up an Aktion 1005 group to begin "cleaning" mass graves. The operations were still in progress when Red Army units overran many of the sites.


The most startling aspect of Operation Reinhard besides the abject depravity behind it was how a small staff of 450 SS men could carry out the morder of 2.3 million Jews in the Government General as well as oher Jews from elsewwher in Europe in so short a period of time, essentially a year and a half.

The Allies

Holocaust literature often criticizes the Allies for not preventing the Holocaust. Here we largely agree with the assessments that address the pre-War period before the NAZI invasion of Poland (September 1939). Here many people could have been saved and te NAZIs were willing to allow Jews to depart, after first stealing their property. But the numbers of Jews involved were relatively limited. More than half of the German Jews had aklready departed. So we are only talking about the remnaining German Jews and Ausrian Jews. The number is not small, but only a fraction of European Jews. The criticism aimed at the War-era is much lest valid. The Germans within the first 2 years of the War conquered Western Europe. The Brish were hard pressed to defend their island, let alone impede what the Germans did in Eastern Europe. And even after America entered the War, it was not until 1943 that the battle for control of the air over Europe began in earest. American attacks on even western Germany in 1943 suffered apauling casualties. Attacks on Berlin were even more dangerous. And much of the killing involved in the Holocaust took place before the Allies develope air superority in early 1944. The Soviet Jews were killed in 1941-42. And as we see here, the Polish Jews were killed in 1942-43. Jews from Western Europe were nostly lilkled 1942-43. The one remaining large groups of Jews left by 1944 were the Hungarian Jews. Here something more might have been done, but most disdcussions of this subject overestimate the Allies capabilities and understimate the difficulties of Allied sactions such as bombing the gas chambers at Auschwitz. President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower were right that the best way of saving those victimized by the NAZIs as to win the War as soon as possible. And the Allied victory was why 6 million European Jews survived the Holocaust.


Arad, Yitzhak Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indianapolis, 1987).

Arad, Yitzhak. "Operation Reinhard: Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka", Yad Vashem Studies Vol. 16 (1984), pp. 205-39.

Breitmn, Richard. Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew.

Gilbert, t, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. II (1933-54) (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.

Jochmann, W. ed. Adolf HitlerMonologe im Führer-Hauptquartier, 1941-1944 (Hamburg: 1980).

McVay, Kenneth N. "HOLOCAUST FAQ: Operation Reinhard: Layman's Guide to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka" Usenet news.answers. (1998).

Musial, B. "The Origins of 'Operation Reinhard': The Decesioin-Making Processfor the Mass Murder of the Jews in the Generalgouvernement," Yad Vashem Studies Vol. 28 (2000), pp. 113-53.


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