Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Operation Reinhard (Aktion Reinhard or Einsatz Reinhard) was the code name given to the Nazi plan to murder Polish Jews in the former General Gouvernement and the Bialystok area. The execution of Aktion Reinhard was the initial stage of the Holocaust, prior to the gassings conducted in Auschwitz.
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. After the mass extermination of millions of people was planned at the Wannsee conference, Heydrich was attacked by members of the Czech underground resistance on 27 May 1942, dying of his injuries on 4 June.
Three extermination camps with gas chambers were constructed for Aktion Reinhard: Treblinka, Sobibór and Belzec. At least 1.7 million people were exterminated in these camps, either by suffocating them with diesel motor exhaust, or poisoning them with Zyklon B gas, as happened as well in the better known death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Aktion Reinhard was devised as a more "humane" method of mass murder, but only to be more "humane" to the murderers conducting the act of killing. Mass executions with rifles or MGs had a rather adverse effect even on the mental stability and conscience of SS execution units. Aktion Reinhard utilized gas for killing people to abstract the act of killing. It was the start of an industrialized mass murder formerly not known to mankind.
Chain of Command
The head of Aktion Reinhard was SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik, (SS- and police chief of the Lublin district), appointed by Himmler. SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, chief of Hauptabteilung Reinhard (Main Department Reinhard), was responsible for personnel and organisation of deportations, extermination camps and realisation of the victims' valuables.
Polizei-Kriminalkommissar Christian Wirth and his staff of the euthanasia program ("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 volunteers and "Volksdeutsche" 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 were promoted because of their atrocities in the death camps.
Aktion Reinhard headquarters
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 Lublin Airfield).
Starting from 1 November 1941 (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!")
The approach to the final solution was a tried and tested process:
- Hand over the valuables for enrichment of the German Reichsbank.
- Undress, allowing the realisation of clothing and finding of hidden jewelry.
- Coop up the victims in the gas chamber as narrow as possible to minimise the air volume and maximise the killing.
- Use carbon monoxide gas (CO) discharged through gaspipes.
- Cremate the corpses and cover 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. 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 lives in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek. Jewish property to the value of 178,045,960 German Reichsmark (today's value around 700,000,000 US Dollars, 450,000,000 British Pounds) was stolen and fell into not only the hands of German authorities but single individuals also (SS and police men, camp guards, non-Jewish inhabitants of towns and villages with ghettos or adjacent camps).
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.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details