HOLOCAUST FAQ: Operation Reinhard: A Layman's Guide (1/2)
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HOLOCAUST FAQ: Operation Reinhard: A Layman's Guide (1/2)         

Group: soc.answers · Group Profile
Author: The Nizkor Project
Date: May 23, 2008 06:15

Archive-name: holocaust/reinhard/part01
Last-modified: 1998/09/12

This FAQ may be cited as:

McVay, Kenneth N. (1998) "HOLOCAUST FAQ: Operation Reinhard: Layman's
Guide to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka" Usenet news.answers. Available
via anonymous ftp from ftp.nizkor.org in
pub/camps/aktion.reinhard/reinhard.faq1 (and ~/reinhard.faq2). ~20 pages.

The most current version of this FAQ is posted every 45 days in the Usenet
newsgroups alt.revisionism, soc.history, soc.answers, alt.answers and
news.answers, and archived as
pub/camps/aktion.reinhard/reinhard.faq1 (and ~/reinhard.faq2), on
the anonymous ftp archive on ftp.nizkor.org.

Operation Reinhard: A Layman's Guide to Belzec, Sobibor
and Treblinka (Part One of Two)

1.0 Introduction & Editorial Notes............................. 1
1.1 Copyright Notice......................................... 2
1.2 Geographic Location and Background....................... 2
1.2.1 Belzec................................................. 2
1.2.2 Sobibor................................................ 4
1.2.3 Treblinka.............................................. 5
2.0 Gas Chambers............................................... 6
3.0 Crematoria................................................. 9
4.0 Compiling estimates on numbers exterminated....[Part 2]....10
4.1 Deportation Statistics ..................................11
4.1.1 Belzec...................................................11
4.1.2 Sobibor..................................................11
4.1.3 Treblinka................................................12
5.0 Administration.............................................13
5.1 Operation Reinhard Command Staff.........................14
5.1.1 Belzec Staff...........................................14
5.1.2 Sobibor Staff..........................................15 Wachman..............................................18
5.1.3 Treblinka Staff........................................18 Wachman..............................................18
5.2 Selection................................................19
5.3 Financial Accounting.....................................19
6.0 Research Sources & Other Useful Appendices.................20
6.1 Recommended Reading......................................20
6.2 Abbreviations Used in Citations..........................21
6.3 Glossary.................................................22
6.4 Work Cited...............................................23

[Reinhard] [Page 1]
1.0 Introduction & Editorial Notes

On January 30, 1942, ... Hitler reaffirmed to the German public his
prewar prophecy that a world war would result in the destruction of
Jewry. Three days later, in private, he told Himmler and other
evening guests: "Today we must conduct the same struggle that Pasteur
and Koch had to fight. The cause of countless ills is a bacillus:
the Jew....We will become healthy if we eliminate the Jew." (Hitler's
speech in the Sportplast on 30 Jan. 1942, reprinted in Max Domarus,
Hitler, Reden und Proklamationen 1932-1945. Munich, 1965, II,
1,828-29; Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Fu"hrerhauptquartier 1941-1944:
Die Aufzeichnungen Heinrich Heims. ed. Werner Jochmann, Hamburg,
1980. 293, 2 Feb. 1942) Two months later Hitler associated himself
completely with Himmler's broad plans for Germanization of the East.
According to what Gottlob Berger heard from a firsthand source,
Hitler told a group of officers whom he decorated with the Iron Cross
with oak-leaf cluster:

I know exactly how far I have to go, but it is so that the whole
East becomes and remains German -- primeval German
[urdeutsch]...We don't need to express our ideas about that now,
and I will not speak about it. That [task] I have given to my
Himmler and he is already accomplishing it. (Berger to Himmler,
10 April 1942, NA RG 242, T-175/R 127/2649922)

Here was the politician calculatingly allowing subordinates to carry
out his dirty work.(Breitman, 234-35) ...the nature of which would
become clear all too soon...

After the assassination (mid-1942) of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's
Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia, the destruction of the Jews in
the Government General (Poland) became formally known as "Operation
Reinhard," in a final tribute to the slain Nazi. This document will
outline the history and effectiveness of the Reinhard camps.

Arad's preface offers these reflections:

BELZEC, SOBIBOR, & TREBLINKA: An integral part of the Nazi
killing machine in occupied Poland - these camps served one
purpose, and one purpose only - the total destruction of the
Jewish people.

The Nazi leaders adopted and executed a deliberate and massive
campaign of genocide which has been documented beyond dispute
and is accepted by an entire world, excepting only those
Neo-Nazi elements cloaking their continuing hatred of the Jewish
people in pseudo-historical nonsense.

The existence of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz,
Maidanek, Chelmno and others is beyond question. The purpose
for which these camps were created is also beyond question.

This article is the result of the combined effort of many, and
contains data from myriad sources. I would like to acknowledge the
assistance of the subscribers to the Holocaust Research Information
List. Without their contributions, this document could not have been

[Reinhard] [Page 2]
The appearance of a quotation mark within a proper name indicates
that the previous letter should be read as an umlaut, although some
quoted material appends a trailing 'e' instead. (I.e. Hoess and
Ho"ss reference the same name.)

Documents cited in this work which are available from our ftp server
are noted in URL format.

1.1 Copyright

This post, as a collection of information, is Copyright 1993-1996 by Ken
McVay, as a work of literature. Non-commercial distribution by any
electronic means is granted with the understanding that the article
not be altered in any way. Permission to distribute in printed form
must be obtained in writing. The removal of this copyright notice is

1.2 Geographic Location and Background

Preparations for Operation Reinhard began with the appointment of
Globocnik and Ho"fle (See Administration, below) to oversee it.
Globocnik was given near-unlimited police power in the Lublin
district of the General Government area of Poland, and Ho"fle given
responsibility for organization and manpower as his Chief of

Three camps, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, were established. They
had to be close to railways, and located in isolated areas, as far as
possible from population centers, so their grisly work would not
attract unwanted attention. In addition, in order to lend a
semblence of credance to the cover being used - that the Jews were
being transferred to work "somewhere in the east" in occupied Soviet
territory - the camps had to be near the eastern border of the
Government General.

1.2.1 Belzec

The first camp, Belzec, was located on the Lublin - Lvov railroad
line, and built between November 1941 and March of 1942. The
killing, of Jews from Krakow and Lvov districts, began on March 17,
1942. (Note: Breitman states that the first SS men showed up at
Belzec in October of 1941, to begin recruitment of laborers for
See http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/orgs/israeli/yad-vashem/yvs16.03 for
construction details.)


"Belzec was the first pure extermination camp to begin operations in
the region. There were only a few hundred worker Jews there (at a
time), most used in the killing facilities or in the recovery of
clothing and items of value from the dead. The first SS men showed
up at Belzec in October 1941 to recruit construction workers to build

[Reinhard] [Page 3]
the facilities. Himmler's office had reported Globocnik's progress
to Oswald Pohl, head of what soon became the SS
Economic-Administrative Main Office (WVHA), preparing Pohl for
cooperation with Globocnik. Pohl's office had reported to Himmler
that it could no longer obtain sufficient clothing or textiles for
the Waffen-SS and the concentration camps. Himmler replied that he
could make available a large mass of raw materials for clothing, and
he gave Globocnik responsibility for delivering them. see Adalbert Ru"ckerl, ed., "NS Vernichtungslager im Spiegel
deutscher Strafprozesse," (Munich, 1978), 132-45; Hilberg,
"Destruction," III, 875-76. Brandt's daily log, with telephone calls
15 Oct., to Pohl, report on Globocnik; 17 Oct., to Pohl, report on
Globocnik; 20 Oct., to Pohl, work with Globocnik, all NA RG 242,
T-581/R 39A. On the nature of the cooperation and the textiles,
interrogation of Georg Loener, 20 Sept. 1947, NA RG 238, M-1019/R
42/946. Loener dated these events "approximately 1941." Brandt's log
notations (see above) pin this down to Oct. 1941. Arad, "Belzec,
Sobibor, Treblinka," 24-25.> Their owners were not likely to object.
The gassing at Belzec began in March 1942 under the supervision of
its first commandant, Christian Wirth. Ninety-one others from the
Fu"hrer Chancellery who had worked with him on euthanasia gassings
ended up at Belzec, Sobibor, or Treblinka -- all of which were
designed to gas Jews and were under Globocnik's supervision. The
gassing experts lived separately from the other SS and police, and
they were not carried on the list of Globocnik's regular troops.
(Arad, "Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka," 24-25, 17. Interrogation of
Johann Sporrenberg, 2 Sept. 1945, Globocnik file, U.S. Army
Intelligence and Security Command, obtained through Freedom of
Information Act.)

Before gas chambers were constructed, there was plenty that Globocnik
could do with more traditional methods of killing. In October 1941
Captain Kleinschmidt, the company leader of a transport unit, came to
the barracks in Lublin and ordered fifteen men to go with him. Each
of the fifteen was given a truck and had to drive it to the
concentration camp nearby. There they loaded about thirty on each of
the fifteen trucks -- a total of about 450 Jews -- and carried them
to an abandoned airport located approximately twenty-five miles from
Lublin. The prisoners had to dig ditches six cubic meters in size.
After finishing the ditches, ten of the victims took off their
clothes and were given corrugated-paper shirts reaching halfway down
the thighs. The bottoms of the ditches were lined with straw. The
victims were ordered, ten at a time, to lie in the ditches,
alternately head to foot. Then Globocnik's men threw hand grenades
into the ditches, and heads, arms, and legs quickly filled the air.
The troops shot anyone still moving after the explosion. Then they
spread lime over the remains, and a new layer of straw was spread on
top of the lime. Three or four layers of bodies, ten in each layer,
were placed in such a grave. During the executions the other victims
had to watch and await their turn. Women were kicked in the stomach
and breasts, children smashed against rocks. According to an
eyewitness to this particular episode, Globocnik's men killed
approximately seventy-five thousand Jews in this general manner.
(Commanding General, Eighth Service Command, ASF Dallas, to Provost
Marshal, 21 May 1945, account of Willi Kempf, POW, NA RG 153, entry
143, box 571, folder 19-99.) Apart from the sadistic killings by
hand, it was about as far as one could go in streamlining the process
of mass murder without more advanced technology. (Breitman, 198-201)

[Reinhard] [Page 4]
1.2.2 Sobibor

The second, Sobibor, was established in March of 1942, near the
village and rail station of Sobibor, not far from the Chelm-Wlodawa
railroad line, in an isolated, wooded and swampy area.

SS-Obersturmfu"hrer Richard Thomalla, a staff member of the SS
Construction Office in Lublin, was in charge of construction, but was
replaced a month later by the first Camp Commandant,
SS-Obersturmfu"hrer Stangl, who was responsible for completing the
job. (get pub/orgs/israeli/yad-vashem/yvs16.04 for construction details.)

Sobibor was designed and constructed in the form of a rectangle, 400
by 600 meters in size. It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence 3
meters high, which had tree branches intertwined with it in order to
disguise the camp. It was divided into three distinct areas, each
independently surrounded by more barbed wire. These areas were:

1. The Administrative area - it consisted of the Vorlager ("forward
camp"; closest to the railroad station), and Camp I, and included
the railroad platform, with space for twenty freight cars, and
living quarters for the German and Ukrainian staff. Camp I, which
was fenced off from the rest, contained housing for Jewish
prisoners and the workshops in which some of them worked.

2. The reception area, or Camp II. This was the place where the Jews
from incoming transports were brought. Here they went through
various procedures before being killed - removal of clothing,
cutting of women's hair, and the confiscation of valuables.

3. The extermination area, Camp III. It was located in the northwest
part of the camp, and the most isolated. It contained the gas
chambers, burial trenches, and housing for Jewish prisoners
employed there. A path, 3 to 4 meters wide and 150 meters long,
led from Camp II to the extermination area. It was enclosed with
barbed wire on both sides, and was camouflaged with intertwined
branches to conceal the path from view. The path, or "tube", was
used to herd the terrified and naked victims into the gas chambers
after being processed. There was also a narrow-gauge railroad
which ran from the rail platform directly to the burial trenches;
it was used to transport those who arrived too ill or too weak to
make it on their own, and for those who had died in transit.

The gas chambers were inside a brick building. There were
initially three of them, each 16 square meters in size, and each
capable of holding from 160 to 180 persons. They were entered
through doors on a platform in the front of the brick building,
and a second door was used to remove bodies after the killing was
finished. The gas, carbon monoxide, was produced by a 200
horsepower engine in a nearby shed.

Burial trenches were nearby, each 50 to 60 meters long, 10 to 15
meters wide, and 5 to 7 meters deep. The initial test of the killing
system occurred in mid-April, when 250 Jews, primarily women, from the
Krychow labor camp, were killed while the entire SS contingent

[Reinhard] [Page 5]
Three additional gas chambers were added during a brief halt in camp
operations which occurred in August-September, 1942. During this
period, Stangl was sent to Treblinka, and replaced by
SS-Obersturmfu"hrer Franz Reichsleitner as Camp Commandant.

At the end of the summer of 1942, the burial trenches were opened,
and the bodies burned in huge piles. Subsequent victims were cremated
immediately after death, instead of being buried as had been done

On July 5, 1943, Himmler ordered the camp closed as an extermination
center, and converted to use as a concentration camp. Camp IV was
built in order to store captured Soviet ammunition.

After the uprising at Sobibor, Himmler abandoned the idea of a
concentration camp and ordered the camp destroyed. The buildings were
destroyed, the land plowed under, and crops planted. No trace
remained by the end of 1943. The area is now a Polish National
Shrine. (Encyclopedia, IV, 1373-1378)

1.2.3 Treblinka

Treblinka, the third Reinhard camp, was located about fifty miles
northeast of Warsaw, and was established during June and July, 1942.
Killing began on July 23, with the Jews of the Warsaw and Radom
districts the victims. The design was similar to that described above,
for Sobibor.
(See http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/orgs/israeli/yad-vashem/yvs16.05 for
construction details) There were three gas chambers initially, each
4 meters by 4 meters in size. Ten more were built between the end of
August, 1942, and the beginning of October of the same year. Upon
their completion, an entire load of twenty railroad cars could be
gassed at the same time - roughly 2400 victims per day. A prisoner
describes the beginning of his journey to the camp:

"The first transport of 'deportees' left Malkinia on July 23,
1942, in the morning hours. ...It was loaded with Jews from the
Warsaw ghetto.

... The train was made up of sixty closed cars, crowded with
people. The car doors were locked from the outside and the air
apertures barred with barbed wire. ...It was hot, and most of
the people in the freight cars were in a faint." (Zabecki,
39-40, as cited in Arad, Belzec)

The killing was about to begin....

During this early period, before mid-August, 5,000 to 7,000 Jews
arrived in Treblinka every day. Then the situation changed, the
pace of transports increased, and there were days when 10,000 to
12,000 deportees arrived, including thousands who had died en
route and others in a state of exhaustion. This state of
affairs disrupted the "quiet welcome" designed to deceive the
deportees into believing they had arrived at a transit station
and that before continuing their journey to a labour camp they
must be disinfected. Blows and shooting were needed to force
those still alive but exhausted to descend from the freight cars
and proceed to the square and the undressing barracks.(Arad,
Belzec) Abrahman Goldfarb, who arrived at the camp on August
25th., relates:

[Reinhard] [Page 6]
When we reached Treblinka and the Germans opened the
freight-car doors, the scene was ghastly. The cars were full of
corpses. The bodies had been partially consumed by chlorine.
The stench from the cars caused those still alive to choke. The
Germans ordered everyone to disembark from the cars; those who
could were half-dead. SS and Ukrainians waiting nearby beat us
and shot at us ... (A. Goldfarb testimony, Yad Vashem Archives
0-3/1846, 12-13, as cited in Arad, Belzec)

Oskar Berger, who was brought to Treblinka on August 22,
described the scene: As we disembarked we witnessed a horrible
sight: hundreds of bodies lying all around. Piles of bundles,
clothes, valises, everything mixed together. SS soldiers,
Germans, and Ukrainians were standing on the roofs of barracks
and firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Men, women, and
children fell bleeding. The air was filled with screaming and
weeping. Those not wounded by the shooting were forced through
an open gate, jumping over the dead and wounded, to a square
fenced with barbed wire." (Kogon, 218, as cited in Arad, Belzec)

2.0 The Gas Chambers

All three of the Reinhard camps used carbon monoxide, pumped into sealed
rooms, to do their killing.

Carbon monoxide worked slower than Zyklon B, but it worked well
enough for Himmler to proceed. While he was ... in Lublin, he
sent a written order to Kru"ger: the "resettlement" of the
entire Jewish population of the Government General was to be
completed by December 31, 1942. With the exception of a few
collection camps for Jews in some major cities, no Jews were to
remain in Poland. All Jewish laborers had to complete their jobs
or be transferred to one of the collection camps. These measures
were prerequisites for the Nazi "new order" in Europe, since any
remaining Jews would stimulate resistance and provide a source
of moral and physical pestilence. (Himmler to Kru"ger, 19 July
1942, NA RG 238, NO-5574, quoted by Arad, Belzec, 47)(Breitman,

Those who deny the Holocaust have claimed that fumes from a diesel
engine are not toxic enough to kill people. (This claim is made with
regard to the death camp of Treblinka - see Section 4.1.3 for the
rulings from the German Treblinka trials. In other death camps,
gasoline engines were used. The method of killing was simple -
people were crammed into the gas chambers, and the exhaust of
powerful engines was pumped into them).

In a closed chamber, of course diesel fumes will kill. There was
actually a study on this in the British Journal of Industrial
Medicine (Prattle, 47-55). The researchers ran a few experiments in
which various animals were exposed to diesel fumes, and studied the
results. (See
for additional information relating to diesel exhaust.)

In the experiments, the exhaust of a small diesel engine (568 cc, 6
BHP) was connected to a chamber 10 cubic meters (340 cubic feet) in
volume, and the animals were put inside it. In all cases, the
animals died. Death was swifter when the intake of air to the engine
was restricted, as this causes a large increase in the amount of
carbon monoxide (CO) that is emitted. (See, for instance, "Diesel

[Reinhard] [Page 8]
Engine Reference Book", by Lilly, 1985, p. 18/8, where it is stated
that at a high air/fuel ratio the concentration of CO is only a few
parts per million but for lower ratios (25:1) the concentration of CO
can rise up to 3,000 ppm. It is very easy to restrict the air intake
- the British researchers did so by partially covering the air intake
opening with a piece of metal.)

Even in cases where the CO output was low, the animals still died
from other toxic components - mainly, irritants and nitrogen dioxide.

Now, the diesel engines used in Treblinka were much larger - they
belonged to captured Soviet T-34 tanks. These tanks weighed 26-31
tons (depending on the model) and had a 500 BHP engine (compared to a
mere 6 BHP in the British experiments). The volume of the
extermination chambers in Treblinka is, of course, a factor. But the
chambers' volume is about 60 cubic meters (2040 cubic feet); this is
6 times more than those in the British experiments, but the difference
in the size of the engines is much larger than a factor of 6.

It should be remembered that what matters in CO poisoning is not the
concentration of CO, but the ratio of CO to oxygen. In a small,
gas-tight room, crammed full of people, oxygen levels drop quickly,
thus making death by CO poisoning faster. As noted, other toxic
components in the fumes further accelerate mortality.

The SS was aware of the fact that cramming as many people as possible
into the gas chamber, thus leaving no empty spaces, would accelerate
mortality. This is evident, for instance, from a letter regarding
"gassing vans" (used in the Chelmno extermination camp and other
locations) sent to SS-Obersturmbannfu"hrer Walter Rauff, 5 June 1942.
(Rauff was in charge of the Technical Department of the Reich Security
Main Office, and was responsible for developing the mobile gas vans
used by the Einsatzgruppen) The letter is quite long, but here is the
relevant part:

2) The vans are normally loaded with 9-10 people per square meter.
With the large Saurer special vans this is not possible because
although they do not become overloaded their maneuverability is
much impaired. A reduction in the load area appears desirable.
It can be achieved by reducing the size of the van by c. 1 meter.
The difficulty referred to cannot be overcome by reducing the size
of the load. For a reduction in the numbers will necessitate a
longer period of operation because the free spaces will have to be
filled with CO. By contrast, a smaller load area which is
completely full requires a much shorter period of operation since
there are no free spaces."(Just. See

[Reinhard] [Page 9]
On July 22 ...deportations began from the Warsaw ghetto to ...
[Treblinka]. The same day, Globocnik wrote to Karl Wolff: "The
Reich Fuehrer SS ... has given us so much new work that with it
now all our most secret wishes are to be fulfilled. I am so
very thankful to him for this, and he can be sure of one thing,
that these things he wishes will be fulfilled in the shortest
time. (On the start of deportations to Treblinka, Arad, Belzec,
60-61, 392. Quote from Globocnik to Wolff, 22 July 1942,
Globocnik SS file, Berlin Document Center.) (Breitman, 238)

The Treblinka site is now a Polish National Monument.

3.0 Crematoria

Unlike Auschwitz, the Reinhard camps were not equipped for the
cremation of bodies. Until the end of 1942, bodies were buried or
burned in huge pits. In early 1943, the SS began using pyres, built
above-ground, in an effort to speed up the disposal of the bodies,
and to eliminate evidence of the extermination activity.

[Continued in Part 02]

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