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

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

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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 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

       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 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.  <On Belzec,
   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 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]

The Nizkor Project  -  An electronic Holocaust educational resource
The Nizkor Project  -   An electronic Holocaust educational resource
    David Irving vrs. Deborah Lipstadt & Penguin Books Ltd: Judgment

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