Located in the Lublin district of the General Government, today, approximately midway between the eastern Polish city of Lublin and the Ukraine border, the Trawniki camp existed between July 1941 and July 1944.
The site had four distinct phases:
1) July 1941 - September 1941 - used to hold Soviet civilians and POWs
2) September 1941 - July 1944 - served as a training centre for police auxiliaries (inc. those deployed in Action Reinhard)
3) June 1942 - September 1943 - ZALfJ (Zwangsarbeitslager für Juden) - forced labour camp for Jews
4) September 1943 - May 1944 - official satellite camp of KL-Lublin
The chosen site was an abandoned sugar refinery just outside of Trawniki and was established on the orders of Odilo Globocnik, the Austrian SS leader and associate of Otto Adolf Eichmann. Management of the site was initially handed to Hermann Hölfe.
By July 1941, the camp already held nearly 700 prisoners. Two months later, Globocnik changed the main function of the camp into a training centre for police auxiliary personnel, most of whom were captured Soviet soldiers. In October, Globocnik appointed Karl Streibel to command the Trawniki camp - a position he held until the abandonment of the site some three years later.
Through the period September 1941 to September 1942, two and a half thousand auxiliary police guards were trained at Trawniki, nearly all of whom were Soviet POWs. However, once the military reversals of autumn 1942 began to affect the supply of POWs, civilians (mostly young Ukrainians who lived in the surrounding areas) were conscripted.
Globocnik left the Lublin area in September 1943, reporting that 3,700 men had been trained at the Trawniki facility by this time. Records actually record a much higher figure, with over 4,750 ID numbers issued for the period in question. In total, throughout the entire period of its existence over 5,000 men were trained by the SS and police officials at Trawniki. These men served at the Operation Reinhard camps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka-II. Some units served within the ranks of the SS-Totenkopfverbände that guarded the concentration camps at Lublin and Auschwitz. Other camps, such as the forced labour camps of the area, also received Trawniki guards. Other duties included guarding ghettos and escorting death transports destined for the killing centres.
Spring 1942 saw the camp serve as a transit camp for Jews. Hundreds of Polish, German and Austrian Jews destined for Belzec were locked into a barn-like structure overnight. The next day, several hundred corpses were thrown onto the freight cars bound for the killing centre - they had suffocated during the night.
In the summer of 1943, a detachment of Jews worked at the Bekleidungslager - sorting, washing and repairing clothing. The major concern regarding labour was controlled by F.W.Schultz und co., a mattress, fur and uniform manufacturing and restoration concern. A contract arranged with Globocnik ensured 4,000 forced labourers to be provided for a fur production plant, in addition to a further 1,500 workers - again, all of Jewish origin, for a brush manufacturing facility. The labour force was transferred from the Warsaw ghetto. Beginning in mid February 1943, transports left the ghetto carrying 2,848 men, 2,397 women and 388 children on 17 transports to Trawniki that arrived before the end of April 1943. A record of May 1st 1943 registered a minimum of 5,633 Jews at Trawniki labour camp. Although mostly Polish, there were also German, Austrian and Slovakian Jews present. To cope with the increase, eight new barracks were constructed during the spring/summer period. Whilst the vast majority of inmates worked for the Schultz concern at this time, a small detachment worked directly for the SS, providing maintenance and construction details within the camp. Until the work camp was liquidated in November 1943, the quota of prisoners remained constant at around 6,000. Franz Bartezko and his deputy Josef Napieralla managed the camp, initially ensuring fair conditions were provided so as to increase productivity. Later, the conditions worsened rapidly. Any inmate who violated the rules risked being sent to the nearby sub-camp Dorohuzca, ran by SS-Unterscharführer Robert Jührs. At Dorohuzca, around 100 inmates were deployed digging peat.
In September 1943, the Trawniki camp officially came nder administration of the SS-WVHA - thus becoming a sub-camp of KL-Lublin. During the following months, around 1,000 guards left Trawniki to take up positions at various camps throughout the KZ system.
Following the Sobibor uprising, a minimum of 6,000 Jews from Trawniki and Dorohuzca were shot during the "Harvest Festival" action in late October 1943. A small detachment of Jews from Milejow were forced to burn the corpses on makeshift grills constructed of railway tracks, before attempting to cover the remains with dirt. Once the Sonderkommando had completed their work, they too were shot and burned. After the massacre, a small group of Jews performed domestic tasks at Trawniki, including laundry, cleaning the SS barracks etc. In May 1944, all remaining inmates were transferred to Lublin and the Trawniki camp was dissolved. The Wachmänner continued to train at the site until late July 1944, until Soviet advances led to their retreat. On July 23rd, Soviet forces reached Lublin and Trawniki. The remaining staff fled amid chaotic scenes, attempting to regroup west of the Vistula River.
Globocnik later killed himself having been captured by the British in Carinthia in late May 1945. Höfle aslo took his own life - he died in a cell after being arrested by Austrian authorities in 1961. Bartezko was killed at the front in January 1945. After the war, Soviet civilian courts and miltary tribunals prosecuted hundreds of former Trawniki staff - virtually all were convicted, some of whom were executed. One Trawniki guard, Franz Swidersky, who served at Treblinka labour camp, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1971 by a court in Dusseldorf.
1) Trawniki camp plan
2) Image of Odilo Globocnik (credit-Wikipedia)
3) The memorial located at the Trawniki site