The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Operation Reinhard
The Extermination Camps
Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka

Background & Introduction

SOON AFTER THE task forces had began their campaign of extermination in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union, the deputy of the Governor General Hans Frank, Secretary of State Dr. Bühler, remarked at the Wannsee Conference

...that the General Government would welcome it if a start were to be made on the final solution of this question in the General Government, because here transportation does not pose a real problem nor would the deployment of a labor force interfere with the process of this operation Jews should be removed from the area of the General Government as quickly as possible, because it is here that the Jew represents a serious danger as a carrier of epidemics, and in addition his incessant black marketeering constantly upsets the country's economic structure. Of the approximately 2.5 million Jews in question, the majority are anyway unfit for work.

Secretary of State Dr. Bühler furthermore stated that the solution of the Jewish question in the General Government is under the control of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD and that his activities are supported by the authorities in the General Government. He [Bühler] has only one request: that the Jewish question in this region be solved as quickly as possible. (The so-called " Wannsee Protokoll," original in the Archives of the Foreign Office, Bonn.)

Dr. Bühler's request was given a positive response. The General Government consisted of the districts of Warsaw, Cracow, Lublin, Radom, and Lvov. According to the estimate of the German authorities, they were inhabited by approximately 2,284,000 Jews. A special organization was set up in Lublin to prepare for their extermination. The actual killing was to be carried out in three death camps -- Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, at the eastern border of the General Government.

The geographical location of the extermination sites also served as a pretext for the claim that the Jews were to be deported to ghettos in the East. Their disappearance could thus be explained in terms of their transportation to labor camps in the huge areas then occupied by the German armed forces in the Soviet Union.

SS-Brigadeführer Otto Globocnik was entrusted with conducting Operation Reinhard -- named after Reinhard Heydrich who had been assassinated on May 2, 1942. In this office he was Himmler's immediate subordinate; as the commandant of SS and Police in the Lublin district he was subordinate to the Supreme SS and Polizeiführer of the General Government, Obergruppenführer Friedrich Kruger.

The principal tasks of Globocnik and his staff in Operation Reinhard were: the overall planning of the deportations and of the extermination operations; the construction of extermination camps; to coordinate the deportation of Jews from the different administrative districts to the extermination camps; the killing of the Jews in the camps; to secure their belongings and valuables and transfer them to the appropriate German authority.

Headquarters of Operation Reinhard was responsible for coordinating the timing of the transports with the absorption capacity of the camps.

The organization and supervision of the respective transports from the entire area of the General Government and later on also from other European countries was the task of the RSHA and its departments as well as of the supreme commandant of the SS and Police and his subordinate departments.

To date no written orders by Himmler to Globocnik concerning Operation Reinhard have been discovered. A reason for this may be that either Himmler issued no written statement on this subject, or that any orders and directives were destroyed. (Nuremberg Document 4024-PS <covering letter by Globocnik to the report to Himmler of January 5, 1944, concerning the conclusion of "Operation Reinhard">.)

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