The Trawniki Camp in Poland during the Second World War

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Trawniki shooters during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, with Jürgen Stroop (on the right), 1943. Note: their military coats come from the German Allgemeine-SS surplus no longer used by the SS

The Trawniki camp in Poland served three purposes: to hold Soviet POWs, train guards and was a forced labour camp associated with Madjanek.

The Trawniki camp was opened in 1941, it was located close to Lublin in the Generalgouvernment area of Nazi-occupied Poland.

Trawniki Camp Opens in 1941

The Trawniki camp was established in mid-1941 on the site of an abandoned factory. Its first function as a holding centre for Soviet POWs and suspected partisans coincided with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which was named Operation Barbarossa. Just a few days after it opened Trawniki held hundreds of people.

Trawniki as a Training Centre

Just a few months after it opened, Trawniki was transformed into a training camp for auxiliary police forces. These forces were made of non-Germans, mostly Soviet POWs, Ukrainians in particular. These people were given the option of joining the auxiliary forces or starving to death, therefore there were a number of volunteers. By early 1942, civilians in Nazi-occupied areas of eastern Europe were also being recruited into these auxiliary forces. Although Trawniki was now a training centre, prisoners were still held there, mostly for a short period of time as they awaited transport to a concentration camp.

Trawniki Trained Guards and Operation Reinhard

Most of the auxiliary forces trained at Trawniki became guards at the Operation Reinhard death camps in Poland, making up most of the camp staff there. They were also deployed in some of the ghettoes in Poland, and were used to guard prisoners being transported to killing centres.

Trawniki as a Forced Labour Camp

In late 1942 an area was constructed next to the training camp to serve as a forced labour camp. One of the main reasons for this was the increasing demand for German armaments and other war-related goods such as uniforms and boots. Another reason was the perceived risk of Jewish resistance in the ghettoes, at Trawniki they could be monitored more closely. It was in this period that all over Nazi-occupied Europe more and more concentration camp prisoners were used as forced labour for the German war effort. Most of the Jewish workers in Trawniki were relocated from the Warsaw ghetto. In 1943, Trawniki was officially established as a subcamp of Madjanek.

Liquidation of the Labour Camp

In late 1943, after a spate of armed Jewish resistance, such as that at the Warsaw ghetto, and the Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, action was taken by the Nazis to prevent any further uprisings in the future. Operation Harvest Festival was implemented and was the codename for the plan to kill all the Jews that remained in the Lublin district. Thousands of Jews were removed from Trawniki and other camps in the area such as Poniatowa and Madjanek and executed. At this time, there was approximately 6,000 Jews in the Trawniki labour camp.

Trawniki continued to operate as a training centre after Operation Harvest Festival until around mid-1944. With the Red Army approaching rapidly from the east, the SS evacuated and abandoned the camp.

Sources:

  1. Burleigh, M. The Third Reich: A New History. London: Macmillan, 2001.