Thursday, September 6, 2012

Trawniki Men


Rzeszow, Poland: German policemen and theirs Askaris auxilliaries abusing an injured Jewish man lying on the pavement.


Trawniki was a Nazi concentration camp located in the vicinity of Lublin town, Poland. Aside to hold tens of thousands prisoners—mainly Jewish—the camp also a ground training for SS-Police auxiliaries deployed in Operation ‘Reinhard’.  The first contingent recruits mainly came from ex-Soviet soldiers. Most of the then volunteered in order to leave the POW camps and/or because of self-interest. As German military reverses and the murderous treatment of the prisoners of war dried up the supply of suitable Soviet soldiers in the autumn of 1942, the next waves recruit came mainly from conscripted civilians, primarily young Ukrainians, residing in Galicia, Wolhynia (Volhynia), Podolia, and the Lublin District. They were nicknamed Trawnikis or Askaris by locals, Hilfswillige (or Hiwis) by Germans and Wachmänner by themselves.

At first, the training camp was at the disposal of the SS- und Polizeiführer (SS and Police Leader, or SSPF) for Lublin District, SS-Gruppenführer Odilo Globocnik. But later, it was placed under the supervision of SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel, the newly christened Trawniki training camp commander, a position that he held until the evacuation of the camp in July 1944. 

The volunteers underwent basic military training, including instruction in the shooting and deportation of Jews. Between 1941 and 1944, the camp trained approximately 5,082 men. After their training, the volunteers receive the title of Wachmann, Rottenwachmann, Oberwachmann, Gruppenwachmann and Obergruppenwachmann.

Trawniki men were organized into 2 battalions of 4 companies each, nearly 1,000 men, under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Willi Franz and SS-Obserturmführer Johann Schwarzenbacher. Each company had between 100 and 200 men. One company was used to prepare squad commanders who were mainly Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans), bilingual in German and Ukrainian.

As a report of Globocnik, these units have “proved themselves in the best way in many anti-partisan missions, but especially in the framework of the resettlement of the Jews”. As an example, in the spring of 1943, 335 Trawniki men participated in the suppression of the uprising in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. During the street fighting, they lost almost 150 people. Many of them also were employed as guards in the extermination camps of Treblinka, Sobibor and Bełżec.  

The Trawniki training center continued to operate until late July 1944, when the rapid Soviet advance forced the Germans to abandon Trawniki and Lublin itself. On July 23, 1944, Soviet troops overran both Trawniki and Lublin. The remaining Trawniki men, numbering around 1,000 men, organized into the SS Battalion Streibel under SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel. Fled in chaos to regroup west of the Vistula River, they were disintegrated in the territory of the present-day Czech Republic in the face of the Allied advance.

Copyright© 2012 by Nino Oktorino

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