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Karl Streibel KL Trawniki.jpg
Inspection of Trawnikimänner by Karl Streibel at Trawniki. They were tasked with the liquidation of Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland
Active Founded in 1941
Country occupied Poland
Allegiance Nazi Germany, the SS
Type Paramilitary police reserve

Trawniki men (German language: Trawnikimänner) were the Eastern European collaborators from the POW camps for the Red Army soldiers recruited in the border regions during Operation Barbarossa of 1941. These volunteers served with Nazi Germany in the General Government territory until the end of World War II. Trawnikis belonged to a category of "Hiwis" (German abbreviation for 'Hilfswilliger', lit. "those willing to help"), auxiliary forces recruited from the conquered nationals.[1][2]

The German SS and police trained 2,500 Hiwi Wachmänner (guards) known as Trawniki men (Trawnikimänner) at a special Trawniki training camp between September 1941 and September 1942; for the total of 5,082 men before the end of 1944.[1] They were organized by Streibel into two SS Sonderdienst battalions. The number of them may as well have been much greater, if it hadn't been for mass desertions among conscripts. Some 1,000 Hiwis are known to have run away during field operations.[3]:366 Although the majority of Trawniki men or Hiwis came from among the prisoners of war, there were also Volksdeutsche from Eastern Europe among them,[4][5] valued because of their ability to speak Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and other languages of the occupied territories. All the officers at Trawniki camp were ethnic Germans, and most of the squad commanders were Volksdeutsche.[5] The conscripted civilians and former Soviet POWs included Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Tartars, Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis.[6] The Trawnikis took major part in Operation Reinhard, the Nazi plan to exterminate Polish Jews. They also served at extermination camps and played an important role in the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (see the Stroop Report) among others.

Key role of Trawniki men in the Final Solution

"Trawniki" men during the pacification of Warsaw Ghetto. Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report, May 1943

In 1941 Himmler instructed Globocnik to start recruiting non-­Polish auxiliaries (mainly Ukrainian),[7] behind the Wehrmacht lines in Eastern Europe. The ethnic Poles would not serve knowing the purpose of training. For example, one conscripted Polish farm boy was lashed nearly to death in public for insubordination once he realized what was expected of him. He perished at Majdanek three months later.[3] Globocnik had selected Karl Streibel from Operation Reinhard as the key person for his new secret project. Streibel visited all POW camps for the Soviets in the vicinity with the assistance of his officers and after individual screening, would recruit Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian volunteers as ordered.[1][2]

The Trawniki-men were assembled at a training facility adjacent to the Trawniki concentration camp for the Jews deported from the Warsaw Ghetto. The complex (serving dual purpose in 1941–43) was built in the village of Trawniki about 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Lublin with rail lines in all directions in the occupied territory. From there, the Hiwi shooters were deployed to all major killing sites of the Final Solution. It was their primary purpose of training. They took an active role in the extermination of Jews at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka II, Warsaw (three times), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek as well as Auschwitz, not to mention Trawniki concentration camp itself,[1][8] and the remaining subcamps of KL Lublin/Majdanek camp complex including Poniatowa, Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa, and also during massacres in Łomazy, Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations, augmented by the SS and Schupo, as well as the Reserve Police Battalion 101 formation of Ordnungspolizei. The German Order Police performed roundups inside the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland shooting everyone unable to move or attempting to flee, while the Trawnikis conducted large-scale civilian massacres in the same locations.[9][10]

Between 70 and 120 Trawniki Hiwi men were selected to act as the guard unit and the gas chambers operators at each of the Reinhard extermination camps. They came under the jurisdiction of the relevant camp commandant. Almost all of the Trawniki guards were involved in shooting, beating and terrorizing Jews.[6] The Russian historian Sergei Kudryashov, who made a study of the Trawniki men serving at death camps claimed that there was little sign of any attraction to National Socialism among them.[6] Most of the guards volunteered in order to leave the POW camps and/or because of self-interest.[6] This statement however, is contradicted by information provided by the Holocaust historian Christopher R. Browning (Ordinary Men) who wrote that Hiwis "were screened on the basis of their anti-Communist and hence almost invariably anti-Semitic sentiments."[9] Despite the generally apathetic views of the Trawniki guards, the vast majority faithfully carried out the SS expectations in the mistreatment of Jews.[6] Most Trawniki men executed Jews already as part of their job training.[6] Following the lead of the American historian Christopher Browning in his 1992 book Ordinary Men, Kudryashov argued that the Trawniki men were examples of how ordinary people could become willing killers.[6]

Murder operations

The Hiwi shooters were assigned to the worst of the "on-the-spot dirty work" by Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel (wrote Browning),[9] so the Germans from the parallel Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the Ordnungspolizei from Hamburg "would not go crazy" from the horror of hands-on killing for hours or days on end. The Trawnikis used to arrive in squads numbering around 50 at the killing site, and start by sitting down to a sandwich and bottles of vodka from their knapsacks behaving like guests,[9] while the Germans dealt with unruly crowds of thousands of ghetto inhabitants: as in Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations.[9]

The Trawniki men shot so fast and so wildly that the German policemen "frequently had to take cover to avoid being hit."[11] Ukrainian Hiwis were perceived as indispensable. In Łomazy, the Germans were "overjoyed" to see them coming after the messy Józefów massacre which permanently traumatized the untrained executioners. The wave of mass killings of Jews from the Międzyrzec Podlaski Ghetto lasting non-stop for several days were conducted by the Trawniki battalion of about 350 to 400 men, same as in Parczew, or the Izbica Ghetto.[12] Some officers of the Nazi German Ordnungspolizei felt uneasy about killing non-Jewish Poles. Their unit shot 4,600 Jews by September 1942, but only 78 ethnic Poles (a grossly disproportionate number). In contrast, the Hiwis, saw the Christian Poles as equal opportunity offenders. When they got too drunk to show up in Aleksandrów, Major Wilhelm Trapp ordered the release of prisoners rounded up for mass execution.[13]

The SS-Gruppenführer Jürgen Stroop who was in charge of the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the methodical destruction of the Ghetto itself – responsible for the massacre of over 50,000 Polish Jews – later remarked in a prison interview with Kazimierz Moczarski, published in his original Polish edition of the Conversations with an Executioner:[14]

We used to call them "Askaris". They were volunteers serving with our auxilliary forces in the SS, recruited from the indigenous populations in the areas acquired in Eastern Europe. They were, in principle, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians, trained at the 'SS-Ausbildungslager-Trawniki' near Lublin, sworn nationalists and anti-Semites, although not the best of soldiers. Young people, without the most basic schooling, heathen savages, with inclination to criminal behaviour. But obedient, physically tough and steadfast against the enemy. Many "Askaris" we used during the 'Grossaktion' (especially in its initial stages) were Latvians. They did not understand Polish and therefore, were unable to communicate with the people of Warsaw. This was exactly what we wanted. We called them "Trawniki-Manner".

Myśmy nazywali "askarisami" ochotników do służb pomocniczych w SS, którzy rekrutowali się z ludności autochtonicznej na terenach zdobytych w Europie Wschodniej. Byli to w zasadzie Łotysze, Litwini, Białorusini i Ukraińcy. Przeszkalano ich w SS-Ausbildungs-lager-Trawniki pod Lublinem. Nie najlepsi żołnierze, choć nacjonaliści i antysemici. Młodzi, bez podstawowego najczęściej wykształcenia, o kulturze dzikusów i skłonnościach do kantów. Ale posłuszni, wytrwali fizycznie i twardzi wobec wroga. Wielu "askarisów" użytych w Grossaktion (szczególnie we wstępnych działaniach) to Łotysze. Nie znali języka polskiego, więc trudno im się było porozumiewać z ludnością Warszawy. A o to nam szło. Nazywaliśmy ich również Trawniki-Manner.[14]

Later careers of Trawniki personnel

The Trawniki training camp was dismantled in July 1944 because of the approaching frontline.[1] The last 1,000 Hiwis forming the SS Battalion Streibel led by Karl Streibel himself,[15] were transported west to continue their dirty deeds at the still functioning death camps.[1] The Jews of the adjacent labor camp were long-dead and incinerated by a Sonderkommando from Milejów who were executed on site upon the completion of their task by the end of 1943. The Soviets entered the completely empty facility on July 23, 1944.[1] After the war, they captured and prosecuted hundreds, possibly as many as one thousand Hiwis who returned home to USSR.[1] Most were sentenced to a Gulag, and released under the Khrushchev amnesty of 1955.[16]

The number of Hiwis tried in the West was very small by comparison. Six defendants were acquitted on all charges and set free by a West German court in Hamburg in 1976 including commandant Streibel.[15][17] The main difference between them and the Trawnikis apprehended in Russia was that the former claimed lack of awareness and left no live witnesses who could testify against them,[18] while the latter were charged with treason and therefore were doomed from the start. In the U.S. some 16 former Hiwi guards were denaturalized.[1]

  • In 1984 Feodor Fedorenko was extradited to the USSR where he was sentenced to death and executed in short order.
  • Another former Hiwi, Vladas Zajančkauskas deployed to help with the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 2005 at the age of ninety-five.[19]
  • Trawniki guard, Jaroslaw Bilaniuk, a friend of Palij, was placed into denaturalization proceedings, but it is not clear if those proceedings had concluded or if he was still a U.S. citizen at the time of his death in 2007.
  • Jakob Reimer who was at Trawnilki in 1944[20] was denationalized in 2002; in 2005 he agreed to leave US for Germany but died before leaving the United States.
  • In March 2009 Josias Kumpf a Yugoslav who served as a guard in Trawniki, was deported from the U.S. to Austria.
  • In May 2009 John Demjanjuk was deported from the U.S. to Germany. Demjanuk was convicted of being a guard at Sobibor and sentenced in May 2011. Demjanjuk was released pending an appeal. He died in March 2012 before his appeal could be heard.[21][22][23]
  • In July 2010 a former Soviet POW, Samuel Kunz, was charged with being a Belzec guard who had been trained at Trawniki.[24] Kunz died in November 2010 before his trial.[25]
  • Jakiw Palij, another Hiwi guard, was stripped of his United States citizenship for having "made material misrepresentations in his application for a visa to immigrate to the United States".[26][27]

Known names of Trawnikis serving at death camps

The notoriety of crimes committed by selected "Trawniki men" at extermination camps in Belzec [Be], Sobibor [So], and Treblinka [Tr] during Operation Reinhard, have led to many specific names being publicized in postwar literature and by Holocaust museums, based on Jewish and Polish survivor-testimonies and archives. The long list of names of camp guards mentioned mostly in English and Polish translation (or transliteration from Cyrillic), includes the following in alphabetical order.[28][28][29]

  • Ivan Demjanjuk, testimony of Ignat Danylchenko, emigrated to the United States with his wife Vera, extradited to Israel in 1986, found guilty, appeal commenced in 1990
  • Fedor Federenko (Fedorenko)[29] [Tr], Soviet POW recruited from Stalag 319 at Chełm, guard at Jewish ghetto in Lublin, sent to Warsaw and to Treblinka in September 1942, settled in the U.S., extradited to Russia in December 1984, trial and execution pronounced in July 1986
  • Ivan Ivanovych Marchenko [Tr] b. 1911, in the Red Army since 1941, POW camp in Chełm before Trawniki, guard at Jewish ghetto in Lublin and in Treblinka along with Nikolay Shalayev herding Jews to gas chambers, the “motorists” cranking up the gas engine when asked to “turn on the water”, called by Jews “Ivan the Terrible” (Ivan Grozny), exhibited special savagery during the killing process, photographed with Ivan Tkachuk in Treblinka, in 1943 transferred to Trieste, in 1944 fled to Yugoslavia, fate unknown, never tried.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (permission granted to be reused, in whole or in part, on Wikipedia; OTRS ticket no. 2007071910012533). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved July 21, 2011. "Text from USHMM has been released under the GFDL." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Browning 1992; 1998, p. 52.
  3. 3.0 3.1 David Bankir, ed. (2006) (Google Books). Police Auxiliaries for Operation Reinhard by Peter R. Black. Enigma Books. pp. 331–348. ISBN 192963160X.,++Karl++Streibel&source=bl&ots=snongsA_nf&sig=rPpoAZ4yJJckdezrIaZ8kGHP98g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ol2rUdfJAdDDiwLD1IDQCQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Hamburg%2C%20%20Karl%20%20Streibel&f=false. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  4. Gregory Procknow (2011). Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers. Francis & Bernard Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 0986837407. .
  5. 5.0 5.1 Yitzhak Arad (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0253342937. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Sergei Kudryashov, “Ordinary Collaborators: The Case of the Travniki Guards” (in) Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy Essays in Honour of John Erickson edited by Mark and Ljubica Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004; pages 226-227 & 234-235.
  7. Tadeusz Piotrowski (2006). "Ukrainian Collaboration". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 0786429135. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  8. Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Hitlerowski obóz w Trawnikach" (in Polish). The camp history. Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Browning, Christopher R. (1992; 1998). "Arrival in Poland" (PDF file, direct download 7.91 MB complete). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Penguin Books. pp. 52, 77, 79, 80, 135. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Also: PDF cache archived by WebCite." 
  10. ARC (2004). "Erntefest". Occupation of the East. ARC. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  11. Browning 1992; 1998, p. 95.
  12. Browning 1992; 1998, p. 93.
  13. Browning 1992; 1998, p. 77.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Andrzej Szczypiorski (1977), Moczarski Kazimierz, Rozmowy z katem text with Notes and Biography by Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert (PDF 1.86 MB, available from Page 103. Retrieved August 28, 2014. (Polish)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Ralph Hartmann (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß". Den Aufsatz kommentieren. Ossietzky 9/2010. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  16. Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (ibidem). USHMM. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  17. USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Trawniki: Chronology". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  18. Georg Bönisch, Jan Friedmann and Cordula Meyer (July 10, 2009). "A Very Ordinary Henchman". Germany > The Holocaust. Spiegel International. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  19. Circuit Judge (July 13, 2010). "Vladas Zajanckauskas". Petitioner. United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  20. Axis history Forum
  21. "Nazi camp guard Demjanjuk dies". BBC News. March 17, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  22. Aderet, Ofer. article in Haaretz (Mar 23, 2012), "Convicted Nazi criminal Demjanjuk deemed innocent in Germany over technicality."
  23. Semotiuk, Andrij A. Article in Kyiv Post dated Mar 21, 2012. "In Memory of John Demjanjuk." Retrieved on July 12, 2014.
  24. BBC July 29, 2010
  25. BBC November 22, 2010
  26. Kilgannon, Corey (November 1, 2003). "Accused Nazi Guard Speaks Out, Denying He Had Role in Atrocities". Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  27. Report on Palij (in Ukrainian) "Яків Палій." Україна Молода, June 17, 2004. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  28. 28.0 28.1 S.J. (2007). "Trawniki Staff Page. Alphabetical Listing". Aktion Reinhard. H.E.A.R.T. Retrieved 8 August 2013. "Source: Yitzhak Arad, Thomas (Toivi) Blatt, Alexander Donat, Rudolf Reder, Tom Teicholz, Samuel Willenberg, Richard Glazar; museums and private collections." 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Edward Kopówka, Paweł Rytel-Andrianik (2011). "Treblinka. Załoga obozu" (PDF file, direct download 15.1 MB). Dam im imię na wieki 'Iz 56,5' (Will give them names for ever). Drohiczyńskie Towarzystwo Naukowe. Kuria Diecezjalna w Drohiczynie. p. 87. ISBN 978-83-7257-496-1. Retrieved July 12, 2014. "Archiwum Państwowe w Siedlcach (APS), Akta Gminy Prostyń (AGP), t. 104, "Budowa i odbudowa, 1946–1947"." 


Coordinates: 51°08′21″N 22°59′35″E / 51.139267°N 22.993140°E / 51.139267; 22.993140

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