What were the Operation Reinhard camps?

Operation Reinhard was the massacre of Polish Jewry primarily in the extermination centers of Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno and Majdanek. It was planned in late 1941 but renamed Operation Reinhard in honour of Reinhard Heydrich, the chief architect of the Nazi’s “Final Solution” who was assassinated in spring 1942. It lasted until November 1943, with the massacre of 42,000 Jews called Operation Erntefest (Harvest Festival).

The Operation Reinhard Camps mainly used carbon monoxide gas to kill their victims, though Zyklon B was used at Majdanek, and the forced-labour camps at Trawniki and Budzyn killed Jews through work and shooting.

Operation Reinhard was overseen from its inception to late 1943 by Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader for the Lublin District. The construction and management of the camps was overseen by Christian Wirths who, like many others in Operation Reinhard, had been instrumental in the Euthanasia programme.

After the conclusion of Operation Reinhard, the camps at Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Chelmno were dismantled, the land ploughed over, and Polish farmers installed on the land. Today, there are memorials at all these sites.

A map detailing the location of the Operation Reinhard Camps located within the Genralgouvernement region. Photo credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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