Action Reinhard was the name given to the Nazis planned extermination of all Jews in Poland. Action Reinhard, named after Reinhard Heydrich, was planned to impact the ‘General Government’ area of Poland and the area of Bialystok. The head of Action Reinhard was SS-Brigadefűhrer Odilo Globocnik, the SS police chief of Lublin. Heinrich Himmler personally appointed Globocnik.
Christian Wirth, a SS officer experienced in the Nazis euthanasia programme, was sent to Lublin to be part of Action Reinhard. Ukrainian guards frequently staffed camps set aside to put Action Reinhard into being – many in the Ukraine had welcomed in the German Army in 1941 as liberators from Stalin’s regime. These guards were trained at a camp in Trawniki, near Lublin.
The Action Reinhard headquarters was based in Lublin and anything associated with the plan was based in Lublin – including the sorting of belongings of the victims that were kept at hangers at Lublin’s airport before being sent to Germany.
When Action Reinhard started, three extermination camps were established at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. All three were located near rail lines to aid the transportation issue of moving thousands of people across Eastern Europe. The evidence suggests that the organisation in the early days of all three camps was poor. Treblinka simply could not ‘process’ those sent to it and trains were delayed at the camp, as they could not set down those carried in the cattle tracks. The administration at Sobibor and Belzec was equally as ad hoc and it took the murderous impact of Auschwitz-Birkenau to ‘set the standard’ for others to follow. The memoirs of Rudolf Hőss clearly show that he was less than impressed with the Treblinka camp, when he visited it, and sought to improve on it.
Action Reinhard primarily concerned the death camps at Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec and Majdanek – and not Auschwitz-Birkenau. Action Reinhard ended in November 1943 and in the time of its existence, Jewish property to the modern value of $760,000,000 was taken by the Nazis. The actual number of those murdered as a result of Action Reinhard will never be known as the Nazis did all that they could to destroy all documents relating to the plan as the Russians advanced into Poland in 1944.