I doubt that one non-Jewish person in a million knows where Trawniki is located, nor the historical significance of this God-forsaken place.
I am writing about Trawniki today, in order to explain the following quote from a news article about a new opera which is based on the Jewish version of the Holocaust:
Begin quote from news article:
Weinberg, whose parents and sister were killed in the Trawniki concentration camp, fled to the Soviet Union in 1939. It was there that he became friends with Shostakovich, who used what influence he had to protect Weinberg, a vulnerable foreign Jew in a country where anti-Semitism remained strong. When Weinberg was imprisoned, Shostakovich intervened to get him out.
But if the influence of Shostakovich could spring Weinberg from prison, it could not make Soviet authorities love [the opera] The Passenger. The opera’s dark themes found little favor with a musical establishment that preferred uplifting, outward-looking works that celebrated working-class or communist heroes; a focus on the Holocaust deflected attention from the favored theme of Soviet sacrifices during “The Great Patriotic War.” Weinberg, who completed the opera in 1968, died in 1996 without ever seeing it performed.
When I visited the memorial site of the former Treblinka “death camp,” in 1998, I saw two large stones placed at an angle to form a gate into the former camp.
At the gate into the Treblinka memorial site, there are also 6 memorial stones, set close together. Each of the six stones is inscribed with a different language including Hebrew, English and Polish.
The English inscription says that the Treblinka camp was in operation from July 1942 to August 1943 and that during those 13 months, 800,000 Jews were killed there. The inscription also mentions the Aug. 2, 1943 uprising, calling it the “armed revolt which was crashed [crushed] in blood by the Nazi hangmen.”
It was this uprising, along with the uprisings at Sobibor and the Warsaw ghetto, which allegedly motivated the Nazis to execute all the Jews at the Trawniki forced labor camp near Lublin in November 1943.
Yes, Trawniki was a “forced labor camp” not a concentration camp.
At the memorial site of the former Majdanek concentration camp, there is a small stone, near the Mausoleum shown in the photo above, which commemorates the deaths of around 18,000 Jews on that spot on November 3, 1943, an event that was code-named by the Nazis with the cynical word “Erntefest” which means Harvest Festival in English.
The Majdanek inmates called this day, November 3, 1943, “bloody Wednesday.” This was the largest mass execution carried out at any of the concentration camps in the history of the Holocaust. The victims were the last remnants of the Jewish population in the Lublin district.
According to the Majdanek guidebook, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Jews in the Lublin district after the insurrection on October 14, 1943 at Sobibor, one of the Operation Reinhard extermination camps on the Polish-Russian border, in which 300 Jews, led by a Jewish Russian Prisoner of War, escaped into the nearby woods.
In 1943, the three largest concentrations of Jews in Eastern Poland were at the camp at Majdanek and at the labor camp at Poniatowa, a tiny Polish village where 18,000 people were held, and at the Polish village of Trawniki where 10,000 Jews were imprisoned in a labor camp.
According to the Majdanek guidebook, “In the autumn of 1943, the Nazi authorities were alarmed by the uprisings in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos, by the activity of the resistance movement in the camps and by the rebellions in the death camps at Sobibor and Treblinka.” Their greatest fear was that the Jewish prisoners at Lublin would start a rebellion that would result in their escape to the forests where they would join the Polish partisans who were fighting the German Army.
The Nazis also feared that their plans to exterminate the Jews were being thwarted, by the cooperation of the camp resistance movement at Majdanek, with the Polish underground organizations fighting as partisans outside the camp.
The camp guidebook devotes a whole section to the activities of the camp resistance movement, which included activists from the Polish Home Army, and the main political parties: the Polish Socialist Party, the Peasant Party, the National Party, and the Polish Worker’s Party.
Along with the Polish civilian partisans, and the Jewish partisans hiding in the forests, there were also escaped Russian Prisoners of War, who would sometimes shoot the Jewish partisans. Although Poland had been conquered, within a month after the country was invaded, by the joint effort of the Germans and the Russians, guerrilla warfare continued in Poland until the Germans finally surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.