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Winnower of the type used in wartime Poland

Object | Accession Number: 2004.717.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Wooden agricultural winnower found years after the war in the region near Belzec, Poland. It is the type that would have been used by farmers in late 19th-early 20th century. In 1942, when the Germans decided to destroy all traces of the murders committed at Belzec killing center, they requisitioned agricultural equipment from the surrounding villages. This winnower purportedly belonged to the local mayor and was taken and returned by the Germans, but its use at the camp is uncertain. Because it has a mesh screen, it was rumored to have been used to sift through the ashes of cremated human remains. However, the machine used for this purpose at Belzec resembled a cement mixer and was run by a diesel engine. It contained iron balls that crushed bones, as well as a sieve at the bottom to capture and return fragments to the mixer to be crushed again. Belzec killing center began operations on March 17, 1942, the second killing center constructed by the Germans and the first to implement Operation Reinhard, the SS plan to exterminate all Jews in the General Government region of occupied Poland. Belzec was selected for its convenient rail access to Lvov, Krakow, and Lublin. Twenty rail cars with nearly 100 people per car would arrive at a time. The Jews were ordered to hand over valuables, undress, and run through the "tube" which led directly into gas chambers, which were sealed and filled with carbon monoxide. Jewish laborers removed the bodies and buried them in mass graves. In October 1942, on orders from the Lublin SS, the graves were exhumed and the bodies burned in open air ovens built from rail tracks. The remains were sifted to discover bone fragments and then burnt again or crushed to powder, sometimes in special machines. The camp was closed in December 1942, at least partially due to the lack of space for mass graves. Approximately 434,500 Jews were killed at Belzec. In late spring 1943, the exhumation project was halted and the camp was dismantled. The site was ploughed over and planted with crops.
    use:  approximately 1942 December-1943
    use: Belzec (Concentration camp); Belzec (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Memorial du Martyr Juif Inconnu Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine

    Physical Details

    Tools and Equipment
    Object Type
    Fanning mills (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Wooden agricultural machine with a large rectangular body with a metal gear assembly used to turn a wooden paddle mechanism that has a wooden chute on top to funnel grain. Attached to one side is a large metal gear. There are two removable wooden frames with metal mesh of different sizes which would act as screens when slid into interior slots. There are red paint remnants on the exterior. The machine is extremely fragile and worn, with damaged sections.
    overall: Height: 71.000 inches (180.34 cm) | Width: 35.500 inches (90.17 cm) | Depth: 44.000 inches (111.76 cm)
    overall : wood, metal, canvas, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The winnower was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by the Memorial du Martyr Juif Inconnu, Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:29:53
    This page:

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