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Winnower of the type used in wartime Poland

Object | Accession Number: 2004.717.1

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)
Tools and Equipment
Object Type
Fanning mills (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Memorial du Martyr Juif Inconnu Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine
Record last modified: 2020-06-30 09:25:31
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