The SS Training Camp Trawniki [Ausbildungslager Trawniki] was both the name of the unit and the facility where its members were trained. The camp was located near the village of Trawniki, 18 miles from Lublin. Established in the fall of 1941 under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Streibel, the training camp produced more than 3,700 guards by the summer of 1943 to serve in the three Operation Reinhard killing centers of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, as well as in a number of forced labor camps in the Lublin area, including the Trawniki labor camp, Treblinka I and Poniatowa. Detachments of Trawniki guards were also deployed in the deportation of Jews to the killing centers from ghettos in Poland (primarily in the General Government), including Lublin, Warsaw and Czestochowa. Almost all of the first 2,500 Trawniki guards were recruited from among Soviet POWs captured between June 1941 and September 1942. These men included both those who volunteered and those who perceived it was their only chance for survival. Later, Streibel also selected recruits from among Polish and Ukrainian civilians residing in the Krakow and Lviv districts. Though often referred to by their German overseers and Jewish victims as Ukrainians or sometimes Latvians and Lithuanians, the Trawniki guards included men of a wide variety of nationalities, including Ukrainians, Russians, Belarussians, Poles, Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians, ethnic Germans, Kazakhs and Tartars. Their training lasted between six weeks and six months and consisted of military drills, weapons instruction, German language training and Nazi ideology. They were also instructed in the inhumane treatment of Jewish prisoners. In labor camps where Jewish prisoners were allowed to live initially, Trawniki guards worked under the expectation that their prisoners would either die of exhaustion or become too ill to work and then be killed. There were no methods too brutal to be employed against the Jews. Relatively few Germans staffed the killing centers and labor camps, and most of the dirty work was left to the Trawniki guards. Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were run by twenty to forty Germans and guarded by a detachment of 100 to 150 Trawniki men. At the labor camps members of the Trawniki units manned the guard towers, guarded the labor sites, escorted prisoners to and from forced labor, formed search patrols to find escaped prisoners and participated in individual and mass killings of inmates.
[Sources: "Expert Report of Charles W. Sydnor, Jr.," February 1996, in U.S. v. Bronislaw Hajda, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois]
The Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19--May 16, 1943) was the twenty day battle initiated by the Jewish fighting forces in Warsaw when German troops entered the ghetto to begin the final round of deportations. Having received advanced warning of the timing of the action, the entire population of the ghetto disappeared into prepared hiding places before the Germans arrived. Non-compliance with orders to assemble for deportation was accompanied by hit and run attacks on German units, which forced their temporary withdrawal from the ghetto. After several days of clashes with resistance fighters, the Germans resolved to burn down the ghetto and smoke the Jews out of their concealed bunkers. The Jewish resistance, led by Mordecai Anielewicz, held out until May 8, when its headquarters at Mila 18 was discovered and many of its leaders (including Anielewicz) killed. It was another week, however, before the Germans snuffed out the last pockets of resistance. Not having planned for an organized retreat from the ghetto, only a few dozen fighters were able to escape to the Aryan side of Warsaw. This, they accomplished by winding their way through the city's sewer system. Some 56,000 Jews, according to Stroop's report, were killed or captured during the ghetto revolt. Of those who were taken alive, 7,000 were deported to their immediate death in Treblinka. Another 22,000 were sent to Majdanek. Between 14,000 and 16,000 Jews went to the Poniatowa labor camp, and between 5,000 and 6,000 were sent to the Trawniki camp. The Warsaw Jews who were deported to Poniatowa and Trawniki were shot during the Erntefest action of November 3-4, 1943 that was intended to eliminate the remaining Jews in the Lublin district. The majority of those sent to Majdanek were also murdered in this action, but several thousand others, who had been transferred to other camps --including Auschwitz, Budzyn and Krasnik-- after their arrival in Majdanek, were spared. Some of these Jews, who were later evacuated toward the west, survived the war.