After the Wannsee conference the extermination of the Jewish people started. At this meeting it was decided that they would start with the extermination of the Jews living in poland. Most of the Jews were present in the general government. This general government was located in the annexed part of Poland. This region was not to become part of the third Reich. the general goverment was supposed to act as an outer province. However, this region possessed the least amount of natural resources or fertile land. As a result, it was decided that this region should act as a collecting place for Jews and other unwanted persons.
The action was called action Reinhard. The name was chosen because before the start of the action Reinhard Heydrich was killed. Heydrich was the mastermind and planner of the final solution. To honour him they named this action after him.
Ghetto formation in the general gourvement
At the start of the war several ten thousands of people from Germany, and other regions of Poland, were transported to ghettos in the general government. This led to overpopulation and risk of revolts. The leader of the general government, Hans Frank, was unhappy that all the unwanted people were collected in his province. During the Wannsee conference he stated killing the Jews in the general government should be prioritized. It was also decided that the region was perfectly suited for killing Jews and other unwanted people. It was not densely populated, contained many forests to hide camps in and had good access to the railway system. Also, the railways in this region were controlled by the deutsche Bahn, the German railways, and transport could therefore be easily managed and arranged.
In the region 3 deathcamps were established after the Wannsee conference. Namely, Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor. Also the death camp of Chelmno was close by the region. All of these camps had a similar lay-out and were located in rural areas. one camp was placed in the center of Lublin as an extension of camp Madjanek. Madjanek also acted as a sorting station for all the possessions of the killed Jews. These possessions were categorized and send back to Germany.
In the first phase of the extermination many of the ghettos were cleared. However, this also led to the realization that the capacity of the initial camps wasn’t big enough. During railway works in the region the camps, especially the gas chambers, were expanded. During the second phase many of the ghettos were completely emptied. Foreign Jews were also transported to the deathcamps at the end of the action. The extermination camps were closed when the gas chambers in Auschwitz reached a high enough capacity to deal with as the destructive wishes of the Nazis. In total it is estimated that in the period of October 1941 and November 1943 roughly 2 million people were killed.
After the action the remaining Jews in the general government were executed in a 2 day period in November 1943. This period is called action erntefest. The remaining Jews were told they were supposed to dig anti-tank ditches, in which the 43.000 victims were shot and buried. This action was to prevent any revolts or eye-witness testimonies from the remaining Jews.