SUMMARY OF THE ACADEMIC CONFERENCE “THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF AKTION ‘REINHARDT’. PLACES, SOURCES, RESEARCH POSTULATES”
The international academic conference “The Infrastructure of Aktion ‘Reinhardt’. Places, Sources, Research Postulates” organised by the State Museum at Majdanek concluded yesterday. Among the participants there were historians and researchers from numerous institutions and scholarly centres concerned with the history of the Holocaust and World War II.
The event – organised on the 80th anniversary of operation “Reinhardt” – provided an opportunity to discuss the current state of research and to present the latest findings on the titular subject matter.
The conference began with a presentation by Professor Stephan Lehnstaedt from the Touro College in Berlin. In his lecture he described the links between the Third Reich’s “T4” euthanasia programme and the mass extermination conducted on the territory of the German-occupied Poland. Afterwards, the historians from the State Museum at Majdanek spoke – namely Jakub Chmielewski and Wojciech Lenarczyk. In their lectures they focused on the logistics of extermination in Lublin, elaborating on the topography of the ghetto at Podzamcze in Lublin, and the importance of the Flugplatz labour camp within the framework of ‘Einsatz Reinhardt.’
The lectures given by the invited guests allowed the listeners to get varied views on the subject of the extermination of Jews in the General Government, and to consider those events from the broader perspective reaching outside the German-occupied Lublin region. The presented subjects encompassed issues related to the history of the Kraków District: The Infrastructure of Aktion ‘Reinhardt’ in Kraków (Martyna Grądzka-Rejak), The Institutions of Aktion ‘Reinhardt’ at KL Auschwitz-Birkenau and Kulmhof camps (Jacek Młynarczyk), The Infrastructure of Aktion ‘Reinhardt’ in Częstochowa (Agata Stępnik), and the lecture characterising the places of executions in the KL Plaszow labour camp (Anita Szkarłat).
The next panel focused on the technical and logistical aspects of the Holocaust. Sebastian Różycki presented the results of a comprehensive analysis of the aerial photographs taken over places related to operation ‘Reinhardt’, which constitute valuable research material for historians. Presentations of Grzegorz Michalak and Krzysztof Tarkowski focused on the aspects of railway infrastructure and at the same time highlighted its role in the extermination of the Jewish population in the General Government. The characteristics of the operation “Reinhardt” extermination camps in Bełżec and Sobibór described on the basis of archaeological research results, survivors’ testimonies, and preserved photographs were delivered by Justyna Bajuk, Ewa Koper and Tomasz Hanejko – the employees of both departments of the State Museum in Majdanek – The Museum and Memorial in Bełżec and the Museum and Memorial in Sobibór.
This part of the conference was concluded with a discussion panel entitled” “The Infrastructure of Extermination: Kulmhof, Majdanek, Auschwitz, ‘Einsatz Reinhardt’ Camps – the Attempt of Comparative Analysis”. The conversation wasmoderated by Dariusz Libionka who talked with Igor Bartosik, Bartłomiej Grzanka, Tomasz Kranz, and Tomasz Oleksy-Zborowski. The historians’ discussion, enriched with questions and remarks made by other participants, was an opportunity to not only exchange information regarding the particular German Nazi concentration and extermination camps, but also to discover varied perspectives and discourses concerning specific places related to the Holocaust. All panellists agreed that even though the camps created by the Third Reich functioned in an almost identical way and on the basis of a universal model, a detailed analysis of every place enables us to notice distinct differences which are a substantial subject of research.
After the debate, the participants explored Lublin and learned about the places related to operation ‘Reinhardt’ including the sites that were directly connected with the tragic fates of the victims.