On the Traces of the Shoah in Poland. A study trip to Chelmno, Majdanek and in the “Aktion Reinhardt” centres
For nearly thirty years, the Auschwitz Foundation/Remembrance of Auschwitz has organized each year a study trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau. This is where the majority of Jews from Belgium were deported to. The Jews who were capable of working were held in the concentration camp while the others were killed in the extermination centre.
Without wishing to minimising the role of Auschwitz – both for the history of the destruction which struck the Jewish community in Belgium, and for the importance of Auschwitz as a whole –, it is also important to analyse the Shoah in other places in the East. Gathering the deportees from Western Europe, but also from numerous other countries, Auschwitz has developed as the archetype of the destruction of Jews in Europe.
It is true that once Auschwitz became completely operational, the largest part of the “Aktion Reinhardt” (the annihilation of Jews from the General Government) had already been carried out.
The in 1964 made monument in memory of the victims of Treblinka.
After the first phase of the destruction of the Jews, namely after the deadly actions led by the Einsatzgruppen (the “Shoah by bullets”, in the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia), which were psychologically too “demanding” for the killers, a new method needed to be found for the 2,284,000 Jews residing in the General Government as well as the 400,000 Jews living in the region of Bialystok.
The destruction of Jews from Litzmannstadt (the Germanized name of Łódź) was organized in the Chełmno extermination centre starting from the end of 1941. This centre was located not in the General Government, but in the “Great Reich” itself, situated in the Gau Wartheland (the western part of Poland during the interwar period).
For the “Aktion Reinhardt” to function, three extermination centres were built (Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka). They were totally different from the image we have of Auschwitz in regard to their structure. Starting from the beginning of 1942 and until the end of 1943, nearly 1,650,000 Jews were deported from the ghettos and exterminated as they arrived.
Chełmno, remaining of the ruins of the Schlosslager (“the castle camp”), where, during the first period, the extermination was done in gas vans.
This study trip will follow a chronological and logical path. At each stage we will visit the concerned city as well as the previous ghetto which used to be there. It is important to present Jewish life, tradition and culture from before the Second World War.
Before visiting the extermination centre, we will pause at the place where the Jewish population started on its last journey.
The visit of the former extermination centre is apprehended in a pedagogical way using maps, images and photos.
Treblinka, the monument symbolizing the rail road which led to the railway platform of the extermination centre.
This study trip aims to retrace the history of the Shoah in Poland. Mandatory training sessions will be organised so as to initiate the future participant to the complex structure and to the history representative of the Shoah in Poland. The content presented during these sessions is indispensable for a complete understanding of this pan of the history of the Shoah. These sessions will allow the guide to contextualize these little-known places within a coherent whole throughout the trip.
A pedagogical notebook is given to each person participating in the study trip. It includes an overall presentation, supplemented with numerous maps, as well as a bibliography proposing a list of reference works.
Price: 650 €.
Interested persons can subscribe to the information session which will be hold in Dutch on Saturday 27 of February 2016 and in French on Saturday 20 of February 2016.
Registration modalities and schedule of the information and formation sessions (PDF in Dutch
- in French