ARC Main Page Occupation of the East Aktion Erntefest


Last Update 17 September 2006

Camp Map
Camp Map
Although the Aktion Reinhard camps were intended in the main to kill the deported Jews as soon as possible, for some death in the gas chamber (or in the "Lazarett" for those who could not make it to the gas chamber by themselves) was delayed for a time. A number of Jews were selected for the Sonderkommandos in the camp itself, but also, from the beginning of 1943 and on a much smaller scale than, for example, in Auschwitz, where many thousands of deportees were sent to local labour camps, on arrival at Sobibor, a small number of Jews were selected for slave labour in work camps (Arbeitslager) in the Lublin District.
Out of over 34,000 Dutch Jews deported from Westerbork to Sobibor, an estimated 1,000 were sent to the forced labour camps in the Lublin and Trawniki areas. One of those camps was the peat digging camp of Dorohucza. Sixteen of these Dutch Jews survived the war, 13 women and 3 men. Because in Sobibor there were no registrations taken of those who arrived at and those who left from Sobibor, we do not know exactly which of the deportees from Westerbork were sent to the Sobibor labour camps.

The SS-Arbeitslager Dorohucza was situated about 5 km NE of Trawniki, on the river Wieprz. The camp consisted of three almost equally large barracks, placed in a 'U' around the roll-call square (Appellplatz). On the fourth side was a barrack for the SS-personnel. On the left of this barrack was another structure where the Ukrainian guards lived; on its right the camp kitchen. These three latter buildings were situated outside the fence. Inside the prisoner's camp was a watch tower, situated next to the river. The peat fields were on the other side of the river.

The camp became operational in early March 1943. Its capacity was approximately 500 Jews. Almost 50% were Dutch, the others came from Poland. Their ages varied from 16 to 50. The first Dutch group arrived on 13 March. They were normally brought in groups of 80. On 4 June the group consisted of 81 persons; the 81st was Jules Schelvis, who, together with his wife Rachel and her family, had been deported from Westerbork on 1 June 1943. Schelvis survived Sobibor and the war, his wife and her family were gassed on 4 June 1943.

The working and living conditions in the labour camp were extremely bad. The SS labour camps were usually worse than the labour camps exploited by private enterprises. That is the reason why most of the prisoners did not survive longer than a couple of weeks, some a few months at most. The circumstances were as largely described by Jules Schelvis in his books “Inside the Gates”, and “Extermination Camp Sobibor” (expected 2006):
"In Dorohucza there were hardly any provisions at all. The 500 prisoners had to sleep in dilapidated barracks. There were huge holes in the roofs, so lying on the bare floor one had an almost clear sight of the stars. There was always a penetrating stench of stained clothes and unwashed bodies. There was no drinking water. The water we received to drink was in a black substance, provided twice daily, which they called coffee, and in the soup, which consisted of half a litre of water containing some pieces of Sauerkraut and an almost transparent slice of dog’s meat. One could not drink from the water in the river that ran alongside the camp. It was severely polluted because the river was also used as a bath by the prisoners, who after work tried in vain to get rid of lice. Whoever drank from the river would get typhoid right away. Dorohucza was so unreal to the Dutch, one wondered in what absurd theatrical play one found himself lost.

The commander of the camp was SS-Hauptscharführer Gottfried Schwarz, promoted on 21 June 1943 to SS-Untersturmführer because of his exemplary service in connection with Aktion Reinhard. Right in front of his office he had a machine gun placed with which could be fired at the prisoner’s camp at any time. Before coming to Dorohucza, Schwarz had driven hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in Belzec. The last camp commandant, according to accounts by SS men Jührs and Zierke, was Fritz Tauscher.
The guarding of the camp and the peat fields was the responsibility of the Ukrainian guards, led from 7 May 1943 by Omsk born Karl Diner. In the camp were several Polish and Dutch Kapos. One of them was Nathan Peperwortel, who on 20 April 1943was deported from Westerbork to Sobibor as a “Strafhäftling”.

From Dorohucza a total of 171 written messages (postcards) were received at the Judenrat in Amsterdam. The senders of 160 of these cards could be identified, together with the dates of their deportation. They were on 8 different transports. With these 8 transports, plus the first deportation of 10 - 13 March 1943, from which there were no survivors, the number of Dutch Jews put to work at Dorohucza, can be calculated as at least (9 x 80 + 1 =) 721.

The Joodse Raad in Amsterdam attached great importance to these postcards. They were seen as evidence that the people deported to Poland indeed ended up in labour camps, where life was hard but at least bearable.

Three Dutch Jews were allowed to leave Dorohucza on 13 June 1943. Joop Wins (who had arrived on 14 May), Leo de Vries, and Jules Schelvis (both arrived on 4 June). Sent via Lublin, they were employed as typographers in Radom.

During the night of 3 November 1943 almost all Jews in the labour camps in the Lublin district (40 - 50,000) were shot. This massacre was conducted under the code name of Aktion Erntefest (Operation Harvest Festival). In this operation the Jewish slave labourers in Dorohucza and Trawniki were murdered. It also meant the end of the work camps. In the digital ‘In Memoriam-Lezecher’ book are the names of 144 Dutch Jews who were murdered during Aktion Erntefest in Dorohucza, for administrative reasons with 30 November 1943 given as their date of death for administrative reasons. See the testimony of Robert Jührs.

Gottfried Schwarz, born 1913 in Fürth, was a member of the euthanasia organization T4. He began his career burning corpses at Grafeneck, Brandenburg, and Bernburg. Schwarz was deputy commander and head of the gassing squad in Belzec from Winter 1941. Himmler praised him as one of the most meritorious men of Aktion Reinhard. After the conclusion of Aktion Erntefest he was sent to Trieste in Italy, where he died on 19 June 1944 in San Pietro.
Fritz Tauscher committed suicide in prison in 1965.


Schelvis, Jules. Vernichtungslager Sobibor, Metropol Verlag, Berlin, 1998
Schelvis, Jules. Binnen de poorten, 7e druk, De Bataafsche Leeuw, Amsterdam, 2003
Klee, Ernst. Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2003
Bajcar, Adam. Reiseführer durch Polen, Verlag Interpress, Warschau, 1977
Digital In Memoriam-Lezecher book:

© ARC 2006