Rounded Up

Pelkinie 1962

Remains of the guard barracks at the Pelkinie camp, 1962.


July 1942

On August 1, 1942, orders were issued for most of the Jews living in the towns and villages of the Jaroslaw District to be removed and sent to labor settlements in the east. Notices were posted on walls in the market square and around the Jewish neighborhood announcing the impending deportation. Over the next few days, one by one, Zolynia, Lancut and Radymno (southeast of Jaroslaw) were to be virtually emptied of their Jewish residents. Some Jews from Lezajsk, Grodzisko (including Grodzisko Dolne), Kanczuga, Pruchnik, Przeworsk and Jaroslaw were also to be evacuated. It was announced that each person could take as many belongings as he or she could carry. With only one or two days to plan for deportation, many panicked Jews tried to sell off what possessions they still had to Polish neighbors for any kind of money at all.

One account gives August 2 as the date of the Zolynia deportation, and it certainly took place within the first several days of August (Lancut Jews recognize August 3, the 23rd of Ab 5702 on the Hebrew calendar, as the day of deportation of Jews there). Jews were ordered to the market square and told that they were now leaving. They were ordered onto dozens of wagons and carts driven by farmers from around the area, and driven out of the village, under heavy police and military guard. They rode east for more than an hour, and then arrived at Pelkinie. From there, after a short stay, they were to be transported by train to their new home.

A handful of Jewish families, the exact number is not known, had permission to remain in Zolynia and a few of the other nearby towns. They were held back in order to continue work on important war production projects at area labor camps. About fifty strong, young Jews from Lancut were sent back to their town from Pelkinie and issued work permits, and it is possible that some Zholiners were also sent back. What is known is that in September 1942, all the remaining Jews in the Tarnopol District (which now included territory east of the San River) were concentrated at Sieniawa, 13 miles (21 km) east of Zolynia. A September 11, 1942 letter from the Sieniawa Jewish Self-Help Committee to the regional Self-Help officers in Krakow specifically mentions 200 Jews, including 30 young women, in a labor camp outside the town. Jews in this camp had been sent from Zolynia, Lancut, Lezajsk and a few other towns near Jaroslaw; they had arrived at this camp without clothes, underwear or shoes.

Pelkinie Transit Camp

In 1941, the Germans had created a P.O.W. camp for Soviet prisoners of war, just outside of the village of Pelkinie, 15 miles (24 km) east of Zolynia, just past where the Lezajsk-Jaroslaw railroad line met the Lancut-Jaroslaw line. There was no housing or barracks for prisoners at Pelkinie; they were kept in an open anti-tank ditch. The camp was in an empty field, surrounded by high-voltage barbed wire fencing. During the harsh winter of 1941-1942, there was mass starvation at the camp, and there are even stories of prisoners resorting to cannibalism to survive. Now, in the summer of 1942, this was now a transit camp, a holding area for those about to be put on trains to their new destinations. The Germans had added a series of barracks to the camp.

The Jews of Zolynia arrived at Pelkinie in early August. Within a few days, there were approximately 5,000 people being held there, under heavy guard. Over the next several days, the camp inmates were sorted into three groups. The oldest and sickest, including some children, were separated off first. There is evidence that some were shot there in the camp area, but most were herded with wooden clubs and loaded, even tossed, onto trucks. They were driven up the road about two miles (3.5 km) to a forest just to the east of Niechcialka and murdered. There are reports of children being beaten with wooden clubs. Bodies were placed into a mass grave, covered with lime.

The second sorted group at Pelkinie were the youngest and strongest, deemed useful as slave laborers. About August 9, the Jews of the camp were called out of the barracks into a sorting area and ordered to kneel. Almost all the Jews from Zolynia were together in one part of the group. Several Germans walked among the people, along with the Kapo from the Biesiadka labor camp. About five dozen of the young men who looked strong or who had already worked at the camp were picked out and ordered onto trucks. They would be transported to a series of work camps and concentration camps, often under brutal and even savage conditions.

The third sorted group, according to an eyewitness account more than three-fourths of the Zholiners at Pelkinie, were marched toward the nearby railroad station just to the south. There they would be pushed into cattle cars on a train that headed east.

The trains would continue past Jaroslaw and then turn north, toward the village of Belzec. German records indicate that by August 10, 1942, approximately 12,000 Jews from Lancut, Lezajsk, Radymno and Zolynia would arrive at Belzec. There were well over 400 Jews from Zolynia among them.


Pelkinie POWs

These are Soviet prisoners being guarded at the Pelkinie camp.


Reinhardt Oath

Police and SS staff who participated in any aspect of Operation Reinhard were required to sign a special secrecy oath. Signers pledged that they would "not under any circumstances pass on any form of information, verbally or in writing, on the progress, procedure or incidents in the evacuation of Jews to any person outside the circle of the 'Operation Reinhard' staff. The signer also acknowledges that "I am aware that the obligation to maintain secrecy continues even after I have left the Service."


More Information

By the autumn of 1941, German officials were already preparing detailed plans to clear Government-General for eventual German colonization, starting with the territory's 2.3 million Jews. On January 1942, fifteen high-ranking party and government officials met at a lakeside villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee. Those present included the heads of government departments that dealt in some way with Jews, and leadership wanted assurances that they would cooperate with plans for the"Endlösung der Judenfrage" ("Final Solution to the Jewish Question"), even if extreme measures were taken. By the end, all pledged to coordinate their departmental operations with the program being designed by SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police. It was now policy in the party and government hierarchies that that Jews within Occupied Poland would be universally and systematically .

Originally, it had been envisaged that Jews in German-controlled Europe would be deported to former Soviet territory, where they would be put to work building roads and railroads. Harsh conditions and starvation would kill off most of them and the rest would be dealt with in some other way, with specifics to be worked out. Because the German invasion of the Soviet Union was not completed and then stalled, Operation Reinhard was developed as a more efficient option. It required incredibly detailed planning and coordination, but it could be carried out even if the Terman forces could not continue advancing.

Maps published just prior to the war do not show a railroad stop in the immediate vicinity of Pelkinie, but German military maps show one beginning in 1941. It is located where the railroad line passes just south of the village.

The Germans made attempts to assure deported Jews that they were going to somewhere safe and perhaps even comfortable. There are accounts of the Germans giving explicit details about accomodations and even the furniture that would be found there. In one small town east of the San River, the Jewish community was assembled in the market square for deportation. The Gestapo commander announced to them:

"You are being resettled to the East where you will be working for the Wehrmacht. You will be working hard, but you will be left in peace. You have to follow orders. This is a large scale operation, and we have to maintain order. Anyone that resists will be shot on the spot."

The witness to the scene writes that those assembled became perceptively calmer. Under incredible stress, he suggests, many desperately wanted to believe the German officer, seeing cooperation as their best and perhaps only chance of survival.


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