Timeline The most important events in 1941–1944
Decision to build the camp
Decision to build the death camp in Bełżec was made during the meeting between Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, SS-Gruppenführer Friedrich Krüger - Higher SS and Police Leader in the General Government, and Odilo Globocnik - SS and Police Leader in the Lublin District.
The meeting was arranged in Hitler's headquarters in Wolf's Lair near Kętrzyn in East Prussia. The location of the camp was determined in Odilo Globocnik's headquarters in Lublin.
Beginning of the camp building
SS-Hauptsturmführer Richard Thomalla from the SS Central Construction Board in Lublin came to Bełżec along with SS non-commissioned officers: Gottfried Schwarz, Josef Oberhauser and Johann Niemann who started arranging construction work.
Thomalla was a building contractor, he knew Polish and had already been in Bełżec in 1940 when the border between the General Government and the USSR had been built. The other SS men had earlier been employed in the concentration camps in the Reich and in the action "T4" centres - an operation carried out in 1939-1941 in Germany and Austria, resulting in extermination of 70,000 disabled and mentally ill people.
Appointment of workers to build camp barracks
Germans who came to Bełżec ordered the local clerks to appoint workers who would build wooden barracks near the railway ramp on the Kozielsk hill.
20 workers from Bełżec and other towns were working on the grounds of the future camp until December 23, 1941.
Christian Wirth came to Bełżec
SS-Obersturmführer Christian Wirth came to Bełżec and assumed command of the construction of the camp.
Wirth came from Oberbalzheim in Württemberg. He worked for criminal police in Stuttgart. In 1939 he joined SS. He arranged "T4" centre in Hartheim near Linz that was claimed to be the model one.
Completion of construction work
The construction work was completed by 120 Jews from Lubycza Królewska who were then killed in gas chambers.
First deportations. Beginning of "Aktion Reinhardt"
On March 17, 1942, started mass deportations to the death camp in Bełżec from ghettos in Lublin and Lwow.
With deportations from Lublin and Lwow to the death camp in Bełżec, the Reich started extermination of Jews living in the General Government and those brought from other European countries. Soon, following the example of Bełżec, camps in Sobibór and Treblinka were established. Jews were killed there with carbon monoxide in stationary gas chambers. Mass murders were combined with expolitation of labor force and plunder of victims' property.
End of the first phase of the camp functioning
As the first phase of deportations finished, the camp functioning was suspended for a month.
By mid-April, Germans killed in Bełżec over 70,000 Jews from many towns and cities of the Lublin and Galicia districts. About 26,000 Jews from the Lublin ghetto only and 15,000 Jewish inhabitants of Lwow were deported to Bełzec.
The functioning of the camp was resumed on May 22. By the end of the month a few hundred Jews were brought to Bełżec from Tomaszów Lubelski and its vicinity, Cieszanów, Krasnobród and Łaszczów.
Beginning of the deportations from the Krakow District
Starting from the beginning of June, transports from the Krakow District were directed to Bełżec.
About 5-7,000 Jews were deported at that time from the Krakow ghetto (on June 2-8) and 9-10,000 people from Tarnów (on June 10-12). In the transport sent from Krakow on June 4, there were Dr. Artur Rosenzweig - head of the Jewish Council - and his family.
Erection of concrete gas chambers
As the camp ceased its functioning, Germans erected concrete gas chambers here.
On July 7, following construction work, the extermination was renewed in its full intensity. Germans commenced the liquidation of the Rezszów ghetto - 16,000 Jews were then deported to Bełżec in four transports (July, 7-18), including Jewish residents of small towns near Rzeszów.
Gottlieb Hering was appointed the commandant of the camp
Gettlieb Hering substituted Christian Wirth who had been nominated as inspector of the "Aktion Reinhardt" camps – in Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka.
Hering was the camp commandant until the liquidation of the camp in 1943. During this period over 300,000 Jews were killed in Bełżec.
Beginning of "great action" in Lwow
In mid-August, Germans commenced deportations of Jews from the ghetto in Lwow.
Transportation of Jews lasted until August 22 or 25. As a result 40,000 Jews were deprted to Bełżec and about 2,000 Jewish inhabitants of Lwow were killed on site.
Deportation of Rudolf Reder to Bełżec
Rudolf Reder was one of only two survivors of the Bełżec death camp who testified about his experience after the war.
After four months of his stay in Bełżec, escorted by camp guards, he went to Lwow to buy metal sheeting. He managed to escape.
Deportation of Chaim Hirszman to Bełżec
Chaim Hirszman was sent to Bełżec along with his wife and nearly 2-years-old son. Hirszman was selected to work in the camp and his relatives were killed in gas chambers.
Chaim Hirszman was employed in the death commando and later was appointed a head master metalsmith. He was also among the prisoners who liquidated the Bełżec camp. On June 26, 1943, he managed to escape from the train heading for Sobibór and then he returned to his home town - Janów Lubelski.
Last deportations to the camp
The last Jews deported to the camp came from Rava Ruska. From December 7 to 11, 2,000-5,000 people were sent to the camp, including escapees from previous transports.
Beginning of the camp liquidation
In mid-December, as transports of Jews ceased to be committed to the camp, Germans started its liquidation.
Its main reason was lack of space for next mass graves. Germans started to erase all traces of their genocide – by the end of March 1943 they cremated corpses of the previously killed. In three next months barracks were dismatled and the area was levelled and converted into forest.
Transport of last prisoners from Bełżec to Sobibór
A group of last Jewish prisoners, employed to erase the traces of the camp, were deported from Bełżec to Sobibór where they were killed.