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Operation Harvest Festival

Prisoners march to their death in the Majdanek concentration camp.

Prisoners march to their death in the Majdanek concentration camp. —Staatsanwalt beim Landgericht Hamburg.

November 3, 1943

SS and police units implement Aktion Erntefest (Operation Harvest Festival), the murder of the Jewish laborers in concentration camp Lublin/Majdanek and the forced-labor camps Trawniki and Poniatowa.

Uprisings at the Treblinka and Sobibor killing centers and the Warsaw, Bialystok, and Vilna ghettos had led to increased concerns about Jewish resistance. To prevent further resistance, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the killing of surviving Jews in the Lublin District of German-occupied Poland.  Most of the remaining Jews were employed in forced-labor projects and were concentrated in the Trawniki (at least 4,000), Poniatowa (at least 11,000), and Majdanek (about 18,000) camps. They were killed.  At Majdanek, near Lublin, the SS shot them in large prepared ditches outside the camp fence near the crematorium.  Jews from other labor camps in the Lublin area were also taken to Majdanek and shot. Music was played through loudspeakers at both Majdanek and Trawniki to drown out the noise of the mass shootings. The killing at Majdanek was the largest single-day, single-location massacre during the Holocaust.