Origin of the Term
The origin of the term Aktion Reinhardt (sometimes spelled Reinhard) is not clear. Some historians think it was named after German State-Secretary of Finance Fritz Reinhardt, but a majority of historians think that it was named after Reinhardt Heydrich (whose first name is often misspelled as Reinhard).
Mainstream historians insist that Aktion Reinhardt was an operation for the mass-murder of Jews in the General Government and the Białystok Region, mainly by sending them to the so-called pure extermination camps Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka – the so-called Aktion Reinhardt Camps. Original wartime documents, however, prove that this operation had an entirely different background.
After Germany’s victory over Poland, and even more so after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany made grand plans to Germanize large areas in the east, to secure it with fortified settlements, and to improve the area’s infrastructure. Large numbers of Soviet PoWs were to be deployed to that end. However, when those PoWs did not become available, the focus shifted to the Jews as an alternative labor pool.
Odilo Globocnik was in charge of the initial settlement and infrastructure projects. When the focus shifted to the Jews, he remained in charge as head of Aktion Reinhardt. However, if that new task was to exterminate without distinction all Jews, then Globocnik had been ordered by Himmler to fulfill two contradictory tasks: on the one hand he had to secure as large a Jewish labor force as possible for huge construction efforts in the East, and on the other hand he had to mass-murder all the Jews he could lay his hands on. Both cannot be true. The first objective is incontrovertibly proven by many documents and actual historical events, while the second rests almost exclusively on highly dubious witness testimony.
The orthodoxy insists that Aktion Reinhardt entailed the murder of some 2.3 million Jews living in the General Government. Hence, this term would be another code word used for the extermination of the Jews, just like the term “Final Solution.” But like the latter, this claim is not backed up by documents; in fact, existing documents refute it.
The earliest document mentioning the term “Reinhardt” is from June 1942, and is a simple request for “50 empty suitcases” – without any reference to murder. In an undated report by Globocnik, probably from 1943, we read (Nuremberg Document NO-057):
“The whole of Aktion Reinhardt can be split up into 4 areas:
A) the deportation itself
B) the use of the manpower
C) the use of objects
D) the securing of hidden values and real estate.”
All other surviving documents about Aktion Reinhardt refer exclusively to the exploitation of material objects taken from the deported Jews. This includes a travel report by SS Obersturmbannführer Alfred Franke-Gricksch to several camps, which states explicitly that Sonderaktion “Reinhard” was about the seizure of all mobile Jewish property in the General Government. Furthermore, there are several documents about the Auschwitz Camp where that term is mentioned in conjunction with the storage and handling of inmate property.
Finally, the so-called Höfle telegram by Hans Höfle, listing arrival figures for “Einsatz Reinhardt,” lists deportation figures for a camp abbreviated with “L”, which is generally assumed to mean Lublin, meaning the Majdanek Camp. This camp was therefore part of the Aktion Reinhardt, but today no serious historian claims that any kind of systematic mass-murder of Jews or anyone else occurred at that camp.
The choice of Heydrich’s first name “Reinhardt” for this operation made sense, as it continued the task entrusted to him by Göring to resolve “the Jewish question by means of emigration or evacuation.” (See the entry on Reinhardt Heydrich.)
Therefore, Aktion Reinhardt had nothing to do with mass murder. It aimed at deporting Jews, putting those fit for labor to forced labor, resettle the rest in the East, and loot their assets and properties.
(For more details, see Graf/Kues/Mattogno 2020, pp. 243-258.)