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Operation Erntefest

 (Harvest Festival)


Jakob Sporrenberg  SSPF Lublin 


Interrogation Report – Extracts  


Jakob Sporrenberg

(1902--1952), SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district who organized

“Erntefest"---the operation in which some 43,000 Jews imprisoned in the

camps of Majdanek, Trawniki, and Poniatowa were massacred.

Interrogation Report – Extracts   

Part 1


III. Sporrenberg’s Activities as SS &Police Chief Lublin


In the course of the interview described above PW must have been aware of the task facing him. He must have known that he was chosen for this position for quite definite reasons by a man who knew only too well how to select personnel to carry out work to his own satisfaction and conforming with the principles laid down by him.


In spite of this alleges that Himmler informed him at the time that he was not to concern himself with the Jewish question in Lublin as this was in the hands of the infamous Globocnik and his henchmen. Globocnik was PW’s predecessor in Lublin and Sporrenberg was quite aware of the type of work that had been carried on there for some years past under his leadership.


In the course of a long and detailed talk on policy Himmler told PW it would be his task to care for and look after the German settlers in Lublin and that he expected the entire district to be Germanised by the end of 1944.


Sporrenberg asked him where the Poles were to be sent and received the reply that these were to be despatched to the Ukraine as they were on no account to move westwards.


PW suggested that there might be front-line fighting in the Ukraine before very long, whereupon Himmler ordered him to build fortifications along the River Bug and along the 1941 Russo-German border. Himmler also desired that Sporrenberg should establish friendly relations with the Governor Dr Wendler, which up to that time had apparently not been achieved.


Sporrenberg went to Lublin at the end of August 1943 with mixed feelings. It was arranged that he should get to know his duties and then proceed on the compassionate leave still due to him.


His predecessor, SS – Gruppenfuhrer and Generalleutnant der Polizei Odilo Globocnik had not left yet. Globocnik had not been a member of the old “Fuhrer Corps,” but had previously been the notorious Gauleiter of Vienna, where he had to be relieved as a result of a shady business deal.


Sporrenberg had only once before met Globocnik at the Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei, but in the meantime had heard a great deal about his character and activities and he expected both co-operation and the handing over of duties to be extremely difficult. He maintains, however, that he under-estimated the difficulties and says that right from the start he came up against a wall of distrust and reservedness.


Globocnik explained that the task he was now handing over to PW was negligible compared with the work he had carried out in his time and again told Sporrenberg that he was to concern himself primarily with the settlement of Germans.


After PW’s return from leave, a great many outstanding affairs had been settled and some of the business concerns which worked for Globocnik and mostly employed Jewish and slave labour had been wound up.


Sporrenberg felt relieved because he was under the impression that some of these concerns and their subsidiary undertakings were extremely unsavoury and he wanted to have nothing to do with them.


Even after Globocnik himself had left with some members of his staff, one group stayed behind, called the “Globocnik unit,” which was in charge of the remaining concerns (in work camps) and the prisoners employed there.


Sporrenberg must have at least shared the responsibility for anything that happened in the district, including conditions and events in these working camps, and he does in fact, admit that he was very much concerned with these affairs and frequently attempted to visit all working and concentration camps in his area.




The chain of command and personalities holding important positions during PW’s tenure of office in Lublin were as follows:


Chart to follow


Personalities on Sporrenberg’s staff were the following:



Stubaf Hoefle

Later went to Greece relieved by


Hastuf Claasen


Offr i/c military matters

Ostuf Bolten


Offr i/c personnel matters

Ostuf Offermann

Held in Norway

Offr i/c admin

Obstlt Rheindorf

Later took over command of Pol Rgt 25 from Kintrup who went after Globocnik to Trieste where he became BdO

Offr i/c supplies

Ostuf Kramme





Adjt (after 1944)

Hastuf Rau

Held PW in this country


Stubaf Lange

Subordinate to Waffen-SS. Later became Guard Commander at Concentration Camp Buchenwald or Orainenburg



It is to be noted that several of the officers mentioned above had previously been on the staff of Globocnik and must have been involved in some of his well-known misdeeds.


They were Stubaf Hoefle, Hastuf Claasen and Ostuf Bolten. Apart from these there were also several minor officials, whose names PW does not remember, who had also served under Globocnik.


It appears with the exception of Hoefle, PW made no efforts to have these people removed despite their reputation, and it is obvious that he must have considered them well-suited for this type of work.


Underground Movement


On his arrival in Lublin, Sporrenberg concerned himself primarily with security matters in the area. Through the continuous retreat of German troops the underground forces in Poland increased in strength and activity and found their actions crowned with ever- growing success.


Sporrenberg realised that the troops under his command were insufficient to guarantee the security of the district and, at the same time, maintain control and order. Some of the Polish underground units (according to PW the right wing troops) never fought against German Army or Police units and they were in turn left alone by the Germans.


Other underground forces ignored Wehrmacht formations and concentrated their efforts against Police and SS only. The third group of Partisans were those who most effectively fought against everyone and everything German.


These were the Russian-supported left-wing elements. PW was questioned closely on reprisal measures which may have been taken, but he maintains that such measures were already useless and out of the question, and he cites an example the fact that even after the killing of Generalleutnant Renner and three of his staff officers, no reprisals were taken either in the form of hostages or by imposing more rigorous regulations on the movement of the civilian population.


Months later the Governor General transferred martial law into the hands of the SIPO authorities. Even this measure had very little effect and when it was applied too severely, as for example in Warsaw, unpleasant counter reprisals were taken by the Partisans.


Most of the Partisans opposing German forces in the district of Lublin were of Russian nationality. The Polish population seemed more afraid of the Germans and showed what Sporrenberg calls “a more loyal demeanour,” at any rate for the time being.


In some cases armed right wing Partisans joined battle on the side of the Germans in order to expel the Russian Partisans. Sporrenberg fully realised the seriousness of the situation and that the Russian raids were merely armed reconnaissance for future large scale operations by the Red Army.


Six months later this was found to be correct and Sporrenberg spared no effort to suppress Partisan activity during these six months. At the same time he was of the opinion, as was the KdS Lublin, O’Stubaf Puetz, that the Germans might come to terms with the Polish Right-wing and the Polish Underground, and obtain a certain amount of co-operation from this quarter.


However, as their powers were limited and they could enter into no political agreements or promises, they could not approach these Polish circles directly although Sporrenberg had asked a certain German official in Warsaw, Panwitz, to do so.


Sporrenberg says he was fully occupied at first with these matters and with the settlement of Germans. Apart from this he also had to supervise 15 SS strong-points containing stocks of food previously confiscated from the civilian population by Globocnik, and intended for the German forces. Furthermore certain properties which Globocnik had confiscated also had to be guarded.


Concentration Camps 


(a)  Majdanek


Before Globocnik left for Trieste he had made arrangements that neither Sporrenberg nor the Gouvernor should have access to Majdanek Concentration Camp. PW nevertheless succeeded in getting permission one day to visit the camp and informed the Commandant, Ostubaf Florstedt, that Himmler had authorised this visit.


Having previously seen it from the street, the camp was far larger than he had expected, so large in fact that it was impossible to inspect all the barracks on foot. PW states that the camp was built to accommodate about 30,000 prisoners, but at the time of his visit he thinks there were somewhat less.


This was due to a continual exit of prisoners who were being sent to armaments works in Germany, and the inmates present during his visit were mostly new arrivals or sick, who had been sent there to “recover.”


Sporrenberg states that as far as he knows there were no Jews in the camp at the time. Conditions inside the camp, particularly cleanliness etc, he describes as very good indeed. The camp also ran its own agricultural concern. The barracks, though spotless, were very overcrowded. One of the greatest faults was the foot-deep sandy soil and the complete absence of any shade.


At the end of the camp to the South but still within the camp area were the Crematoria, easily distinguished by their high chimneys. They had been rebuilt to meet the needs of the future, as they had been found faulty in the past.


Sporrenberg asked the Commandant to show him the gas chambers, but the latter denied their existence. He showed PW the baggage room and delousing arrangements and it was those that the Commandant thought had probably been mistaken for gas chambers.


It is known, however, and confirmed in Report No WCIU/LDC/982 on PW Aumeier, who had been penal camp leader at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, that the gas chambers at Auschwitz bore the word “Delousing” on the doors. Sporrenberg made no further investigation although he was aware that gas chambers existed and that mass exterminations were carried out there.


He then visited a specially fenced off compound for about 1,000 seriously wounded Russian prisoners of war. This camp had been built by Globocnik on Himmler’s special instructions, and was to serve as a model camp for any commissions who might wish to make inspections. PW states that conditions were actually very good in this special compound.


Sporrenberg then went to inspect the women’s compound. He states that the first thing that struck him was that the female warders walked about with whips in their hands. Sporrenberg asked the Commandant if it was permissible for guards to carry whips and was informed that an order had been issued on the previous day to the effect that whips were not to be carried.


PW reprimanded the Commandant for not having acted promptly on these orders and instructions were then given in his presence to this effect. He does not know, however, if the carrying of whips was discontinued for any length of time and he did not attempt at a later date to make certain. The barracks were very over-crowded and Sporrenberg suggested that adjoining empty barracks might be filled up. He did not bother to find out later if this was done.


Before leaving the camp the Commandant showed PW a written order prohibiting the beating of prisoners and he asked PW what he was to do if it was found impossible to keep the inmates in check without using force.


Sporrenberg replied that he was to carry out the orders given him and instruct his guards to keep the Kapos (specially privileged prisoners) under observation so that they would not do things which the guards themselves were not permitted to do. Sporrenberg admits that these Kapos were professional and incorrigible criminals with no moral code, whose treatment of other prisoners was most brutal.


Sporrenberg was also told that escaped prisoners, if recaptured, could be hanged and he did, in fact, show him such an order in writing. PW says he disagreed with this kind of justice and asked the KdS to contact the department of Justice at the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and ask for an unambiguous directive on these matters.


As far as PW can recall, the matter was dealt with by the Department of Justice, but he does not know what actually happened except that the Camp Commandant at Majdanek, was soon after sent to Orainenburg for embezzlement and blackmail.


PW maintains that the camp was directly subordinate to the WVHA (Wirtschafts u. Verwaltungs Hauptamt). He was there only twice, i.e. the time described above and once again during a night raid by Allied bombers.


The Commandants, apart from Florstedt (mentioned above) were:


November 1943 – Beginning of 1944

Ostubaf Weiss

Beginning of 1944 onwards

Ostubaf Liebhenschel


His 2 i/c was Hastuf Melzer, who during Liebhenschel’s prolonged illness was in charge of affairs at the camp. Melzer saw Sporrenberg several times at the latter’s office, when Sporrenberg had asked for a hut to be made available inside the camp to house Polish workers who were employed in the district on building fortifications.


The G.O.C. of the area had made this request to PW, who in turn contacted Moser. Moser was not prepared to free this hut without proper reference to his superior authorities in Berlin, and it took some time before the Polish workers could be transferred into the camp.


On a later occasion Melzer saw Sporrenberg in his office to get extra transport to move prisoners back into the Reich. PW was able to oblige through the Wehrmacht authorities.


(b)  D.A.W Lindenstrasse


Like several other camps, the D.A.W. (Deutsche Ausrustungswerke – German Equipment Works) at the Lindenstrasse was still under the part-control of Globocnik’s unit.


To gain access, Sporrenberg had to get special permission from Globocnik’s office, where it was arranged that a special guide should take PW through the camp. The D.A.W. was a firm employing exclusively Jewish slave labour and producing mainly wooden articles which were made with the most modern machines.


There were also tailor shops, cobbler shops, saddleries, tanneries and printing works. Office staff were exclusively Jewish. Hygiene seemed fair, but living quarters were very much overcrowded.


As far as Sporrenberg could see the guards were Ukrainians, chosen by Globocnik. They were only posted outside the camp whereas there was complete freedom inside the compounds.  


(c)  D.A.W and OSTI Airport  


A second branch of the D.A.W. together with the OSTI (Ost Industrie – East Industry) were housed in a very large camp at the airport. To visit this camp PW again had to get permission from Globocnik’s office.


Here the goods produced were: brushes of all kinds, shoes with wooden soles and other articles made of wood. Globocnik himself was Managing Director (Generaldirektor) and it was not paying its way, efforts had been made to produce parts for aircraft.


Sporrenberg realised that things were not in order. There was a “special task unit,” with its headquarters on the airfield. Its Commandant was Sturmbannfuhrer Wirth, who was also Globocnik’s deputy and acted on his behalf after his departure to Trieste. This man of great physical stature, presented himself to Sporrenberg with a whip in his hand. PW says he objected to this.


There seems to have been more living space in the airport camp than in other camps described above, and it was well-equipped in other respects. The sick bay was run by Jewish doctors, dentists and nurses, but there were only a few cases of sickness.


From a Jewish doctor Sporrenberg learned that however, many privileges the Commandant (Wirth) might grant, he could not account for his cruelty on other occasions. Before leaving, Sporrenberg advised Wirth (he maintains that there was no question of giving him an order) to treat prisoners justly and fairly, and train and advise his men on the same lines.


Wirth informed him that Globocnik himself would return before long in order to dissolve the camp and that Globocnik had been charged by Himmler with the special task of settling the Jewish problem throughout Europe.


(d)  Fortress Prison


This prison, apart from being the German prison, was also the Polish town prison of Lublin. When Sporrenberg went to inspect it, he was struck by the fact that a large number of inmates were Polish juveniles in their 12th, 13th and 14th years, and it was explained to him that they were Polish “footpads.”


The overcrowding was alarming and when PW saw the Commandant Ostuf Dominik or Domnik, a quiet Justizsekretar from East Prussia, he demanded that something should be done about the congestion.


PW states that this Commandant tried to make the very best of the unfortunate situation and that this was realised even by the Polish prisoners, and PW never heard any complaints of ill-treatment or cruelty in the fortress.


(e)  Camp Poniatowa


This camp, situated about 50 – 60 kilometres outside Lublin, was also one of Globocnik’s, and as such also came under the direct command of Wirth, whose deputy at the camp was Ostuf Franz.


Sporrenberg did not bother to inspect the camp until the spring of 1944, when as a result of the “Harvest Festival” described below, there were no prisoners left there.


He can therefore give no details but it is certain that the camp was run on similar lines to Camps D.A.W. and OSTI. He does know that the guards were mostly Russians.


(f)   Camp Trawniki


This camp, also one of Globocnik’s concerns but run by a certain firm of Schulz, was situated about 35 kilometres from Lublin. PW did not see this camp either until after the extermination operation, when it was completely empty.


He had no particular wish to go there because Globocnik had been on extremely bad terms with the above firm and conditions were most unpleasant.


The Jews employed there manufactured furs and other types of clothing. Guards were Russians and the Commander of the Guard Battalion was Stubaf Schreiber.


(g)  Camp Sobibor


When PW arrived in Lublin he did not know of this camp’s existence. Only on odd occasions some of Globocnik’s men would talk of the Camp “S,” but PW later heard through the KdS that it was an extermination camp.


He also knew that the camp was situated in the Lublin district, about 120 -150 kms from the town, i.e. the district in which Sporrenberg himself was SSuPF.


He wanted to inspect the camp and did in fact go there some time in October 1943. Sporrenberg maintains that the camp came directly under the command of Globocnik and that the Sipo had nothing whatever to do with it.


On arrival at Sobibor the Guard Commander would not let Sporrenberg enter and called the Camp Commandant Hastuf Reichleitner, who also refused him access and informed him that he could only visit Sobibor in the company of the RFSS or Globocnik, preferably both.


PW had a quarrel with Reichleitner and told him that as SSuPF Lublin he was responsible for all camps in the district. But the Commandant would not permit him to get past the gate.


Sporrenberg returned to Lublin and, although he had told Reichleitner that he would complain, he did nothing about it, especially as Reichleitner had told him that the camp would be dissolved in three to four weeks and that he himself would then follow Globocnik to Trieste.


About three weeks later PW received a report from Cholm that a rising had taken place in the camp while it was being dissolved. This report reached Sporrenberg about 24 hours after the rising had begun.


He drove there at once and found that the police had taken over the guarding of the place. PW had not given such an order himself. He found out that the last remaining Jews there, about 150, had beaten to death all the German staff present (there were about 15), and had then made off together with their Russian guards.


Reichleitner himself was unfortunately not present as he had already left for Trieste. Before leaving, the prisoners had also set the entire camp on fire. By the time Sporrenberg arrived the police had placed the bodies of the dead Germans in one room. He tried to have a look round the camp but nearly everything had been destroyed by the fire.


He saw a heap of stone rubble which, he says, were the former gas chambers, but as he also says that he had never been there before, had never seen a plan of the camp and that nobody ever told him about it, it seems peculiar that he should be so certain about it.


He explains that this was the only stone building and all others were of wood, which gives rise to the assumption that it used to be the crematorium and not the gas chamber. Furthermore, he does not know where the corpses were disposed of. There were railway lines which had originally led to the heap of stone rubble.


As stated above, the camp was in the process of being dissolved when the rising began. One of the dead found there had been an Oberfeuerwerker (NCO in charge of explosives) which seems to confirm that the stone building had been dynamited only just before.


PW was told by the police that unsuccessful attempts had been made to recapture the escaped prisoners. When Sporrenberg returned to Lublin he found a teleprint from Himmler, who had already been informed by the Sipo of the incident.


In this teleprint Himmler blamed Sporrenberg, asked why the prisoners had not yet been recaptured, and ordered him to spare no effort to seize them without delay. Sporrenberg replied that he had nothing to do with the matter and that he had not even been allowed inside the camp. He told Himmler that it was  impossible to recapture the escaped prisoners as they had fled across the River Bug.


Next day Sporrenberg was told that Globocnik had arrived in Lublin from Berlin and that he had gone out to the camp without seeing PW. He merely drove out and made arrangements for the rest of the camp to be completely obliterated so that no traces would be left.


There is no doubt that this courageous action by a handful of Jews caused the greatest annoyance amongst high SS leaders. PW Sporrenberg affirms admiration for their action, but his attitude in this respect seems more designed to underline his former statements with regard to his constant opposition to Himmler and Globocnik.



 Continued in part [ 2 ]


 * Photos added to enhance the text.



Interrogation of Sporrenberg – National Archives Kew  WO 208/4673

Holocaust Historical Society




Copyright Chris Webb & Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2008



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