Risiera di San Sabba


After the overthrow of Mussolini in September 1943, the Germans occupied Italy and the areas previously occupied by Italy. Immediately the Italian army began to be disarmed and Italian soldiers who did not join the germans were put in camps. Such a camp was established on the outskirts of Trieste in a former factory (Risiera di San Sabba) where rice was previously prepared. The camp was named Stalag 339 but already in October that year the camp became a police detention camp (Polizeihaftlager) for hostages, partisans and Jews who were to be deported to camps in Germany and Poland. Prior to the occupation, Italians were reluctant to extradite the jews who were in their fields to the germans despite repeated requests from Germans. Only in connection with the German occupation of Italy did the situation change for the Jews, who thus risked being deported to the extermination camps in eastern Europe.

In October and November 1943, the nazis conducted raids in Rome, Genoa and Florence, of which the jews from the latter two cities were murdered in Auschwitz. Jews from Friuli were deported via San Sabba to Auschwitz. About 700 Jews were deported from San Sabba to Auschwitz, but some were never deported because they were murdered in the camp. San Sabba was like a small concentration camp in miniature, there was a commandant’s tour, assembly point, lodgement, penalty cells and workshops where shoes were made. In April 1944, the nazis established a crematorium in the courtyard to dispose of the large number of dead bodies of executed prisoners. The crematorium exploded in late April 1945. Information also claims that the Nazis used a temporary gas wagon to murder prisoners in San Sabba. The camp was liberated at the end of the war by Yugoslav partisans.3,000 –,5,000 people died in prison, but most prisoners who ended up in the camp were further deported.

When Operation Reinhardt was completed in Poland in October 1943, several of its leading SS officers were sent to Trieste, including. the head of Operation Reinhardt Odilo Globocnik, appointed as the supreme SS and Police leader of the Operation Zone Adriatisches Küstenland area where Trieste was located. As chief SS and chief of police, he became the supreme controller of San Sabba. Other prominent figures from Poland were Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl, Sobibor commandant Franz Reichleitner, Josef Oberhauser from Belzec (became commander of San Sabba) and Christian Wirth who was inspector of Operation Reinhardt camps and one of the leading figures from the Nazi euthanasia program between 1939 and 1941.

In total, about 90 veterans from Operation Reinhardt were sent to Trieste. Their experiences from Poland came in handy in Italy where one of their tasks was to organize the persecution of the Italian jews. Italy had until the German occupation in September 1943 continuously refused to surrender the jews, but when Italy was occupied, this protection disappeared. However, the veterans from Poland were also tasked with chasing partisans and a unit called Einsatzkommando Reinhardt was set up, which in turn was divided into three commands E 1, E 2 and E 3. Of the documents found after the war, it is known that these commands imprisoned suspected partisans and brought them to San Sabba.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished (2011).

Address: Giovanni Palatucci 5, 341 46 Trieste.

Get there: Car.

My comment:

In terms of time, the transfer of personnel from Operation Reinhardt fits into the context. The prison uprising in Sobibor in October 1943 can be said to have ended Operation Reinhardt and the staff became available for other assignments. Just as when the euthanasia programme was closed in the autumn of 1941, it coincided with the problems that arose in the overcrowded ghettos of Poland. Staff from the euthanasia program were then transferred to eastern Poland to participate in the mass murder of ghettos’ Jews. Italy had just been occupied and Himmler needed people with experience of Jewish persecution and this coincided with the liquidation of Operation Reinhardt.

But Himmler may also have had parallel reasons for moving prominent people from Operation Reinhardt to Trieste. Adriatisches Küstenland was a dangerous area to stay in because of the partisans. The partisans were notorious for their frequent ambush and unwillingness to take any prisoners and the Germans had very good reasons to fear the partisans. Neither Globocnik nor Wirth had any previous experience with partisans that made them fit for the task, however, their involvement in the Holocaust was prominent and Himmler might not mind if they disappeared. By moving them to Trieste and chasing partisans, there was a great risk that they would be killed and thus they would not be able to testify about their involvement in Operation Reinhardt. Wirth was also quite rightly killed in an ambush by partisans in May 1944. Globocnik committed suicide after being captured in May 1945.

Follow up in books: Arad, Yitzhak: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Operation Reinhardt death camps (1987).