Eugeniusz Maytchenko


trawniki

Trawniki Village (Bundesarchiv)


In 1967, when the Polish Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes opened an investigation into the SS Training Camp and Labour Camp for Jewish prisoners in Trawniki, which is located some 20 miles east-south-east of Lublin, one of the witnesses to be interrogated was Eugeniusz Maytchenko. During the investigation, the prosecutor reviewed the files of Maytchenko, who had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment in 1952, in Poland, because he had been one of the guards who were trained in the SS-Ausbildungs Lager Trawniki.

Maytchenko is a good example of a person who served two regimes. In 1939, he lived in Chelm Lubelski, only about 50 km from Trawniki. At the beginning of the German occupation, his mother and two sisters declared themselves to be Ukrainians. His father wanted to be recognised as a Pole and refused to take a Ukrainian Identity-Card. Maytchenko's mother owned a bar, which during the war was classified 'Nur fur Deutsche' - Only for Germans. During Maytchenko's trial in 1952, witnesses from Chelm stated openly that the entire family, other than the father, collaborated with the Germans and were very hostile towards the Poles. Maytchenko himself stated in his evidence that he had never been nor felt himself Ukrainian. 'I did not take Ukrainian nationality, I was a Pole and I wrote this nationality in my identity-card from the Trawniki training camp.'

In 1943, Maytchenko was a pupil at a secondary technical school in Chelm. 'In 1943, whilst still at school, I was taken by the Germans together with my colleagues, and we were sent to the camp at Trawniki. After a medical examination some of us were sent to assist the German armed forces, mainly the air force, and others were left at Trawniki for guard duty in the camp. We who were left in Trawniki, signed a questionnaire in which we described ourselves volunteers.

This information can be regarded as providing positive evidence that Maytchenko could not have been regarded as being Polish at the time he was taken to Trawniki. There was a group of people whom witnesses described as Poles in Trawniki - approximately 30 people identified themselves as Poles, but did so only after the war. As a pupil of a secondary school, Maytchenko was sent directly to Trawniki, where there was a recruitment of personnel for duty supplementing the German armed forces.

None of Maytchenko's colleagues were sent to Germany for slave labour - they joined the SS-Wachmannschaft in Trawniki or were enlisted as auxiliary units serving with the Luftwaffe. In contrast, none of the Polish pupils from secondary schools were enlisted as Wehrmacht auxiliaries. Many of them who were arrested after their school lessons in Lublin or in Chelm were deported to Germany for slave labour. Only Ukrainians had the chance not to be deported but instead could join the SS-Wachmannschaft in Trawnik. Among them was  Eugeniusz Maytchenko.

During his trial in 1952, in trying to defend himself, Maytchenko declared that he joined the SS -Ausbildungslager because he was in contact with the Polish Home Army an underground organisation, and that he received an order to become a guard at Trawniki and to collect information about the camp. He alleged that apart from collecting information, he purchased weapons for the Polish underground. According to his account he did this when visiting his family in Chelm, where he had made contact with Hungarian soldiers who were stationed in his hometown. The jury did not believe this.

During his trial another former guard who had served with Maytchenko told of how his colleague was very helpful to the Germans. On one occasion Maytchenko denounced another colleague who had deserted from Trawniki. Maytchenko met this individual in Chelm  and on that same day informed the German Gendarmerie about him, knowing that for desertion from the SS Training Camp there was only one sentence -death.

The same witness described how Maytchenko was visited quite often by his mother and sisters, who would return to Chelm with suitcases full of Jewish goods. During his time at Trawniki, Maytchenko was a guard at the Jewish work camp and he had contact with Jewish prisoners. There are many stories in connection with the personal theft from Jewish prisoners by Ukrainian guards from Trawniki. The witness who described the visits of the Maytchenko family to Trawniki, also stated that Maytchenko and other recruits from the Chelm region were people who 'wanted to profit something from the Jews.' Maytchenko said that he had not had special contact with the Jewish prisoners: 'During my term of duty there were incidents when Jews escaped, but I never shot at escaping people. I was not often on duty in the camp because I was an aide to the SS company commander.' During the trial he stated that he was a witness of the Erntefest executions, adding at the same time that he had not been a participant.

Maytchenko deserted from Trawniki in July 1944. According to his statement, he joined the Home Army and several months later, after the liberation of Lublin, he related his activities to the Communist Secret Police, by whom he had been arrested as a former guard. He was released after several weeks and enlisted in the Polish army, where he began to make a career. As a soldier, he eventually rose to the rank of sergeant, he served in the front line and was decorated for bravery.

After the end of the Second World War he served as a political officer. He was arrested for the first time during 1947, and was imprisoned for 11 months, following which he was probably released from the army and settled in Krasnik near Lublin. He was arrested for a second time in 1952, together with other former Trawniki guards, who at that time lived in Poland.

During this 1952 trial he wanted to show that he was connected with the Polish underground and that after the war he had been a good Communist - he showed the judge high Polish decorations for bravery at the front and even 5 laudatory letters from comrade Stalin. Despite this, the judge sentenced him to a term of 10 years in prison.


Sources

Archive of Majdanek State Museum. Documents of Regional Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Lublin and Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Warsaw. Investigation in the case of the Trawniki camp, 1966 -1967.

ARC Website - www.deathcamps.org

Photograph - Bundesarchiv

Thanks to Robert Kuwalek

Holocaust Historical Society, October 23, 2020