Feodor Fedorenko, or Fyodor Federenko (Ukrainian: Федір Федоренко; Fedir Fedorenko; Russian: Фёдор Демьянович Федоренко; 17 September 1907 – c. July 1987) was a war criminal serving at Treblinka extermination camp in German occupied Poland during World War II. As a former Soviet citizen admitted to the United States under a DPA visa (1949), Fedorenko became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1970. He was discovered in 1977 and denaturalized in 1981. Subsequently, he was extradited to the USSR, sentenced there to death for treason against his nation and participation in the Holocaust, and was executed.
Fedorenko was born in the Sivash region of the Crimea, in southern Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). He was mobilized into the Soviet army in June 1941, around the time of the Nazi German Operation Barbarossa. He was a truck driver, and had no previous military training. Within two or three weeks, his group was encircled twice by the German army. He escaped the first time, but he was captured three days later by the Germans and transported to Zhytomyr, then Rivne, and finally to Chełm, Poland.
At the Chełm prisoner-of-war camp, German officers from Operation Reinhard arrived one day and recruited 200 to 300 Ukrainians for military training as auxiliary police in the service of Nazi Germany within General Government. They were sent to the Trawniki concentration camp SS training division, and Fedorenko was among them. At Trawniki, he was trained as a Hiwi shooter and was posted to Treblinka extermination camp. Fedorenko became an NCO (Non Commisioned Officer) attaining the rank of Oberwacher and from September 1942 to August 1943, he led a 200 member Ukrainian detachment which shaved, stripped, beat and gassed prisoners brought to Treblinka.
Training as the Hiwi shooter
Fedorenko was one of approximately 5,000 Trawniki men trained as Holocaust executioners by SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel from Operation Reinhard. The Hiwi shooters, known in German as the Trawnikimänner, were deployed to all major killing sites of the Final Solution, augmented by the SS and Schupo, as well as Ordnungspolizei formations. The German Order Police performed roundups inside the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland shooting everyone unable to move or attempting to flee, while the Trawnikis conducted large-scale civilian massacres in the same locations. It was their primary purpose of training. In the spring of 1942 Fedorenko was deployed from Trawniki to the Lublin Ghetto. It is known from historical record that between mid-March and mid-April 1942 over 30,000 Jews from Lublin Ghetto were transported to their deaths in cattle trucks at the Bełżec extermination camp and additional 4,000 at Majdanek. Fedorenko claimed in his postwar hearing that he was issued a rifle which was not fired. From Lublin, he was sent to the Warsaw Ghetto with his Sonderdienst battalion of 80 to 100 executioners. He was dispatched to Treblinka approximately in September 1942.
The report of the Soviet Interrogation of Defendant Aleksandr Ivanovich Yeger (born in 1918, Germany), includes the section devoted to Fedorenko's activities at the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland (excerpt).
FEDORENKO had the rank of an SS oberwachman. He was assistant to the commander of the first platoon of a guards company in the Treblinka "death camp". He came together with me from the city of Warsaw to the Treblinka "death camp". He took part in the shooting of citizens of Jewish nationality during the unloading of trains, in the undressing places to the gas chambers and to the "infirmary". At the end of 1943, he left for Danzig as part of a company of guards. I did not meet him again and do not know where he is now.— Yeger: Investigation Department of Ministry of State Security of the Ukraine.
Escape to the United States
After the end of the war, Fedorenko abandoned his wife and two children, who remained in the Soviet Union, and spent four years living as a war refugee in West Germany, working for the British from 1945-1949. Fedorenko emigrated to the United States from Hamburg in 1949 and was granted permanent residency status under the Displaced Persons Act. He initially resided in Philadelphia but later settled in Waterbury, Connecticut where he found employment as a brass factory worker. Fedorenko would reside in Waterbury for the next two decades.
While Fedorenko's life in the United States was quiet, he had been identified as a possible war criminal. Treblinka survivors identified him as a guard at the camp from a collection of photographs and documents that had been captured from the SS. In the mid-sixties his name and Waterbury, Connecticut address were included on a list of fifty-nine war criminals living in America. The list was compiled in Europe and Israel and forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the United States.
He was granted U.S. citizenship in 1970, however and later retired to Miami Beach, Florida in 1973. In the mid-70s, Congressional Representatives Joshua Eilberg and Elizabeth Holtzman initiated a set of hearings that led the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the handling of possible Nazi war criminal data. No mishandling was found, but as a result, a Special Litigation Unit for the investigation of Nazi war criminals was established in the INS. The information supplied in the sixties was now put to use. In 1977, the INS supplied information on Fedorenko to Justice Department prosecutors.
Denaturalization trial and extradition
In 1978, he was arrested and brought for a denaturalization trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
At his subsequent denaturalization hearing in June 1978, Fedorenko testified over three days in greater detail. He denied that he had actually entered the section of the camp where the gas chambers were located but admitted that he had once been posted on a guard tower overlooking this section of the camp. "I saw how they were loading up dead people, loading them on the stretchers. ...And they were loading them in a hole." Later in his testimony, he reconfirmed that this part of the camp "is where there was the workers that took the bodies and buried them or stacked them in the holes. This is where the gas chambers were." Concerning the unloading of Jews from the trains, he testified: "Some were picked for work and the others, they went to the gas chambers".
Judge Norman C. Roettger said that the 71-year-old had himself been a "victim of Nazi aggression." He ruled that the prosecutors had failed to prove that Fedorenko committed any atrocities while at the camp, and that he could keep his United States citizenship.
However, on January 21, 1981, the United States Supreme Court overturned this verdict and Fedorenko became the first Nazi war criminal to be deported to the Soviet Union in December 1984. A Crimean court in June 1986 found him guilty of treason and taking part in mass executions. He was sentenced to death and his execution by shooting was announced in July 1987.
- "Feodor FEDORENKO, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES". Supreme Court: 449 U.S. 490 (101 S.Ct. 737, 66 L.Ed.2d 686) No. 79-5602. Cornell University Law School. Case decided. January 21, 1981. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- Browning, Christopher R. (1998) . "Arrival in Poland" (PDF file, direct download 7.91 MB complete). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Penguin Books. pp. 52, 77, 79, 80, 135. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Chris Webb (2014). The Treblinka Death Camp: History, Biographies, Remembrance. Columbia University Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-3838205465. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- David, Holmberg (August 16, 1977). "The Miami News". The Miami News. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
- "Chicago Daily News". Atlanta Journal and Constitution. August 14, 1977. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
- Holocaust Encyclopedia. "Trawniki" (permission granted to be reused, in whole or in part, on Wikipedia; OTRS ticket no. 2007071910012533). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
Text from USHMM has been released under the GFDL.
- Mgr Stanisław Jabłoński (1927–2002). "Hitlerowski obóz w Trawnikach". The camp history (in Polish). Trawniki official website. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Jack Fischel, The Holocaust, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998, pg. 58; in Google Books.
- Statistical data compiled on the basis of "Glossary of 2,077 Jewish towns in Poland" by Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of the Polish Jews as well as "Getta Żydowskie," by Gedeon and "Ghetto List" by Michael Peters.
- Aleksandr Yeger (2012). "Fedorenko served at Treblinka". Report of Interrogation: Investigation Department of Ministry of State Security of the Ukraine, Molotov Region. The Nizkor Project. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Radical America - Vol 13 No 5 - 1979 - September October". Scribd. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
- "Radical America - Vol 13 No 5 - 1979 - September October". Scribd. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
- Christopher R. Browning, "Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution." Emory University 2013.
- "Death camp guard stripped of citizenship", Montreal Gazette, January 22, 1981, p69
- "Nazi death camp guard deported to Soviet Union", Gettysburg Times, December 24, 1984, p1
- WILLIAM J. EATON. "Soviets Execute Ex-Nazi Guard Deported by U.S.", Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1987, p1