Saturday, May 10, 2014


The concentration camp in Lublin , commonly known under the name Majdanek , became for various reasons a special feature within the " SS state ". It differed both in its structure and in its localization for a long time as the only concentration camp within the Gerneralgouvernment as well as in its future direction, and was fundamentally different from any other concentration camp. For accountability , it was as far as responsibility was concerned, considered to be a"difficult camp." The establishment of Lublin - Majdanek , located about 150 kilometres south-east of Warsaw, was in the context of German colonization and Germanization policy in Eastern Europe, closely connected with  the plan to build a military base and an economic complex for the SS in Lublin. For both projects , the attack on the Soviet Union gave the decisive impetus in June 1941.  As part of " Operation Barbarossa " the Germans conquered   extensive areas for the Reich , under the name " Neuer Ostraum "(New room in the East) which meant in the German vision "living space" that should and would be converted . In addition, hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner of war who the SS wanted to use as free labour . To put these conquests into practice the concept of radical Germanization and to essentially reorganize the  agricultural order in the East, had been already planned and developed within the framework of the " General Plan East" .
Although most of the projects of the "General Plan East" should only be implemented in peacetime, it nevertheless led not only to intensive planing work already during the war , yet a number of measures aimed at the Germanization of occupied territories took place,  and these were mainly in the Lublin area . This was on one hand due to the strategic importance of its growth in the region after the German attack on the Soviet Union and the other,  due to the settlement policy of the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district , Odilo Globocnik . Its main concern was initially to erect a kind of bridge of ethnic German settlements in the region of Lublin. After the start of the war against the Soviet Union  his responsibilities in the area of ​​colonization had been greatly expanded in the area of ​​new settlements. On July 17, 1941 , he was named by Heinrich Himmler , Reichsführer SS and "Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood" , and delegated him the task for the establishment of special SS and police facilities , the so-called SS and Police bases in the "New Eastern territories " .  On the following day, prior to the meeting Himmler made himself ​​familiar with Globocnik's report on the planned bases . Three days later, on July 20, 1941 , Himmler came to Lublin to discuss with Globocnik , the details of the projects . He ordered to build  some new and expand some existing production facilities for the SS . In addition, an SS and Police Department for 60,000 NS-functionaries should be created in Lublin.  During this visit, the protocol included as the first item the recommendation for the construction of a concentration camp : "The Representative of the RFSS were to build a KL  with a capacity for 25.000 to 50.000 prisoners used in the workshops and buildings of the SS and police departments as required".
From this note, (the minutes survived) which is the only known document of the construction story of the concentration camp in Lublin, there are three important consequences that came out of this meeting: First, Globocnik, the organizer of the camp should have overall responsibility  and not the inspector of concentration camps Richard Glücks. Second, the planned size of the camp in comparison with the already existing internment centres  at that time was enormous. As recently as July 1942, the total number of prisoners in concentration camps held, did not exceed 100,000 . Third, especially the creation of economic issues for Majdanek were decisive . The camp was meant to be a reservoir of a labour pool for the construction and production projects of the SS and thereby cover both, the needs of the SS garrison in Lublin and the police stations of the entire district of Lublin , and supply the needs of the Eastern Fighting Front . Furthermore the concentration camp should meet as an integral part the Lublin supply support point for SS units in the east as a dual function. On one hand, it should produce in their own factories the needs of the SS and on the other, the mentioned objectives of extensions and constructions for which Himmler foresaw the location of the main camp, as a convenient source of free labour.
Himmler visits Globocnik in Lublin
Just two weeks after the visit of Himmler a meeting was held in Lublin to discuss the the construction of an " interim camp ". This expression is found in the design of Hans Kammler , Head of the Office II in the SS Main Office Budget and Construction  Department. The document shows that at that time,  a site visit took place,  at which Karl Otto Koch , who later became commandant of Majdanek took part . The site had been set out, and plans of the Buchenwald concentration camp were used and submitted as a basis  to house 6,000 inmates . However,  Kammler made as late as  September 22nd 1941 a slightly different  formal and official order to establish  a concentration camp near  Lublin. He planned the provision of the initial first section with a preliminary capacity of 5,000 prisoners , while for the entire complex 50,000 inmates had been planned and approved . Over the next few months Kammler increased the planned number of intakes considerably . On December 8, 1941 , he ordered finally, the construction order to expand so that Majdanek could accommodate 150,000 prisoners of war or detainees. This was not his idea.
The background of this megalomania was Himmler's plan to take over Soviet prisoners of war from the Wehrmacht, put them into concentration camps and have them  work in construction and industrial companies of the SS. In September 1941, Himmler had this issue with the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps discussed and agreed with the High Command of the Army the transfer, a total of 325,000 prisoners of war from the POW camps (Stalags) over to the SS.
For this reason, preparations were made for the reception of prisoners of war in August 1941 into the  already existing concentration camps.  Towards the end of the month the military commander of the General Government was informed that up to 100,000 prisoners of war in the Lublin region , should gradually be handed over to Himmler's disposal under his power (Verfügungsgewalt) . However, Himmler had no intentions , to build a POW camp in Lublin. The official name of  "prisoner of war camp of the Waffen-SS in Lublin" should mainly mask the true character of the camp. With that, the SS wanted to avoid conflicts with the civilian administration in the General Government , which would have denied most likely the consent to plan and build a concentration camp under the direction of the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin . [ This apprehension was not unfounded. The Governor General of the Lublin district , Ernst Zörner,  expressed in a letter to Globocnik of 30 August 1941 his indignation that the decision had been made on the construction of the camp without agreement with the civil administration. A year later , on 4 August 1942, the General Governor Hans Frank responded in a similar manner . sic] In my opinion the SS would override any proposals or suggestion the civilian administration would put forward . The SS under Himmler dictated and ruled.HKS ​​]
Map of the Holocaust in Poland during the Second World War (1939-1945) at the time of German occupation of Poland This map shows all German extermination camps (or death camps), prominent concentration, labour and prison camps, major pre-war Polish  cities with ghettos set up by Germany, major deportation routes and major massacre sites.
Similar to other measures provided for, in Lublin and the surrounding region, the SS Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police in Lublin was responsible for the construction of the camp. The first known technical design comes from October 7, 1941, the last is dated March 23, 1942. According to the first plan the camp should take 50,000 prisoners of war. However, the draft of March 1942 took into account Kammler's guidelines of the 8th December 1941 and went to a three times  high occupancy of 150,000 inmates. The camp ground should occupy an area of 516 hectare and were composed of three parts: the prisoner of war camp with 336 barracks, a development area (the so-called extension) with 128 barracks and the clothing factories of the SS with 80 barracks to house prisoners. In the prisoner section they also planned workshops, magazines and administration barracks and in a separate sector, the offices of the headquarters and barracks for the Guards (Wachmannschft).
When the draft proposal of 23 March 1942 was adopted, its implementation was completely unrealistic.  It was already known that the acquisition of hundreds and thousands of Soviet prisoners of war had ended in a fiasco. Himmler had taken the stance since the beginning of 1942 and  distanced himself from the project to expand Majdanek in its  planned dimension. On 14 April 1942, he announced in a letter to the Deputy Reich Commissioner, that the intake capacity of the camp will have to be reduced to 50,000 people. The central building department then performed the essential changes in the design. It resulted that only eight fields for prisoners, a business section of workshops plus magazines and a administration sector with headquarters and SS barracks were needed. According to this concept, in July 1942 a new land-use plan for the camp was prepared.
Prisoners in the construction of the camp (1943). In the background,  barracks for the guard battalion.


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