Saturday, May 10, 2014


The Majdanek camp was built on the south-east outskirts of Lublin. A small portion was located within the city limits , the rest covered the territory of the neighbouring villages Dziesiata , Abramowice and Kalinowka . The camp took up a flat terrain with a size of 270 hectare . Some of it lay on a hill that clearly towered over the area. The northern boundary of the camp was the road  leading to Lviv (Lemberg). in the west and south buildings were in the immediate vicinity  , to the east fields were used and tended by local farmers . The area around the camp was open and free of natural obstacles such as rivers or forests. Majdanek was two kilometres away from the railway station ,  at which the prisoner transports would arrive . Going into down-town of Lublin , which had been converted by the Occupation Forces into a German district with numerous offices and Departments for the civil administration and the police authorities, this was about five kilometres away.
Railway Station - Lublin, as it is now.
Construction of the concentration camp in Lublin commenced October 7, 1941. At the the beginning of 1942 there were two inmate fields (Häftlingsfelder) - . (This expression within the building period of Majdanek was the usual term for a camp section used or allocated  to build on) - and almost done. The most intensive building phase was in the second and third quarters of 1942 . Until September they had erected three other inmate fields plus a fence with guard towers and also most of the utility (Wirtschafts) and administrative barracks. In 1943 , the construction work was mainly concentrated on sewers , apart from roads and the expansion of living quarters (water connections were set up and a sanitary area in the all barracks was completed) . The expansion work still continued on,  until 1944. The construction of the concentration camp was never really accomplished. Not even the reduced schedule from 1942 could be achieved . Of the planned eight fields ultimately six were built . In total from 1941-1944, 280 different projects were completed in the camp on a smaller scale, as planned, including 108 barracks for prisoners , five kitchen barracks , five wash barracks , five workshop barracks , two barracks that served as delousing station with bathrooms , and a brick building, which housed the gas chambers.
The camp consisted of three parts: the protective custody camp, the SS area and the business complex. The prison camp had an area of ​​30 hectare consisting of five rectangular fields and two narrower strips, which were called the interim fields (Zwischenfelder). In the intermediate field I, was the crematorium, the morgue and at a later stage, the camp laundry was housed there. The second intermediate field was used to store coal and wood. In addition, there were temporary living quarters for the prisoners of the Sonderkommando, who worked and maintained the crematorium. On each field (350 X 150 meters) they had built in two parallel rows of wooden barracks to house the prisoners with two barracks for the kitchen and laundry room. The free space between the rows served as the assembly court, in the centre stood a gallows.

Gallows at Majdanek
The SS area consisted of administrative barracks, homes for higher officials, a casino and quarters for the SS-Unit. Outside the SS area, near the business barracks, they erected an equestrian centre (Reitbahn) and a shooting range. The three brick buildings from before the war were rebuilt. One served as the Villa of the Camp Kommandant, the second was used by the camp doctor and at times also by the protective custody camp leader. The third building was used by the Political Department (until end 1942) and from then on used as the radio station (Funkzentrale).
The business complex comprised mainly as agricultural land, a vegetable garden (gardening) with greenhouses as well as magazines and camp workshops (among others, a blacksmith shop, a shoemaker's workshop, a carpentry and tailoring facilities). Next to them was a dog kennel with about 30 dogs which were used in guarding and escorting prisoners. The camp area was fenced off with barbed wire, and also the individual inmate fields were secured with double barbed wire and guarded at the entrance gates from 18 watchtowers. Along the inner perimeter of the protective custody camp was a ploughed strip of ground - the "death zone". In  case of an external attack the camp was equipped with eight concrete bunkers that were camouflaged with earth and grass. They were secured by guards with machine guns, which formed an integral part of a secure chain of posts along with patrols along the outer fence.
Site plan of the concentration camp Lublin-Majdanek with the six completed prisoners fields until the liberation
Majdanek had almost from the beginning the function of a concentration camp, but with its own special features. As the only concentration camp, it was officially designated in 1942 as a POW camp. In early November 1941, it was placed under The Inspection of Concentration Camps, but from 1942 it was directly reporting to the Higher SS and Police Leader in Krakow, Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, yet when it came to mundane camp matters the SS-Administrator Erich Schellin was responsible. In addition, the SS and Police Leader Globocnik in the Lublin district prevailed over all activities. Anyway, he looked particularly when it came to the stage of persecution and extermination of Jews within the General Government, at Majdanek as "his" camp. In addition to its function as a concentration camp, Majdanek also served as a prisoner of war and criminal transit camp (Strafdurchgangslager). The military hospital for Soviet war invalids and the camp of the Wehrmacht were part of the complex of Majdanek, but on the whole largely independent of its Administration.
As a prisoner of war camp Majdanek was only denominated in name as such, and only of marginal importance. Apart from the soldiers of the Red Army, who came within the framework of transfers between the SS and Wehrmacht in October 1941, contrary to the original plan, a few Soviet prisoners of war were deported to Majdanek, mainly small groups or individuals, often escaped prisoners of war or those who were transferred from other concentration camps. An exception was the admission of 53 Russian female prisoners of war on 25 February 1944. They had refused to sign a work agreement for Germany. Overall, the Soviet prisoners represented in the Majdanek camp, a small group of about 2,000 people. [End of February 1942, only 55 prisoners of war were in the camp, then their number rose to about 150 In April 1943, their number was first 75, then 80. On July 22, 1943 110 POWs were registered, in December that year 121 See: Zeszyty Majdenka 22 (2003), page 227-239.sic]
Reconnaissance photograph of the Majdanek concentration camp (June 24, 1944) from the collections of the Majdanek Museum, lower  half: the barracks under deconstruction ahead of the Soviet offensive, with visible chimney stacks still standing and planks of wood piled up along the supply road; in the upper half, functioning barracks.
Majdanek's role as a criminal (Straf) and transit camp  was mainly due to its function as a tracing stage against the rural population of the region together with the police authorities in the District Lublin.  Farmers who had not delivered their required quotas were regularly arrested as "hostages" (Geiseln) and sent as " harvest objectors " (Ernteverwigerung) to Majdanek . Small groups of farmers , the SS deported only since early 1942  to Majdanek,  larger ones arrived in the second half of the year . Also, because of participation in the resistance movement peasants were brought by the Security Police and Gendarmerie as " atonement measure" to Majdanek . In the spring of 1943, the SS provided for this group of prisoners two barracks in the number IV field, a zone, designated as the " detainees of the Order Police " or " detainees of the security police." As a formal transit camp (Ausweichlager) the KZ Lublin served for the victims of the "Re-Settlement (Aussiedlungs) and Pacification Actions " in the area of Zamosc . These were Polish peasant families who had for several weeks been imprisoned in Majdanek in the summer of 1943 due to the overcrowding of the transit camp in Zamosc and Zwierzyniec . In August 1943, the number of resettled people reached 8,566, of which 5,578 men, women and children were brought into the Reich as forced labour . The others were released in most cases.
The 'show-off camp' was designed as a hospital for "Soviet war invalids" (wounded Red Army captives) and established because of a Himmler command of January 6, 1943. The care of the disabled should be used for propaganda purposes at the front. To this end, they wanted to throw leaflets and photographs, which should show, and document the good treatment of Soviet soldiers in German captivity. The hospital was an autonomous unit, which was subordinate to the commander of the Security Police in Lublin. Commander was the police detective Willi Sowalsky . The hospital was loosely connected to the main camp , especially when it came to health and food supply . The war veterans had been transferred from Wehrmacht camps and hospitals in the central sector of the front , especially from the Belarus territory, to Majdanek . The first transport arrived on 21 May 1943. Prisoners of war in the hospital did not form a homogeneous group. Among them were actual prisoners of war , but also "pieriebieszcyki" , ie persons who had declared their willingness to cooperate with the Germans. The average occupancy of the hospital was in the second half of 1943 about 2,000 people. The total number of war-wounded is given as 3,500 .

Soviet prisoners of war, survivors of the Majdanek camp, at the camp's liberation'
The first army camp (Wehrmacht), which was under the control of Oberfeldkommandantur # 372 in Lublin, was only founded in May 1944 in the final weeks of the existence of Majdanek. Given the approaching front, the authorities began at this time with the defensive preparation of Lublin. For the construction of trenches and bomb shelters they rounded up, farmers from the area, who were housed in barracks as a labourers  on a prisoner field area. The internees were not subject to the camp authorities and were not registered in the camp records. Beginning in June 1944 their number was about 2,600 people.

Majdanek Labourers
Despite fulfilling these atypical tasks, Majdanek was a concentration camp , which served first and foremost primarily as a political instrument for the detention of Jews . In March 1942, the SS command agreed  to comply with the discussions of the Wannsee Conference , and in agreement with the Civil Administration of the General Government in its role as a transit camp for Jews evacuated into the Lublin area. On the 24 March of that year the IKL(Inspector of Concentration Camps) informed the commander of Majdanek that 10,000 Slovak Jews were brought to the camp. This corresponded to a quarter of all evacuated Jews from Slovakia in the Lublin area. Officially, they should be used for the construction of the camp . By the same reasoning,  Jews from the German Reich , the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and in the Lublin region,  were deported to Majdanek in 1942. [Yehoshua Büchler , 'The deportation of Slovakian Jews to the Lublin District of Poland in 1942' , in:  Holocaust and Genocide Studies 6 (1991 ) , page 151- 166.sic]
The extension of Majdanek into a concentration camp for non-Jewish prisoners , of which , apart from the prisoners in the year 1942, POW and the Polish "hostages"(Geiseln) , there were currently none in the camp. As a result of Himmler's command of 14 December 1942 he announced that by 1943,  the latest until the end of January 1943 at least 35,000 able-bodied prisoners had to be taken into concentration camps. The local leaders of the SD were obliged for this purpose to check jails , detention centres and labour education camps and transfer those inmates fit for work immediately into the nearest concentration camp. In this way, Majdanek was the destination of transportations from prisons in Warsaw, ( Pawiak ), Lemberg (Lviv), Radom, Lublin and Bialystok . In addition, Himmler ordered on the 11 January 1943 that all persons who were suspected in supporting the resistance movement in the General Government or in their involvement to arrest and convict them and send them into concentration camps in Lublin, Auschwitz or into the Reich . This meant for Majdanek,  a significant increase of the number of prisoners who were arrested in the wake of street raids. A large part of them, however, was later released .
In 1942, Majdanek served as a concentration camp for the region around Lublin. Although there were prisoners from outside, such as the Jews from Slovakia, but these transports were deportations within the district. In early 1943, the catchment area of Majdanek stretched in addition over the entire territory of the General Government . On January 6, 1943, Himmler ordered that the rural population should be deported from the operational areas of  occupied Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, which was suspect of partisan support, rounded up and transported to  concentration camps Auschwitz and Lublin. This plan also included to build a camp for orphaned children and minors in Majdanek. Although the children's camp for them in Majdanek was ultimately not realized, yet they still came with the transports from the East, especially from Belarus, which were "Soviet civilian prisoners".

Transport of prisoners at Majdanek'
In the first year of Majdanek only males were imprisoned . In July 1942, Himmler decided on the establishment of a women concentration camp . The initiative came clearly from Globocnik who was determined to increase  the the SS clothing manufacture in the plants out of necessity alone, as the initial processing performance prior to sewing, in Lublin had fallen behind. Up to that stage the clothes of those Jews who were murdered in the camps during "Aktion Reinhardt" were at this time sorted and sent back to the Reich . On July 9, 1942, Globocnik and Himmler met in Berlin to discuss the  "state of work output with regard to the Jews in the General Government". Five days later, Globocnik sent a telex to the Inspector of Concentration Camps with regard to the establishment of a camp for 5,000 women and on the basis that the oral order of the Reichsführer SS be carried out. Glücks was satisfied and accepted the proposal and agreed that Majdanek to be the location of a women's camp . The blueprint from 29 August 1942 stipulated that the camp should be placed on one of the fields in the protective custody camp (Schutzhaftlager) . On October 1, 1942, the first female prisoners , 136 Polish women were admitted , a short time later a few hundred Jewesses , including a group of women from the ghetto in Belzyce arrived. Later, Jewish women were added from Lublin and Warsaw. Larger transports of Polish women came from mid-January 1943,  including a group of female prisoners from the Warsaw Pawiak prison . Formally, the women's camp became only on 22 February 1943  a separate Department of Majdanek. Until then, it had developed in a double-tracked method. Most of the registered women and female guards (Aufseherinnen) in the concentration camp Lublin, were sub-ordinated to the SS and Police Leader in the Labour Camp of the SS Clothing Works on the site of the former airfield at the Wronska Street.
Soviet POWs interned in the Majdanek camp, working at forced labor in the Lublin airport'
Majdanek kept for a long time the term "Prisoner of War Camp", although it was de facto an integral element of Structure of the IKL. On February 16, 1943, Himmler ordered the renaming into "Concentration Camp of the Waffen-SS". This was probably meant the new feature of Majdanek, which had become a camp for political prisoners in early 1943. On April 9, 1943, the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) sent a letter to police departments with the information that the former POW camp in Lublin was converted into a Concentration Camp and a department for women was established.
View: - Wannsee Conference 

                                                                                                                                                                   CONTINUED UNDER PART 3

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