PRISONER TRANSPORTS AND INMATE FIGURES
Throughout its existence, prisoners were deported to the concentration camp Majdanek on a regular basis. The size of transports was different in their make-up, in particular the deportations of 1942 and those in the first half of 1943 the camp had a massive influx. Looking at the national background, it differed, and can be broken down into four phases: October 1941 to February 1942, March-December 1942, January-November 1943 and December 1943 to March 1944. Between October 1941 and February 1942, Majdanek was under construction. The incoming transports were small and often just improvised. In addition to Soviet prisoners of war a few hundred Poles and Jews from Lublin and the surrounding area and several dozen other prisoners were taken into the camp, especially from the German concentration camps in the Reich, who should have taken over functions in Majdanek. Most Soviet prisoners of war and Jews died or were killed, however, the majority of Poles, were usually released.
In the second phase, from March to December 1942 Majdanek served mainly as a place of detention (Haftlager) for Jews and from mid-1942 for Polish Geiseln (hostages). With the start of the fourth quarter 1942 Majdanek was also a concentration camp for Polish and Jewish women. In the men's and women camps a separate numerical system was introduced, with the administration issuing in both cases, only numbers up to 20,000. Consequently, as part of this anomaly, same numbers have been used several times over.
|Jewish men being taken to the Majdanek camp, tied together with ropes around their necks|
In 1943 , the structure and composition regarding nationalities of prisoners changed . By November, Jewish inmates still formed the largest group , but the percentage of non-Jewish Poles increased significantly as a result of mass deportation of political prisoners . Numerically there was a large intake of Soviet citizens , including with them, especially White Russians (Belarus) . From mid- December 1943 Majdanek got an international character. During this time, the so-called recovery camp was built , in fact it became a death camp for sick and exhausted prisoners , which had previously been exploited in the defence industry in the Reich . The largest group in these transports were Soviet citizens and Poles. Among them , however, were also prisoners of other nationalities , particularly German , French, Italians and Yugoslavs . In addition, in January 1944, after re-commissioning of the German Armaments Works GmbH (DAW ) about 500 skilled workers of different nationalities , mainly German , French and Poles were deported to Majdanek .
|Transport of prisoners at Majdanek|
If one looks at statistics , the prisoners were divided in 1942 on the daily strength reports to the headquarters of the concentration camps in Oranienburg into four groups: Reichs German prisoners , Jews, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. As of 1943, the reports classified Soviet citizen, as " Soviet civilian prisoners " or " Soviet civilian workers " , partly as Ukrainians ( applicable to males) or Russians women. Exact distinctions according to categories of prisoners were employed at this time only in relation to the inmates out of the Reich which were divided into politicals , "criminals" , deserters from the Wehrmacht and "anti-socials ". From 1942 onwards, the Poles were categorized as "hostages" , but the reports on their mortality rate was listed under the protective group of prisoners (Schutzhäftlinge). As of December 15, 1943 , when the first transport with seriously ill patients from camps of the Reich arrived , in the daily status reports now appeared the category of "security-preventive detention" which was apparently a new definition . In the preventive detention camp reports, the prisoners were listed and specified in categories by nationality. They were now counted separately , the Polish hostages , Bible Students , Homosexuals and " Asocial " prisoners ( AZR , ASO ) . In the statements , the number of Soviet war veterans was included, but no longer added from December 1943 to the total number of prisoners . Jews were recorded in the daily summary as a single group , but split in the camp reports according to their nationality.
In the first months of its existence of Majdanek , the number of prisoners was approximately 1,000 . From April 1942 to March 1943 the occupancy remained on the average under 10,000 people. The number of prisoners increased significantly again in April 1943 , a month later, the number in KL Lublin reached 25,000 people, its highest level . In the second half of 1943 Majdanek was occupied with an average of 18.000 to 20.000 prisoners. After the massacre of the Jews on November 3, 1943, the number of prisoners fell in the last two months of 1943 to about 7,000 . In the first quarter of 1944 , it rose again to 10,000 inmates , but fell from April 1944 as part of the evacuation of the camp . Towards the end of April, only 200 prisoners were left in the camp. Later, several hundred Jewish men and women came from the camps Blizyn and Budzyn . Half a year earlier it had been muted that the forced labour camps for Jews in the General Government should be converted into satellite camps of the concentration camp Lublin. This plan was not realized until 1944. Consistent with the data from mid-March 1944, following camps were to be added and included in the figures of prisoners held in Majdanek: Lipowa Street in Lublin (660 ) , Radom ( 2,200 ) , Blizyn (3,500 ) and Budzyn ( 2,500 ) . In April, the concentration camp in Warsaw , it was located in Gesia road ( 6,000 prisoners) was also included. The inclusion of these camps was only formal , for administrative reasons, in practice, they remained independent institutions . In fact almost all subcamps of Majdanek continued to exist after the dissolution of the main camp .
On 22 July 1944 the last day of the existence of the Majdanek concentration camp, the prisoner roll call stood as follows: Lublin 823 prisoners, Blizyn 2147, Radom 2,900 and Warsaw 5,962 inmates.
Report of October 2, 1943, on the number of prisoners of Field III employed in the camp. 4012 prisoners were housed in Field III on that day. 737 of them were delegated to work outside the camp, 1712 inmates were employed within the Postenkette, and 1460 prisoners were in the area of the camp (five prisoners’ fields and two middle fields). 76 inmates were not employed. 27 capos performed various functions in Field III.
The commando of carpenters was headed by capo no. 36 (Franc Pejsar from Vienna), the commando cleaning the camp commandant’s rooms by capo no. 181 (Ludwig Tomaschek), and the commando cleaning up sewage pits by Vorarbeiter no. 12370 (Bolesław Kowalek). That day was on of the last days which Kowalek spent in the camp. According to the camp book of deaths, five days later (on October 7, 1943) he had already been dead.
EXECUTIONS AND MASS MURDER
In Majdanek registered prisoners died as a result of the disastrous living conditions and intentional killings or organized mass murder. In addition, people were brought solely for the purpose of immediate executions into the camp , especially Jews from the ghetto of Lublin and Poland out of the jail in Lublin Castle .
The killing of prisoners was done in different ways . They often died under the blows of the truncheon-baton from function prisoners and SS men, or were killed by lethal injection . In 1942, prisoners were often hanged in the crematorium or in the neighbouring morgue. Killings on a larger scale , however, were held by shootings and gassings. As far as shootings is concerned, these were almost permanently carried out during the entire existence of the camp. However, during the operation of the gas chambers ( September 1942 to early September 1943) they were held only sporadically. The first time this type of killing was done at the end of 1941 on typhus-ill Soviet prisoners of war, part of them were shot by the SS on camp grounds , the others in the nearby Krepieki forest. The shooting of Soviet prisoners of war was continued in 1942 to a lesser extent . One of the greatest actions of this kind was the murder of about 50 prisoners of war in retaliation after a successful escape of their comrades on 15 July 1942.
Between June and September 1942, several thousand sick , mostly Slovak Jews were shot in Krepiecki forest that had been selected in the Revier (Hospital) of the camp. A German prisoner who was in that Infirmary in August and September 1942 , witnessed such a selection : "While I lay there once, seriously ill people , you can say half-dead and dead people , were loaded onto a truck and taken down into a wooded area, shot and be buried there . From hearsay , I know, that this happened at that time repeatedly".
A year later, the shootings of prisoners was further reinforced . On September 21, 1943, the SS kills 23 members of the Sonderkommando , which had been active in the gas chambers and the crematorium . This execution made certain extent the prelude to " Operation Harvest Festival " , the mass shootings of Jews.
|On September 16, 1942, 42 inhabitants of the districts of Tuczna and Wisznice in the Biała Podlaska poviat were taken to the Majdanek camp. They were arrested two days earlier in retaliation for partisans’ actions. The prisoners were marked with camp numbers 14000. Only one prisoner from this group was released from the camp – Feliks Wilczyński, a 14-year-old boy at that time. A few prisoners made an attempt at escaping from the Majdanek camp or from a commando building the bridge over the Wieprz River in Trawniki. Five inmates succeeded. Other 36 prisoners died in the camp Next we present money records of Paweł Wawryszuk, born in Sosnówka in 1907, who managed to run away from the camp. The document is marked with a note “abgesetzt” and a date. It indicated that the prisoner was crossed off the camp records on that day. Paweł Wawryszuk was crossed off on October 20, 1942, but his money (25 RM) was sent to the Reich Bank only on April 13, 1943|
|On September 10, 1943, a Jewish prisoner from Białystok – Mordechaj Lerner (born in 1906), was registered in the Majdanek camp. He was a saddle maker by trade. He was marked with camp number 6578 and sent to one of the Majdanek subcamps at Lipowa 7. Almost two months later, prisoners detained on Lipowa suffered the same fate as other Jews gathered in labour camps in the Lublin District – nearly all of them were shot during “Erntefest” action on November 3-4, 1943|
| On September 3, 1943, 3402 people were detained in Field III,
including: 503 prisoners employed in working squads outside the
camp; 630 prisoners employed within the Postenkette [circle of
guards]; 2168 prisoners working within the camp; 29 kapos who
oversaw working squads outside the camp. From the
document it can be inferred that on September 3, 1943, the working squad
“Fahrbereitschaft” was made up by 60 prisoners (car mechanics) and 20
prisoners were employed as gardeners in the working squad headed by a VA
(Vorarbeiter) marked with prisoner’s number 8830 – Jerzy Kwiatkowski,
author of memoirs entitled “485 dni na Majdanku.|
'ACTION HARVEST FESTIVAL' 3rd November 1943
This massacre was part of the program to exterminate the Jews in the General Government . In the Lublin district alone about 42,000 Jews were murdered on orders of Himmler in several camps . There are many indications that Himmler wanted them eliminated not only for ideological reasons , but also out of a "sense of honour"(Ehrgefühl) . He wanted to prevent the Defence Industry to take over Jewish workers.
Towards the end of August 1943 Globocniks successor Jokop Sporrenberg as SS and Police Leader, received from Himmler the order for the extermination of the Jews. In Majdanek, the camp began preparations for the executions . The Gestapo in Lublin ordered to dismiss the Jewish prisoner functionaries and replace them with "Aryans" . On September 30 , 1943, the resistance movement within the camp reported that "all Jews were to be removed from the Staff Offices, the Postal Service Section and replaced by Poles ". Two weeks later, they informed all, that the camp commander had been suddenly ordered to Berlin and one could look forward to important events in the camp in the coming weeks. This visit (of the Kommandant) took place on October 16, 1943 , two days after the prisoner revolt in Sobibor extermination camp . This uprising accelerated and decided the murder of the Jews in Majdanek . At the end of October 1943, three graves were dug near the crematorium , which were intended as the execution site . On the 2nd November, a meeting was held in the staffroom of Sporrenberg , Martin Melzer attended these discussions as representative of the Commandant of Majdanek.
|Bones of victims of the Majdanek camp, in a cabbage patch"|
The next morning began the massacre . In just under nine hours around 18,000 Jews were murdered : These were prisoners from Majdanek and its working commandos, inmates from the Lublin located forced labour camps, Jews who had worked at the Lipowa Sraße and Wronka road ( airfield ) . Accompanied with dance music they died under the salvos of the rifles, in the trenches with shots to the back of the head or machine gunned. The next in line had to lie on the bodies of already shot victims. The "Aryan" prisoners were forbidden to leave their barracks. They could therefore not observe the course of the execution. Some of them , however, were eyewitnesses to the murder in the last phase : "I saw the last group of naked people before being shot , there stood a radio van. You could hear the muffled series of shots of machine guns and melodies from the van. The barracks opposite the crematorium through which we were led, was sharply lit and crowded with clothes of the murdered . There were also cases in which the naked (Entkleideten) in the last moments before their deaths had thrown their remnants of valuables such as watches and coins . We witnessed a terrible crime , the SS men were drunk. These experiences I can never forget ". Approximately 100 members of the police and the Security Services carried out the execution , including members of the commandant of the Security Police in Lublin. They were supported from the department of the SS Death's Head units (SS-Totenkopfverbände) from Warsaw, the local police regiment , 22 men from Krakow and Lublin as well as 25 from the Reserve Police Battalion, 101 from Hamburg. The SS of Majdanek brought the Jews to the fields of the place of execution , and the Camp Guards helped the outer units to hermetically seal off the camp premises. [25 Jews who had succeeded in hiding during the killings of the day before were found and executed. Another 611 prisoners, 311 women and 300 men, were commanded to sort through the clothes and remains of the dead. The men were at first commanded to bury the dead, but were later assigned to Sonderkommando 1005, where they had to exhume the same bodies for cremation. The men were then themselves executed. The 311 women were subsequently sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed. By the end of Operation "Harvest Festival," Majdanek had only 71 Jews left.sic]
|A mass grave uncovered at Majdanek|
After "Operation Harvest Festival"(Aktion Erntefest) prisoners were shot only in isolated cases, mainly individuals sentenced by the RSHA (Reichs Security Department in Oranienberg) to death. In contrast, executions of detainees held at the Lublin castle or in the Lublin region because of partisan actions, increased. According to an memorandum of Hans Frank dated October 2, 1943, persons under suspicion of "attacks on the German construction work in the General Government", were to be sentenced to death. One of the places of execution was Camp Majdanek. From autumn 1943 to July 1944, on the basis of this arrangement the condemned (without trial) were brought in smaller or larger groups in "death transports" into the camp and shot at the crematorium or in pits located next to it. It is estimated that these executions amounted to about 3,000 victims, including women and children.
SELECTIONS AND MURDER BY POISON GAS
The killings in the gas chambers of Majdanek were held on the orders of Globocnik, who as already emphasized, often used the concentration camp Lublin for his own needs and made it an important element of "Aktion Reinhardt". The killings by gas was started probably in September 1942. They ended up in the first days of September 1943. The peculiarity in Majdanek in the application shows the use of two toxic gases. Carbon monoxide (CO) and Zyklon B (HCN). The use of carbon monoxide is evidence of the involvement of "Action Reinhardt" in Majdanek as a method of extermination. Zyklon B on the other hand of connection with the murder methods in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In other words, it was either copied or instructed to be used, on orders of Globocnik.
The gas chambers were set up in a small brick building that was located directly behind the men's wash-room (No. 41) and far away from the woman's wash-room (No. 42). The building should have been originally a disinfections facility. During the construction work, probably in August 1942, small changes were made to make it into its new role, to adapt it, to kill people. The building had a protruding roof over it, to the original planned provision, protecting disinfected clothing against rain. However, while the use of the chambers was now intended to exterminate people, it served just as camouflage. The system consisted of four rooms: three chambers and a small annex, the cabin for the SS personnel, in which steel cylinders were stored with carbon monoxide. In the ceiling of one chamber was a shaft connected to an opening to pour the diatomaceous (Kieselgur) earth-bound gas. Apart from that, this chamber, as well as in the adjacent one, pipes were connected to the steel cylinders from the cubicle next to it. In both chambers people were killed by gas.
|Cylinders of carbon monoxide placed beside the gas chamber in the Majdanek camp|
For newly arriving transports, the Jewish prisoners were exclusively selected from others. These selections took place mostly on an area next to the woman's wash-room (Barrack 42) , which was called the rose garden. The description rose garden stemmed from the prickly spines of climbing roses on the fence that surrounded the selection square . [Some sources claim, the Germans named it such, after US President Roosevelt, whom they believed was a Jew.] Larger groups of prisoners were housed prior to selection on Intermediate field II . During 1942, the SS selected only sporadically newly arriving transports because most of them had already run through a pre-selection process at the railway ramp at the airfield . From April to August 1943 almost all incoming transports with Jewish prisoners were subjected to selection one way or other . Especially children, the elderly and sick or exhausted women were gassed in the evening or at night. The next morning their corpses from the gas chamber were incinerated in the camps crematorium or burned on funeral pyres in the Krepiecki forest. Of the 15,000 Jews, from the Warsaw Ghetto deported to Majdanek , 4.000 to 5.000 died in April and May 1943 .
|Building No. 41, that housed the gas chambers in the Majdanek camp|
From the camp inmates , especially the sick and those unable to work were threatened with death in the gas chamber . In 1942, selections took place regularly, 500 to 600 people died weekly in the gas chambers. In the first months of 1943, selections were held in the camp haphazardly among male prisoners. They increased during a typhoid epidemic. These selections did not concern Jews , rather other prisoners , mostly Poles. They chose especially older , frail and debilitated people for the chambers . 1942 and early 1943 every two weeks selections of patients took place when 30 to 40% of the incurable were selected for the gas chamber . The actions in February and March 1943, when many Poles arrived from the Pawiak jail in Warsaw were among the victims. During the selection at the infirmary, prisoners had to appear before a Commission for assessment , "and the German doctor decided at a glance which patients had to go into the gas chamber" . The killing of sick non-Jewish prisoners at the Majdanek gas chambers was stopped by the end of April / beginning of May. Undoubtedly, this was a consequence of the Himmler order of the 27th April 1943 which stated that within the framework of action " 14f13 " only mentally ill prisoners should be liquidated in the future.
Interior of a gas chamber at the Majdanek camp
In the women's camp the selections affected exclusively Jewesses. Quite often they took place in the summer of 1943 , especially in late May/early June. They usually chose sick , and exhausted women. Particular attention was paid to the condition of their legs. This was often a decisive criterion for the classification of those capable of working and not able to work. Many Jewesses who had been deported after the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto to Majdanek, had a number of burns and bruises . For them, this meant the inevitable death sentence. "The selection took place after the Jewesses were set up in rows of five in the middle of the field. The women of other nationalities were excluded at this time and kept in their apartment blocks . The field was actually a roll-call square and was located between two rows of blocks . "From the windows we saw the whole course of the selection. The German Selection Committee chose two ways in their method . There was a group of Germans , that is, Dr. Blanke , Mrs. Ehrlich and some SS men , who walked between the rows along and judged by eye contact who was unable to work. It also happened that completely young , but haggard women were screened in this way. The screened women had to stand aside and were escorted later by SS men straight to the gas chamber. The second method the Commission applied, was, that the Jewish women ran in single file at a fast pace, past Dr. Blanke and the other Germans. This then brought out those who they considered as 'unpleasant' in looks . After a selection such as this, the whole roll-call place (Appellplartz) was full of bandages . The Jewesses had the bandages removed because of the fear, the Germans would notice them immediately , which would have meant the end for them".
|A shower room in the gas chamber building of the Majdanek camp|
In Majdanek, Jewish children were also exterminated in the gas chambers. Most of them died immediately after their arrival in the camp. A few times a small part of children were allowed to stay in the camp , and taken into the woman's section, housed in a barrack in a field separated with barbed wire . In these groups were a few dozen to several hundred children with a high number of infants and young children who had been deported with their mothers. After some time the SS conducted the "Kids Actions " . They loaded the children onto trucks and took them into the gas chambers. The women who had cared for them, in most cases died with them. "While they went to their deaths , the children looked at the crowd of women standing around the trucks and tried to sought out their mothers, with a little crying, as they were confused at the mournfulness of the mothers. The vehicles disappeared behind the gate, and with them shaggy heads, bows and ribbons . A few hours later the pyre burned on the sixth field, stacked with stiffened small bodies, yellowed by gas .
|Charred remains of corpses near crematoria in the Majdanek camp, after liberation'|
Because the bunker with the gas chambers was not far away from the prisoner barracks , inmates became aware of the killings that took place especially in the evening and at night. The children who had been picked up by trucks from the women's field (Frauenfeld), however, were murdered during the day . To drown out their cries , truck engines were running. "Once, on the way to work , as we were passing like every day, past the gas chambers we heard from afar the hum of engines. A moment later we were close to the bunker, where two bulldozers by the maker 'Bulldog ' with their engines running at a high acceleration which caused this pandemonium . Nevertheless, we heard , when we walked past the bunker , clearly the sobs and the desperate cries of children. These pervasive collective wines , which called for their mothers who could no longer come to their aid, did not completely drown out the loud roar of the working motors and cover up this horrible crime, the gasification of the children's transport (Kindertransport") . [source : Skoraczynski , żywe numery , page 71f. sic]
CONTINUED UNDER PART 5/
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