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|
|Transport of prisoners at Majdanek|
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.
'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"|
|A mass grave uncovered at Majdanek|
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|
|Building No. 41, that housed the gas chambers in the Majdanek camp|
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|
|Charred remains of corpses near crematoria in the Majdanek camp, after liberation'|
CONTINUED UNDER PART 5/