Friday, May 23, 2014


The concentration camp in Lublin was throughout its existence in a state of continued construction , which had an impact on the living conditions . From this point , it was often mentioned by prisoners who had been through several other camps , it was one of the most primitive of places . Of these conditions, for example, testifies a prisoner in a statement,  that Dachau was a "Retirement Home " (eine Pension) compared to Majdanek.
The barracks for the accommodation of prisoners , the so-called blocks , were of wooden structures. On two fields they erected horse stable type barracks , without windows and with walls of only one layer of boards . In the remaining camp areas there were better barracks , they had windows and walls with two layers of boards . In the first year the prisoner blocks did not have any sanitary or ablution blocks in all of them, nor were any basic infirmary aid available to them , but basic facilities were later provided which improved housing and living conditions. Yet the modernization of the barracks was slow and did not extend to all the barracks. In the winter of 1942/1943 the Administration had installed in the barracks , those that were 30 to 40 meters long and 10 meters wide , two iron coal stoves. At about the same time electric  power was connected. In the spring of 1943 in addition to the three-tier storey bunks for sleeping, tables, benches and stools were provided for all the barracks.
Picture of prisoner bathrooms at the Dachau concentration camp taken June 16, 2005'
The equipment an inmate received during admission, consisted of a Hessian bag stuffed with straw or wood shavings  and two blankets, and sometimes a pillow. In some barracks, while improvement work took place, there was a  complete separation of sanitary, sleeping and dining areas. A welcomed  improvement of the living conditions began in late summer and autumn of 1943, when the barracks were connected to the sewer and washing facilities, and toilets were installed. Until then, the physiological needs  within the barracks took place on  buckets or wooden boxes (Holzkisten). During the day, you would use temporary latrines that were in reality sewer holes dug into the ground, sometimes lined with a wooden shaft, which served for this purpose.  On the women's field, ditches, without any shielding for privacy served as a toilet, but only over an extended period of time. Particularly troublesome was the lack of water for prisoners. By the end of 1942, the water came from three wells (bores) to the camp. A representative of the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen-SS made an inspection of the camp in mid-April 1942: "The water supply of the POW Camp Lublin is inadequate and does not meet the requirements that have to be made due to health considerations. In the present circumstances there is a risk of disease for the camp and its surroundings". Even the connection of the camp to the municipal water and the sewer system did not solve the water problem, it often resulted in blockages and breaking of pipes. On 3 August In 1943 a representative of the WVHA in a protocol noted regarding the sanitary conditions: "The major problem in terms of hygiene in KL Lublin at the moment is the deficient supply of water, as the main pumping station of the waterworks Lublin has fallen in disrepair in the Moor, which is  part of the city." .
Wash up area for prisoners' (most likely Sachsenhausen)
Under these circumstances it was impossible to ensure in the barracks cleanliness and order, on which the camp leadership officially placed great value. One of the Jewish prisoner doctors writes: "We had no water, no soap, no towels: compliance with cleanliness was impossible. In all barracks there was a horrible smell of unwashed bodies and the smell of secretion". The dirt had the consequence that the prisoner barracks were a breeding ground for lice, which plagued not only the prisoners, but also transferred diseases.
The diet of prisoners fluctuated . During the period of  its existence of Majdanek, from autumn 1941 to autumn 1943 , it was poor and inadequate. Three times a day the prisoners were given a starvation ration . Lunch consisted of a three quarter litre of turnip soup , often prepared from weeds. The dinner (Abendessen) in the camp presented the main meal. It consisted of unsweetened grain coffee and 150 to 200 gram of bread, baked from flour that was mixed with sawdust. Sometimes there was also a slice of horse-meat sausage or a spoonful of margarine. In practice, many detainees were not even given the intended ration to them, either they were passed over by the food bank or the proportion of prisoners was claimed by their functionaries . The ordinary prisoners and especially the "Camp Proletariat " were often condemned to eat the leftovers , which not only resulted quickly in  diarrhoea , but also had other tragic consequences : "And the hunger was still raging on. With watery soups and decoctions and microscopic bread rations stuffed us for a moment, but immediately afterwards we felt again with full force a crazy hunger. There were 'sniff specialists' who undertook expeditions to the kitchen waste from which they fished out smelly debris and peelings which they ate. [ ... ] The consequences from consuming this foul pig's fodder was  not long in coming. It came on quickly en massed outbreak of  diarrhoea , upset stomach, and we had the first deaths".
1944 - Interior of prisoner barracks at Auschwitz'
The living conditions in Majdanek were almost all the time about equally bad . It was not until the year 1943/44 , a few months before the camp was evacuated , that a number of improvements had taken place . The camp regiment was less severe, and the functionaries behaved more human . Even their attitude towards the Jewish prisoners who were previously only an object of persecution and abuse , had changed . A Jewish woman who was admitted in December 1943 for the second time into the camp, describes this metamorphosis and  concludes :  "The blocks were now bright and clean, with toilets and water available. In each block , there were various conveniences, that did not exist before. [ ... ] The food ration was higher. The work was not too difficult . The camp was quiet. In March 1944 , that is, after three months of being there , surprisingly 240 women from Radom came with children and their husbands. Astonished, we looked at the children, they were very well received . The camp administration had them employed in the basket braiding section and the whole camp took a delighted interest in them' .
The reason for the high mortality rate in 1942 was the hunger in the first place. A significant number of victims had contagious diseases , especially typhus. At times, this grew into an epidemic , which included the whole camp.  At that stage, the disease was threatening members of the camp staff and some indeed were affected. For the prisoners, the typhoid disease often meant a death sentence , since the sick were often shot. Many prisoners also got tuberculosis, which sometimes proved fatal in view of the weak resistance of their poor physical condition . Unusually life-threatening were also the phlegmon and scabies , because even from small skin injuries under the camp conditions could quickly develop in extensive ulcers and infections. Gradual medical care in the form of a hospital , which was called the Revier in Majdanek, (as almost in all other camps), was finally organized. You could at least on a small scale effectively take  action in the camp against the spreading of diseases. The living conditions of the sick in the sick-bay area did not differ from those in the normal blocks. Over some time, water was missing, and blocks were swarming with fleas and lice.  Supplies of medicines and basic medical equipment was either not enough or missing all together. The prisoner doctors had only very limited ways and means to treat patients. The SS doctors , however,  focused mainly on office work and produced reports and statistics for their Orianienburg Headquarters. They visited the areas usually only to perform selections . The most severely ill were then either placed directly into the gas chamber or transferred to the so-called (Gammel) junk blocks . In these death barracks that were specific for Majdanek , lay the sick without any care or food, often naked, covered with dirt and mire . Most died there in agony , others were killed by their block leaders , the rest exterminated after some time in the gas chamber .
Most Polish inmate doctors testified that no medical experiments were conducted on prisoners at Majdanek concentration camp. The historical research could not determine that  medical experiments had taken place. It is therefore possible that they officially came to the realization that only thermal experiments took place, for which Himmler had given approval on 26 February 1943. As to the places of these 'medical' trials the concentration camps Auschwitz and Lublin had been mentioned. The probability that pseudo-medical bone surgery were performed is also very low.

It is certain, however , that treatment methods were tested for infectious skin diseases on prisoners . The doctor Heinrich Rindfleisch selected in April 1942  150 Polish women , whose bodies had formed red lumps (boils) . They were lodged in separate barracks , where they were divided into ten groups , each of which was treated in different ways. Some of the women received gasoline or milk injections. Almost half of the women died.  Camp rumours had it that these experiments was a  search for an effective treatment method to be used , since similar lumps had occurred even on German soldiers on the Eastern Front . Another prisoner reported that a friend of his was exposed as a "guinea pig" experiment for the treatment of tuberculosis. However, experiments of this kind were an exceptions in Majdanek. They took place on the Initiative of SS- physician Heinrich Rindfleisch who tested among other things, the effectiveness of a vaccine prepared from chicken eggs against typhoid fever in this way. The results of his investigations he used for his preparation on his doctoral thesis in the camp , which dealt with typhus. It is unclear how many inmates were infected deliberately for this purpose or died as a result of the experiments.
Chicaneries and torture of detainees was partly as an element of the "Order of Terror", programmed from the higher echelon of the SS and enforced in the form of camp orders. [Although all concentration camps had Administration Manuals issued to them, which covered all eventualities. HKS] On the other hand, tortures were consequences of internal dynamics, whose driving force was the arbitrariness of some members of the SS men and  prisoner functionaries. Typical of Majdanek was that the arbitrary violence clearly dominated each sphere of influence, the prisoner functionaries had. There was neither a criminal nor any bunker cells for offenders, but as a German Kapo noted "the beatings of prisoners was on the daily agenda."
Among the official penalties, corporal punishment was the most common. It was administered on a specially made stool in the presence of all the prisoners of the field concerned, with canes, lashes or bull whips on the buttocks of the accused. The number of strokes varied between ten and 150, sometimes it was also sometimes significantly higher. "The prisoners received corporal punishment most often because they had secreted money, jewellery, or possessed  double the allowance of underwear, or secret messages were found in their belongings, let alone to talk of theft and escape attempts. [...} Most of them knew for what offence they would be punished. At the very beginning they get a bloody blow across the face. Then the command: >Lie Down< . "The camp elder or other Kapos, who had volunteered, started to beat the delinquent, while one would sit on him, thus holding him down".
The publicly enforced corporal punishment. An image of "public flogging" of Francis Reisz'
Much less common penalties applied, were the so-called tree-hanging , that is hanging the prisoner tied with his hands together on the back to the "torture stake" (Marterpfahl) , or many hours standing at attention . Everyday it was the dunking of prisoners into the fire-water basin or sewer holes, there were indescribable diverse forms of cruelty and torture. The perpetrators in the first place were German 'criminal' Kapos . Torture victims were prisoners of all nationalities. Most at risk were Jews. The struggle for survival led in some cases to a complete breakdown of normal standards and morals . The most radical situations,  was among the prisoners who were constantly treated at the worst by the guards and at risk to finish up in the gas chamber . The deportee from the Warsaw ghetto , Halina Birenbaum stated: " The danger of death and torture meant that the human spirit was blunted any minute in the camp. The animal instinct in man , however, grew and killed the last vestiges of human emotions" .
Under the conditions of terror, there was also violence between prisoners of different nationalities. In many barracks, it was a daily occurrence  to steal from your fellow prisoners. Antoni Trepinski wrote after his release from the camp in 1943: "Thefts in the barracks were on the daily agenda. Whether one was affected, had to do with who your next mate was. Among the frequently stolen items were food supplies, especially bread crusts".
The interaction between the pervasive violence and the behaviour of the prisoners are described by the chronicler of the times of World War II , Louis Landau, in his diary : "In Majdanek, there remained the beatings as a punishment for the smallest offence as a rule, especially in the men's camp . In the women's camp the conditions in this respect were more tolerant. However, in both, one or the other camps, there was a terrible low moral atmosphere so bad, that it is hard to imagine the extent of monstrosities taken place there . The individual is put into a large mass of people , in impossible conditions, the severe and constant danger of death, inmates did not help themselves but tended to fight without mercy against each other. Fraud , theft , and mostly even with the consent of the guards were ongoing as an accepted norm. Trading in the camp was blossoming, you could get  everything there with the conniving and participating of the guards, even a desirable orange, if you had the means to pay . And at the same time people would starve who had nothing. Disappear from the camp , certainly,  with a corresponding bribing of the guards , money, valuables, dollars, which Lublin was overwhelmed with. And there are individuals who come from Majdanek [...] that made them rich and wealthy". Although by the end of 1943 a period marked clearly of antagonism and struggle between prisoners, yet there were also cases of solidarity behaviour in Majdanek. Closer links were usually within individual groups, such as among the Slovak Jews or the Polish political prisoners. Even among Polish women, there was a friendly atmosphere. They succeeded, thanks in part to the more lenient regime in the women's camp, to create a relatively harmonious prisoner community".
[Source:Louis Landau, Kronika lat wojny i okupacji chronicle of war and occupation years, Warsaw 1963, Vol.3 page 461-463 quotation on 1 Juni1943. About the struggle for existence, many former prisoners wrote . One of them describes the situation as follows: "One thing is clear and unambiguous to me: Whoever survives this camp or escaped, as he could, which has always been more or less done at the expense and detriment of his fellow prisoners, who were weaker than he ". Stanislaw Chwiejczak, Kolcasty trkt [The prickly tract], Lublin 1971, page 149. During a Transport: "They bit the noses and ears of the weak prisoners and even sucked their blood. I witnessed it.  Of the 1,800 prisoners, only 800-900 arrived most of them skeletons. sic]

                                                                                                                                                          CONTINUED UNDER PART6/

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