Saturday, May 10, 2014


The organizational structure of Majdanek corresponded to the system of all IKL concentration camps controlled from Oranienburg, and assigned to them. The camp consisted of six, with consecutive Roman numerals numbered sections: Commander - I, Political Affairs Division - II, Protective Custody Department - III Management - IV, Camp Doctor - V and a Department for Ideological Training - VI. The officers of these departments were designated as the Command Staff. The second, numerically much stronger contingent  in the camp formed the guard battalion. The size of the personnel changed with the expansion of Majdanek and the establishment of satellite camps. Towards the end of 1943 the total camp staff was 1,258 people, including 261 in the command staff, 881 in the guard department of the SS, 97 Lithuanian guards and 19 female wards (Aufseherinnen).
Rapportführer Hermine Braunsteiner, SS female guard Braunsteiner from Majdanek'
 All matters relating to the camp, both the prisoners and the SS men , were under the jurisdiction of the commander. He controlled the work of departments and independent agencies connected with the camp and its auxiliary services . Commanders at Majdanek were five different SS officers, Karl Otto Koch (until August 1942) , Max Kögel (until November 1942) , Hermann Florstedt (up to September1943 ) , Martin Weiss (up to April 1944) and Arthur Liebehenschel (up to 22 Juli1944 ) . Except Florstedt, all Commanders of Majdanek had belonged to the Old SS-Guard, who had started their careers in the Dachau concentration camp immediately after Hitler came to power. Three commanders of the concentration camp Lublin had been involved in financial crimes. Kögel was sentenced in 1926 for fraud and embezzlement to a ten-month prison sentence. Koch and Florstedt had been arrested for embezzlement in the camps Buchenwald and Majdanek. Koch was the only person convicted on a corruption scandal as camp commander at Buchenwald, was convicted and executed on the orders of Himmler . The commandant's domain consisted of several sub-departments that were responsible for legal and administrative/technical matters manning the telecommunications net-work (radio station , telegraph, telephone plus postal services) and the state of the military equipment , transport requirements and technical facilities for the camp. The official correspondence was solely managed by the Sergeant Major [First Sergeant in the US Army, HKS], who was practically the head of the commandant's office.
Otto Koch
[The first commandant of Majdanek camp, from September 1941 until August 1942, was SS- Standartenführer Karl Otto Koch. During his time he misappropriated vast amounts of valuables and money, the possessions of dead Jews. He was removed from his post, arrested, and executed by the SS. Koch was a very experienced camp commandant who had seen service in Esterwegen, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. Koch was succeeded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Kögel. He was the former commandant of Ravensbrück concentration camp. Kögel continued the brutal regime of Koch, but was only commandant from 6 August until October 1942, coinciding with a period of high mortality and the commissioning of the gas chambers.
Majdanek’s third commandant was SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Florstedt, who had previously served with Koch at Buchenwald concentration camp. He ruled Majdanek from November 1942 until September 1943, and his tenure was marked with exceptional brutality and mass exterminations. It should be added that Florstedt also took part in the selection of prisoners who were unfit for work and were subsequently exterminated. Just like Koch, he robbed Jewish transports of jewellery, gold, and money. He was brought to account by an SS Special Court in Kassel, where Florstedt was found guilty as charged and removed from his post.
SS- Obersturmbannführer Martin Weiss was Majdanek’s fourth commandant from November 1943 until May 1944. Conditions under Weiss improved; beatings were prohibited, the length of roll-calls reduced, and food supplies were allowed in from the  outside. This was more about utilising prison labour rather than from any humanitarian considerations. These more liberal conditions were ordered only for non-Jewish prisoners, with the exception of Soviet POWs. On 18 May 1944 Weiss was replaced by the former Auschwitz Concentration Camp commandant Artur Liebehenschel, who was Majdanek’s last commandant.sic]
The Political Department was de facto an extension of the Civil Security Police , who received their instructions and commands , including the execution of death sentences on prisoners , from the RSHA (Reichs-Sicherheits-Haupt-Amt). This Department composed of several units . Of special importance was the Section for interrogations . There, prisoners were often interrogated involving external camp members of the security police . The Identification Service made about 3.000 to 4.000 photographs of prisoner (over a certain period perhaps). In the Political Department , the main files were maintained and kept. There, apart from other,  deaths among the prisoners were registered, transport lists archived from personal files of the prisoners entered and marked as "Out". They updated ​​records of deceased , executed , released or prisoners transferred into other camps . A list of dead and murdered prisoners was sent monthly to the headquarters in Oranienburg. The first director of the Political Department was briefly Criminal Secretary Lühr , then up to the dissolution of the camp it was Otto Kloppmann .
From the perspective of prisoners,  Division III , the Protective Custody Department had the most significant impact on their daily lives. They would meet these officials every day. Here, decisions were made that had a direct impact on their living conditions . Within the area of this Department,  tasks such as accommodation , food supply and the labour input of the prisoners came under their responsibility . Similar to the Political Department various registers were held and regular messages were sent to the headquarters in Oranienburg. In the camp office the central inmate card indexes were held in a numerical and a roll-call method. Here was also a death register, which consisted of an alphabetical death reports system. Their own lists of labour input numbers was also kept there . Head of the protective custody camp were : Heinrich Hackmann (August 1941 - September 1942) , Westel Wimmer (September 1942 - February 1943), Anton Thumann (February 1943 - March 1944) and Rudol Walter (March-July 1944). Of them, especially Thumann was unpredictable and remained as one of the cruellest criminals of Majdanek in the memory of the prisoners. He eagerly had been involved in Selections for the gas chamber and enforced corporal punishment or death sentences himself .
Anton Thumann in British custody, 1946'

 Trial and death Of Thumann
At the end of the war Thumann was arrested by the British occupation forces. Thumann was put on trial before a British military tribunal in the "Neuengamme Trial" in Hamburg. He, and 13 other defendants, including Wilhelm Dreimann and the Commandant of Neuengamme Max Pauly, were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court handed down a guilty verdict on 18 March 1946 and sentenced 11 of the 14 defendants to death by hanging on 3 May 1946, including Thumann, Dreimann and Pauly. The death sentence was carried out by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint at Hamelin prison on 8 October 1946.sic]

The administration (Division IV) was responsible for the supply of the camp with food, clothing and fuel. Subordinated to them were all the magazines and workshops. This department also managed the property of the prisoners. The clothes that the prisoners had to give up upon admission into the camp, were kept in the magazines (Effektenkammer). A special unit documented all valuables and money. The property of Jews, however, was
confiscated and as a rule transferred to the WVHA (Economic Administrative Main Office) in Berlin or to the magazines of the "Aktion Reinhardt" in Lublin. The administration came under the responsibility of the Disinfection SS- Medics, Hans Perschon and Anton Enders, who took part in the extermination of prisoners by gas. Moreover, operated by this sections was the crematorium commando that broke out the gold teeth of the dead. Almost during the entire existence of Majdanek Henry Worster was Head of Department IV.
The camp doctor (Division V) was responsible for the medical care and sanitary facilities in the camp. He was under the supervision of the SS garrison physician. Who, in turn, controlled other doctors in the camp, the ambulance services, graded medical orderlies (SDG) as well as the Infirmary Kapo, and the qualified inmate doctors were supervised by him. Department V was composed of three divisions: the medical, the dental and pharmacy. The medical department was responsible for all hospital duties. Again, records of the dead were created, in which, generally a false cause of death was given. In practice, the main occupation of the SS doctors were in the hospital proficiency of the camp, yet contrary to their Hippocratic Oath participating in the selection of prisoners for the gas chambers and single out, the incoming "transports of Jews". Max Popiersch, Alfred Trzebinski, Franz Bodmann, Max Heinrich Blanke and Rindfleisch were successively camp doctors in Majdanek.
The Division VI was responsible for the cultural and educational support and political training of the SS team. This department organized film screenings, lectures, theatre performances and dance evenings. In the camp, a library was established, which held from  Nazi writings, propaganda materials and travel literatures, including a sizeable collection of travel guides. In addition, the SS-members were able to use the infrastructure of the local SS- Garrison in the city. Their spare time was often  spent in the local tavern "Deutsches Haus" in the Lublin city centre.
The main task of the SS guards were guarding the camp, the supervision of the prisoners who worked outside the camp , and the accompaniment of newly arrived Transports from the railway ramp on the site of the former airfield into the camp. In 1941, the  "Commando Kluß" was detailed to guard the camp, which partly was made ​​up of Ukrainians and reported to Globocnik . Later on, other departments fulfilled the same functions, which were subordinated to the camp commander. These recruited members had not lived in most cases before 1938 in the German Reich. The participation in guard duties by Reichs Germans (Reichsdeutsche) was relatively low (below 20 %). The Ukrainians enlisted men, came primarily from cadres who had been prepared in the SS training camp Trawniki, into service . About half of the ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) employed there were Romanian citizens , one in five had had for some reasons the Yugoslav citizenship before the war. The diversity of the guards were clearly dominated by agricultural workers and labourers under the age of 40 years who were brought immediately after their integration into the Waffen- SS into the service of Majdanek . In addition to the voluntary formations of the SS ( SS-Totenkopf Verband ) a Lithuanian company was stationed in the camp. From March to November 1942, there was the 2nd Battalion Protection Team from Vilnius (Wilna) and from March 1943, the Protection Team Battalion 252E from Kaunus stationed there. As a result of a changes in Majdanek of the SS team , the number of Lithuania's later fell to a few dozens . The first leader of the guards was Walter Lang Leist (until August 1943). His successor was Martin Melzer (until July 1944). Usually the leader of the guards took over repeatedly the duties as deputy camp commander.
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini greeting Bosniak SS volunteers in November 1943'.
Although initially the SS was restricted to people that were classified as of only "pure German Aryan" descent, [German members of the Waffen-SS had to provide the Certificates of Baptism (Taufschein) in a Christian Church up to their Great-Grand-Parents. HKS.] during the war the racial restrictions were relaxed to the extent that Ukrainians, Slavs, Albanians from Kosovo, Arabs, Turkic Tatars, and even Asians from Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) units were recruited. The Ukrainians and the Tatars had both suffered persecution under Joseph Stalin and they were likely motivated primarily by opposition to the Soviet government rather than genuine ideological agreement with the SS. [It should be noted, that foreign recruits had no particular love for Hitler, but an outright hatred of Bolshevism to fight it, and thus considered National Socialism as second best to do so.HKS] The exiled Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, used anti-Semitism and anti-Serb racism to recruit an entire Waffen-SS division of Bosnian Muslims, the 13th SS Division "Handschar" (Scimitar). The year-long Soviet occupation of the Baltic states at the beginning of World War II produced volunteers for Latvian and Estonian Waffen-SS units. The Estonian Legion, for example, had 1,280 volunteers under training by the end of 1942. However, by February 1, 1944 the German military situation on the Eastern front had worsened. As the result, another 10,000 Estonia men were conscripted into the Waffen-SS. Approximately 25,000 men served in the Estonian SS division (with thousands more conscripted into the "Police Front" battalions and border guard units). After 1943 most men from the east were conscripts. However, some other occupied countries such as Greece, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland never formed formal Waffen-SS legions. Nevertheless, some citizens of those countries were in the service of the Waffen-SS. In Greece, the fascist organisation ESPO tried to create a Greek SS division, but the attempt was abandoned when its leader was assassinated.
The Indische Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 (also known at various stages as the Indische Freiwilligen-Legion der Waffen-SS, the Legion Freies Indien, and (Azad Hind Fauj) was created in August 1942, chiefly from disaffected Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army, captured by the Axis in North Africa. Many, if not most, of the Indian volunteers who switched sides to fight with the German Army and against the British were strongly nationalistic supporters of the exiled, anti-British, former president of the Indian National Congress, Netaji (the Leader) Subhas Chandra Bose. See also the Tiger Legion and the Indian National Army.sic]

The monitoring apparatus, which was made up of so-called Functionary Prisoners departed from multiple points of the system used in other concentration camps. The power of the Camp Elders did not include all of the detainees, but was limited to an inmate field only. Also, the function of a Camp Youngster was introduced, which was carried out by a Jewish boy named Bubi, who enjoyed as a favourite of the German Kapos privileges not extended towards his fellow prisoners. In the women's field there was a Prisoner's Camp Police. Their task was to maintain order during roll calls, but they were also used in the making of selections. After the arrival of several thousand women from the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943 in addition to them,  Block Helpers had to be organized. These women would ensure that discipline was maintained in the barracks,  which often housed 1,000  females at that time due to overcrowding.
If we want to look at the set up the system of control, we can distinguish three groups of function prisoners in Majdanek. The first group was the German nationals who had been transferred from camps in the Reich. A few dozen of them belonged to the oldest inmates of Majdanek. The second group consisted of Jews , mainly Slovaks , who had been admitted with the first Transports in the spring of 1942 into the camp. The third group was mixed, but was dominated by Poles , who had been transferred from other camps or the Gestapo prisons to Majdanek . Among the prisoner functionaries of German origin,  the "Temporary prevention prisoners
(BV) predominated numerically in this category.  Many used their power entrusted to them ruthlessly , they not only abused their fellow prisoners , but also arbitrarily murdered them. They often performed corporal punishment or carried out death sentence by hanging. One of the worst torturers in Majdanek included Peter Bürzer , Karl Galka , Fritz Illert , August Schmuck and Peter Wyderka . See:[Function prisoners in the concentration camp Majdanek , in: Zeszyty Majdanka 21 (2001 ), page 29 70.sic ] There was hardly a measure of the SS so perfidious as its attempt to delegate the implementation of terror and violence to the victims.
A kapo leader at Salaspils concentration camp with a Lagerpolizist (camp police) armband'
The concentration camp system owed its stability in no small way was a cadre of kapos, who took over the daily operations of the camp, relieving the SS personnel. Thus, absolute power was ubiquitous. Without the delegation of power, the system of discipline and supervision would have promptly disintegrated. The rivalry over supervisory, administrative and warehouse functionary jobs was, for the SS, just a welcome opportunity to pit groups of prisoners against each other and keep them dependent. The normal prisoner, however, was at the mercy of a dual authority, the SS, who often hardly seemed to be at the camp, and the prisoner functionaries, who were always there. The Israeli Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950, most famously used to prosecute Adolf Eichmann in 1961 and Ivan Demjanjuk in 1986, was originally introduced with the principal purpose of prosecuting Jewish collaborators with the Nazis. Between 1951 and 1964, approximately 40 trials were held, mostly of people alleged to have been kapos. Fifteen are known to have resulted in convictions, but only sketchy details are available since the records were sealed in 1995 for a period of 70 years from the trial date. One person was convicted of crimes against humanity, which carried a mandatory death penalty, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment. A small number of kapos were prosecuted in East and West Germany. In a well-publicised 1968 case, two Auschwitz kapos were put on trial in Frankfurt. They were indicted for 189 murders and multiple assaults, found guilty of several murders, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the first Stutthof Trial, all took place in Poland during the late 1940s, at least four kapos were sentenced to death and all four were executed.

                                                                                                                                                                CONTINUED UNDER PART 4

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