Update: March 28, 2013
I am pleased to report that the gas chamber with the glass window is now officially called a disinfection chamber where clothing was deloused with Zyklon-B, the same gas that was used to exterminate the Jews. Now the official Holocaust story is that only two of the gas chambers in Building #41 were used as homicidal gas chambers. The other gas chambers in the building were used to disinfect the clothing in an attempt to save the lives of the prisoners by killing the lice that spreads typhus. The number of Jewish deaths at Majdanek has recently been officially reduced from 1.5 million down to 59,000.
This means that anyone, who is serving a 5-year prison term for denying that 1.5 million Jews were killed at Majdanek, or denying that there was a homicidal gas chamber with a window at Majdanek, can now be released.
Continue reading my original post.
Someone mentioned in a comment on my blog that there was a glass window in the gas chamber at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany. I don’t know anything about that, but there is a glass window in the Majdanek gas chamber. I visited Majdanek in October 1998 and went inside the gas chamber building where I saw the window with my own eyes.
The window inside the gas chamber at Majdanek is too high up on the wall for an observation window, so it must have been just for the purpose of letting in some light. It would have been too cruel to shove prisoners inside a dark chamber and gas them to death. Notice the stains on the ceiling, which were caused by heavy use of Zyklon-B, the poison gas used to kill the prisoners, and also to disinfect the clothing of the prisoners. (Not at the same time, of course.)
That brings up the question of whether or not the prisoners ever tried to break the window to escape before they were overcome by gas fumes. There are no bars on the window, so the prisoners could have escaped, but there were probably guards outside the building, ready to shoot anyone who tried to jump out of the window.
The photo above shows Barrack Number 41, the gas chamber building at Majdanek. A sign on the outside of the building says “Bad und Desinfektion” (Bath and Disinfection), which the Museum guidebook says was “to lull the vigilance of those condemned to death.”
The square in front of the building, in the photo above, was nicknamed Rosenfeld, which in German means field of roses. This was a joke because Rosenfeld was a common Jewish name. The Nazis called our President Franklin D. Roosevelt by the name Rosenfeld because they thought that he was Jewish. According to my tour guide, this square was where prisoners were lined up for selection; some prisoners were selected to work and some were selected to be gassed. (And you thought the Germans have no sense of humor.)
There are actually two identical buildings at Majdanek, where Zyklon-B was used. Only the building used for gassing people was shown on the tour; the other building is barrack Number 42 which was used for delousing clothing with the same Zyklon-B when the camp was in operation. Barrack Number 42 is off limits to visitors.
There were large clothing warehouses at Majdanek and in the town of Lublin; the clothes from the three Operation Reinhart camps (Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor) were brought to Majdanek for disinfection and sorting before being sent back to Germany to be given to German civilians.
Upon entering Barrack No. 41, the gas chamber building, you first come to an unfurnished room which has narrow wooden boards over the concrete floor; this is the undressing room. Then you enter the shower room, a large room with rows of exposed water pipes and sprinkler-type shower heads on the ceiling; this room also has a wooden floor over concrete. At one end of the shower room, there are two large concrete bathtubs. The tour guide explained that the prisoners were not allowed to stay very long in the bathtub; they had to get in and out in a few seconds. The bathtubs were probably filled with disinfectant, as was the case at other camps such as Buchenwald.
This shower room was also used by incoming prisoners who were selected to work at Majdanek, which was a labor camp as well as a death camp for Jews.
According to the latest figures given at the Majdanek Museum, there were 78,000 deaths of all causes at Majdanek, which included 59,000 Jews.
The gas chamber building at Majdanek has three separate homicidal gassing rooms. When I was there in 1998, visitors entered through an air raid shelter door that opened into the three gas chamber rooms from the shower room. A sign in the shower room said that the prisoners were given a shower before gassing to “quite (sic) them down.” The tour guide explained that the victims were given a hot shower so they would die more quickly in the gas chamber because the Nazis had found that the heat of the bodies caused the gas to work faster. Zyklon-B comes in crystal form, like tiny ice-blue rocks, and the pellets must be heated before they release the poison gas which kills lice or people.
The Majdanek gas chamber building has a heating unit outside the chambers which could blow hot air into the chamber to activate the poison gas, so a hot shower, before the victims entered the gas chamber, was not really necessary.
The first room in the gas chamber building is a large room with what I would call an alcove. In other words, the first room that visitors enter from the shower room is shaped like the letter L. There is another door into the alcove, which is shown in the photo below.
The gas chamber building is a wooden horse barn with a brick and concrete building inside of it. The door, shown in the photo above, opens into what I call an alcove that is part of the first large room that you enter from the shower room.
There are two holes in the ceiling of the gas chamber through which the Zyklon-B pellets could be dropped into the room and openings in the wall through which hot air was blown in. The largest gas chamber room has a wooden floor over concrete; the walls are covered with stucco.
At Majdanek, there are a total of four gas chambers, according to the Museum guidebook which says that the gas chamber right next to the shower room was “a makeshift chamber which presumably had begun functioning before the other three were opened.”
The fourth gas chamber, which is disguised as a shower room, is in the reconstructed crematorium. The Germans allegedly burned down the crematorium building to destroy the evidence of their crimes.
In the second gas chamber in Barracks No. 41, there is a small interior room which has a small barred window, about 6 by 10 inches, on one of the walls. This window had no glass and no window frame when I saw it. Through this window, the killing process could be observed by an SS guard standing in the small interior observation room, according to my tour guide. Of course, the guard would have been wearing a gas mask, but he would have had no protection from the victims who would have undoubtedly tried to kill him; the entrance to the small observation room is inside the gas chamber and there is no door.
Inside the interior observation room were cans of carbon monoxide, which was also used in this chamber, according to the guidebook.
So there were a total of three gas chamber rooms in Barrack No. 41, not including the small interior room used for observation. Some observers have referred to the first room with the alcove as two separate chambers. All the rooms are connected, with each room opening into the next one. The last gas chamber room in this building is smaller than the others and has no heavy blue stains.
Here is a description of the gas chambers in “Bath and Disinfection” Building Number One (barrack #41) at Majdanek, quoted from a guidebook which I purchased in 1998 at the Visitor’s Center:
“The gas chambers were built of ceramic brick, covered with a ferro-concrete roof, and provided with a cement floor. The installation comprised three chambers: a large one (10 m x 5.5 m x 2 m) and two smaller ones (4.80 m x 3.60 x 2 m) as well as a cabin for the SS man who pumped doses of gas from steel cylinders into the chambers and watched through a small grated window (25 x 15 cm), the behavior of the victims. Two chambers, the large one and the southern smaller one, were equipped with devices for the use of carbon monoxide (CO). In the smaller one, there was a metal pipe, 40 mm in diameter, running along the walls above the floor. The gas got into the chamber through holes in the pipe. Cyclone B was poured into a special opening in the concrete roof.
“The large chamber also had a metal pipe, 25 mm in diameter, fastened to one of the walls above the floor. As in the smaller chamber, the carbon monoxide from a steel cylinder got in through this pipe. In addition, there were two openings in the western wall, through which hot air (120 degrees C) was blown in by a ventilator from a stove placed on the outside of the chamber, which alone killed the victims and, at the same time, intensified the action of Cyclone B, since the lethal effect of the gas increased at a temperature of over 27 degrees C. The other small chamber, on the southern side, had only an opening in the roof to pour in Cyclone B. The massive metal doors to the chambers were air-tight, fastened by two bolts and iron bars.”
According to the guidebook that I purchased at the Visitor’s Center:
Construction of the gas chambers at Majdanek started in August 1942 and was completed in October 1942. By October 1942, the Germans had conquered most of Europe and the Eastern front extended well into the Soviet Union; they were in the midst of their plan to get rid of all the Jews in Europe. Using the pretense of “transportation to the East,” the Nazis maintained strict secrecy about their “Final Solution,” even on the blueprints for the Majdanek gas chamber building, by naming the gas chambers “Entlausungsanlage,” which means “delousing station” in English.
Strangely, the gas chamber building at Majdanek is located at the bottom of a slope, and the crematorium is at the top of the slope. The bodies of the Jews who were gassed had to be hauled up the hill, past the barracks where all the prisoners could observe what was going on. The gas chamber building was also in plain view of everyone who was traveling on the road past the camp, which was a major road back then.
According to Wikipedia, one of the Jews who was gassed at Majdanek in 1942 was 9-year-old Henio Zytomirski. Henio has his own Facebook page. I was born the same year as Henio, and I never thought I would live to see dead Holocaust victims social networking.