The original wooden crematorium building at Majdanek was allegedly burned to the ground by the Nazis on July 22, 1944, just before they abandoned the camp; the cremation ovens remained intact and tourists can still see these ovens today.
The reconstructed crematorium at Majdanek, which is open to tourists, is located at the top of a long slope, behind the spot where the barracks in Field V once stood. The reconstructed crematorium is a copy of the second crematorium that was built in the camp; it was not put into operation until the autumn of 1943, according to the Museum guidebook.
When the Majdanek camp first opened, the bodies were buried in mass graves, but from June 1942 on, the bodies were burned in the first crematorium, or on pyres made from the chassis of old lorries (trucks), according to information in the camp guidebook.
The first crematorium is no longer in existence, and I never learned the exact location of it when I visited the camp in 1998. The original crematorium had two ovens which had been brought to Majdanek from the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany. The new crematorium was outfitted with five Kori ovens which were fueled with coke.
As you first walk into the crematorium at Majdanek, you see a row of five ovens. The ovens are placed so close to the entrance door that you realize that there would not have been enough room for workers to slide the bodies inside. Then you walk around to the other side and see that the bodies were allegedly put into the ovens from the back side and the ashes taken out on the front side, only a few feet from the entrance door.
According to Martin Gilbert in his book entitled “Holocaust Journey,” there is a gas chamber in the crematorium building. This gas chamber, like the building, is a reconstruction. Since this gas chamber is a reconstruction, it does not show the blue staining that is present in the other alleged gas chambers at Majdanek, which were used for the disinfection of the clothing of the prisoners.
The reconstructed gas chamber room in the crematorium is very small; it has a hole in the ceiling for pouring in the poison gas crystals, and there is a floor drain directly below the hole. The door to this gas chamber is missing, and may have been taken to another museum to be displayed.
A casting of an alleged Majdanek gas chamber door was on display at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. when I visited the museum several years ago.
Right next to the room, at Majdanek, which has the 5 ovens, there is an alcove, or room open on one side, which has a large concrete bathtub. According to my tour guide, this tub was used by the SS man in charge of the ovens, when he took a bath. In the shower room adjacent to the other gas chambers at Majdanek, there are two similar concrete bathtubs where the prisoners were dipped into disinfectant before taking a shower. The reconstructed gas chamber in the crematorium resembles a shower room.
The black and white photo below shows the ruined crematorium as it allegedly looked when Russian soldiers arrived at the camp on July 23, 1944. The wooden crematorium building had allegedly been set on fire by the Nazis in order to burn the bodies of Polish political prisoners who had been brought from the Gestapo prison at the Castle in Lublin and executed the day before liberation of the camp. [Actually, these prisoners had been killed by the Russians when they first arrived in Lublin.]
The photo above shows the bodies of the men who were brought to the camp, from a nearby prison, and burned by the Russian liberators of the camp, who then blamed the Germans for this deed.
In another room of the crematorium building is the concrete dissection table, on which the bodies were examined for valuables hidden in body cavities, according to the tour guide. It was here also that the gold teeth were removed from the victims after they had allegedly been gassed.