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October 27, 2011

The shrinking death statistics at the Majdanek death camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:59 am

Of all the former Nazi concentration camps that I have visited, the creepiest one, by far, is the Majdanek camp in Poland.  Majdanek was a “death camp” where Jews were gassed with Zyklon-B, but carbon monoxide was also used for gassing — in the same building.  There was also a gas chamber, disguised as a shower, in the crematorium building which the Nazis allegedly burned down before they fled the scene.  The gas chamber room in the reconstructed 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 for display.

It is hard to figure out just how many gas chambers there were at Majdanek: there are a number of gas chamber rooms, all in one building, along with a small room within a room where an SS man could watch the victims die.  (I assume that the observer was protected by a gas-proof suit and a gas mask, and that he was compensated with extra pay.)

Now Jürgen Graf has written an article on the Inconvenient History blog entitled Defending the Faith: Tomasz Kranz’s “Mass Killings by Means of Toxic Gases in the Majdanek Concentration Camp.” You can read the article in full here.

I am quoting this paragraph from Jürgen Graf’s article:

[Tomasz] Kranz, who is the head of the research department of the Majdanek Memorial Institution, caused a minor sensation in late 2005 when he set the number of victims of the [Majdanek] camp at 78,000—something that amounted to a major reduction of previous figures: shortly after the Soviet capture of the Majdanek camp, a Polish-Soviet commission spoke of 1.5 million people who allegedly died there; later on, official Polish history brought this figure down to 360,000 in 1948 and to 235,000 in 1992. As I have shown in an article published in 2008, Kranz’s figure is still too high by at least 28,000 deaths.

Wow!  Jürgen Graf is now saying that there were only 50,000 deaths at Majdanek?

Out of the 78,000 deaths claimed by Kranz in 2005, there were only 59,000 Jewish deaths. Assuming that some people died from disease, starvation and over-work, how many Jews were actually gassed at Majdanek?

Why so many gas chambers for so few deaths at Majdanek?  In fact, why were there any gas chambers at all at Majdanek when the Belzec and Sobibor death camps were very close to Lublin where the former Majdanek death camp is now located within the city limits?


  1. I recently visited Majdanek. the sign outside the alleged “gas chamber” states carbon monoxide use. however, the cannisters inside the gas room are etched with “CO2”, that is, Carbon DIoxide, a completely different chemical. moreover, the pipes, and the holes in the wall around them appearred to be recent additions.
    finally, the “gas chamber” door struck me as odd, as the handles were on the inside, and the “peephole” faced out, not in. there was also a slot in the door for a probe, which led me to beleive that perhaps i was looking at an air-raid shelter. A subsequent visit to the U-Bhf Gesundbrunnen Air raid shelter in Berlin found the doors to be nearly identical.

    Comment by schlageter — October 27, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    • When I was there in 1998, there was a sign which said that the prisoners had to take a shower before going into the gas chamber in order to warm up their bodies to make the gas work faster. Is that sign still there? I could not get any photos of the Majdanek gas chamber because the guide was rushing me through all the gas chamber rooms.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 27, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    • The extent of the difficulty in determining the losses at Majdanek may be illustrated by the results of a broad-scale investigation undertaken by the West German Central Office for prosecuting Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg (Zentrale Stelle der Der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung Nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen in Ludwigsburg) between 1960 and 1974, concerning the crimes committed at that camp. The 25000 pages of evidence collected at the time were later used during the famous Düsseldorf trial (1975-1981). The verdict stated that,”evidence gathering did not provide accurate information concerning the total number of dead and murdered, but the jury accepted as certain the number of at least 200,000 victims, including 60,000 Jews.
      The numbers were based on the testimony of Wolfgang Scheffker, an expert witness at the trial. Based on the findings of Lukszkieicz and Leszczynska, he estimated 200,000 to 250,000 dead and murdered as an “approxemately realistic estimate.” At the same time he stressed the fact that, due to an incomlete source base, any numerical data may be treated only as approxemate values.

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — October 28, 2011 @ 2:50 am

  2. Carlos Porter reproduces a Soviet photo showing how the Nazis sealed the gas chamber doors at Majdanek, with “mud and slime”

    On this photo from the Yad Yashem, you can see the mud and slime around the gas chamber door frame.

    Comment by Black Rabbit — October 27, 2011 @ 10:21 am

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