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October 29, 2011

selections for the gas chamber at the Majdanek death camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:43 am

Building #41 at Majdanek death camp had 3 gas chambers

Entrance to gas chamber building #41 at Majdanek Photo Credit:

The photo at the top of the page shows a field of gravel with a roller that was used to roll the field smooth.  This field of gravel was called “die Rose Feld” which is German for the Rose Field.  This is where selections were made for the Majdanek gas chamber.

The sign on the building in the second photo above reads “Bad und Desinfektion” which is German for Bath and Disinfection. Building #42 is shown on the far left in the photo above.

At Majdanek, there were a total of four gas chambers, according to the Museum guidebook, which I purchased at the camp in 1998. The guidebook says that the gas chamber, right next to the shower room in the building shown above, 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 at the other end of the Majdanek camp.

Remarkably, Building #41 was used both for showers and disinfection — and for gassing the Jews.  An identical building (#42) next door to Building #41 was used to disinfect the clothing with Zyklon-B, the same poison gas which was used to gas the Jews in Building #41.  Building #42 is off limits to tourists.

At Majdanek, prisoners who were selected to work took a shower after being disinfected in one of the two concrete bath tubs used for that purpose.  Some excellent photos of the undressing room and the shower room in Building #41 can be seen here on this blog.

The prisoners who were selected to be gassed also took a shower and were dipped in the tub of disinfectant before going into the gas chamber. The door into the three gas chambers in Barrack # 41 is located in the shower room. When I visited in 1998, 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 found that the heat of the bodies caused the gas to work faster.

Zyklon-B comes in crystal form, like tiny 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 blew 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.

Upon entering Barrack No. 41, the gas chamber building, you first come to the bare, unfurnished undressing room which has narrow wooden boards over the concrete floor. 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. My tour guide told me that the prisoners were not allowed to loll in the bathtub, but 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 an extermination camp for the Jews.

The first of three gas chamber rooms at Majdanek

There are two doors into this first gas chamber room, which is shown in the photo above. When I toured the gas chambers at Majdanek, neither door had a lock on it and no marks where a lock might have been removed. Each of the doors had a glass peephole which is protected by tiny metal bars to prevent anyone on the outside of the room from breaking the glass. On my visit, I observed that the glass in one of the peepholes had been broken, probably from the inside, and had not yet been replaced.

Door into the first gas chamber in Building #41

On the blueprints for the Majdanek gas chamber building, the gas chambers are called “Entlausungsanlage,” which means “delousing station” in English. The Nazis used Zyklon-B, an insecticide, for gassing the Jews, the same poison they used in the disinfection building, right next door to the gas chamber, to kill body lice on the prisoner clothing in an effort to stop typhus epidemics.

The gas chamber next to the shower is the largest of the three rooms and it has the heaviest blue stains, caused by repeated use of Zyklon-B.

Hole in ceiling of Majdanek gas chamber

There are two holes in the ceiling through which the Zyklon-B pellets could be dropped into the room and openings in the wall through which hot air was blown in, according to the guidebook. The photo above shows one of the holes through which the gas pellets were poured.