Scrapbookpages Blog

September 7, 2012

Jews were gassed at Majdanek with the exhaust from captured Soviet tanks. Who knew?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 5:16 pm

I was startled to read this on the British Mail Online a couple of days ago:

“Victims at Majdanek were forced into gas chambers that were pumped full with the exhaust from captured Soviet tank engines.”

Did the exhaust from the captured Soviet tank engines cause the heavy blue stains that one can still see in the Majdanek gas chambers?  The photo below shows the stains inside one of the Majdanek gas chambers.

Blue stains caused by the use of Zyklon-B in a Majdanek gas chamber

When I visited the Majdanek death camp in 1998, I was told by my private tour guide that these blue stains were caused by Zyklon-B, the gas that was used to kill the Jews.  Was my guide wrong?  Are the blue stains, that are seen in many of the Nazi gas chambers, actually caused by exhaust from tanks? Is that why some of the Nazi gas chambers, for example the gas chambers at Dachau and Mauthausen, have no blue stains?

I also read this on the Mail Online:

The crematoria next door (to the Majdanek gas chamber) still has ash remains of victims in its ovens.

What crematoria (plural) are they talking about?  The Majdanek crematorium building (the only one) is located at the opposite end of the camp from the gas chambers.  There is a small gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, in the crematorium building at Majdanek, but I was told that it used Zyklon-B which was dropped through a hole in the ceiling.  The original crematorium building was burned down, allegedly by the Nazis, and the building was reconstructed by the Soviets.

The photo below shows the reconstructed crematorium building.  In the reconstructed gas chamber in this building, the hole for the Zyklon-B is directly over the floor drain.  The Zyklon-B would have gone down the drain before the victims in the shower room could have been poisoned.

2006 Photo of Crematorium reconstructed by the Soviet Union
Photo Credit: Simon Robertson

The Mail Online news article includes this information:

[Majdanek was] Used for mass killings during Operation Reinhard: the Nazi plan to murder all Polish Jews

Operation Reinhard was the name given to the plan to transport the Jews to three camps: Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, which the Nazis claimed were transit camps.  The headquarters of Operation Reinhard was in the city of Lublin, which is where Majdanek is now located.  During World War II, Majdanek was just outside the city limits of Lublin.  The clothing, taken from the Jews, who were sent to the three Operation Reinhard camps, was disinfected with Zyklon-B before being sent to Germany.

Could the rooms at Majdanek, with the heavy blue stains, have been disinfection chambers?  Is that why these rooms were located close to the entrance into the camp, not close to the crematorium which was at the opposite end of the camp?  The building close to the entrance has a shower room that is separate from the alleged gas chambers. A sign in the building, when I visited in 1998, said that the purpose of taking a shower, before going into the gas chamber, was to warm up the body so that the gas could work faster.

Building No. 41 at Majdanek was allegedly a gas chamber

The gas chamber building, shown in the photo above, is located within sight of the street that goes past the Majdanek camp. A sign on the building says “Bad und Desinfektion” (Bath and Disinfection), which the Museum guidebook says was “to lull the vigilance of those condemned to death.”

There are actually two buildings near the entrance to the camp where Zyklon-B was used. Only the building allegedly used for gassing people with Zyklon-B was shown to me by my guide. The other one 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 locked and visitors are not allowed to see it.

The disinfection buildings at Auschwitz, which used Zyklon-B to disinfect the prisoner’s clothing, are also off limits to visitors. I previously blogged about this here.

According to the Mail Online, here is why Majdanek is in the news now:

Authorities in Lublin in eastern Poland want to construct [a new] crematorium near to the Majdanek camp where 80,000 people were put to death during the Second World War

That’s right. There were close to 80,000 deaths, from all causes, at Majdanek.  The exact figure that is now given by the Majdanek Museum is 78,000, including 59,000 Jewish deaths.  The Soviet prosecutors at the Nuremberg IMT alleged that the number of deaths at Majdank was 1.5 million.  I didn’t know, until now, that the deaths at Majdanek were due to gassing with exhaust from Soviet tank engines.  That means that the gassing of the Jews could not have started until enough Soviet tanks had been captured.