Scrapbookpages Blog

July 31, 2016

A survivor of Majdanek tells about the 18,000 Jews who were killed in one hour there

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — furtherglory @ 4:32 pm

Just behind the Mausoleum pictured in the photo below, and a little to the right, is a small stone which commemorates the deaths of around 18,000 Jews who died on that spot on November 3, 1943, an event that was code-named by the Nazis with the cynical word “Erntefest” which means Harvest Festival in English.

The camp inmates called this day “bloody Wednesday.” This was the largest mass execution carried out at any of the concentration camps in the history of the Holocaust. The victims were the last remnants of the Jewish population in the Lublin district.

Can you imagine 18,000 Jews being executed in just one hour?  Why would the Nazis do something like this? These innocent Jews had never done anyone any harm — or had they?

The ashes of the 18,000 Jews who were killed in one hour are under this dome

The ashes of the 18,000 Jews, who were killed in one hour, are under this dome. Photo credit: Simon Robertson

The video below shows the trip taken by Holocaust survivor Cipora Hurwitz to the Majdanek camp where she was a prisoner.

The video above depicts the trip to Poland and the Majdanek death camp that Cipora Hurwitz helped to lead.

The trip became the basis of a new book authored by Cipora. The book is entitled Forbidden Strawberries.….

In the video, Cipora is shown as she takes a group of high school students from Israel and the US on a visit to the Majdanek death camp in Poland.

In his best-selling book Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen wrote that the number of Jews executed at Majdanek that day was 16,500 and that there were an additional 14,000 Jews executed at Poniatowa.

Jews marching to their death on Bloody Wednesday

Jews marching to their death on Bloody Wednesday

But why were these innocent Jews killed by those bad Nazis? Was there any justification for this? Does the term “illegal combatant” mean anything to you?

According to a book entitled The forgotten Holocaust: the Poles under German Occupation, written by Richard Lucas, these Polish resistance fighters were responsible for 6,930 damaged train engines, 732 derailed trains, 979 destroyed train cars, 38 bridges blown up, 68 aircraft destroyed, 15 factories burned down, 4,623 military vehicles destroyed, 25,125 acts of sabotage and 5,733 attacks on German troops.

In preparation for the mass execution at Majdanek, ditches were dug for the bodies behind the spot where the Mausoleum now stands, 50 meters away from the crematorium building. It took 300 prisoners, working two shifts day and night to dig three big ditches over 2 meters deep and 100 meters long, running in a zigzag line. These open ditches are still visible, although they look like they have been filled in somewhat.

Around 100 SS men were brought in from Auschwitz and other locations to do the shooting, according to the Majdanek guidebook. Very early on the morning of November 3, after roll call, all the Jews in Fields III and IV were ordered to form a column and march to the ditches.

The gravely ill Jews from the three typhus barracks in Field III were dragged out of their bunks and dumped onto trucks for transportation to the ditches. Loudspeakers mounted on trucks had been placed near the ditches, and by the camp gate near the street, to drown out the noise of the machine guns.

Simultaneously, a column of over 10,000 Jews were marched toward the gate of Field IV. The first prisoners reached the gate before the end of the column had left the city of Lublin. These victims were from the sub-camps of Majdanek and the work gangs employed outside the camp.

The Jewish political prisoners from the Gestapo prison in the Castle in Lublin were also marched to the camp. Around noon, the SS soldiers ordered the Jewish women out of their barracks in Field I, and again the sick were loaded onto trucks, while those able to walk were marched to the ditches.

The shooting started at around 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning, and lasted without a break until 5 p.m., with 100 victims at a time ordered to strip in a nearby barrack and then lie down in the ditches in groups of 10, where they were then machine-gunned to death.

Each new group had to lie down on top of the dead bodies from the previous group. The men were shot separately from the women.

The barbed wire fence was cut between Field V and the ditches, so that a column of armed policemen could form a passage, along which the victims were funneled into the ditches.

This operation was, by no means, done in secret. The shooting was done at the top of the low hill where the Mausoleum now stands and in full view of nearby residents who lived behind the area.

The loud dance music which went on for almost 12 hours that day ensured that the local residents knew that something unusual was going on, even if they couldn’t see it.

On the same day, there were other mass executions of Jews at the labor camps near the villages of Poniatowa and Trawniki.

According to a book entitled Poland, the Rough Guide, the liquidation of the Lublin Jews continued on November 4th and 5th. A total of 43,000 inhabitants of the Lublin ghetto were machine-gunned to death at Majdanek. The same book says that after the city was liberated by the Soviet Union, “Jewish partisan groups began using Lublin as their operational base.”

The bodies of the victims of the massacre at Majdanek were burned, near the ditches, on pyres formed from old truck chassis, and the ashes were thrown onto the compost pile behind the clothing warehouse barracks, which now hold the tourist exhibits. It is these ashes of the massacre victims which have now been given a place of honor in the Mausoleum.


the Manor house at Chelmno

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:10 am

One of the readers of my blog mentioned the Manor house at Chelmno in a comment.

The Chelmno Schlosslager had neither prisoner barracks nor factories; its sole purpose was to murder Jews and Roma who were not capable of working at forced labor for the Nazis. In 1939, there were around 385,000 Jews living in the Warthegau; those who could work were sent to the Lodz ghetto where they labored in textile factories which made uniforms for the German army.

On January 16, 1942, deportations from the Lodz ghetto began; records from the ghetto show that 54,990 people were deported before the final liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944. The Jewish leader of the Lodz ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, compiled the lists of people to be deported, although he had no knowledge that they were being sent to their deaths at Chelmno.

The gassing of the Jews at Chelmno was carried out in two separate phases. In the first phase, between December 7, 1941 and April 1943, Jews from the surrounding area and the Lodz ghetto were brought to Chelmno and killed on the day after their arrival. Although the Nazis destroyed all records of the Chelmno camp, it is alleged that around 15,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma, who were deported from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg, were brought to Chelmno to be killed in this remote spot.

Chelmno was allegedly a Nazi extermination camp. It was located in the small Polish village of Chelmno nad Neren (Chelmno on the river Ner), 60 kilometers northwest of Lodz, a major city in what is now western Poland.

Foundation of the Manor house

Foundation of the Manor house at the Chelmno transit camp [Photo credit: Alan Collins]

Location of Manor house at Chelmno

Location of the Manor house at Chelmno transit camp [photo credit: Alan Collins]

The site of another building at Chelmno Photo Credit: Alan Collins

The site of another building at Chelmno [photo Credit: Alan Collins]

Alan Collins, the photographer who visited the site of the camp, and took these photos, wrote the following with regard to the fate of the Jews at Chelmno:

Begin quote:

The [Jewish] victims were driven to the Castle Site during phase 1 which stared in December 1941, though the building is sometimes described as a Manor House. They were made to undress after being told they were going to be resettled in the east but required a shower before they left.

They were forced through the ground floor of the building and via a ramp into a specially constructed lorry which was waiting at the end of the building. The exhaust of the lorry could be directed into the rear of the vehicle.

The lorry was driven to the Forest Site in the Rzuchowski Forest, about 4km away and the victims disposed of. To add to the horror the Manor House was blown up by the SS on the 7th April 1943 with a group of victims inside the building. These people had arrived unexpectedly late and it was feared by the Germans that they had typhus so they were ordered to go to the first floor of the building which was blown up with them inside.

End quote from Alan Collins.

The victims of the Nazis at Chelmno also included Polish citizens and Soviet Prisoners of War. The POWs were taken directly to the Rzuchowski forest where they were shot.

The Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem has a list of 12 names of children from Lidice who were sent to Chelmno, although other sources claim that the number of orphans from Lidice was far higher. These were children whose parents had been killed when the Czech village of Lidice was completely destroyed in a reprisal action after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

The Chelmno camp, which was opened by the Germans some time in October or November 1941, was in the Warthegau, a district in the part of Poland that had been annexed into the Greater German Reich after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

Chelmno was called Kulmhof by the Germans and Lodz was known by the German name Litzmannstadt.

The Warthegau had been a part of the German state of Prussia between 1795 and 1871. After the German states united in 1871, the Warthegau was in Germany until after World War I, when it was given back to the Poles.

The Jews were brought on trains to the village of Kolo, 14 kilometers from Chelmno. Kolo was the closest stop on the main railroad line from Lodz to Poznan. At Kolo, the victims were transferred to another train which took them on a narrow gauge railroad line 6 kilometers to the village of Powiercie.

From Powiercie, the victims had to walk 1.5 kilometers through a forest to the village of Zawadka where they spent their last night locked inside a mill. They were then transported, by trucks, the next day to Chelmno.

You can see more photos, taken by Alan Collins, on this page of my website: