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August 14, 2016

The Majdanek camp, as seen by a young Jewish girl

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:46 am

You can read here about a tour of the memorial site at the former Majdanek concentration camp, written by a young Jewish girl named Carly Cohen:  http://www.jewishchronicle.org/2016/08/01/leaving-auschwitz/

Carly Cohen on visit to Auschwitz camp

Carly Cohen on a visit to Auschwitz main camp before visiting Majdanek camp

The following quote is from the news article cited above:

Begin quote

One aspect of Majdanek that stood out to me was that there was a town overlooking the camp. People’s balconies looked out to the gas chambers and the barracks in which thousands of people were imprisoned. It is mind-boggling to me how people can wake up, make coffee, and sit on their balconies and welcome in the morning by staring death in the face. I never thought I would experience a place that could prove to be more emotional than Auschwitz. I thought I had experienced the worst of the worst while at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but when I went to Majdanek, I proved myself wrong.

End quote

One of the first places that I visited, when I began touring the sites of the Holocaust, was Majdanek. I was very impressed by the sight of the Majdanek camp, but not for the same reason that this young girl was impressed.

When I began my tour of the camps in Poland in 1998, the first place that I visited was Treblinka.

In sharp contrast to the alleged extermination camp at Treblinka, which is in a wooded area as remote as Ted Kaczynkski’s Montana cabin, the Majdanek concentration camp is situated in a major urban area, four kilometers from the city center of Lublin, and can be easily reached by trolley car.

The location of the Majdanek camp is in an area of rolling terrain and can be seen from all sides; it could not be more public or accessible.

The Majdanek concentration camp is located in an entirely open area with no ten-foot wall around it to hide the activities inside the camp, as at Dachau. There was no security zone established around the Majdanek camp, as at Birkenau, and there is no natural protection, such as a river or a forest, as at Treblinka.

Besides being bounded on the north by a busy main road, the Majdanek camp was bounded on the south by two small villages named Abramowic and Dziesiata.

According to the camp guidebook, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Jews in the Lublin district after the insurrection on October 14, 1943 at Sobibor, one of the Operation Reinhard extermination camps on the Polish-Russian border, in which 300 Jews, led by a Jewish Russian Prisoner of War, escaped into the nearby woods.

At that time, the three largest concentrations of Jews in Eastern Poland were at the camp at Majdanek and at the labor camp at Poniatowa, a tiny Polish village where 18,000 people were held, and at the Polish village of Trawniki where 10,000 Jews were imprisoned in a labor camp.

People driving past the camp, while it was in operation, had a completely unobstructed view, being able to see the tall brick chimney of the crematorium wafting smoke from the top of a slope not far away, and the gas chamber building which is a few yards from a busy street.

Majdakek is also known as Maidenek, which is the German version of the name.

What really impressed me, when I visited the Majdanek memorial site was the huge stone monument at the entrance.

Huge monument at entrance to Majdanek Memorial site

Huge monument at entrance to Majdanek Memorial site

Monument as viewed from inside the camp

Monument as viewed from inside the former Majdanek camp

The population of Lublin has more than tripled since the end of World War II and the former Majdanek concentration camp is now within the city limits, like a municipal park except that it is a ghastly eyesore. There are several modern high-rise apartment buildings overlooking the camp on two sides.

On one side of the camp, is a Roman Catholic cemetery which was there even when the camp was in operation.

On the other side of the street, directly across from the former concentration camp, there is now a Polish military installation since this street is part of the main road into the Ukraine and Russia. During World War II, the street which borders the Majdanek concentration camp was the main route to the eastern front for the German army.

The city of Lublin is near the eastern border of Poland and what is now the Ukraine. Between 1772 and 1918, when Poland had ceased to be an independent country and was divided between Prussia (Germany), Austria and Russia, Lublin was in the Russian sector.

In April 1835, Russian Czar Nicholas I issued a decree which created the Pale of Settlement, a territory where Russian Jews were forced to live until after the Communist Revolution of 1917. Lublin was located within the Pale of Settlement, as was the city of Warsaw.

The census of 1897 counted 4,899,300 Jews who were crowded into the Pale of Settlement, which was like a huge reservation similar to those where the Native Americans were forced to live during the same time period in the western USA.

In 1881, Russia began evicting the Jews from the Pale, which began a mass migration. By 1914, two million Jews had left the Pale and had settled in Germany, Austria, America and other countries.

In 1939, when Poland was again divided between Germany and the Soviet Union, Lublin came under the control of Russia again. This lasted until June 1941 when the Nazis launched an attack on the Communist Soviet Union, the ideological enemy of Fascist Germany.

Lublin, being close to the border of the German-controlled General Government of Poland, was one of the first cities to be conquered by the Germans. The German conquest of the Soviet sector of Poland in the last 6 months of 1941 brought Polish Communists and also millions of Jews, who were the sworn enemies of the Nazis, under the control of the Germans.

In order to avoid having partisans attack them from the rear as they advanced into Russia, the Nazis rounded up those whom they considered their political enemies and confined them in the Majdanek camp, along with the captured Soviet POWs.

But, to get back to the apartment houses, with their balconies overlooking the camp, I did not photograph them because I did not want to invade their privacy. However, my tour guide did point out the balconies, as she told me about the Polish residents watching as the Germans shot thousands of Jews at Majdanek.

The gas chambers at Majdanek are on the other side of the camp, near the highway, where thousands of vehicles were passing by. People could observe the Jews entering the alleged gas chamber building.

The Nazis claimed that the Jews were only taking a shower, not being gassed to death, in this building. The identical building right next to the gas chamber building is closed to tourists. The clothing of the Jews was disinfected in this building, in order to kill the lice that spreads typhus.