The answer to the question, in the title of my blog post today, depends upon what day and what year you are talking about.
According to the Majdanek museum guidebook, which I purchased in 1998, the camp was initially called the Concentration Camp at Lublin (Konzentrationslager Lublin); then the name was changed to Prisoner of War Camp at Lublin (Kriegsgefangenenlager der Waffen-SS Lublin), but in Feb. 1943, the name reverted back to Concentration Camp. Throughout its existence, Majdanek received transports of Prisoners of War, including a few Americans, according to the guidebook.
Although the first prisoners at Majdanek were Russian Prisoners of War, who were transferred to the camp from a barbed wire enclosure at Chelm, the camp soon became a detention center for Jews after the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was planned at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.
Mass transports of Jews began arriving at the Majdanek camp, beginning in April 1942, during the same time period that the Auschwitz II camp, which was originally a POW camp for Soviet soldiers, was being converted into an extermination camp for Jews.
Double fence around the Majdanek camp
Photo credit: Simon Robertson
The Majdanek concentration camp, in the Polish city of Lubin, was in operation from October 1, 1941 to July 23, 1944 when it was liberated by soldiers of the Soviet Union.
In 1998, I visited the site of the former Majanek camp, where I purchased a book, entitled “Majdanek,” by Jozef Marszalek, at the Visitor’s Center.
According to this book, the actual names of only 47,890 prisoners are known, including 7,441 women prisoners.
According to the 1998 Museum guidebook, only 41% of the 300,000 prisoners, who were brought to the camp, were Jewish, which would mean that around 123,000 Jews were brought to Majdanek and approximately 59,00 of them died, if the latest figures claimed by Tomasz Kranz are correct. Most of the Jews sent to Majdanek were from the Lublin area, according to the Museum booklet.
The Majdanek camp was also a labor camp; the women worked in the clothing warehouses and a shoe repair shop. The men were engaged in constructing buildings for the SS headquarters of Operation Reinhard at Majdanek.
In his book, Marszalek wrote that the prisoners at Majdanek were from the following 28 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the USSR, the United States of America, and Yugoslavia.
Marszalek wrote that Polish citizens were 59.8% of the total, followed by citizens of the USSR at 19.8%, Czechoslovakia at 13.3%, the German Reich at 4% and France at 1.7%.
All the other countries put together accounted for only 1% of the total. There was a total of 54 ethnic groups represented, including 25 different ethnic groups from the Soviet Union and 4 ethnic groups from Yugoslavia.
The Lublin Jews, who were unable to work, were sent to the Belzec death camp. All the prisoners at Majdanek were required to work.
According to information in the Museum guidebook, there were around 43,000 Jews, in the Lublin district, who were brought to Majdanek and shot on November 3rd, 4th, and 5th in 1943, These victims were brought to Majdanek from other camps, such as Poniatowa and Trawniki, and they were not registered in the camp.
A memorial plaque near the Majdanek Mausoleum states that 18,000 Jews were shot at Majdanek on November 3, 1943 and buried in mass graves, which were later dug up, so the bodies could be burned.