Liberation of Majdanek 1944

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Liberation of Majdanek 1944

Postby David Thompson » 15 Mar 2003 18:17

Here are two stories from the New York Times, published 30 and 31 Aug 1944, by a correspondent who visited the Majdanek camp not long after its liberation by the Soviet Army, and the NYT editorial reaction to the discovery:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 15 Mar 2003 18:19

Part 2:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 15 Mar 2003 18:50

Part 3:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 15 Mar 2003 18:59

Part 4:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 19 Apr 2004 07:34

Here is another account of the liberation of Majdanek in 1944, which Roberto was kind enough to find and copy for our readers: British war correspondent Alexander Werth wrote the following about his own impressions of Majdanek, early reports thereon and the reaction to such reports in the West:

Since the end of the war, there have been numerous accounts of various German Extermination Camps - Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Belsen and others - but the story of Maidanek has not perhaps been fully told to Western readers; moreover, Maidanek holds a very special place in the Soviet-German war.

As they advanced, the Russians had been learning more and more of German atrocities and the enormous number of killings. But, somehow, all this killing was spread over relatively wide areas, and though it added up to far, far more than Maidanek, it did not have the vast monumental, “industrial” quality of that unbelievable Death Factory two miles from Lublin.

“Unbelievable” it was: when I sent the BBC a detailed report on Maidanek in August 1944, they refused to use it; they thought it was a Russian propaganda stunt, and it was not till the discovery in the west of Buchenwald, Dachau and Belsen that they were convinced that Maidanek and Auschwitz were also genuine ...

The Russians discovered Maidanek on July 23, the very day they entered Lublin. About a week later Simonov described it all in Pravda; but most of the Western press ignored his account. But in Russia the effect was devastating. Everybody had heard of Babyi Yar and thousands of other German atrocities; but this was something even more staggering. It brought into sharper focus than anything else done the real nature, scope and consequence of the Nazi régime in action. For here was a vast industrial undertaking in which thousands of “ordinary” Germans had made it a full-time job to murder millions of other people in a sort of mass orgy of professional sadism or, worse still, with the business-like conviction that this was a job like any other. The effect of Maidanek was to be enormous, not least in the Red Army. Thousands of Russian soldiers were made to visit it.

My first reaction to Maidanek was a feeling of surprise. I had imagined something horrible and sinister beyond words. It was nothing like that. It looked singularly harmless from outside. “Is that it?” was my first reaction when we stopped at what looked like a large workers’ settlement. Behind us was the many towered skyline of Lublin. There was much dust on the road, and the grass was a dull, greenish-gray color.

The camp was separated from the road by a couple of barbed-wire fences, but these did not look particularly sinister, and might have been put up outside any military or semi-military establishment. The place was large; like a whole town of barracks painted a pleasant soft green. There were many people around - soldiers and civilians. A Polish sentry opened the barbed-wire gate to let our cars enter the central avenue, with the large green barracks on either side. And then we stopped outside a large barrack marked Bad und Desinfektion II. “This,” somebody said, “is where the large numbers of those arriving at the camp were brought in.”

The inside of this barrack was made of concrete, and water taps came out of the wall, and around the room there were benches where the clothes were put down and afterwards collected. So this was the place into which they were driven. Or perhaps they were politely invited to “Step this way, please?” Did any of them suspect, while washing themselves after a long journey, what would happen a few minutes later?

Anyway, after the washing was over, they were asked into the next room; at this point even the most unsuspecting must have begun to wonder. For the “next room” was a series of large square concrete structures, each about one-quarter of the size of the bath house, and, unlike it, had no windows. The naked people (men one time, women another time, children the next) were driven or forced from the bath-house into these dark concrete boxes - about five yards square - and then, with 200 or 250 people packed into each box - and it was completely dark in there, except for a small skylight in the ceiling and the spyhole in the door - the process of gassing began. First some hot air was pumped in from the ceiling and then the pretty pale-blue crystals of Cyclon were showered down on the people, and in the hot wet air they rapidly evaporated. In anything from two to ten minutes everybody was dead ... There were six concrete boxes - gas chambers - side by side. “Nearly two thousand people could be disposed of here simultaneously,” one of the guides said.

But what thoughts passed through these people’s minds during the first few minutes while the crystals were falling; could anyone still believe that this humiliating process of being packed into a box and standing there naked, rubbing backs with other naked people, had anything to do with disinfection?

At first it was all very hard to take in, without an effort of the imagination. There were a number of very dull-looking concrete structures which, if their doors had been wider, might anywhere else have been mistaken for a row of nice little garages. But the doors - the doors! They were heavy steel doors, and each had a heavy steel bolt. And in the middle of the door was a spyhole, a circle, three inches in diameter composed of about a hundred small holes. Could the people in their death agony see the SS-man’s eye as he watched them? Anyway, the SS-man had nothing to fear: his eye was well-protected by the steel netting over the spyhole. And like the proud maker of reliable safes, the maker of the door had put his name round the spyhole: “Auert, Berlin”. Then the touch of blue on the floor caught my eye. It was very faint, but still legible. In blue chalk someone had scribbled the word “vergast” and had drawn crudely above it a skull and crossbones. I had never seen this word before, but it obviously meant “gassed” - and not merely “gassed” but, with that eloquent little prefix ver, “gassed out”. That this job finished, and now for the next lot. The blue chalk came into motion when there was nothing but a heap of naked corpses inside. But what cries, what curses, what prayers perhaps had been uttered inside that gas chamber only a few minutes before? Yet the concrete walls were thick, and Herr Auert had done a wonderful job, so probably no one could hear anything from outside. And even if they did, the people in the camp knew what it was all about.

It was here, outside Bad und Desinfektion II, in the side-lane leading into the central avenue, that the corpses were loaded into lorries, covered with tarpaulins, and carted to the crematorium at the other end of the camp, about half a mile away. Between the two there were dozens of barracks, painted the same soft green. Some had notice-boards outside, others had not. Thus, there was an Effekten Kammer and a Frauen-Bekleidungskammer; here the victims’ luggage and the women’s clothes were sorted out, before they were sent to the central Lublin warehouse, and then on to Germany.

At the other end of the camp, there were enormous mounds of white ashes; but as you looked closer, you found that they were not perfect ashes: for they had among them masses of small human bones: collar bones, finger bones, and bits of skull, and even a small femur, which can only have been that of a child. And, beyond these mounds there was a sloping plain, on which there grew acres an acres of cabbages. They were large luxuriant cabbages, covered with a layer of white dust. As I heard somebody explaining: “Layer of manure, then layer of ashes, that’s the way it was done ... These cabbages are all grown on human ashes ... The SS-men used to cart most of the ashes to their model farm, some distances away. A well-run farm; the SS-men liked to eat these overgrown cabbages, and the prisoners ate these cabbages, too, although they knew that they would almost certainly be turned into cabbages themselves before long...”

Next we came to the crematorium. It was a great big structure of six enormous furnaces and above them rose a large factory chimney. The wooden structure that used to cover the crematorium, as well as the adjoining wooden house, where Obersturmbannführer Mussfeld, the “Director of the Crematorium” used to live, had been burned down. Mussfeld had lived there among the stench of burned and burning bodies, and took a personal interest in the proceedings. But the furnaces stood there, large, enormous. There were still piles of coke on the one side; on the other side were the furnace doors where the corpses went in ... The place stank, not violently, but it stank of decomposition. I looked down. My shoes were white, with human dust, and the concrete floor around the ovens was strewn with parts of charred human skeletons. Here was a whole chest with its ribs, here a piece of skull, here a lower jaw with a molar on either side, and nothing but sockets in between. Where had the false teeth gone? To the side of the furnaces was a large high concrete slab, shaped like an operating table. Here a specialist - a medical man perhaps? - examined every corpse before it went into the oven, and extracted any gold fillings, which were then sent to Dr. Walter Funk at the Reichsbank ...

Somebody was explaining the details of the whole mechanism: the furnaces were made of fireproof brick, and the temperature had always to be maintained at 1,700º centigrade; and there was an engineer called Tellener who was an expert in charge of maintaining the right temperature. But the corroded condition of some of the doors showed that the temperature had been increased above normal to make the corpses burn more quickly. The normal capacity of the installation was 2,000 corpses a day, but sometimes there were more corpses than that to deal with, and there were some special days, like the great Jew-extermination day of November 3, 1943, when 20,000 people - men, women and children - were killed; it was impossible to gas them all that day; so most of them had been shot and buried in a wood some distance away. On other occasions many corpses were burned outside the crematorium funeral pyres soaked in petrol; these pyres would smolder for weeks and fill the air with a stench...

Standing in front of the great crematorium, with human remains scattered on the ground, one began to listen to all these details with a kind of dull indifference. The “industrial report” was becoming unreal in its enormity ...
Beside the charred remains of Mussfeld’s house, there lay piles of large black cans, like enormous cocktail shakers, marked “Buchenwald”. They were urns and had been brought from that other concentration camp. People from Lublin who had lost a relative at Maidanek, somebody said, would pay substantial sums to the SS men for the victim’s remains. It was another loathsome SS racket. Needless to say, the ashes with which the cocktail shakers were filled were nobody’s ashes in particular.

Some distance away from the crematorium, a trench twenty or thirty yards long had been re-opened and, looking down through the fearful stench, I could see hundreds of naked corpses, many with bullet holes at the back of their skulls. Most of them were men with shaved heads; it was said that these had been Russian war prisoners.

I had seen enough, and hastened to join Colonel Grosz, who was waiting beside the car on the road. The stench was still pursuing me; it now seemed to permeate everything - the dusty grass beside the barbed-wire fence, and the red poppies that were naively growing in the midst of all this.

Grosz and I waited for the rest of the party to join us. A Polish youngster with tattered clothes and a torn cap, and barefooted, came up and talked to us. He was about eleven, but talked of the camp with a curious nonchalance, with that nil admirari that had become his outlook on life after living for two or three years in the immediate proximity of the Death Camp ... This boy had seen everything, at the ages of nine, and ten and eleven.

“A lot of people in Lublin,” he said, “lost somebody here. In our village people were very worried, because we knew what was going on in the camp, and the Germans threatened to destroy the village and kill everybody in case we talked too much. Don’t know why they should have bothered,” the boy said with a shrug, “everybody in Lublin knew anyway.”

And he recounted a few things he had seen; he had seen ten prisoners being beaten to death; he had seen files of prisoners carrying stones, and had seen those who collapsed being killed with pickaxes by the SS men. He had heard an old man screaming while he was being chewed up by police dogs. ... And, looking across the fields of cabbages growing on human ashes, he said, almost with a touch of admiration: “Everything is growing well here - cabbages, and turnips and cauliflowers ... It’s all land belonging to our village, and now that the SS are gone, we’ll get the land back.

There was much coming and going on the road - hundreds of men and women were going into and out of the camp; Russian soldiers were being taken in large parties to be shown the pits and the gas chambers and the crematoria; and Polish soldiers of the 4th Division and new Polish recruits. It was policy to make them see it all, and to impress upon them - in case they were not yet sufficiently impressed - what kind of enemy they were fighting. A few days before a crowd of German prisoners had been taken through the camp. Around stood crowds of Polish women and children, and they screamed at the Germans, and there was a half-insane old Jew who bellowed fanatically in a husky voice: “Kindermörder, Kindermörder!” (Child murderers) and the Germans went through the camp, at first at an ordinary pace, and then faster and faster, till they ran in a frantic panicky stampede, and they were green with terror, and their hands shook and their teeth chattered ...

I shall describe only briefly some of the other aspects of that vast industrial enterprise that the Murder Camp represented. There were those trenches in Krempecki Forest, a few miles away, where they murdered 10,000 Jews on that 3rd of November. Here speed was even more important than business. They shot them, without taking off their clothes, even without taking the women’s handbags and the children’s toys away. Amongst the stinking corpses, I saw a small child with a teddy-bear... But this was unusual; the great principle of the Murder Camp was that nothing should be wasted. There was, for instance, that enormous barn-like structure which had contained 850,000 pairs of boots and shoes - among them tiny baby shoes; now, by the end of August, half the shoes had gone; hundreds of people from Lublin had come and taken whole bagfuls and shoes.

“How disgusting,” somebody remarked.

Colonel Grosz shrugged his shoulders. “What do you expect? After having had the Germans here for years, people stopped being squeamish. They had lived for years buying and selling and speculating; they are short of shoes, so they say to themselves: ‘These are perfectly good shoes; someone will get them eventually; why not grab them while the going’s good?’”

And then - perhaps the most horrifying thing of all - there was the enormous building called the “Chopin Lager”, the Chopin Warehouse, because, by a curious irony, it happened to be in a street called after the composer. Outside, there was still a notice, with the swastika on top, announcing a German public meeting:

Kundgebung.
Donnerstag, 20. Juli 1944
Reichsredner P.G. Geyer.
Im Hause der National-Sozialisten, Lublin.

(Meeting, Thursday, July 20, 1944. Speaker from the Reich, Party Comrade Geyer, in the House of National Socialism, Lublin)


One wondered what kind of cheerful news the Partei-Genosse Geyer had to tell the Maidanek murderers a couple of days before the Russians entered Lublin, and while most of the Germans must have been busy packing up. It was also the day of the bomb that had failed to kill Hitler ...

The Chopin Warehouse was like a vast, five-story department store, part of the grandiose Maidanek Murder Factory. Here the possessions of hundreds of thousands of murdered people were sorted and classified and packed for export to Germany. In one big room there were thousands of trunks and suitcases, some still with carefully written-out labels; there was a room marked Herrenschuhe and another marked Damenschuhe; here were thousands of pairs of shows, all of much better quality than those seen in the big dump near the camp. Then there was a long corridor with thousands of women’s dresses, and another with thousands of overcoats. Another room had large wooden shelves all along it, through the center and along the walls; it was like being in a Woolworth store: here were piled up hundreds of safety razors, and shaving brushes, and thousands of pen-knives and pencils. In the next room were piled up children’s toys: teddy-bears, and celluloid dolls and tin automobiles by the hundred, and simple jigsaw puzzles, and an American-made Mickey Mouse ... And so on, and so on. In a junk heap I even found the manuscript of a Violin Sonata, Op. 15 by somebody called Ernst J. Weil of Prague. What hideous story was behind this?

On the ground floor there had been the Accounts Department. Letters were strewn all over the place; mostly letters from various SS and Nazi organizations to the “Chopin Lager, Lublin”, asking to be sent this and that. Many of the letters were orders from the Lublin SS and Police Chief: on November 3, 1942 a carefully-typed letter instructed the Chopin Lager to supply the Hitler Youth Camp, Company 934, with a long list of articles including blankets, table linen, crockery, bed linen, towels, kitchen utensils, etc. The letter specified that all this was wanted for 4,000 children evacuated from the Reich. There was another list of articles for 2,000 German children who required “sports shirts, training suits, coats, aprons, gym shoes, skiing boots, plus-fours, warm underwear, warm gloves, woolen scarves”. The department store was euphemistically called “Altsachenverwertungsstelle, Lublin” (Lublin Disposal Centre for Second-hand Goods). There was also a letter from a German woman living in Lublin asking for a pram and a complete layette for her newborn child. Another document showed that in the first few months of 1944 alone eighteen railway of goods from the Lublin warehouse had been sent to Germany.

The joint Russo-Polish Tribunal investigating the Maidanek crimes sat in the building of the Court of Appeal at Lublin. It included many leading Polish personalities - the president of the District Court, Czepanski; Professor Bielkowski (whom I had already met); a round, stout prelate, Father Kruszinski, Dr. Emil Sommerstein, the leading Jewish member of the Lublin Committee, and a former Sejm deputy, and Mr. Witos, the Commissioner for Agriculture. That these people were not Russian stooges could be seen from the eagerness with which one of the members insisted in telling the foreign press that the Russians had arrested 2,000 AK men in the Lublin District. In an introductory speech, the Polish president of the tribunal gave the history of Maidanek camp, a lurid catalogue of all the various ways in which people were tortured and killed. There were SS men who specialized in the “stomach-kick” or the “testicle-kick” as a form of murder; other prisoners were drowned in pools, or tied to posts and allowed to die of exhaustion; there had been eighteen cases of cannibalism in the camp even before it had officially become, on November 3, 1943, an extermination camp. He spoke of the chief of Maidanek, Obersturmbannführer Weiss, and his assistant, a notorious sadist, Anton Thumann, and Mussfeld, the chief of the crematorium, and many others.

Himmler himself had twice visited Maidanek and had been pleased with it. It was estimated that 1,500,000 people had been put to death there. The big fry had, of course, fled, but six of the small fry - two Poles and four Germans - had been caught and, after a trial, they were all hanged a few weeks later.

The four Germans - three of them SS men - were professional killers; but it seemed a little hard on the two young Poles, both of whom had originally been arrested by the Germans and had then “sold themselves” to them, in the hope of surviving. (The interrogation of these men is described in my article “First Contact with Poland”, published in the Russian Review, No. 1, Penguin Books, 1945).

The press and radio in the West were still skeptical. Typical was the BBC’s refusal to use my story, as was also this comment of the New York Herald Tribune at the time:

“Maybe we should wait for further corroboration of the horror story that comes from Lublin. Even of top of all we have been taught of the maniacal Nazi ruthlessness, this example sounds inconceivable ...

The picture presented by American correspondents requires no comment except that, if authentic, the regime capable of such crimes deserves annihilation.”


Source of quote: Russia at War 1941-1945, by Alexander Werth, 1964


Readers may also find these threads of interest:

Son of Majdanek Revisited
viewtopic.php?t=28646

Majdanek death toll
viewtopic.php?t=6778

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 19 Apr 2004 14:37

The scepticism of the BBC in relation to the first reports of the Lublin Concentration Camp (Majdanek was never its name, just a nickname) was justified.

The report by Werth shows that he was taken in by his Soviet hosts, for which he can of course not be blamed, since he really knew nothing about the camp.

His description of Bad- und Desinfektionsraum II shows that it was a standard disinfestation facility for persons arriving at a camp.

The layout described by him indicates a shower-room, with next to it six small concrete box-like rooms with no windows and a sealable door. The six rooms are obviously disinfestation chambers where the clothes of the arriving prisoners were deloused while they were taking a shower. After the arriving prisoners had finished their showers, they waited around until their deloused clothes were dry and they could get dressed.

Such disinfestation facilities had been in existence at transit camps since the latter part of the 19th century, and there are many descriptions of them. There was a similar disinfestation facility at Auschwitz Stammlager; there is a drawing of it in Van Pelt's Auschwitz book showing the same layout as the disinfestation facility at KL Lublin.

The suggestion that arriving prisoners were required to have a shower before being gassed is utterly absurd. Has anyone heard of a similar claim being made in relation to homicidal gassings at any place where they are known to have occurred? Of course not.

The "shower first, gas later" story was obviously dreamed up by the Soviet investigators to explain the proximity of a shower room to six disinfestation chambers (which the investigators may honestly have believed to have been homicidal chambers).

The enormous massacre on 3 November 1943, conducted by shooting in the open air in a number of pits, is a reality, and its occurrence suggests that there were no purpose-built homicidal gassing facilities in the camp.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 19 Apr 2004 20:53

Michael – Of the news report by Alexander Werth, you said:

(1)
His description of Bad- und Desinfektionsraum II shows that it was a standard disinfestation facility for persons arriving at a camp.

The layout described by him indicates a shower-room, with next to it six small concrete box-like rooms with no windows and a sealable door. The six rooms are obviously disinfestation chambers where the clothes of the arriving prisoners were deloused while they were taking a shower. After the arriving prisoners had finished their showers, they waited around until their deloused clothes were dry and they could get dressed.


Some observations on your comments:

(a) You spoke of
“disinfestation chambers where the clothes of the arriving prisoners were deloused while they were taking a shower. After the arriving prisoners had finished their showers, they waited around until their deloused clothes were dry and they could get dressed.”


There is a materials handling data sheet for Zyklon B, taken from Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, pp. 18-20, posted at page 2 of:

viewtopic.php?t=47151

Section IX of the materials handling data sheet (at pp. 2-3 of the scans) states that the use of Zyklon B for disinfestation purposes required an exposure time of between 6 and 32 hours, depending on the temperature, and that it usually took about 16 hours. Given the necessary length of the disinfestation process, your explanation that the arriving prisoners “waited around until their deloused clothes were dry and they could get dressed” seems improbable.

(b) As for the “disinfestation chamber” he saw, Werth mentioned that
“it was completely dark in there, except for a small skylight in the ceiling and the spyhole in the door.”
Later on in the article, he wrote:
“And in the middle of the door was a spyhole, a circle, three inches in diameter composed of about a hundred small holes,”
and added
“Anyway, the SS-man had nothing to fear: his eye was well-protected by the steel netting over the spyhole. And like the proud maker of reliable safes, the maker of the door had put his name round the spyhole: “Auert, Berlin”.”
If these are “obviously disinfestation chambers where the clothes of the arriving prisoners were deloused,” why is there a peephole? To watch the lengthy process of clothes being disinfested? And assuming that there was some reason for the peephole, why would the act of delousing clothes require the eye of the observer be “well-protected by the steel netting over the spyhole?”

(2) You also said:
“The enormous massacre on 3 November 1943, conducted by shooting in the open air in a number of pits, is a reality, and its occurrence suggests that there were no purpose-built homicidal gassing facilities in the camp.”
Werth describes the massacre a little differently from you. He says:
The normal capacity of the installation was 2,000 corpses a day, but sometimes there were more corpses than that to deal with, and there were some special days, like the great Jew-extermination day of November 3, 1943, when 20,000 people - men, women and children - were killed; it was impossible to gas them all that day; so most of them had been shot and buried in a wood some distance away.” (my emphasis)
In other words, the gas chambers and crematoria did not have the capacity to handle that many killings in so short a period of time, so the prisoners in excess of capacity were killed by shooting. Your phrasing might mislead an incautious reader, and give him the mistaken impressions that (a) the enormous massacre was conducted entirely by shooting, and (b) that there were no homicidal gassing facilities at KL Lublin (Majdanek).

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 20 Apr 2004 06:44

David,

If you consult any recent history of the massacre of the Jewish prisoners in KL Lublin on 3 November 1943, I do not think that you will find any that claim that it was perpetrated other than by shooting.

The massacre was part of Aktion Erntefest, the liquidation of the Jewish workers in the labour camps of the Lublin District, ordered by Himmler after the defeat of the German summer campaign in the Soviet Union and the beginning of the German retreat. The concentration of Jewish workers was perceived as a security threat located on the German supply lines, and after the series of ghetto uprisings during the year (of which that at the Warsaw Ghetto was only one) Himmler was taking no risks.

Jewish workers were taken from labour camps and brought to Lublin, where they were concentrated with the Jews already in KL Lublin. Once the concentration was completed, Sipo men from the entire neighbourhood were brought to the camp to carry out the shooting of the 17,000 Jews.

A shooting action always required many more personnel than a homicidal gassing, particularly one that was disguised in some way, eg as a shower room with dummy shower-heads etc. That is why large numbers of Sipo men needed to be brought in, in order to get the action over with in one day.

If there had been a homicidal gassing facility at KL Lublin, the Jewish workers could have been brought in over a period of days and killed, without exceeding the capacity of the gas-chamber or of the crematorium. There would have been no need to concentrate them, and then bring in large numbers of personnel to shoot them all in one go.

Remember that Alexander Werth was simply repeating what his Soviet guides told him. And they themselves had not been there when the massacre took place, and their account of it was a reconstruction based on evidence collected. No doubt they had been told about it by the citizens of Lublin, who lived right next to the camp and heard the shootings and saw the smoke. Or by the Polish POWs in the camp, who had seen what was happening and held a party to celebrate.

So there was plenty of information that a mass shooting had taken place. But the earnest Soviets are puzzled; if there was a homicidal facility in the camp with a gassing capacity of 1000 victims per day, why was it necessary to organise a shooting party to liquidate the 17,000 Jews? So they jump to the conclusion that the number to be liquidated exceeded the capacity of the alleged gas-chamber.

But the whole thesis of exceeding the capacity of the gas-chamber depends on the identification of Bad- und Dezinfektionsraum II as a homicidal facility. And that identification is faced with the anomaly of a functioning shower room (not a dummy one), which is not found in association with any proven homicidal facility anywhere else (although gas chambers were disguised as fake shower rooms), but is a standard part of a delousing facility in a reception centre.

So the Soviets develop the concept that the victims took a shower first to open their pores so as to absorb the gas better. But although HCN can be absorbed through the skin, it kills very quickly through being breathed in. So no need to open the pores.

The overwhelming majority of the victims killed with Zyklon-B perished in the Birkenau gas-chambers, and that was accomplished easily withoput any need to open their pores by showering them first.

So the Soviet explanation is a fiction designed to bolster the preconceived notion that the facility consisting of a shower room plus six adjoining hertically sealable rooms was a homicidal gas-chamber.

Here is Van Pelt's description of a delousing facility at Auschwitz Stammlager ("Auschwitz 1270 to the Present", page 223). It is the note to a drawing of the facility.

The center wing of the prisoner reception building in the main camp. Drawing by Kate Mullin. Sandwiched between the laundry (left) and the baths (right), the center wing houses the prisoner reception facilities and the pavillion with nineteen delousing chambers. The plan is a monumentalised version of barrack type Häftlinge 2a issued by Hans Kammler in the fall of 1941. Prisoners enter at the right (1) and proceed by a small vestibule into a waiting room (2) and a registration room (3) and arrive in an undressing room (4). There they hand in their clothes to attendants, who carry them through a covered gallery to the "soiled" side of the nineteen Zyklon-B delousing chambers (5). The naked prisoners proceed to the physician (6), the barber (7), and the shower room (8). After the shower, the prisoners proceed to the drying room (9) and end up in the dressing room (10), where they received their own deloused clothes from the other side, the "clean" side of the delousing shed (11) or inmate uniforms from the storage rooms above (12). They exit at 13.


The description of Bad- und Desinfektionsraum II at KL Lublin indicates that it was a simpler version of the state-of-the-art disinfestation facility at Auschwitz.

As to the speed at which the clothes of the arriving prisoners could be deloused, here is what Van Pelt says (page 220):

Effective as the procedure was, the camp authorities found it irritatingly inefficient. Too much Zyklon-B was needed and it took too long to exterminate the lice. The Degesch engineers addressed this problem in an article they sent to the building office in July 1941. They recommended the installation of many small heatable gas chambers designed to be used with the standard 200-gram tin of Zyklon-B. Heating the space to over thirty degrees centigrade helped the gas to evaporate from the grains quickly and completely, and shortened the exposure time needed to kill the lice to one hour. A sophisticated ventilation system not only ensured the rapid penetration of all the garments with prussic acid but also permitted the clothes to be worn safely fifteen minutes after fumigation. During this seventy-five minute procedure, the owners of the infested garments could be deloused also: the hair on their heads and bodies would be shaved, and they would wash under a shower.


Thus it was quite possible for prisoners to arrive at the disinfestation facility at KL Lublin, undress and hand in their clothes to be taken to the adjoining Zyklon-B chambers, have a shower and be shaved for personal delousing, and then receive their deloused clothes or camp uniforms at the end of the procedure.

As for the doors on the six chambers next to the shower room in Bad- und Desinfektionsraum II, I imagine they were some sort of standard gas-tight door that could have a spy-hole for all sorts of reasons.

By the way, does Pressac say anything about the disinfestation facilities at either Auschwitz or KL Lublin?

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 20 Apr 2004 08:34

Michael -- You asked:
By the way, does Pressac say anything about the disinfestation facilities at either Auschwitz or KL Lublin?
Pressac has a fair amount of material on the Auschwitz disinfestation facilities. I'm not certain about KL Lublin (Majdanek). I'm going to try and get some sleep and then I'll get back to this tomorrow.

User avatar
giles120
Member
Posts: 148
Joined: 21 Jan 2004 16:39
Location: UK

Postby giles120 » 20 Apr 2004 13:30

http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/JGmajdanek.html

This article makes assumptions, but is an interesting read. As it says, each person is entitled to their own opinion and to judge evidence as they see fit. It is written by a revisionist historian, and goes against the norm. Read it, and then make up her own mind.

By posting this article, I am in no way saying that I agree with its contents.

Thanks.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 20 Apr 2004 18:03

Michael -- Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989 has 72 oversize pages (pp 15-86) on delousing gas chambers and other disinfestation facilities as Auschwitz. The subchapter categories (my description and not that of Pressac) are:

(1) On Zyklon-B

(2) the 5 Stammlager delousing facilities in Blocks 1, 3 and 26

(3) the reception building delousing facility in the main camp/ 19 BOOS Zyklon-B gas chambers

(4) Kanada I delousing facilities

(5) BW 5a and BW5b delousing facilities in KGL Birkenau

(6) the disinfestation installation in the Gypsy Camp at Birkenau

(7) the Birkenau Zentral Sauna with its disinfection autoclaves and Topf disinfestation ovens

I found nothing in the book about KL Lublin (Majdanek), but I may have overlooked something as the 564-page tome has no index(!). Is there anything in particular which interests you?

By the way, here is another account of the peephole in the gas chamber door at Majdanek. Note that the grate over the peephole is described as being on the inside of the door, facing the gas chamber itself. Obviously the grate over the peephole was designed to protect the eye of the observer from something (or more likely, someone) inside the gas chamber. The description is from part 1 of “Lublin Annihilation Camp," by Konstantin Simonov, and published 29 Aug 1944 by the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C.

But we open a door and find ourselves in another disinfecting chamber which is built on an entirely different principle. It is a square room, a little over two meters high and roughly six meters long and as many wide. The walls, ceiling and floor are all built of solid gray concrete. There are no shelves for clothes here such as we saw in the other chamber. The room is absolutely bare. A single steel door hermetically closes the entrance to the chamber. It can be fastened from the outside by an impressive steel bar. In the walls of this concrete vault are three apertures. In two of them pipes are fitted which lead out into the open. The third aperture is a little spy hole, a small square window barred on the inside by a stout steel grid fitted into the concrete. A thick panel of glass covers the outer side of the aperture so that it cannot be reached through the grid.

What is on the other side of this spy hole? To answer this question we leave the chamber and find that next to it is another and smaller room, also built of concrete. It is into this room that the spy hole leads. Here there is an electric switch. And here too, on the floor, stand several hermetically sealed cylindrical tins on which is inscribed the word “cyclone" and in smaller letters “for special use in Eastern regions." It was the contents of these tins which was poured through the pipes into the chamber next door after it had been filled with people.


You reasoned:
But the whole thesis of exceeding the capacity of the gas-chamber depends on the identification of Bad- und Dezinfektionsraum II as a homicidal facility. And that identification is faced with the anomaly of a functioning shower room (not a dummy one), which is not found in association with any proven homicidal facility anywhere else (although gas chambers were disguised as fake shower rooms), but is a standard part of a delousing facility in a reception centre.

So the Soviets develop the concept that the victims took a shower first to open their pores so as to absorb the gas better. But although HCN can be absorbed through the skin, it kills very quickly through being breathed in. So no need to open the pores.

The overwhelming majority of the victims killed with Zyklon-B perished in the Birkenau gas-chambers, and that was accomplished easily withoput any need to open their pores by showering them first.

So the Soviet explanation is a fiction designed to bolster the preconceived notion that the facility consisting of a shower room plus six adjoining hertically sealable rooms was a homicidal gas-chamber.


Immediately after this passage you gave a quotation from Van Pelt on the Auschwitz facilities. Interestingly enough, Van Pelt believes that there were homicidal gassing facilities at KL Lublin (Majdanek). Here is what he had to say about it in the "Van Pelt Report" prepared for the Lipstadt and Irving libel trial. The quotations are taken from the report of a joint Soviet-Polish commission comprised of three Russian and eight Polish members (amongst whom a priest,the President of the Lublin Red Cross,two academics and two lawyers), which was assisted by a six-member Board of Medico-Legal Experts and a four- member board of Technico-Legal and Chemical Experts. The English-language version of the report was made available by the Soviet embassy in Washington D.C. on October 17, 1944:
One of the methods most widely used for the mass extermination of people in Maidanek Camp was asphyxiation with gas. A board of technico-legal and chemical experts - presided over by the architect engineer of the town of Lublin, KELLES-KRAUSE, and consisting of Major Engineer Assistant Professor TELANER, Master of Technical Science GRIGORYEV, and Master of Technical Science PELKIS, established that cells built on the territory of the camp had been used chiefly for the mass extermination of human beings.

There were six such cells. Some had been used for killing people with “S.O." gas, others for killing with the poisonous chemical substance called “cyclone." On the camp territory there were discovered 535 drums of “Cyclone-B2" preparation and several steel cylinders containing carbon monoxide....

On the basis of precise calculation used in the technical examination of the gas cells, chemical analysis of the carbon monoxide and “cyclone," the experts have ascertained:
”Technical and sanitary-chemical analysis of the gas cells in Maidanek Concentration Camp fully confirms that all these cells, especially cells Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, were destined and used for the large-scale extermination of people by poison gasses such as hydrocyanic acid (the 'cyclone' preparation) and carbon monoxide."


The conclusions by the technical experts were corroborated by eye-witness testimony of the captured SS men.

At a session of the Commission German SS men who had served in the camp related the following about the large-scale gassings of people: SS Rottenfuehrer Haensche stated that on September 15, 1942, 350 people, including women and children, were killed in a gas cell. SS Oberscharfuehrer Ternes told the Commission about the asphyxiation of 500 people, including many women and children, in gas cells on October 16, 1943.

The selection of people for asphyxiation was done systematically by the German camp doctors Blanke and Rindfleisch. The same Ternes stated: ”
On the evening of October 21, 1943, Camp Doctor SS Untersturmfuehrer Rindfleisch told me that on that very day 300 children of three to 10 years of age had been asphyxiated with the “cyclone" preparation in a gas cell."


Bodies were regularly removed from the gas cells to be burned in the crematorium or on bonfires. The bodies were transported on trucks or on special platforms hauled by tractors. Many eyewitnesses gave evidence on this point. The German prisoner of war SS Rottenfuehrer Theodor Scholen, who had worked in the camp,stated:
”I often saw the truck, with a trailer attached, running from the gas cell to the crematorium and back. It took dead bodies from the gas cell, and then returned empty."


From the Van Pelt Report, "Concerning Evidence," Section III: Intimations 1941-1945, at:

http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.com/evidence/van.asp

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 21 Apr 2004 00:51

Here is a link to what appears to be a Jewish site, describing the gas chambers at KL Lublin.

http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Holoca ... anek2.html

The description of the interior of Barrack 41, the structure containing the shower room and three rooms stated to be homicidal gas-chambers, reinforces me in my conclusion that the structure was a reception centre for incoming prisoners, where the arrivals were deloused by taking a shower while their clothes were deloused in the three chambers with Zyklon-B.

One of the chambers described had holes for blowing in hot air to speed up the action of the Zyklon-B. That is consistent with the description by Van Pelt of the Zyklon-B disinfestation chambers installed at the reception centre in Auschwitz Stammlager.

Note that the description states that the bars on the peepholes in the doors to the chambers were on the outside; that would be to prevent any person outside the chamber from breaking the glass while the gassing operation was in progress and allowing the poisonous air to escape.

The description on this site also states that there was another gas-chamber in another building, Barrack 42. That chamber is admitted to be a facility for delousing the clothing of prisoners in the camp.

Most probably the chambers in Barrack 41 were for delousing the clothing of new arrivals while they were undergoing the personal delousing process, while the chamber in Barrack 42 was for regular delousing of articles already in the camp, eg the clothing and bedding of prisoners.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 21 Apr 2004 01:24

Further to my last message.

After comparing the excerpt from the report by Simonov, posted by David Thompson, and the description of the chambers in the page linked by me, I am left rather confused.

It is difficult to tell exactly which of the three chambers Simonov is describing. It appears he also described another chamber which had shelves for clothes.

It would help a lot if we had a diagram of Barrack 41, identifying all the different chambers and showing which ones had blue staining, which ones holes in the wall, which ones holes in the roof etc., and how the various rooms are connected to each other. But I have not been able to find one.

The page I linked makes a brief reference to a gas chamber in the crematorium itself. If a homicidal gas chamber did exist in KL Lublin, that room is the most likely candidate in my opinion. Here is a link to another page describing the crematorium building, which is apparently a reconstruction.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 21 Apr 2004 02:49

Here is an excerpt on the massacre of 3 November 1943, from this site: http://www.cympm.com/majdanek.html


In November 1943, while a strong partisan movement developed in the Lublin district, in both Sobibor and Majdanek, Jewish inmates prepared to rise up against the SS barbarians. In retaliation, after the rebellion at extermination camp Sobibor, most of the Jewish prisoners at Majdanek, some forty-two thousand, were annihilated in a massacre which was euphemistically referred to as the "Harvest Festival." This action included the machine-gunning of eighteen thousand Jews in a single day, the 3rd of November 1943, in front of ditches the victims were made to dig, thus serving as their own graves. Toward the end of the war the SS tried to obliterate traces of the massacre of some forty-two thousand Jews, some of whom had been brought in from nearby work camps. When Russian soldiers liberated Majdanek on 24 July 1944 they only found a few hundred prisoners of various nationalities alive.


It backs up my statement that the massacre was a brutal security measure, and was carried out by shooting.

User avatar
Earldor
Member
Posts: 334
Joined: 27 Mar 2003 00:35
Location: Finland

Postby Earldor » 22 Apr 2004 12:13

michael mills wrote:It backs up my statement that the massacre was a brutal security measure, and was carried out by shooting.


But in no way does it confirm your claim that Erntefest somehow negates the existance of homicidal gas chambers in Majdanek/KL Lublin.

We have perpetrator and survivor testimony to confirm that. David has provided you with examples.

http://www.deathcamps.org/lublin/majdanek.html:

"The next group (2000-2500 people) of the Jewish Lubliners was sent on 24th April 1942 from the small ghetto at Majdan Tatarski (this ghetto was established after the liquidation of the big ghetto and was located close to the old airfield). From this group only 120-200 young men were selected for work. All others (mostly women, children and old people) were executed in Krepiec Forest, 11 km from Majdanek. Here the Nazis carried out the mass executions of the Majdanek prisoners and Jews from Majdan Tatarski, until the construction of the gas chambers at the camp site was finished. [...] In three gas chambers the people were gassed mostly by carbon-monoxide (this information is from the camp undergound reports which are kept at the museal archive)."

A. Donat: The Holocaust Kingdom p.200: "To the great surprise of the Maidanek old-timers, all women and children of this transport, including mrs. Igdal and the two children, ended up in the women's Field instead of in the gas chamber, as was the usual course of events. [...] Such a thing had never happened before in Maidanek.

Majdanek was similar in its function to Auschwitz-Birkenau, it was both a KZ and a vernichtungslager


Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Helmut0815