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Majdanek (originally Konzentrationslager Lublin), Lublin, Poland

May 22nd, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Photo: Inside of the crematorium

Majdanek (originally Konzentrationslager Lublin) is the site of a German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, roughly 2.5 miles (four kilometers) away from the center of the Polish city Lublin. Unlike many other Nazi concentration and extermination camps, Majdanek is not hidden away in some remote forest or obscured from view by natural barriers, nor was it surrounded by a "security zone." It was established in October 1941, at Heinrich Himmler's orders, following his visit to Lublin in July 1941. Majdanek was an SS-run prisoner of war camp, under the command of Karl Otto Koch. In February 1943, it was turned into a concentration camp.

The camp's name derives from a Lublin district called Majdan Tatarski, and was given it in 1941 by the locals, who were certainly aware of its existence. The original German name of the camp was "Konzentrationslager Lublin" (Concentration Camp Lublin).

At its peak operation, it held about 50,000 inmates. In the early months of 1942, plans were made and approved to expand Majdanek to contain as many as 250,000 inmates. Between April 1942 and July 1944, extermination took place in Majdanek using gas chambers and crematoria. Majdanek was one of two death camps that used Zyklon B in its gas chambers. However, carbon monoxide was also used.

According to the data from the official Majdanek State Museum (see external link below) about 300,000 inmates passed through the camp, with over 40% Jews and about 35% Poles. Other major nationalities included Belarusians, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Austrians, French, Italians and Dutch.

Majdanek provided forced labor for munitions works and the Steyr-Daimler-Puch weapons factory.

The camp was liquidated in July 1944, but the crematoria were all that could be destroyed before the Soviet Red Army arrived, making Majdanek the best-preserved camp of the Holocaust. Although 1,000 inmates were evacuated on a death march, the Red Army found thousands of inmates, mainly POWs, still in the camp and ample evidence of the mass murder that had occurred there.

The Soviets in 1944 immediately converted this camp into a NKVD concentration camp, where thousands of fighters of the Polish underground Armia Krajowa (AK) and NSZ were imprisoned.

There is a permanent display of a large pile of shoes seized from Majdanek victims at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In October 2005, four survivors of Majdanek returned to the site of the camp and enabled archaeologists to find some 50 objects which had been buried by inmates. These objects included wedding rings, watches, earrings, and coins.

Because of a lack of records, the death toll at Majdanek has always been more difficult to estimate than that of other extermination camps. The Soviets initially overestimated the number of deaths, claiming in July 29, 1944 that there were no less than 400,000 Jewish victims, and the official Soviet count was of 1,500,000 victims of different nationalities, though this estimate was never taken seriously by scholars. In 1961 Raul Hilberg estimated the number of the Jewish victims as 50,000, though other sources (including the camp museum) officially estimated 100,000 Jewish victims and up to 200,000 non-Jews killed.

The most recent research by the Head of Scientific Department at Majdanek Museum, historian Tomasz Kranz indicates that there were 78,000 victims, 59,000 of whom were Jews. The differences in various estimates stem from different methods used for estimation and the amounts of evidence available to the researchers. The Soviet figures relied on the most crude methodology, also used to make early Auschwitz estimates - it was assumed that the number of victims more or less corresponded to the crematoria capacities. Later researchers tried to take much more evidence into account, using records of deportations and population censuses, as well as the Nazis own records. Hilberg's 1961 estimate, using these records, aligns closely with Kranz's report.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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