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Majdanek Death Camp

History

Majdanek is one of the six death camps built by the German/Nazi occupation forces and the SS in occupied Poland. Today the camp actually is in the city limits of Lublin, Poland. Originally a POW camp for Soviet prisoners, camp authorities started using Zyklon B to murder prisoners, and the camp continued to serve that purpose until it was liberated by the Soviet army in July 1944. After Fall 1944, the USSR used it as a place for detention of anti-Soviet forces among the Polish population.

The numbers of victims at Majdanek has fluctuated because of different representations of numbers at trials and recent recalculation due to more Nazi records materializing, especially from the former USSR. Number of victims is now estimated to be 78,000, including 61,000 Jews. 12,000 Poles were killed in Najdanek as well as 5,000 Soviet prisoners of war.

Memorialization

Among all the death camps, Majdanek is the best preserved, as it was captured almost in tact by Soviet forces. Unlike Auschwitz, where the SS dynamited the gas chambers before leaving the camp, at Majdanek almost all the important buildings remained at the end of the war: gas chambers, crematorium furnaces, prisoners barracks, SS barracks, administrative buildings and warehouses. However, many of the wood buildings were dismantled by the local population. Only 70 of the original 280 buildings existing in 1944 still occupy the site today, and many of those that remain are reconstructions.

Memorialization efforts began in 1947 when the local population collected ashes from the victims into a mound near execution ditches and the crematorium. An official museum project began in 1949, including the preservation of gas chambers and baths and the rebuilding of fences, sentry boxes, roads, and barracks. Warehouse barracks and workshops housed exhibitions, while the SS quarters and the officers’ house were used for museum administration. Trees were planted as memorials at the prisoner fields. These trees were later cut down when a new museum plan was put forward in 1961. This plan required that the site be kept as authentic as was possible, which included removing the trees, along with extensive maintenance and reconstruction work.

A competition for a memorial at Majdanek was held from 1967-1968. Wiktor Tolkin’s design was selected out of 130 submissions. It was inaugurated on 1 September 1939, the thirtieth anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. Tolkin’s design came to include three parts: the “Road of Homage and Remembrance” that leads to the memorial, a mausoleum that now holds victims’ ashes originally collected by the local civilians, and a large abstract stone monument, pictured above, that represents the great weight of memory of Majdanek. In addition to this monument, the site also includes a historical exhibit on Majdanek that occupies nine of the historical buildings.

Majdanek Death Camp
Signage indicating entrance to Majdanek State Museum with topographical map of camp

Majdanek Death Camp

Guard towers

Majdanek Death Camp


Majdanek Death Camp
Undressing barracks: Shower room

Majdanek Death Camp

Detail of roof interior architecture of barracks

Majdanek Death Camp

Shower heads in actual shower (not gas chamber)

Majdanek Death Camp

Shower heads in shower room

Majdanek Death Camp

Experimental Gas Chamber. Vent in ceiling recalls the square vents at Auschwitz Crematorium II used for access to gassing columns. Zyklon B and carbon monoxide were used at Majdanek.

Majdanek Death Camp

Carbon monoxide gassing chamber. Note blue discoloration on walls

 

Majdanek Death Camp

Zyklon B gas chamber with description

 

Majdanek Death Camp

Door to gas chamber with peep hole

Majdanek Death Camp

Zyklon B canisters

Majdanek Death Camp

Storage barracks and warehouses

Majdanek Death Camp

Typical Majdanek barracks

Majdanek Death Camp

Line of barracks

Majdanek Death Camp

Barracks

Majdanek Death Camp

Prisoners' shoes in warehouses

Majdanek Death Camp

More shoes

Majdanek Death Camp

Another view of shoes

Majdanek Death Camp

Barracks with sleeping shelves removed

Majdanek Death Camp

Plank beds--reconstructed

Majdanek Death Camp

Close up of reconstructed plank beds

 

Majdanek Death Camp

Barracks on Appellplatz

 

Majdanek Death Camp

Appellplatz--roll call area in front of main prisoners' barracks

 

Majdanek Death Camp

Appellplatz with view of Lublin suburbs in background

Majdanek Death Camp

Fence with Lublin in background

Majdanek Death Camp
Monument on Field III at Majdanek, designed by one of the prisoners, Albin Maria Boniecki

Majdanek Death Camp

Double fence

Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Death Camp
Ashes under dome of mausoleum

Majdanek Death Camp
Crematorium
Majdanek Death Camp
Dissection table
Majdanek Death Camp
Memorial room with symbolic crypt
Majdanek Death Camp
Crematoria built by Topf and Sons, Erfurt
Majdanek Death Camp
Crematoria built by Topf and Sons, Erfurt
Majdanek Death Camp
Ash pans crematoria
Majdanek Death Camp
Memorials to victims of different nationalities


Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969

Majdanek Death Camp

Mausoleum contains the ashes of victims. Designed by Wictor Tolkin, 1969

Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969

Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969

Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969

Majdanek Death Camp

Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969

Majdanek Death Camp
Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969
Majdanek Death Camp
Majdanek Momument to Struggle and Martyrdom. Architect: Wiktor Tolkin, built in 1969