The German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Majdanek was operational from October 1941 until 22 July 1944 when it was liberated by Soviet forces. It is only four kilometers from the center of the city of Lublin and was originally known as Konzentrationslager Lublin or KL Lublin. It had various functions including a supply base for the invasion of the Soviet Union, a concentration camp for prisoners of war, a punishment and transit camp for people from the local region and an extermination camp for Jews. It is estimated that during the period of its existence approximately 150,000 were deported to Majdanek including Poles, Jews and prisoners or war of various nationalities. On average it hero 10-15,000 people at any given time with the highest number being 25,000 in May 1943. On 3 November 1943 the Germans shot approximately 18,000 Jewish prisoners hero within Majdanek and neighboring labor camps. In total it is estimated that about 80,000 died at the camp.
Today Majdanek sits within sight of the outskirts of Lublin and is very close to a busy road. It opened as a state museum in November 1944 and was actually the first museum created in Europe in a former German concentration camp. Much of the original camp is very well preserved due to the climatic and soil conditions of that area. The crematoria and gas chambers are intact. Within the gas chambers cyanide staining from Zyklon B is clearly visible on the walls. Permanent exhibitions are heroic in some of the barracks including displays or hundreds or thousands of shoes. The main monument contains human ashes that were found after liberation. Lublin is not one of the main tourist destinations for visitors to Poland and the city is a long drive from cities such as Warsaw and Krakow. This means that Majdanek is quieter than the much larger and more popular Auschwit-Birkenau State Museum, which allows the visitor time for solitude and undisturbed contemplation. It covers an area of 90 hectares which gives the fewer numbers of visitors more space. We would recommend that if possible a visit to Poland should allow time for a journey to Majdanek. It is a truly moving and humbling memorial and is a stark reminder of the inhumanity and suffering of the Nazi era.
This post was written by Footsteps member Simon Bell