Last March, it was Szymon’s turn to organize a surprise trip. I was not aware of where we were going. Basically, I was only allowed to know when we would reach the destination.
Do you want to know where we ended up? Probably you can already guess from the title. But do you know what Majdanek is?
Saturday early morning we got ready and took a bus around six o’ clock. During the whole way I was guessing, but once I saw the city on the boards I knew where we were going. We were on our way to Lublin.
Lublin is one of the bigger city in the Eastern part of Poland, has its own airport and used to be a trade settlement in the middle ages. We came from Krakow, so it took us around 5 hours by bus, which makes it a nice short weekend trip. Definitely a city worth sightseeing.
Around noon we arrived in the city and went on our way to Majdanek. A place you have to visit in Lublin if you are interested in history. Szymon and I enjoy exploring cities and get to know a bit more about their histories. Majdanek was a concentration camp, but a less well known than Auschwitz.
The history of Majdanek.
Majdanek, also called Lublin-Majdanek, was build in 1941 after a visit by Heinrich Himmler and was first designed to hold 50.000 workers. The design plan was changed during the development of the camp to 150.000 workers. If this amount of prisoners was kept here it would have been the largest camp in Eastern Europe. In the beginning, it was called a Kriegsgefangenenlager der Waffen SS Lublin – a prisoners camp. In 1942 the camp was renamed to Konzentrationslager Lublin – a concentration camp.
A part of this camp was arranged for women and there were ideas to dedicate a part of the camp to children as well. Even though this was never created, many children were held captive. In the beginning, most of the people died because of the poor living conditions. Camp offenders, on the other hand, were prosecuted and executed. No gas chambers were located in the camp until 1942. The first batch of gas was delivered in August 1942.
In November 1943, Erntefest took place. This is known in the books as the biggest execution in the history of camp Majdanek. Prisoners were ordered to dig a 100 meter long ditch. After the ditch was finished other prisoners were ordered to undress and lay down naked on their belly in the ditch. They got executed with a single bullet to the head or neck. Ernetfest has cost 18,000 lives.
There is an estimation that around 150,000 prisoners entered Majdanek, more than half were killed (80,000). The larger part of this number were Jews (around 60,000) followed by Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians.
Camp Majdanek came to an end on the 22nd of July 1944.
Even though I live in Krakow, close to Auschwitz, I have never visited a concentration camp. I have been to Schindler’s Factory, which was impressive. I always had the feeling that when you visit a concentration camp, you will come back with a moved and emotional. I was right, I felt moved after visiting Majdanek, but somehow I also felt I had a better understanding. I had a clearer image of how the Second World War would have been here in Poland. For my feeling a lot harder than in the Netherlands. Or is this only my perspective, because of the movies I have seen about the Netherlands during WW2.
The museum is in a good state, a lot of information in Polish and English and above all memorable. We spend around three hours in the museum, walked around all the field and all the barracks. The entrance to the museum is for free, but you can buy a map of the museum with some information about the barracks for 4 pln.
Have you ever visited a concentration camp before?