Friday, May 23, 2014


Majdanek was a front base of the SS in Lublin during the German colonization and Germanization . Since the spring of 1942 , there were plans at with the Berlin authorities to produce in this region for the German armaments industry. Nevertheless, Majdanek did not  play a great role as a labour camp in the more characteristic sense for either the war economy of the Third Reich nor for the business enterprises of the SS .  The camp itself failed to set in motion any large Productions Plants, and the completed workshops were mainly adjusted to the satisfaction of the camps requirements . The low economic importance of the Lublin concentration camp was a consequence of  changed German politics in the Lublin district . With the beginning of the mass murder of the Jews during the "Aktion Reinhardt" in March 1942, Himmler dismissed Globocnik from the function of the Commissioner for the construction of the SS and Police Bases in the East. The construction of an SS district in Lublin was postponed . In practice, this meant not only a fundamental restriction of construction activity in Lublin, but also a change in function of the concentration camp , which was originally planned only as a labour pool , had now become an infrastructural component of "Action Reinhardt" in Lublin . However, at this point it met primarily auxiliary functions. The most important economic centres of the SS in Lublin were labour camps in the Lipowa Street and on the grounds of the former factory "Plage and Laskiewicz " in the Wronska Street (airfield) , which were subject to the SSPF (SS and Police Leader) Administration.

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The work of the prisoners at Majdanek were primarily related to its own need. In the first year they worked at construction, in the following years on its maintenance. In contrast to other camps, relatively few prisoners worked in the industry or workshops outside the camp, as there were no factories in Lublin or the surrounding area that could employ inmates on a larger scale. For this reason, Majdanek was primarily a labour reservoir for the projects of Globocnik. Jews (males and females) from the camp assorted among other things, personal belongings as part from the "Operation Reinhardt" killed Jews in magazines at the airfield.  An average of less than 30% of employed prisoners (from 3.000 to 6.000 people) worked for companies and institutions outside the camp. In contrast to the concentration camps in the Reich, Majdanek had almost during the entire period  of its being, a surplus of labour.

'Majdanek Labourers'
In the years 1941-1944 there were about 270 work details in Majdanek. In addition to skilled professionals that was carried out by a group of civilian workers, the prisoners were forced to do the hardest physical work. Particularly stressful were earthworks (the expansion of trenches and wells, additional sand extraction), the construction work in the erection of barracks and storage facilities. The degree of exploitation of prisoners in the construction work is reflected in the number of an estimated three million working days, that prisoners performed at Majdanek.
The tasks for the maintenance of the camp were numerous and varied. The prisoners were employed in administration (typing offices, magazines, supply), in agricultural and food commandos in workshops (tailoring, carpentry, shoemaking, and laundry facilities), in the order and plumbing commandos (preservation of cleanliness in the camp, garbage disposal, cleaning of the SS Accommodations ) and busy in the Sonderkommandos (serving in the Disinfections and gas chambers, disposal and incineration of corpses.)
The number of inmates in Majdanek , which were not used for productive work, often corresponded to the number of inmates employed or even exceeded them. This is illustrated from data strength messages that were sent from the prison camp to the IKL . On 2 April 1943, the number of prisoners, that is in  the men's camp were 7370 people, of which 2337 worked in 64 commandos , 1746 prisoners were reassigned to work in the camp, 2241 without any work and 1046 laying sick in the infirmary . In the women's camp lived 3952 prisoners , of whom 1535 were working in commandos of various assignments , 1030 were employed in the prison camp, and  1347 were without employment.  There were 40 women in the infirmary . Unfortunately, the SS tormented the "unemployed" with various non-productive activities , which were often more difficult than the work in the regular commandos, which gave the guards additional opportunities to sadistic humiliation of prisoners . One example is the work of Jewish women in the vegetable garden , which were forced to carry earth and soil in their highly raised skirts. Other prisoners had to pile stones and bricks (Ziegel) on two handled trays a few hundred meters away to place them into a heap. One of them recalls: "The relocation of bricks and stones had to be done in haste (Laufschritt) . We had to bring the stones at a run, and return with the empty tray in a hurry again . After we had done this a few times, we felt completely exhausted . The trays fell out of our hands , we had to gasp for air,  even that became already difficult, because an SS-man with a whip stood there and everyone who that even just tried to sit for a moment, was struck with the whip (Peitsche) . The foreman ,  armed with a shovel handle, did not want to under-perform the SS man and mauling everyone who came into default with his work, was beaten merciless with this racquet ".

On September 16, 1942, 42 inhabitants of the districts of Tuczna and Wisznice in the Biała Podlaska poviat were taken to the Majdanek camp. They were arrested two days earlier in retaliation for partisans’ actions. The prisoners were marked with camp numbers 14000. Only one prisoner from this group was released from the camp – Feliks Wilczyński, a 14-year-old boy at that time. A few prisoners made an attempt at escaping from the Majdanek camp or from a commando building the bridge over the Wieprz River in Trawniki. Five inmates succeeded. Other 36 prisoners died in the camp.
 The record sheet shows that of Paweł Wawryszuk, born in Sosnówka in 1907, who managed to run away from the camp. The document is marked with a note “abgesetzt” and a date. It indicated that the prisoner was crossed off the camp records on that day. Paweł Wawryszuk was crossed off on October 20, 1942, but his money (25 RM) was sent to the Reich Bank only on April 13, 1943.

Some sections of the prisoners were employed in production facilities outside of Majdanek. The largest commando worked in the Central Agricultural Office Lublin (an average of 130 people) and in Tobacco Plants (88 people) By far on a larger scale , the prisoners were , however, exploited by the Central Construction Office of Wehrmacht Units . The Central Construction Office of the SS and Police employed prisoners not only in the construction of the camp , but also on various other projects that were located on the site of the airfield, or in its immediate neighbourhood , such as the Supply Depot of the Higher SS and Police Leader Russia-South and Caucasia and the SS Automotive Park East . In addition, they put prisoners onto the construction of the sports stadium and the demolition of houses on sites in Lublin. Prisoners brought stones and debris from graves of a Jewish cemetery into the camp , which were used to fix and pave the paths. Some commandos were also part in the maintenance of military facilities including in Arsenals and the Military Motor Pools.
A number of prisoners had to work in an SS company as  forced labourers, who were entrusted inter alia with the recording and processing of the property of exterminated Jews. This was especially carried out by the German Armaments Werke GmbH (DAW), the garment factories (BKW) and was founded in March 1943 by Globocnik and the WVHA-Ostindustrie as an Independent enterprise, registered as a Company with Limited Liabilities. This Company set up in Lublin four operations: A Brush Bindery and Basketry, a Brickyard, a Metal Factory and a Pharmaceutical Plant. They employed a total of about 2,000 prisoners, but only a part of them worked in the camp itself. These included those that were organized by the Ostindustrie Society in brush binding workshops that had about 600 people.

On September 3, 1943, 3402 people were detained in Field III, including:
503 prisoners employed in working squads outside the camp;
630 prisoners employed within the Postenkette [circle of guards];
2168 prisoners working within the camp;
29 kapos who oversaw working squads outside the camp.
From the document it can be inferred that on September 3, 1943, the working squad “Fahrbereitschaft” was made up by 60 prisoners (car mechanics) and 20 prisoners were employed as gardeners in the working squad headed by a VA (Vorarbeiter) marked with prisoner’s number 8830 – Jerzy Kwiatkowski, author of memoirs entitled “485 dni na Majdanku.”

The working conditions of the prisoners differed very often, however, and, as in other camps depending was subject to several factors: the type of work, the location of the job, the national composition of the commando and the behaviour of the overseer. The worst reputation in Majdanek had the Baukommados (Construction Detail). Often the  required proper tools or basic equipment was missing, heavy physical work regardless of weather conditions had to be performed in greater haste. Jewish prisoners were exposed in these work details in a special way to the brutality of the SS-men and prisoner functionaries. It was not just beatings and torture of prisoners on the agenda, but often it resulted in deaths.

The Majdanek camp was in close proximity to a relatively large city, which before the war had about 120,000 inhabitants and was Wojwod's Economic capital. In its surroundings dwelt exclusively a Polish population. The external conditions were not without influence on the situation in the camp. Between Majdanek and Lublin developed a meaningful, yet often wrinkly official contacts and as well as secrets. This took place from commercial transactions over half of the charitable organizations to contacts with the resistance movement. For the Polish companies involved in the construction with about 500 workers hired for this purpose, the camp also offered an acquisition opportunity for hundreds inhabitants of Lublin and the region, whereby Majdanek was an object of welfare, with which you shared the regulated condition for food under the occupation.
The presence of external workers in the camp and the venality of many members of the camp crew , especially among the Germans, some favourable conditions for contacting channels to Lublin were very much in progress  . Between the camp and the city, a barter system developed . Through the medium of the civilian workers and security guards, clothing, watches , jewellery and blankets were brought into the city . In return, food was delivered into the camp. The prices therefore were significantly higher than on the black market within Lublin. For a gold ring you could receive one or two loaves of bread or a slice of margarine,  for example. "It was a flourishing trade in cigarettes , the market price for a pack Junak was dependent on the range between three to four zlotys (this was and is the Polish currency). A chain of middlemen who participated in the smuggling from the Germans on, through the hands of the Ukrainians and Jews. The trade flourished in clothing that had been exchanged by the owners into cigarettes or food. It also dealt in food portions that you drew up from the kitchen. A crust of bread cost two tens. A handful of potatoes a tenner . For these channels, the function prisoners who passed through the gate, due to  their position without problems, carried currencies and valuables for which they often obtained alcohol and other delicacies in the city, and subsequently served at their dining table.  Poultry, fish, vodka and cakes, that was their daily menu".
It should be emphasized that most of the Polish civilian workers did this with unselfish support and also exposed themselves to the risk of serious repression through to imprisonment into the camp. Besides food, letters were often secretly smuggled out, by which the prisoners could get in touch with their relatives or related persons. In the help for prisoners from Majdanek, entire families dedicated themselves to help lost souls.  Special dedication showed Antonina and Franciszek Gryga and her daughter.

A scarce example of a postal confirmation card, sent from the camp to confirm that a prisoner had recently received a parcel - this service, which ran during the 1943-1944 period, was initiated by the Red Cross organisation and is confirmed by surviving documentation. Note the dual language (German + Polish) format.

Since the end of February 1943 charitable institutions, especially the Central Welfare Council ( Rada Glowna Opiekuncza ) and the Polish Red Cross , sent Aid Shipments to Majdanek . In this way the Polish prisoners were supplied with food, medicines and clothes , thanks to the solidarity behaviour, not only Polish prisoners would benefit from these programs but often such as White Russian women, they also received a share from these programs . In the course of a year , from March to April 1944 , headed by the Polish Red Cross, bread and food as well as approximately 100,000 food parcels with a total weight of almost 500 tonnes were delivered into the camp . However, these considerable quantities could not really alleviate the hunger prevailing in the camp . A Polish prisoner was able on average to receive one packet per month, but in reality, the aid was unevenly distributed . Organised help not only contributed to improving the living conditions of the prisoners , but also provided an opportunity for information exchange between the camp and the population of Lublin.
Announcement of execution of 100 Polish hostages as revenge for assassination of 5 German policemen and 1 SS-man by Armia Krajowa (quote: a Polish "terrorist organization in British service"). Warsaw, 2 October 1943'
To inform the public about the situation in the camp was one of the most important tasks of the conspiratorial organizations whose activities began in early 1943. During this time, officials of almost all Polish parties of pre-war Poland and members of the armed Polish Resistance, led by officers of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), were brought from the Gestapo prisons into the camp. The resistance in Majdanek was made up for this reason above all, of  Polish prisoners only. The main objective of the camp underground was the elucidation of the situation in the camp and the forwarding of messages to the outside. They made detailed monthly reports on the situation of the prisoners and the most important events in the camp that the Representation of the Government of the Polish Republic in the country (Delegatura Rzadu Rzeczpopolitej na Kraj) received.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  CONTINUED UNDER PART 7 

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