The passage listed is an account of a Polish Jewish mother, survivor
of the Majdanek concentration camp. The passage describes the
first day in the camp first hand.
"A shiver went through me when I realized with what cold precision
the Nazis had set up their extermination machine. I could clearly
visualize the masses of Jews who had once filled the now empty square
fields. They had been murdered, and in several fields, heaps
of their belongings were still being sorted by groups of Maydanek
My thoughts were interrupted when we stopped in front of gate 13,
flanked on both sides by guarded sentry boxes. The truck was
admitted and pulled up in front of a brick house. An SS
corporal came over to supervise the unloading and order his assistant
to take us to the barracks.
We climbed the snow-covered hill, on which stood two rows of
wooden houses. They were built of horizontal planks and occasional
narrow windows. The houses were surrounded by deep ditches,
accessible only by gangways, which made them look like small fortresses.
When we stopped in front of the last house, the Lageraelteste (camp
supervisor) ordered us inside. The barrack was dark. Small
windows along one wall faintly illuminated the spacious interior,
which was lined with five rows of triple-decker bunks. Scattered
military blankets, gloves and socks indicated previous occupants and
their hurried evacuation. The stench of carbolic
acid was unbearable.
The women invaded the barrack and occupied the upper bunks.
I settled for the first one available on the lowest level and
was soon joined by my two prison companions. The barrack
was cold and its windows covered with frost. The Lageraelteste,
young and well groomed, entered accompanied by a Capo (former criminal)
with a wicked face as red as his armband. She looked the prisoners
over with her piercing, almost insulting, eyes and selected
a barrack supervisor and two aides to direct the cleaning and the
distribution of food.
The cleaning of the barrack continued late into the evening and was
interrupted by the arrival of food rations- stale, half frozen
bread and cold tea. I swallowed my portion and retired for
the night, sharing the bunk with my two friends.
The piercing chill, entering through the poorly insulated planks
and windows, kept me wide-awake. Faint moonlight filtered through
the narrow panes frosted with feathery patterns- giving the
barrack a phantom-like appearance. Covered by the heavily disinfected
blanket, I thought of those who had used it before. Who
were they? Had they been annihilated by the camp monsters?
Were their bodies burning in the crematorium? Loud coughing
interrupted my thoughts. My two companions had fallen into a
heavy slumber. The faint warmth emanating from their bodies
made me doze off for a few hours." (Gurdus 126-127)
Gurdus, Luba Krugman. The Death Train. New York, NY: Walden Press,