John Barrett
Francis Garcia-Pages
Txikia Hernández-Morales
Jesus Miguelez

Lublin-Majdanek Camp

Personal Account

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 prisoners.

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)

Works Cited

Gurdus, Luba Krugman. The Death Train. New York, NY: Walden Press, 1978