Friday, 7 November 2014

The case for 2,000,000 deaths at Majdanek

In February 1946, the wily Soviet prosecution team at the main Nuremberg trial submitted "irrefutable evidence"1 that 1,500,0002 and 1,700,0003 people were murdered by the Germans at Majdanek. But the Soviets weren't done there, they also claimed 2,000,000 people were killed at the camp, and in this post I'll provide three separate sources which confirm this higher claimed death toll for Majdanek.

2,000,000 Deaths, Source 1

A photograph from 1945-inaugurated exhibition inside Majdanek's Barrack 62; the sign reads:4

MAJDANEK 1941 - 1944
1,300m³ COMPOST

Compare that with the sign below, which was also taken in Majdanek's Barrack 62, this time on August 25, 2012, when the claimed death toll was 78,000:5

Dr. Anna Ziębińska-Witek, Assistant professor of Jewish and Holocaust studies at UMCS, Lublin, recently wrote about the first exhibition [1945] at Majdanek. She based her musings on six photographs of the exhibition found in the Majdanek museum's archives. She writes:6

"What attracts attention in the exhibition photographs are first of all dummies with terribly emaciated faces. These figures, wearing concentration camp stripes or worn-out civilian clothes, were stood on empty Zyklon B cans. One of the photographs also shows a dummy of a child: a girl with pigtails, terribly lean, wearing a dress and oversized shoes. [...] probably to intensify the horror, a human skull was placed on one of the shelves (made by putting a wooden board on the Zyklon B cans)."

There are 3 skulls visible in this photo of the exhibition (source)


2,000,000 Deaths, Source 2

In 1986, the German film-production company Chronos release an hour long film entitled Majdanek 1944, which consisted purely of footage recorded in Majdanek, or the near-by city of Lublin, between July and December 1944; the following year Chronos released an English version with the same name.

The film features footage of plenary sessions of the Polish-Soviet Extraordinary Commission during late August 1944, which shows members of the commission summarising details of the alleged atrocities committed by the Germans and questions being put to some of the four SS men and two German kapos who were eventually tried in Lublin during November-December 1944 and subsequently executed. At one point in the film the narrator translates the words of Russian Dr. D. I. Kudryavtsev (the vice-chairman of the Commission) on August 25, 1944:

"In Majdanek the German executioners killed roughly two million people." (from 5:44 on the video)

2,000,000 Deaths, Source 3

British diplomat Paddy Costello visited Poland and Majdanek in late 1944. The camp had already been declared a museum by the communists despite the fact the NKVD were then using it as an internment camp; regularly shipping off their German and Polish prisoners to Siberia. Costello sent a long report title "Notes on Poland" dated December 11, 1944, to the British Embassy in Moscow. A portion of the report subtitled "German 'Extermination Camps' (Vernichtungslager)", impressed the Brits in Moscow, and subsequently Whitehall, so much they had it retyped and sent copies to Members of the British Cabinet and the King.7

Costello stated in his report:

"I also met the director of the museum, who told me that the total number of persons destroyed at Maidanek by the Germans was just under two million."

1. Chief Soviet prosecutor Roman Rudenko told the court on Feb 20, 46: "This report has already been presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit Number USSR-93 (see note 3) and, according to Article 21 of the Charter, constitutes irrefutable evidence." IMT, Vol. 8, p. 7.
2. USSR-29, Communiqué of the Polish-Soviet Extraordinary Commission for Investigating the Crimes Committed by the Germans in the Majdanek Extermination Camp in Lublin, August 23, 1944, IMT Vol. 7, p. 451, 14 Feb 46.
3. USSR-93, Official report of the Polish Government, IMT Vol. 7, p. 214, 9 Feb 46. The report's figure is based on the stated death toll of 1,700,111 which appeared in the December 2, 1944 judgment of the Lublin trial of the 4 SS men and 2 kapos discussed in "2,000,000 Deaths, Source 2", cf. Jürgen Graf, Carlo Mattogno, Concentration Camp Majdanek: A Historical & Technical Study (Third Revised & Expanded Edition), Washington DC: The Barnes Review, 2012, p. 80.
4. Translation from: "The Representation of Death in Exhibitions: The Case of the State Museum at Majdanek" by Dr. Ziębińska-Witek, in Simone Gigliotti et al. (eds.) Ethics, Art, and Representations of the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Berel Lang, Lanham (MD): Lexington Books, 2013, p. 279.
5. When I visited Majdanek in early November 2012, the whole of Barrack 62 was cordoned off because of building work was being carried out on the structure. On my next visit to Majdanek, in late September 2013, there was a new exhibition in Barrack 62 titled "The Displaced from the Zamość Region in the Majdanek Camp," and the sign in the picture above was no longer present.
6. "The Representation of Death in Exhibitions," opt cit. (note 4), p. 268.
7. UK NA: FO 371/50975, U3430; report also found in FO 688/32/7; and quoted in full in: James McNeish, The Sixth Man: The Extraordinary Life of Paddy Costello, London: Quartet Books, 2008, p.313-318.

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