My first view of Majdanek was brutal, the former German Nazi concentration camp is literally situated in the middle of Lublin, a large city in the east of Poland.
Surrounded by hundreds of buildings, and thousands of windows, I could imagine that for many people this monstrosity has become normal. I’ve seen contrasts before, but this tested the limits of my imagination.
The camp was used for forced labor and to liquidate jew’s from the Lublin region and beyond.
The first building we entered was a gas chamber where prisoners were actually given showers before their extermination. The building was marked “disinfection”. The prisoners would have a shower to “settle down” and the warmth would help activate the lethal elements of Zyklon B..
This theory is a little strange when you consider that the chamber was fit with a high power furnace used to activate the gas - and that the furnace itself was enough to kill the people. I couldn’t stand visiting the gas chamber, the walls were still stained blue from the toxic gas, and I don’t really know how to express the feeling aside from this thought, I witnessed evidence that real monsters exist or that maybe humans are monsters.
We went on to see the living conditions of the prisoners - one plaque described how in the winter people were sleeping on wet hay with no blankets in the freezing cold. In the morning, they’d be physically brutalised before eating some soup mixed with saw dust. The camp went on and on, it was large in scale and endlessly creepy.
When I entered the crematorium, I observed a building was devoted to burning murdered people - the furnaces doubled as water boilers so that the killers could have a warm bath. I wondered, were the engineers monsters to?
Right outside the crematorium were ditches where a mass execution took place and right beside stands a monument which is literally a mount of human ash mixed with dirt.
you might wonder why I’m not quoting the death toll and the answer is simple, only estimations exist… educated speculation..
As I walked away from the camp, I peered over to a cemetery boarding the site, every person there had a headstone with a name, their deaths had dignity, their loved ones had closure. In a concentration camp hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of human-beings lost their lives to only be summarised in speculated numbers, smoke through a chimney, and a mound of ash.
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