Holocaust Almanac: Maidanek’s “Harvest Festival”

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism, soc.history,talk.politics.misc
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Maidanek’s “Harvest Festival”
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Organization: The Nizkor Project https://nizkor.org

Archive/File: camps/maidanek maidanek.02
Last-Modified: 1994/02/15

“Maidanek was constructed in 1941 primarily as a detention center for
prisoners captured by the Nazis in their inital sweep into Russia. Five
thousand Soviet prisoners were shipped there within days after Hitler
repudiated the non-aggression pact with Stalin. The Russians all died
quickly of hunger, typhus, and brutal treatment, their fate a clear signal
that the camp would honor no civilized code nor be administered with any
humane concern. The message was accentuated when Maidanek was turned into a
major extermination camp for the Jews of conquered Poland and other centers
of Jewish life in Europe. Between February 1942 and July 1944 about half a
million Jews were destroyed there by gassing and by shooting. When the
Soviet troops liberated the camp on July 24, 1944, they found fewer than
six hundred inmates still alive, and these had been temporarily spared to
obliterate the evidence of more than two million men, women, and children
who had been murdered. Much of what had happened there, the Russians
already knew; in 1942 a few escapees had described the hell that Maidanek
had become. But its full savagery could not even be imagined until the
records and the actual physical evidence had been reviewed.

The most vivid memory was of the horror of November 3, 1943, that carried
the code name Erntefest, Harvest Festival. Seventeen thousand Jews, rounded
up after the final collapse of the Warsaw Ghetto, were machine-gunned. The
victims were lined up in front of open ditches which they had dug for their
own mass grave. A BBC correspondent, Alexander Werth, accompanied the
Russian troops and filed the story. The BBC refused to use it, the editor
labeling it a `Russian propaganda stunt.’ The sworn testimony of the camp
staff, at their later trial, fully corroborated the details of the
despatch, adding other incidents that made the Werth story appear an
understatement. [It should be noted that until long after WWII the
Encyclopaedia Britannica carried no reference to Hitler’s maniacal
determination to destroy the whole Jewish people.]

The collected belongings of the murdered Jews were sent in truckloads to
the storage rooms of one of Europe’s largest department stores in Lublin,
on Chopin Street. Piled up on its shelves and in its storerooms were
thousands of consumer goods — women’s dresses, knitting wool and cotton
yarn, men’s clothing, safety razors, penknives. There was a special room
for toys, dolls, games, puzzles, children’s notebooks, and erasers. Tucked
into the neatly arranged assortments were an American-style Mickey Mouse
and the manuscript of Ernest Weil’s Sonata for Violin, Opus 15.<20>

By the fall of 1943, as the war began to go badly for the Nazis, some of
them became squeamish about the ruthlessness which had been employed. On
October 4, the increasingly apprehensive guards listened to a grim
exhortation from Himmler. He had been agnered because occasionally victims,
using influence, had managed to squirm out of their prescribed fate. `There
must be no exceptions,’ Himmler stormed. `The extermination of the Jewish
race must be total. … Of 80,000,000 worthy Germans, each one has his
decent Jews. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew.
Not one of those who talks this way has witnessed it, not one of them has
been through it. Most of you must know what it means when one hundred
corpses are lying side by side or five hundred or one thousand. To have
stuck it out and at the same time … to have remained decent men, that is
what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has
never been written and is never to be written.'<21>”

<20> The Black Book. American Jewish Black Book Committee, New York,
1946. pp. 379-380
<21> Gerald Reitinger, The Final Solution. pp. 296-297. The Himmler
speech is preserved in transcript and in a gramophone recording.

Extracted from—————————————————
“THE REDEMPTION OF THE UNWANTED”, Abram L. Sachar (New York: St.
Martin’s/Marek, 1983. pp. 40-41

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