Subject: The Difficulty in Determining Maidanek’s Death Toll
Organization: The Nizkor Project https://www.nizkor.org
Archive/File: camps/maidanek maidanek.03
“It is estimated that 1.5 million inmates were gassed at Maidanek.
After Russian troops discovered the camp on July 23, 1944, Konstatin
Simonov, a Soviet writer, wrote a full account of the death camp for
Pravda. In a special issue the London Illustrated News published
photographs of the gas chambers and ovens at Maidanek.” (Encyclopedia of
the Third Reich, by Dr. Louis L. Snyder, Professor of History, The
City College and The City University of New York. Paragon House, New
York, 1989. ISBN 1-55778-144-3)
A recent post provides a figure of 1,380,000 dead, from Davidowicz (The War
Against the Jews, 1933-1945), while Sachar (Redemption of the Unwanted)
claims 500,000 dead.
The Institut Fuer Zeitgeschicthe offers this information:
Majdanek (district Lublin, general government): The concentration camp
existing since September 1941 turned into an extermination camp when
between April 1942 and November 1943 mass shootings took place to which
24,000 Jews fell victim. In October 1942 also two, later three gas
chambers were built. In the beginning the killings in these were done
by means of carbon monoxide, soon however one was using Zyklon B (a
highly poisonous insecticide made from cyan hydrogen). Up until the
dissolution of the camp in March 1944 about 50,000 Jews have been
The Encylclopedia of the Holocaust, in a piece on Majdanek written by
Lublin University’s Zygmunt Mankowski, says “close to 500,000 passed
through. Of those, according to current (1990) estimates, 360,000 died,
sixty percent from camp conditions, and forty percent from gassing, hanging,
or being shot.”
It also tells us that 250,000 of the 500,000 that passed through (Many on
their way to Auschwitz), are confirmed via existing lists of prisoner
transports: 100,000 Poles, 80,000 Jews, 50,000 Soviets and 20,000 other
nationalities. This is closer to Sachar’s number, and I will try and get
Sachar out of the library again soon to see if he cited his source for it.
It mentions four satellite camps (Blizyn, Budzyn, Pulawy and Warsaw) which
supported it, but did not expand on that.
Finally, it offers some bibliographic information – something I haven’t had
before, although it is sparse. In July 1944 Special Polish-Soviet Nazi
Crimes Commission began their investigation. Their report was published on
September 6, 1944, in Moscow, in Polish, Russian, English and French –
perhaps someone can do a bit of digging and see what it had to say. The
article also notes a trail was held in Lublin (Nov. 44), and another held
in Germany (Dusseldo”rf, ’46-’48) – surely the German court records are
available through some archive there?
Also provided are the following bibliographic sources (on the recommended
reading list which accompanies most EoH articles)…
Berenstein, T. & A. Rutkowski. “Zydzi w obozie koncentracyjnym Majdanek
(1941 – 1944).” Biuletyn Instytutu Historjcznego 58 (1968), 3-57
Gutman, Y. & A. Saf, eds. “The Nazi Concentration Camps: Structure and Aims:
The Image of the Prisoner; The Jews in the Camps,” in the Proceedings of the
4th. Yad Vashem Conference
Lichtenstein, H. Majdanek: Reportage eines Prozesses. Frankfurt, 1984
Marszalek, J. Majdanek: Oboz koncentracyjny w Lulininic. Warsaw, 1981
I suspect it may be impossible to determine the numbers, but this article
(EoH) struck me as reasonable, if for no other reason its mention of the
transport records and the trials, plus the bibliographic data. I’d
appreciate it if someone would check the earlier sources cited to determine
if any orignial source is offered, and get back to us.
A bit more – Breitman (Architect of Genocide) lists two more sources for the
Rajca, Czeslaw, and Anna Wisniewska. Maidanek Concentration Camp. trans.
Anna Zagorska, Lublin, 1983, and
White, Elizabeth B. “Majdanek: Cornerstone of Himmler’s SS Empire in the
East,” paper presented at American Historical Association meeting, San
Francisco, 30 Dec. 1989.