Objects of unique historical value open to visitors
The general renovation and conservation of one of the most important historical buildings related to the history of the German concentration camp at Majdanek – men’s bathhouse barracks (no.41) and the adjacent gas chambers – has been completed. They constitute the only surviving mass extermination facility of this kind used in the course of operation “Reinhardt.” On May 6, after two-year break we will re-open the structures to the visitors.
Simultaneously, the neighbouring women’s bathhouse barracks (no. 42) will be made available to the visitors for the first time in the Museum history. It had been renovated and conserved in previous years.
The wooden elements of barracks no. 41 and gas chambers were repaired and impregnated. The plasters and floors were cleaned, reinforced and disinfected. The wooden door frames, concrete tubs and metal elements of the barracks' furnishings were also subjected to conservation. In the buildings the visual and material boundaries between the original and secondary elements were introduced.
The aim of the renovation was also to make the buildings accessible to as many visitors as possible. This is done by reducing architectural barriers, installing driveways leading to the barracks and platforms, the structure of which also facilitates moving around the buildings. It also displays fragments of historical floors and protects the surfaces on the visiting route. A new exhibition arrangement was also created in the barracks with informational plaques and tablets containing witnesses’ accounts.
Almost until the end of 1943, the male prisoners of KL Lublin undressed in one of the barracks for storing property taken from detainees (Effektenkammer). From there, SS-men drove them naked to the bathhouse. In the first room, the victims had their entire body hair cut. Afterwards, they usually had to immerse themselves in concrete tubs filled with a disinfectant. Then, they were hastily bathed. Later, during their stay in the camp, the prisoners rarely had the opportunity to wash themselves in the showers. The bathhouse for women was located in the neighbouring barracks (no. 42).
Here women had to undress in the presence of SS-men and functionary prisoners. Next, they were subjected to humiliating disinfection of their intimate parts, and often a personal search. Jewish women were in the most tragic situation. After the initial segregation of arriving transports on the selection square or middle field II, they often underwent another selection in the bathhouse, during which German doctors and female overseers decided their fate. Some of them were taken directly to the gas chamber.
In the vicinity of the men’s bathhouse, the gas chambers were located. There for a year, from September 1942, orderlies from the German personnel of KL Lublin exterminated Jewish women and men who – under the criteria of the SS – were deemed unfit for labour. Until the late spring of 1943, also the infirm male prisoners of other nationalities selected from the camp hospital, mostly Poles, were murdered here. In the gas chambers, the victims were killed with Zyklon B supplied through a hole in the ceiling as well as with carbon monoxide. The gas was pumped into both chambers through metal pipes mounted along the walls and connected to steel cylinders in the annex. From that room, the SS-men partaking in the extermination procedure were able to observe the course of gassing through a barred window.
Co-financed by the Minister of Culture, National Heritage and Sports.