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Living conditions

Majdanek was seen as one of the most primitive of all Nazi camps and the living conditions here were atrocious. Wooden barracks, especially the stable-type ones, provided hardly any protection against weather conditions. In the winter, two small heaters would be placed in each barrack but they were highly insufficient to effectively heat such large and draughty spaces.

As late as in early 1943, prisoners could be quartered in unfinished barracks which lacked windowpanes and even the most basic furniture. Before plank beds were installed and paillasses distributed, inmates were forced to sleep directly on the floor.

A barrack planed for 150–250 people would usually house a far greater number of prisoners. In the period of the greatest overpopulation, that number could sometimes reach as many as 1,000 people.

The barracks had no sewage system. Until the spring of 1943, they lacked even the most basic sanitation. The lack of water made it impossible to wash oneself or one’s undergarments. The prisoners were not allowed to keep any cleaning agents. Due to the lack of sanitary installations, during the day completely unshielded sewage pits had to be used as latrines. At night, as leaving the barracks was forbidden, a set of large, wooden containers served as communal toilets. These tended to be permanently overfilled and the stench they generated was appalling, particularly given the fact that all windows had to remain closed even in the heat of the summer.

Prisoners were also plagued by disease-spreading insects.