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Timeline The most important events in 1941–1944

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  • 20.07.1941

    Order to establish the camp

    During his visit to Lublin in July 1941, Heinrich Himmler gave the order to establish a camp in Lublin. He ordered to build a camp for 25–50.000 Soviet POWs in the south-eastern outskirts of Lublin.

    The construction was commissioned to the SS Central Construction Board. The prisoners were supposed to work in the construction of a large housing estate for the SS, Clothing and Supplies Factories, and after their completion they were to be employed in production and in the workshops of the camp. After giving the instructions for the camp establishment, Heinrich Himmler gave the order to SS-Standartenführer Karl Otto Koch, the former commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp, to take up organisational matters of newly emerging camp.

  • October 1941

    Deportation of the Soviet prisoners of war

    The first group of prisoners deported to Majdanek were the Soviet prisoners of war. Soon, other prisoners followed: interpreters, physicians and functionaries from other camps were brought to Majdanek, primarily from Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen.

  • December 1941/January 1942

    The first group of Polish peasants from the Lublin region are detained in the camp

    In December 1941 the first groups of Polish hostages were detained at Majdanek. They were imprisoned in reprisal for participation in sabotage and in guerrilla actions as well as for default on mandatory quota and taxation imposed by the German authorities in occupied Poland.

    At the end of the month the transport of 400 peasants was sent to the camp. Those people were arrested and taken directly to the camp from various villages of the Lublin region.

  • 29.03.1942

    Mass deportations of Slovakian Jews

    The prisoners deported within the framework of "Einsatz Reinhardt" were sent to the camp. The transports of Slovakian Jews arrived to Majdanek as a result of agreement between Nazi Germany and Slovakia. They were mostly men who were deemed able to work.

    Women, children, and the elderly from those transports were directed to different villages and towns in Lublin district and they were settled there instead of Jews, who had been previously sent to the death camps in Bełżec and Sobibór. In general, around 8,500 Slovakian Jews and about 6,000 Jews from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as from Germany and Austria were detained at Majdanek in the spring of 1942.

  • September/October 1942

    Gas chambers start operating

    In the summer of 1942, the construction of gas chambers started. In July 1942 Cyclone B was ordered in Tesch & Stabenow company in Hamburg. The first batch of the poisonous gas was delivered to the camp in late August, whereas the gas chambers were put into operation in September or October 1942. Carbon monoxide was also used for killing prisoners.

    The gas chambers were set up in brick-built building called the "bunker." It was located behind the bathhouse barracks for men. It was surrounded with barbed wire and a wooden fence. The bunker was covered with a large shed supported by wooden pillars affixed to concrete pedestals.

  • 01.10.1942

    The female concentration camp is created at Majdanek

    Frauen Konzentrationslager (FKL) was established on October 1, 1942. The first inmates were women from Dziesiąta and Wieniawa (quarters of Lublin) and from the town of Goraj.

    The concentration camp for women was established in prisoner field V. Not only men but also women had to comply with very severe rules and were supervised by German female overssers brought to Majdanek from the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

  • 14.12.1942

    The wave of deportations of political prisoners from the Gestapo prisons in the General Government

    Pursuant to Heinrich Himmler’s order, nearly 35,000 people detained in Gestapo prisons were deported to Majdanek and to Auschwitz. The first transport of this character arrived at KL Lublin on January 7, 1943. It included mainly the political prisoners from Radom, Kielce, Piotrków, and Częstochowa.

    Next, the transports from Warsaw, Lvov and other places came.

  • 06.01.1943

    Order to establish field hospital for Soviet invalids

    Field hospital was an autonomous unit of the Majdanek camp. It was earmarked for war invalids who were disabled or suffered illnesses as a result of serving at the front or those who defected to the Germans. They were marked with no numbers and wore no badges. They did not have to wear striped uniforms.

    The camp commandant's office set up the field hospital in field II. Physicians, interpreters, writers, and cooks selected from among the prisoners, were ordered to establish the hospital, take care of the invalids and manage the office and supplies. Due to the suffered illnesses, the barracks for the invalids in field II were divided into: surgical, isolation and of internal medicine, each housing approx. 200 patients.

  • 27.04.1943

    The first transport of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto, engulfed by uprising, arrives at KL Lublin

    The influx of huge transports of Jews came to Majdanek by the end of April 1943, when the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto had been almost over.

    On April 19, an uprising broke out in the Warsaw ghetto. In spite of heroic fight, the SS units led by Jürgen Stroop brutally suppressed the Jewish resistance. The remaining ghetto inhabitants were deported to the camps in Treblinka, Poniatowa, Trawniki, and to Majdanek. According to Stroop's report, these transports included 56.000 Jews in total. It is estimated that about 20.000 Jews were sent to Majdanek.

  • 30.06.1943

    First transport of the Poles displaced from the Zamość region

    Based on Odilo Globocnik's order of June 3, 1943, on "combating bandits," people from the following counties were deported to Majdanek: Biłgoraj, Hrubieszów, Tomaszów Lubelski and Zamość.

    Pacification and dislocation action codenamed "Werwolf I und II" started on June 27, 1943, and lasted until mid July. People captured in its course were first detained in transit camps in Zamość and Zwierzyniec, and then were sent to Majdanek. The majority of newcomers were mothers with children. About 9.000 people displaced from the Zamość region were detained at Majdanek between June 30 and August 1, 1943.

  • 03.11.1943

    "Aktion Erntefest" – the execution of 18.000 Jewish prisoners of Majdanek and other labour camps in Lublin

    On November 3, 1943, the largest execution in the history of all the German concentration camps took place at Majdanek. It was conducted under the codename “Erntefest” (Harvest Festival) and it was the final step in the mass extermination of Jews in the Lublin district. The “Erntefest” operation held in Lublin involved all the Jewish prisoners of Majdanek, and those from the camps on Lipowa Street and in Flugplatz – 18.000 victims in total.

    First decisions concerning the “Erntefest” operation were most probably made already in the summer of 1943. The latest build-up to the operation took place a few days before its execution, at the end of October. At the back of the camp, right behind prisoner field V and near a recently built crematorium, the inmates divided into groups were forced to dig three ditches, each 100 metres long and 1.5-3 metres deep.

    The Jews had to gather in field V, where they had to undress. Then, they were taken into the ditches and ordered to lie face down to the ground. They were killed by a single shot in the back of the head or neck by the members of the execution commando who were standing on the edge of the ditch. The march and dance music was played all the time with the intention to drown out the shots.

  • 14.12.1943

    One thousand ill and emaciated prisoners from KL Sachsenhausen arrive at Majdanek

    Following the extermination of the Jewish prisoners of Majdanek, the largest ethnic groups at Majdanek were Poles and the citizens of the Soviet Union. However, at the turn of 1943, the transports with ill prisoners from the camps around the Third Reich territory started arriving to KL Lublin. The prisoners were transferred primarily from Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Neuengamme, and Sachsenhausen.

    Many inmates died en reute or shortly after their arrival at Majdanek. Within the span of several months, a couple thousand prisoners were deported to KL Lublin from the camps located within the Third Reich territory.

  • 01.04.1944

    The beginning of the camp evacuation

    First evacuation transports departed at the beginning of April. In less than three weeks about 9.000 women, children, and men were transported to the concentration camps located west of Lublin. People who were deemed able to work were sent to the camps deep in the territory of the Third Reich, whereas the majority of the sick and were transferred to Auschwitz.

    Three months later, on July 7, the headquarters of the camp resumed the evacuation by sending 1250 prisoners of war to the Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz.

  • 22.07.1944

    The final liquidation of KL Lublin

    The final liquidation of the camp took place in the afternoon on July 22, 1944. A few hours earlier, the Germans executed several hundred prisoners of the Lublin Castle and civilians in reprisal for partisan activities. They were shot near the crematorium building.

    The column of around 800 people guarded by the SS-men was escorted out of Majdanek. They were later joined with a group of over 200 prisoners of the labour camp on Lipowa Street. After several days of constant march they were embarked on a train in Ćmielów to Auschwitz. The next morning, unattended peasants got out of Majdanek. A few hours later, during still ongoing struggles for Lublin, the troops of 1st Belorussian Front entering the territory of the camp found their Soviet comrades in arms in the camp.