THE MAIN EVENTS:
The summer of 1941 saw another major concentration camp establishment order, with the location chosen being that of the southeastern sector of the occupied Polish city of Lublin. Construction began in early autumn, with the first prisoners (around 2,000 Soviet POWs) arriving soon followed by the first Poles, who arrived from the Lublin area. Toward the end of the year, the planned capacity was dramatically increased from 25,000/50,000 to 150,000 - making the Lublin camp the largest within the system. Around this time, the first Jews arrived at the camp. In spring 1942, Jews from the Slovak and Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren arrived and the capacity is again revised, this time reducing the total to 40,000. In the summer, an escape by Soviet POWs sees over 80 make their break for freedom. During autumn, the gas chambers began to operate, just prior to the opening of the women's camp. In February 1943, the camp officially becomes a Konzentrationslager, the SS replacing the previous POW camp title with KL-Lublin. Later that year, mass transports reach Lublin from Warsaw, the Zamość region and the liquidated ghetto in Białystok. September 21st sees the execution of the Sonderkommando ("Special Detail"), a work group of prisoners responsible for the removal and disposal of corpses from the gas chambers. In autumn, a mass execution of Jews, by shooting, takes place. The massacre took place just outside the camp and included at least 8,000 inmates from the camp. It was known as Operation "Erntefest" (Operation Harvest Festival). Sick and unfit for work inmates are later transported to other camps before the end of the year, with the closure of the camp nearing. Spring 1944 sees another escape, this time a small group of nine Poles make their way to freedom, literally days before the first evacuations occur. In May, Soviet aircraft bomb the camp, two months before the final prisoner evacuations take place. Soviet forces finally reached Lublin toward the end of July 1944.
THE CAMP, INMATES AND STAFF:
The camp, also known as Majdanek (Little Majdan), had three main sections: (see attachment below for modern museum orientation plan)
1) The SS Zone
2) The Administrative Area
3) The Prisoner's Camp
The prisoner camp was divided into six sections:
1) Women's camp
2) Field hospital for Russian collaborators
3) Men's camp for Polish political inmates, as well as Jews from Warsaw and Białystok
4) Another men's camp, which mostly held Soviet POWs, civilians and political prisoners
5) Men's infirmary camp
6) Unfinished sector - designed for workshops, barracks, crematoria facilities and gas chambers
Typical wooden barracks were utilised to hold the inmates, with wooden watchtowers located at regular intervals around the outer fencing. Some sources state three gas chambers were present, others two. Two reconfigured shower rooms were used, with at least one certainly being utilised for mass murder - here, the victims were killed by Zyklon-B. The third chamber reportedly used carbon monoxide as its means of murder. Although a children's camp was planned, it was never completed but some children were transported to the camp. Around thirty nationalities were represented at Lublin, mostly Poles, and Polish, Slovak and Czech Jews. During the first stages of its existence as an offical KL, there were, initially, a few sub-camps including those located on a former airport grounds, at Lipova St. and several labour camps at various locales in the occupied areas. Nowadays, it is estimated that a minimum of 150,000 people were deported to the Lublin camp. Over half perished. The crematorium and makeshift pyres disposed of the masses of corpses in an attempt to mask the slaughter. The camp was the first major concentration camp to be liberated and was captured virtually intact. After the war, a Soviet NKWD camp was founded at the site.
Lublin's Kommandants were Karl Koch, Max Koegel, Hermann Florstedt, Martin Weiß and finally, Arthur Liebehenschel - all are pictured below.
1) State museum orientation plan
2-6) Kommandants (L-R) Koch, Koegel, Florstedt, Weiß and Liebehenschel (credit - wikipedia)