In the morning of our second day in Lublin, we took a bus to Majdanek, which is just a few kilometers from the center of town. Above is the entrance to Majdanek and its impressive monument by the entry gate. This former Nazi death camp is massive and well-preserved (it wasn’t destroyed after the war because the Soviets used it afterwards to house members of the Polish resistance before deporting them to Siberia). It is also extremely sobering because it is so close to the city of Lublin and very visible from the main road -- there could have been no doubt as to its existence during the 3-4 years of operation. It was built in 1941 as purely an extermination camp…there was no pretense at being a work or relocation camp. The questions about how these places could have existed keep coming up. It is very difficult to walk into the barracks and imagine what it would have been like as a ‘prisoner.' It’s almost impossible to take in the fact that an estimated 230,000 people were murdered here, of which 40% were Jews. The rest were anyone who opposed the regime or who were considered undesireable or who might pose a threat - such as intellectuals, writers and college professors. The list goes on….it could be you or me. And this camp is just one of so many. During its occupation by the Nazis in WWII, Poland's population was persecuted, terrorized and partially exterminated: 7 million Poles were killed, including 3 million Polish Jews. In three days in November 1943, the Nazis concluded their extermination of Lublin-area Jews by machine-gunning over 43,000 residents remaining in the town's Jewish district. The mausoleum at Majdanek contains the ashes of many of those murdered here. One of the barracks was filled with the shoes of former inmates…... The cold, biting air was a fitting atmosphere for our visit.
View through the memorial toward the mausoleum