Majdanek Death Statistics
When the Majdanek death camp was liberated on July 23, 1944, the Soviet Union at first announced to the world that 1.7 million people had been murdered there by the Nazis. By the time that the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal proceedings against the Nazi war criminals began in November 1945, the Soviets had revised this number down to 1.5 million.
In December 2005, the Majdanek Museum announced that Lublin scholar Tomasz Kranz has established that the Nazis murdered 78,000 people at the Majdanek concentration camp. This revision is the culmination of years of research in which the number of deaths at Majdanek has steadily dwindled down to only a fraction of the original estimate by the Soviet liberators.
Immediately after the liberation of Majdanek, the Illustrated London News published photographs of the camp, saying that this was "irrefutable proof of the organized murder of between 600,000 and 1,000,000 helpless persons at the Majdanek Camp near Lublin." The same newspaper also stated that "Prisoners too ill to walk into the camp were dragged alive to the furnaces and thrust in alongside the dead."
In 1948, the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland published a report which said that the number of deaths at Majdanek was 360,000. By the time that the movie, made by the Soviet Union shortly after the liberation, was released in 1960, the number of people murdered by the Nazis at Majdanek had dropped to 350,000. A Museum booklet, which I purchased at the camp in 1998, stated that most of the files from Majdanek were stored in the Soviet Union and have never been released.
The number of deaths had to be revised again when it was learned that no more than 300,000 people had ever been sent to the Majdanek camp. According to the 1998 Museum guidebook, the total number of deaths at Majdanek was around 234,000. This approximate number came from an article written in 1992 by Dr. Czesaw Rajca, a former member of the Majdanek Museum staff; it was based on the number of arrivals (300,000) minus the number of prisoners who escaped, were transferred or were released.
Approximately 45,000 prisoners were transferred to other camps after being registered at Majdanek; 20,000 were released and 500 escaped, according to Polish historians. There were six sub-camps surrounding the Majdanek camp, to which some of the prisoners had been transferred after being sent to the main camp, according to the guidebook.
According to the Majdanek Museum web site in March 2007, the total number of prisoners sent to the camp is now estimated to be around 150,000, of which approximately 80,000 died, including around 60,000 Jews.
When Majdanek was evacuated in April 1944, there were 15,000 prisoners marched out of the camp and taken to other camps, according to the 1998 Museum guidebook. There were approximately 1,500 survivors who remained behind because they were too crippled or sick to join the march. Some of these survivors were Soviet POWs who had defected after being captured and had been wounded while fighting on the side of the Germans. Majdanek had a section that was a "sick camp" or Krankenlager where crippled Soviet defectors were held.
Other estimates from books that I have read put the total number of deaths at Majdanek anywhere from 42,200 to 1,380,000. At the Düsseldorf trial of the Majdanek war criminals, the West German government charged the Nazis with the murder of no less than 200,000 people at the camp. Jewish historian Martin Gilbert wrote "Between 300,000 and 350,000 people were murdered here in Majdanek over a period of three years."
Raul Hilberg put the number of Jewish victims at Majdanek at 50,000, but didn't mention how many non-Jews were murdered there. According to the December 2005 article by Tomasz Kranz, there were 59,000 Jews and 19,000 non-Jews murdered at Majdanek. Kranz based his claims on all available sources, including the existing fragments of the camp death books, the death registry, the notifications of prisoner deaths that the Nazis sent to parishes in Lublin, the testimony at the war crimes trial in Dusseldorf in the late 1970s and early 1980s by SS men stationed at Majdanek, and on the accounts of survivors. Before Kranz's article was published, it was approved by the Majdanek Museum staff, which had no objections to this new claim.
Regarding the article by Kranz, the following quote is from the web site of the Auschwitz Museum in its Latest News section:
"78,000 deaths over the course of three years is a crime on an enormous scale, and not only in comparison with other camps like Buchenwald, where about 56,000 people died over eight years," said Kranz. "It must be remembered, however, that the number of victims only gives an idea about the scale of genocide; it does not convey the measureless pain and suffering experienced by the people imprisoned and murdered at Majdanek."
In 1998, the Majdanek Museum did not offer any information about how many Jews were gassed at the camp, nor whether there were Jews brought there for immediate gassing who were not registered in the camp. Although Majdanek has three gas chambers, which are still in their original condition, and one reconstructed gas chamber, it was primarily a camp for political prisoners, POWs, captured partisans, and hostages who were held as a way of controlling the inhabitants of occupied Poland.
According to a book, which I purchased at the Visitor's Center, entitled "Majdanek," by Jozef Marszalek, the prisoners at Majdanek were from 28 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the USSR, the United States of America, and Yugoslavia.
Marszalek wrote that Polish citizens were 59.8% of the total, followed by citizens of the USSR at 19.8%, Czechoslovakia at 13.3%, the German Reich at 4% and France at 1.7%. All the other countries put together accounted for 1% of the total. There was a total of 54 ethnic groups represented, including 25 different ethnic groups from the Soviet Union and 4 ethnic groups from Yugoslavia. According to this book, the actual names of only 47,890 prisoners are known, including 7,441 women.
According to the 1998 Museum guidebook, 41% of the 300,000 prisoners, who were brought to the camp, were Jewish, which would mean that around 123,000 Jews were brought to Majdanek and approximately 59,00 of them died, if the latest figure claimed by Tomasz Kranz is correct. Most of the Jews sent to Majdanek were from the Lublin area, according to the Museum booklet. The Majdanek camp was also a labor camp; the women worked in the clothing warehouses and a shoe repair shop. The men were engaged in constructing buildings for the SS headquarters of Operation Reinhard in Lublin. The Lublin Jews who were unable to work were sent to the Belzec death camp.
There were around 43,000 Jews in the Lublin district who were brought to Majdanek and shot on November 3rd, 4th, and 5th in 1943, according to information in the Museum guidebook. The victims were brought to Majdanek from other camps, such as Poniatowa and Trawniki and they were not registered in the camp. A memorial plaque near the Majdanek Mausoleum states that 18,000 Jews were shot at Majdanek on November 3, 1943 and buried in mass graves, which were later dug up, so the bodies could be burned.
This page was last updated on August 9, 2007