Sunday, January 19, 2020

Solving the mystery of the seventh gas chamber of Majdanek.

[Last updated: 22.01.2020]

For decades after the war the State Museum at Majdanek claimed that the camp's so-called new crematorium had a homicidal chamber. After the historian Tomasz Kranz became its new director, the official Museum death toll for the camp was revised downwards (to 78,000), but aside from that Kranz also reduced the number of the claimed homicidal gas chambers to 2, whereas the maximum claimed number used to be 7. One of the formerly alleged gas chambers which the current Museum no longer acknowledges is the concrete room in the crematorium.[1]

So far no scholarly publication has managed to explain why the room was claimed to have been a gas chamber and what function it actually served.

In this article we'll try to fill that void.

The so-called new crematorium at Majdanek, built in 1943, was nearly totally destroyed by a fire right before the liberation of the camp by the Soviet forces. On the photos made shortly after the liberation one can usually see the ovens and the chimney (often with scaffolding, made by the Soviets apparently in order to install the iron bands, such as seen there nowadays, so that the chimney, obviously damaged by the fire and now having no surrounding supporting structures, doesn't crumble).

Fig. 1. The remains of the crematorium, including the entrance to the room (with two openings in the wall) that would be claimed to be a gas chamber.[2]
Fig. 2. Human remains near  the entrance to the room (with two openings in the wall) that would be claimed to be a gas chamber.[3]
Fig. 3. The remains of the crematorium before the chimney was provided with the scaffolding, including a behind view of the room that would be claimed to be a gas chamber.[4]
No testimony so far is known to us that would describe gassings in the crematorium in credible detail. There are vague, general, short claims in very few testimonies  that allege homicidal gassings in the crematorium, but they don't stem from people who would necessarily be in-the-know about the crematorium but rather mostly originate with what we would call "casual" witnesses. The mentioned gassings are not claimed to have been personally seen by the witnesses, so these are not eyewitness claims but hearsay at best (probably repeating the rumors), some of the statements explicitly saying as much.[5] The absolute majority of the Majdanek statements that mention both the gas chambers and the crematoria strictly separate the two (usually by locating the gas chambers somewhere in the bath complex and/or describing the bodies of the victims as transported to the crematorium).[6]

Even though the Museum would subsequently claim that there was a homicidal gas chamber in the new crematorium (based apparently on the vague non-eyewitness testimonies)[7], it should be noted that the Polish-Soviet commission that investigated the camp in August 1944, while identifying the room in question as a "gas chamber" three times in their report (twice in the text, once in an appendix), never ascribed any homicidal role to it.[8]

The report, or act, dated 4-23.08.1944, was quite clear on the issue: in the beginning it speaks of "six gas chambers" [9] and in the conclusion it only mentions these 6 gas chambers as established homicidal gas chambers, using only these 6 for a gassing capacity calculation (fig. 4).[10]

Fig. 4. The gassing capacity calculation based on the gas chamber areas.
The crematorium "gas chamber" is not even mentioned in the conclusion.

Neither do the protocols of the Polish-Soviet commission's sessions contain so much as a hint that there was any gas chamber in the crematorium, even when the crematorium is discussed explicitly.[11] In the protocol no. 3 from 22.08.1944 only 6 homicidal gas chambers are identified.[12]

Nevertheless, it is true that the commission's final report identified a certain room in the new crematorium as some sort of a "gas chamber". According to the report, the "gas chamber" is one of the few structures that survived the fire[13]:
During the inspection of the buildings it was found, that all wooden parts of the buildings are burned [...]. After the fire only all brick, concrete and ferroconcrete buildings and parts of buildings remain, among them:
a/ the incineration ovens with the upper smoke channel and flues;
b/ the smoke chimney with two ventilation plants;
v/ the concrete room of the gas chamber with ferroconcrete roofing and two small windows for observation on the side of the morgue;
g/ the brick wall separating the bathtub room and the toilet from the dissection anteroom;
d/ the brick wall separating the dissection room from the dissection anteroom;
e/ a part of the brick wall before the entrance into the bathtub room and
k/ the foundations, the brick plinths and concrete floors of all the mentioned 12 rooms and the concrete table installed on concrete posts in the dissection room.
It is identified as a gas chamber in a table with the crematorium rooms (fig. 5, room no. 3[14]; the words "газовая камера" are handwritten, and we will come back to this issue shortly).

Fig. 5. The list of crematoria rooms.
And it can be seen on the plan of the crematorium drawn by the commission (fig. 6, room no. 3[15]):

Fig. 6. 1: incineration room 2: dissection room; 3: gas chamber; 4: corpse storage; 5: fuel storage; 6: dissection anteroom; 7: bathtub room; 8: toilet; 9: ventilation room; 10-12: rooms; 13: corridor.
Interestingly enough, the text of the report doesn't mention the square hole in the ceiling of the room (later assumed by the Museum to have been a Zyklon B introduction hole) which would have been an important feature of a homicidal gas chamber, but the hole does appear in the section A-A of the crematorium building in the appendix to the report[16] in the roof of the concrete bunker (fig. 7).

Fig. 7. Section A-A (see the plan above) through the "gas chamber" (the concrete bunker on the left).
Fig. 8. The ceiling hole as it looks now. ©C. Mattogno[17]
The section is obviously partially a reconstruction, since the wooden structures around the concrete bunker burned down, including any wooden parts that could have been inside the hole (above the rebar), albeit the chimney structure would have probably been built around the hole anyway, just as depicted in the section.[18]

What was the room's function? The French researcher J.-C. Pressac claimed that on a German plan the room is identified as a morgue.[19] He doesn't cite any source for this claim. We haven't found such a plan in the scholarly literature. Neither is it known to the Holocaust deniers C. Mattogno and J. Graf, who in their "monograph" on the camp published quite a few original German plans of the new crematorium, and such a plan would have been very important for their thesis (denying homicidal gas chambers).[20] The latest plan they found was from 23.11.1942 and the annexes in which the concrete bunker in question resided had not yet appeared in the plan, but there already is a morgue (fig. 9).[21]

Fig. 9. The 23.11.1942 crematorium plan, still without the annexes. The room on the left: "Leichen-Halle", i.e. morgue.
Pressac's unsourced claim thus cannot be taken seriously and was probably just a mix-up on his part, confusing the morgue to the left of the oven room with the concrete bunker ("gas chamber"). Mattogno and Graf claim that the room was probably a "funeral parlor or urn room", without giving their reasoning. They may have been influenced by a statement of the crematorium's head Erich Mussfeld made on 13.08.1947 in Cracow[22]:
The part of the building located on the side of the crematorium chimney was walled up as Fachwerk ["post-and-beam" construction]. In that part there was a morgue /Leichenhalle/, a dissection room /Sezierraum/, coke storage room /Koksschuppen/ and a hall for corpse viewing /Leichensausbahrungsraum/ [sic! Actually: Leichenaufbahrungsraum].
This apparently refers to the design of the roof (cf. the section A-A in fig. 7 which exhibits a Fachwerk-like design, probably reconstructed on the basis of early testimonies) and thus refers to all the rooms to the "left" side of the chimney on the plan. Thus, the room for corpse viewing - a funeral parlor - would either be the room 6 on the Polish-Soviet plan (dissection anteroom) or 3 ("gas chamber").

On the one hand Mussfeld would have been best positioned to name the purposes of all the rooms. And that he doesn't mention any gas chamber is significant - it can hardly be argued that he didn't mention it so as not to incriminate himself, since he readily talks about his incriminating activities (on a much larger scale) related to the Auschwitz crematoria and gas chambers.

On the other hand, assuming he did mean the concrete bunker as a funeral parlor and was intending to tell the truth, it may not have been the only or the main function of the room. We will shortly see that this is indeed the case.

As we have noted before, in the Soviet technical report/act about the gas chambers the words "gas chamber" are handwritten in the table listing all the crematorium rooms. In fact, there was something else typed there, and then partially scrubbed (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. "Газовая камера" = "gas chamber". There are fewer handwritten letters than there are typed ones.
One can clearly see the outlines of some of the letters of the initial semi-erased text (fig. 11).

Fig. 11. The visible letters.
The first 7-letter word has "К" and "т". It is most probably "Комната", "room" (the same word as used for the room no. 10). The general outlines of some of the visible parts of the other letters (like "мн") generally match, if we consider that the authors tried to rub out the initial words. In any case, we cannot find another match.

The 7-letter word or part of a word in the second line beginning with "ср" and ending with "ств" is unlikely to be anything but "средств" (plural genitive of sredstvo = medium, substance, agent). We don't see a viable alternative here either.

The last three letters in the first line, the last of them being "з", most probably build a compound noun with the last word. There are three versions we can think of.

1. "дез" - an abbreviation of "дезинфицирующих", an adjectival form of "disinfection", in which case the whole would read "дезсредств" - disinfection substances.

2. "хоз" -  an abbreviation of "хозяйственных", referring to the household use, in which case the whole would read "хозсредств" - household substances, or, more properly, household chemicals.

3. "газ" - "gas", in which case the whole would read "газсредств" - gas substances/agents.

All the variants  are theoretically possible in Russian, albeit the third one would be a pure occasionalism. It seems however that the "wide" upper element of the first letter, that can still be seen, excludes the variant 1, since the upper stroke of "д" is narrow. Moreover, there seems to be a gap in the upper stroke of the first letter which indicates that the letter is a semi-erased "х" rather than a "г" (fig. 12).

Fig. 12. A comparison of the letters.
It would seem that the most probable reading of the original typed text is then "Комната хозсредств" (room for household chemicals).

Now we come to two important witness statements. First of all, let's deal with the 1945 memoir of the Soviet Majdanek inmate Suren Barutchev.[23] Barutchev was an experienced surgeon already before the war. After the liberation he was tasked with organizing a Majdanek exhibition for the Military-Medicine Museum, then residing in Moscow. While he doesn't claim to be an eyewitness to the gas chambers, he certainly tried gathering as much information as possible. As his sources of knowledge about the crematorium he gives his May 1944 talks with a POW named Anatoly Sklyarov (whose descriptions he later found to be too simplified) and own numerous visits to the crematorium together with the Soviet commission.[24]

He describes the inside of the crematorium part that was facing the Field 5 as follows[25]:
[...] a big chamber 10 x 10 m apparently for storing corpses; a hall (handwritten insert) small chamber (/handwritten insert) 10 x 7 m for poisoning with chlorine gas; (handwritten insert) connected to the small chamber with two large openings (/handwritten insert) a storage room for chlorinated lime 7 x 7 m and a dissection room for autopsies of some corpses. Behind the wall, in the corridor, near the dissection room, there was a bathtub.
Fig. 13. The relevant excerpt from a draft of Barutchev's memoir.
He claimed that this gas chamber was used when the main gas chambers (in the concrete bunker near the bath) were busy.

From the sizes of the rooms it is clear that Barutchev thought the room 5 in the Polish-Soviet plan (fuel storage), ca. 10 x 10 m (in the plan: 9,4 x 9,7 m), to have been a morgue.

The next room he names a homicidal gas chamber, ca. 10 x 7 m. The next room in the Polish-Soviet plan, roughly matching that size and proportion (9,7 x 5,7 m), is the room no. 4, the morgue.

The next room, ca. 7 x 7 m, connected to the room no. 4 with two large openings he describes as chlorinated lime storage, whereas in the Soviet plan this room no. 3. is a "gas chamber" (5,92 x 6,7 m but with thicker, concrete walls). The rest of the rooms are listed by him more or less as in the plan (he apparently describes the dissection anteroom as a part of the dissection room, since it is the anteroom that borders on the washroom with a bathtub).

Barutchev thus identified the concrete bunker as a chlorinated lime storage and misidentified the morgue as a homicidal gas chamber.[26]

Another important testimony is the 05.08.1944 statement of the Polish worker Józef Jajszczyk[27], who, according to his statement, worked as a plumber in the camp from September 1942 until April 1944, visited the new crematorium 2 times, knew it well and talked to the inmates who worked there. He described the crematorium rooms as follows:
[...] a small room where the doomed undressed. Their clothes are still there now. Another, larger room - storage of corpses for incineration. The third room was a storage room for chloride[28], the fourth one - for coke, with which the ovens were fueled in the crematorium. The ovens stood in the middle of the fifth room.
Near the crematorium, under the same roof, there was built a room for the head of the crematorium.
In the undressing room, as inmates who worked in the crematorium showed me, there was a concrete table [...]
Fig. 14. The relevant excerpt from Jajszczyk's statement.
That Jajsczyk, who visited the crematorium two times and talked to the inmates there, doesn't mention any homicidal gas chamber further confirms that there wasn't one in the crematorium.

The concrete table he mentions was in the dissection room[29] and on several photos one can see clothes lying around (fig. 15).

Fig. 15. The concrete table in the dissection room with the clothes lying around. 01.09.1944. ©RIA "Novosti".[30]
Take away the morgue (room no. 4 in the Polish-Soviet plan), the fuel storage (room no. 5), the dissection room (room no. 2) and the dissection anteroom (room no. 6) - it's highly unlikely that chemicals would be stored in an anteroom and it is further improbable that Jajszczyk would omit one of the most curious rooms, the concrete bunker, from his description - and we're left with the room no. 3 - the "gas chamber" - as the "chloride" storage.

On 2-3.08.1944 the military prosecutors of the 69th Army visually inspected the camp and described its most important structures. When it comes to the new crematorium, we read the following[31]:
In the room, the stone walls of which survived, and near that room there is a large amount of a powder-like mass of white color, having the form of barrels and emitting the strong smell of chlorinated lime.
Fig. 16. The relevant excerpt from the act.
That's a clincher. The room's purpose was to store barrels with chlorinated lime.

Chlorinated lime (German: Chlorkalk) is a mixture of calcium hypochlorite, calcium chloride and calcium hydroxide. Its uses include "bleaching of cellulose, paper and textiles, disinfection / decontamination (e.g. of stables, latrines and carcasses)".[32] From a modern safety sheet (emphasis ours):
Specific hazards arising from the substance or mixture.
Non-flammable, but promotes fire by releasing oxygen.
In case of fire, the following may be produced: chlorine, hydrogen chloride, toxic combustion products. [...]
Instructions for fire fighting.
[...] Cool endangered containers with water spray jet and, if possible without danger, remove them from the danger zone.
Heating can lead to dangerous pressure increase (danger of bursting).
Measures to protect against fire and explosions: Notes on safe handling.
Ensure good ventilation of the storage and work area. Special fire and explosion protection measures are not required. The material does not burn, but gives off a lot of heat during decomposition. The elimination of oxygen causes it to have a strong oxidizing effect.
Caution: Flammable materials contaminated with product, such as textiles or paper, can ignite spontaneously. Contaminated materials must be washed out immediately with plenty of water.
Avoid aerosol formation. Do not inhale dust. Avoid contact with substance.
Requirements for storage rooms and containers.
Store in the original container. Do not store together with acids. Store separately from flammable materials.
Chlorinated lime thus would be used for disinfection (e.g. when there were too many corpses in the storage to burn them quickly, so as to slow down the decomposition process; to occasionally disinfect rooms and objects that came into contact with corpses, especially of the sick people; etc.), its presence in the crematorium was natural. But there was a problem: most crematorium walls were wooden (i.e. flammable) except for the plinths, and chlorinated lime also had to be kept away from a casual contact with other flammable materials (like clothes of the victims) too.

This fact most probably explains why the chlorinated lime storage room was the only non-wooden room in the building and indicates that its purpose might have been such (or very similar) from the start. Moreover, the opening in the ceiling was almost certainly an exhaust ventilation opening connected to a wooden chimney protruding through the roof. Judging by the rebar in the hole, it could have been made after the fact, after it was realized that an exhaust ventilation would be necessary for an effective use of the storage room. Today it is hard to say conclusively whether the ventilation was mechanical or based on natural draft (though it was probably the latter as no small ventilator is claimed to have been found in the crematorium ruins and also due to further technical considerations concerning the issue of the replacement/supply air).

The dangerous substance (that under some circumstances can emit the gas chlorine, associated with chemical warfare since its use in WWI) stored in the crematorium (which was a place not only where corpses were burned but where also shootings and probably other kinds of murders happened) and probably simply confused with chlorine at times due to linguistic ambiguity (e.g. the Polish "chlorek", "chloride", would sometimes get mistranslated into Russian "khlor", "chlorine"), gave rise to a rumor that there was a gas chamber there. The rumor was very limited in scope among the camp inmates, as already pointed out, but it nevertheless found its way into the press, including the mentions of "chlorine" as the killing agent, despite extremely few witnesses mentioning it as such.[33]

The Soviet war journalist and writer Konstantin Simonov in his 1944 series about Majdanek mentioned a gas chamber in the crematorium - most probably getting the information from Barutchev, whom he names "Barychev"[34], since he misidentifies the rooms just as Barutchev did (for Simonov the gas chamber in the crematorium was the room with only one brick wall still standing). Simonov notes about the method of murder in that room: "whether by means of "Zyklon" or some other gas has not yet been ascertained".[35] Another Soviet war journalist and writer Boris Gorbatov wrote in his Majdanek article that "they asphyxiated with Zyklon. They poisoned with chlorine".[36] Interestingly, their colleague Evgeniy Kriger didn't mention anything about chlorine or a crematorium gas chamber even when writing about the crematorium.[37]

The then major-general Nikolay Popel' wrote in his memoirs about his visit to Majdanek at the end of August 1944. Among other things "we saw cylinders with the scary gas "Zyklon". The gas was specially prepared "for the East only". When there was too few "Zyklon", people were poisoned with chlorine".[38] The Soviet war cameraman and film director Roman Karmen, who shot some of the famous Majdanek footage, published an article about the camp atrocities, in which he claimed, among other things[39]:
Groups of 100 people would be brought here to be burned almost alive. They already had been stripped and then chlorinated in special gas chambers adjoining. The gas chambers contained some 250 persons at one time. They were closely packed in a standing position so that after they suffocated from the chlorine, they still remained standing. Executioners then would enter, remove the suffocated victims, some of whom still stirred feebly and place the bodies in special carts.
It is difficult to believe it myself but my eyes cannot deceive me. I see the human bones, lime barrels, chlorine pipes and furnace machinery.
The barrels he saw are obviously the same ones found by the Soviets in the "gas chamber".

Fig. 17. Roman Karmen's article.
Most exaggerated were Thomas Mann's claims in his 14.01.1945 address that "one and a half million European men, women and children were poisoned there with chlorine in gas chambers and burned"[40] (something never claimed by the Soviets or Poles; Mann's claim might be an extrapolation from Karmen's article).

These reports most probably stem from the same small group of Soviet POWs, which included Barutchev, who talked to the Soviet journalists when they first arrived in the camp. After all, Simonov, Gorbatov, Kriger and others were in the camp at the same time. And, as already mentioned, only very few witnesses mentioned crematorium gassings and even fewer - chlorine as the killing agent, so the reports had to stem from the same small group. It would make sense that the Soviet journalists would be partial to the Soviet POWs as their sources. Notably, the Western journalists who arrived in the camp at the end of August don't seem to mention the crematorium/chlorine gassing claims.[41]

Let's sum it all up. As we have seen, apparently the Polish-Soviet commission (or at least the experts who wrote the technical report about the gas chambers) at first thought that the room in question was a storage for household chemicals. And indeed, from the testimonial and material evidence we can conclude that it was a storage room for chlorinated lime, a strong disinfectant (for corpses, among other things), that had to be kept away from flammable materials in a preferably ventilated space.

This identification was subsequently amended to "gas chamber" (without mentioning the type of the gas chamber - disinfestation gas chambers can also be gas chambers). This correction might have been influenced by the few claims about there having been a gas chamber in the crematorium (which themselves probably arose partially due to a confusion between the terms referring to chlorinated lime and chlorine in different Slavic languages) and/or by the fact that the commission experts saw the only concrete room in the crematorium as fit for gassings (of whatever nature).

Nevertheless, the alleged homicidal nature of the chamber was completely avoided in the report, despite the claims of the crematorium gassings (incl. with chlorine) appearing in the central Soviet press, like Pravda, right in the middle of the commission's work.

It was the State Museum at Majdanek that eventually identified the room as a homicidal gas chamber in its exhibition, and specifically a Zyklon B gas chamber (something apparently not claimed before that), with the probable ventilation opening in the ceiling now becoming a Zyklon B introduction hole (this would have been extrapolated from the other gas chambers residing in the bathhouse complex).

Decades later the Museum withdrew this identification since it was recognized that no credible evidence actually exists that this room was a homicidal gas chamber.

I want to thank Dr. Nicholas Terry, without whose informational support this article would not have been possible.

[1] The current position of the Museum is explained in an article on the Museum's website, where the formerly claimed gas chamber in the new crematorium is mentioned once in the beginning and is never returned to or explained. For a brief insight into the Museum's claims about this chamber see Michal Chocholatý's bachelor's thesis Plynové komory v KL Lublin ve světle poválečného bádání, 2012, pp. 69ff.

[2] USHMM photo #04859.

Also see the Ghetto Fighters House Archive, catalog no. 10700 and 10647.

[4] The 5 Rim publisher's collection of ChGK photos from Majdanek.

[5] For example, the statements of Georgiy Kondrat, 03.08.1944, GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 8, l. d. 52-3; Mikhail Atrokhov, 03.08.1944, ibid., l. d. 86;  Georgiy [Grzegorz?] Bargielski, 08.08.1944, ibid., l. d. 364; Suren Barutchev's memoir as explored further in the article; Danuta Mędryk's explicitly hearsay statement in D. Ambach, T. Köhler, Lublin-Majdanek. Das Konzentrations-und Vernichtungslager im Spiegel von Zeugenaussagen, 2003, p. 164; SS-man Alfred Bajerke (Baierke), 13.08.1947, AIPN NTN 144, pp. 97-8 (on 19.03.1965 he explained that his knowledge of gas chambers (he didn't name a specific one) comes from hearsay, BArch B162/2349, p. 2365).

[6] E.g. see the statements in Ambach, Köhler, op. cit., and in GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 8.

[7] During the first Majdanek exhibition in 1945 (A. Ziębińska-Witek, "Representation of Death in Exhibitions: The Case of the State Museum at Majdanek" in S. Gigliotti, J. Golomb, C. Steinberg Gould (eds.), Ethics, Art and the Representation of the Holocaust. Essays in Honor of Berel Lang, 2014, p. 268) one of the panels (Ghetto Fighters House Archive catalog no. 38519) accepted the results of the Polish-Soviet investigation, explicitly mentioning "6 komor gazowych", "6 gas chambers". (As a side note: the panel also mentioned the 2,000,000 estimate that was apparently initially proposed by the Soviet military investigation. We see it in the 23.08.1944 concluding report by the military prosecutor of the 1st Belorussian Front Yachenin (GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 321) and we see it corrected by hand to "one and a half million" in the typed commission session protocol no. 4 from 24.08.1944, GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 30, l. d. 201; the Museum might have based the panel on the documentary footage of the commission's sessions in which the number 2,000,000 was, of course, unedited.)

[8] Thus, contrary to T. Kranz, The Extermination of Jews at Majdanek Concentration Camp, 2010, p. 41, the commission did not actually claim 7 homicidal gas chambers and there is no contradiction with a later Soviet communique. The Soviet claim was 6 homicidal gas chambers from the start.

[9] GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 230.

[10] Ibid., l. d. 238-9.

[11] GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 30.

[12] Ibid., l. d. 182.

[13] GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 235.

[14] Ibid., l. d. 236.

[15] Ibid., l. d. 253.

[16] Ibid., l. d. 252.

[17] C. Mattogno, J. Graf, Concentration Camp. Majdanek. A Historical and Technical Study, 2016 (3rd edn), p. 345, photo XXI.

[18] Thus contrary to the Holocaust denial thesis in C. Mattogno, J. Graf, op. cit., p. 152, the current absence of a chimney doesn't confirm that the hole was fabricated post-liberation. Even if the chimney base was inside the hole, as opposed to around it, then whatever remaining burned wooden parts of the chimney possibly stuck to the hole would be removed later, e.g. during the crematorium reconstruction. The crude look of the hole could be explained by it having been chiseled into the roof after the fact (as indicated by the rebar inside the hole) before the liberation. Additionally, it cannot be excluded that the hole edges were partially damaged during a clean-up attempt.

Curiously, the authors, after writing that the "Polish-Soviet Commission did not see fit to mention the opening (26 cm × 26 cm) cut through the ceiling, whereas it certainly did consider those in Chambers I, II, IV, V and VI worthy of note" did not see fit to mention to their readers that the hole does nevertheless appear in the section of the room in the appendix to the report. This refutes the fabrication thesis (also adopted by Chocholatý with some minor hesitation; Chocholatý, 2012,  op. cit., p. 73), since we know that the hole existed early on and thus was not a result of the Museum's reconstruction work; and the Polish-Soviet commission had no reason to fabricate the hole only then to ignore it in the text of the report, while not even claiming that the "gas chamber" in question was homicidal in the first place.

[19] J.-C. Pressac, "The deficiencies and inconsistencies of the 'Leuchter Report'', in S. Shapiro (ed.), Truth Prevails. Demolishing Holocaust Denial: The End of the Leuchter Report, 1990, p. 55.

[20] See Mattogno, Graf, op. cit., the documentary appendix.

[21] Ibid., p. 310 (doc. 19). The image here is from the Arolsen Archives, file reference 2455000, document 82115857.

[22] AIPN NTN 144, pp. 71-2.

[23] On Barutchev's background see his interview given around 1971, L. Palievskaya, "Chelovek, perezhivshiy smert'" in Prometey, 1971, no. 8, pp. 117-129, this project by the pupils of the Kislovodsk school MBOU SOSh№2, which quotes from his diary; this article about K. Simonov, which, on the basis of Barutchev's diary, establishes the date when Barutchev began dictating his memoir as 31.01.1945; and this article about a modern exhibition in the Military-Medical Museum that mentions Barutchev's guidebook to the first Majdanek exhibition. Barutchev's memoir is in GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 32. It wasn't published during the Soviet time due to censorship; in one review of a draft it was found that Barutchev's memoir had the wrong "tone", seeing some gray and not only black and white, painting some of the Nazis in an allegedly positive light and the Soviet inmates allegedly in a negative light, etc. See ibid., l. d. 2-3. On Barutchev's work on a book about Majdanek also see ibid., l. d. 4, 5. The first draft was ready in the spring of 1945.

[24] Ibid., l. d. 104-5.

[25] Ibid., l. d. 106.

[26] In the published interview with Palievskaya the crematorium gas chamber claim doesn't appear, even though the crematorium is described in some detail (pp. 126-7) and so are the gas chambers in the bunker near the bath (pp. 125-6).

[27] Ibid., l. d. 242 for the Russian translation, l. d. 246-6v for the Polish text.

[28] "magazyn chlorku"; in Russian mistranslated to "склад хлора" - "chlorine storage".

[29] According to Mieczysław Okupniak's 06.08.1944 statement (ibid., l. d. 302) he worked in the new crematorium for 3 weeks, installing the sewer system. He also names the room with the table the "undressing room" and says he was told by the inmates working in the crematorium that corpses were dissected on that table when they were suspected of having swallowed golden coins or precious stones before death. (Notably, Okupniak doesn't mention being told about an existence of any gas chamber in the crematorium.) Also see Andrzej Stanisławski's statement in Ambach, Köhler, op. cit., p. 205.

[30] RIAN photo #5347; AiF. Also cf. a photo of the dissection room full of clothes (described as undressing room) in E. Kriger, "Nemetskaya fabrika smerti pod Lyublinom" (part 2), Izvestiya, no. 192 (13.08.1944), p. 2 and the Ghetto Fighters House Archive catalog no. 10537 and 9067.

[31] GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 112.

[32] This and the following quotes are from Hedinger, "Sicherheitsdatenblatt gemäß Verordnung (EU) Nr. 453/2010. Chlorkalk 32-35%", 25.02.2012.

[33] Barutchev in his hearsay report (it is hard to say whose testimonies he is basing this on; might have been several, might have been one); there is also a statement about chlorine gassings in the bath complex - that of the Soviet-Ukrainian POW Lev Karol', made on 3-4.08.44 (GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 129). This is probably just a mutation of the initial crematorium chlorine rumor. On the mistranslation of "chlorek" as "chlorine" see the note 28.

[34] K. Simonov, "Lager' unichtozheniya" (part 2), Krasnaya Zvezda, no. 190 (11.08.1944), p. 3; K. Simonov, The Death Factory Near Lublin, 1944, p. 20.

[35] K. Simonov, "Lager' unichtozheniya" (part 3), Krasnaya Zvezda, no. 191 (12.08.1944), p. 3; K. Simonov, The Death Factory Near Lublin, 1944, p. 14.

[36] B. Gorbatov, "Lager' na Majdaneke" (part 2), Pravda, no. 193 (12.08.1944), p. 3.

[37] E. Kriger, "Nemetskaya fabrika smerti pod Lyublinom" part 1 in Izvestiya, no. 191 (12.08.1944), p. 2; part 2 in no. 192 (13.08.1944), p. 2.

[38] N. Popel', Vperedi - Berlin!, 1970, p. 116. The confused and irrelevant "for the East only" claim is also made by Simonov, Kriger and Gorbatov. In fact, the Zyklon B label in question read: "Alleinanwendungsberechtigt für das ostelbische Reichsgebiet einschl. Sudetengau, das Generalgouvernement, das Reichskommissariat Ostland u. für Dänemark, Finnland u. Norwegen", "Sole use authorization for the East-Elbian territory including the Sudetengau, the Generalgouvernement, the Reichskommissariat Ostland and for Denmark, Finland and Norway" (GARF f. 7021, op. 107, d. 9, l. d. 244b). This was merely due to a commercial agreement between Dr. Bruno Tesch and Degesch, see J. Kalthoff, M. Werner, Die Händler des Zyklon B Tesch & Stabenow. Eine Firmengeschichte zwischen Hamburg und Auschwitz, 1998, p. 118.

[39] R. Karmen, "Lublin Extermination Camp Called 'Worst Yet' by Writer", Daily Worker, 14.08.1944, p. 8.

[40] T. Mann, Deutsche Hörer! Europäische Hörer! Radiosendungen nach Deutschland, 1986, p. 136.

[41] Cf. W. H. Lawrence, "Nazi Mass Killing Laid Bare in Camp", New York Times, 30.08.1944, pp. 1, 9 (Zyklon B, carbon monoxide, gas chambers in the bath and near the bath; crematorium description); D. de Luce, "Murder Camp Details Told", The Baltimore Sun, 30.08.1944, p. 3 (6 chambers, cyanide and carbon monoxide); A. Werth, a contemporary report unpublished at the time, in Russia at War, 1941–1945, 1964, pp. 891-4 (six chambers "side by side" at the bath-house; crematorium description).


  1. So, Kranz revised the Majdanek death total to 78,000. According to deniers (Mattogno at least) it is "about 42,200" - they always make that point to me when I show them photos of cremations from Majdanek. It looks like who ever edits the Wikipedia page accepts the 78,000 estimate.

    Do you think this 78,000 figure is about correct, and how many of them were gassed? Maybe the 36,000 difference? Yad Vashem I just checked claims 360,000 victims at Majdanek.

    It's also interesting about how the term "gas chamber" can be used for delousing chambers and also homicidal gas chambers and that this can be confusing.

    It is also pointed out to me by deniers that at Majdanek the Germans tried to destroy the [two?] crematoria when fleeing (and in one case it burned down, in the other it didn't). However they point out that they made no attempt to destroy any gas chambers, suggesting they were not buildings used to kill people so the Germans didn't think to do it. I said that at least one of the gas chambers was in the crematoria as well, but now your article says this was not used for killing prisoners.

    So, which [two?] rooms were the homicidal gas chambers at Majdanek?
    And, they all [both?] have blue staining on the walls, right?

    I guess this is one of them:

    Outside image:
    Labeled "bath and Disinfection 1"

    And the other one is also in a building (with also an undressing room and all of that), the same building but a mirror image (like Krema II and III)? Separated for men / women.

    However, these gas chambers did not have crematoria in them, so the bodies had to be moved to the crematoria after?

    Is that right?

    1. > Do you think this 78,000 figure is about correct

      Yes, albeit not above a relatively minor revision.

      > Yad Vashem I just checked claims 360,000 victims at Majdanek.

      Outdated by many decades.

      > It's also interesting about how the term "gas chamber" can be used for delousing chambers and also homicidal gas chambers and that this can be confusing.


      > However they point out that they made no attempt to destroy any gas chambers, suggesting they were not buildings used to kill people so the Germans didn't think to do it. I said that at least one of the gas chambers was in the crematoria as well, but now your article says this was not used for killing prisoners.

      Our article simply clarifies the circumstances behind the claim long ago abandoned by the mainstream.

      > So, which [two?] rooms were the homicidal gas chambers at Majdanek?
      And, they all [both?] have blue staining on the walls, right?

      Two chambers out of three in the bunker near the bathhouse. And we also don't exclude that the delousing chamber in the barrack 41 was also used for murder, as claimed before. We're not entirely convinced by Kranz's arguments and we're in the process of thoroughly researching this issue. Any interesting results will be reported here, of course.

      > I guess this is one of them

      This one is currently not acknowledged by the museum, see above.

      > And the other one is also in a building (with also an undressing room and all of that), the same building but a mirror image (like Krema II and III)?

      No, and never claimed to be such.

      > However, these gas chambers did not have crematoria in them, so the bodies had to be moved to the crematoria after?

      Yes, and many testimonies say bodies were removed either to the crematorium or to the Krepiecki forest.

  2. Comment from a forever-banned troll removed (same applies to all his future comments).

    1. Please don't reply to the forever-banned troll, as his posts will be removed.

  3. Dear BRoI, this is the lesson you haven't been able to learn throughout the years, but will have to, one day: the second you're an asshole to the authors of this blog, your comments, whether they have any merit to them at all or not (happens rarely), will be deleted. Now go cry about evil censorship here rotfl.

  4. And the proven pathological liar BRoI, who was unable to credibly object to a single point in this article, disappears again.


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