Poland, Vernichtungslager

Published: 1944-08-21

One of the earliest, if not the first account of an "extermination camp" in a major American periodical is the short article, "Vernichtungslager" which appeared in Time on August 21, 1944. The title alone is of great interest as it is rendered in German giving the appearance that the Germans referred to Majdanek (and perhaps other concentration camps) as a "Vernichtungslager" or "Extermination camp." No where in the literature or archives has this been found. The use of this German phrase was obviously intended by the editors at Time to add a dimension of mystery and evil.

Although referred to as "Majden" in the article what you will read is the complete story of the liberation of Majdanek by the Soviets as it appeared in Time. The ellipses are included in the original article. Nothing whatsoever has been cut from the original. Emphasis has been added throughout to highlight information of special interest. The impact that such early articles have had on American and world opinion is only now being analyzed.

Codoh Editor



Last week the Russian press published the first eye-witness description of a Nazi extermination camp. Wrote Soviet War Correspondent Roman Karmen:

"In the course of all my travels into liberated territory I have never seen a more abominable sight than Majden, [sic] near Lublin, Hitler's notorious Vernichtungslager (extermination camp) where more than a half a million European men, women, and children were massacred...* This was not a concentration camp; it was a gigantic murder plant.

"Save for 1,000 living corpses the Red Army found when it entered, no inmate escaped alive. Yet full trains daily brought thousands from all parts of Europe to be coldly, brutally massacred."

Biggest Crematorium. "In the center of the camp stands a huge stone building with a factory chimney—the world's biggest crematorium. The Germans attempted to burn it but most of it still stands—a grim monument to the Third Reich.

"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... so that after they suffocated they remained standing... The human cargoes were dumped into a roaring furnace heated to 1,500 Centigrade.

Human Bone Meal. The victims' charred bones and ashes were moved to an adjoining department where an incredible process went on. THESE HUMAN BONES WERE MECHANICALLY PULVERIZED, PLACED INSIDE LARGE TIN CANS AND SHIPPED BACK TO GERMANY FOR FERTILIZING THE FIELDS.

"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. I see the enormous dumps of shoes, sandals and slippers in men's, women's, and children's sizes bearing the trademarks of a dozen European countries...

"The cremation furnace was running day and night and its CHIMNEYS NEVER CEASED SMOKING. The capacity of its five compartments was 1,400 daily... The Germans had begun to build an annex when the Red Army arrived.

"The Russian Army came in time to save the last set of victims earmarked for slaughter."

* A footnote adds: "One of the victims was reported to be France's ex-Premier Leon Blum." This statement is false. Leon Blum (1872-1950) survived the war and served briefly as prime minister in 1946-1947.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Roman Karmen
Title: Poland, Vernichtungslager
Sources: Time, August 21, 1944
Published: 1944-08-21
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 15, 2000, 7 p.m.
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