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Orderly genocide

“You cannot possibly imagine what a devastating impact it had on a front-line soldier, entering those factory-like buildings and discovering that this facility [Majdanek] was a death camp. What I saw upon entering that camp was a large building, and I remember there was a sign pointing to a ‘Bad und Disinfektion’ facility. The inside of that barracks was made of concrete, with benches all around the room. In the next room were large square concrete structures without windows, only a small skylight in the ceiling. I think there were six rooms on each side, with heavy steel doors, each with a small opening for looking in. Between the two large buildings were dozens of light-green barracks, and there I saw clothes sorted out, with all kinds of luggage and other items belonging to adults and children. I had to pass dozens of that same type of barracks to reach a crematorium at the other end—as I recall, half a mile. On the way, I saw warehouses full of boots, shoes and little shoes by the thousands, all sorted out to perfection, German style. Further down the road was an enormous mountain of white ashes with small human bones. At that point, I decided to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, and a Christian soldier knelt to pray beside me. For the first time since childhood, I lost my composure. All those hardened soldiers cried together. We had orders to rush back to our front-line positions, but there was one last enormous structure that I had to investigate. It turned out to be the crematorium, with six or seven enormous furnaces and factory-style chimneys. There was also a regular wooden house, where the director of the crematorium used to live.” – Bernhard Storch (interviewed by Jon Guttman in “Polish Artilleryman on the Eastern Front”)

Published inThe Second World War

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