(Majdanek is pronounced MY-duh-nek by Americans and Muh-DON-ek by Poles.)
MAJDANEK IS LOCATED 2½ MILES FROM THE CENTER OF LUBLIN, a city in southeast Poland near the border with Ukraine and nearly 100 miles from Warsaw. Here in 1941, the Germans established a concentration camp, initially as a prison for Russian prisoners-of-war. In April 1942, they converted it into an extermination camp for Jews, political prisoners, and other people considered to be undesirables. Today the site of the former concentration camp is a memorial and museum. According to the official guidebook, the percentage of Jewish victims was 48%. Of the remaining victims, 31% were Polish political prisoners, 16% were Soviet prisoners of war, and 5 percent were prisoners from other countries, including a few American prisoners-of-war.
The first Jewish inmates came from long distances: Slovakia (now the Czech Republic), Austria, Germany, France, and Holland. Then they came from closer in: Lublin, Warsaw and Bialystok, Poland. An estimated 1.5 million prisoners were killed.