If ever the day was a study in contrast, it was today, Friday, 4 July. We had an unexpected hour or so to explore Lublin this morning. Several of us took the time to walk through the old town down to the site of the old Jewish Quarter and the castle built by King Kazimierz in the 14th century.
The streets of the Lublin I walked had an old European feel to it with three- to four-story buildings. There are a number of alleys running off the main road like an old medieval town. What made Lublin a bit more curious in its layout was that the Jewish Quarter was actually in the shadow of the castle. It was Kazimierz who invited the Jews of Europe to settle in the Kingdom of Poland, which helps to explain why close to half of European Jewry was located in the East.
We then went to Majdanek, one of the most notorious labor and concentration camps. As opposed to Sobibor, which was hidden from view, Majdanek was off of the main road in plain view for all to see. Many of the structures were burned by the Russians after liberation due to the unhygienic conditions of the camp. However, representative structures were rebuilt and according to our guide Majdanek was operating as a museum of sorts by late 1944 to show the world what the Nazis had done.
I will not go into what the Nazis did at Majdanek. There are more and better informed sources than me. It is a sobering and spread out place. As a transit station Majdanek was a collection site for the belongings of Jews from other places. One of the storage sheds had piles of shoes — thousands of shoes. Shoes. Why keep so many shoes? And who owned those shoes? And these shoes went on for the whole length of the building. According to Jonty (our guide) this is but a small fraction of the shoes discovered at the camp by the Russians. And imagine that something, some personal article of clothing, jewelry, and personal goods filled the dozens of storage sheds on the grounds.