The SS health service at Majdanek

How to cite: Falgowski, J. The SS health service at Majdanek. Bałuk-Ulewiczowa, T., trans. Medical Review – Auschwitz. January 10, 2020. https://www.mp.pl/auschwitz. Originally published as “Esesowska służba zdrowia w obozie na Majdanku.’ Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. 1970: 172–173.

Author

Józef Falgowski, MA, historian, one of the contributing authors of Medical Review – Auschwitz.

The scarcity of archival materials on Majdanek and its sub-camps, and particularly on the SS health service there, has not only hindered but actually prevented me from taking a scholarly approach to this issue.1 The archive searches I have conducted in the archives of the Majdanek State Museum, the Lublin Voivodeship Archives, and the collections of the Lublin District Commission for the Investigation of Nazi German Crimes and the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi German Crimes in Warsaw have not brought the results I had hoped for. There are numerous memoirs by Majdanek survivors, but they haven't answered the important questions, either.

The current state of research on the SS health service at Majdanek can only be described as meager. Only a dozen or so names of the SS doctors and paramedics have been established, together with their offices, powers, and status in the camp’s official hierarchy. The head of the administrative unit V was the Standortarzt or garrison physician of Majdanek. He was responsible to the camp’s commandant for the health of the SS guards in the camp’s security unit as well as of the prisoners. The SS officers who were Lagerärzte (camp physicians) were subordinates of the Standortarzt. Their duties were to supervise hygiene in the whole camp and protect prisoners against epidemics of infectious diseases. So the Standortarzt was responsible for the state of health in the entire camp.


A Gas Chamber. Cyclone B. Marian Kołodziej. Click to enlarge.

The garrison physician had a dentist assigned to him and the dentist could use the SS-Zahnstation (dental station). The pharmacists of the SS Apotheke were subject to the authority of the garrison physician as well, and the pharmacy was well-stocked in medicines and dressings. Likewise the SS paramedics (Sanitätsdienstgehilfe, SDGs), who served as Blockälteste (block elders) in the blocks of the prisoners’ hospital, were assigned to help the camp physician of their block, but they were subject to the authority of the garrison physician too. The organization, cleaning, administrative and personnel supervision was the domain of SDGs.

There was also a separate group of “disinfectors” in the auxiliary sanitary service. Their job was strictly defined and highly specific. They were specially trained to handle the canisters of Zyklon B (cyclone B) gas, and bring it into the gas chambers through purpose-built apertures to gas prisoners. After the gassing they removed the corpses from the gas chamber and “disinfected” it, ready for the next gassing. The list provided below gives the name of the doctor or paramedic, and, wherever possible, also his date and place of birth, his job(s) in Majdanek and other camps, and information on what happened to him after the war.

  • Max Blancke, Hauptsturmführer SS. SS Lagerarzt at Natzweiler to mid-1942, where he collaborated in pseudoscientific experiments on prisoners. Lagerarzt in Majdanek from mid- 1942, taking part in the “selection”2 of new arrivals in the prisoners’ hospital blocks located in the diverse sections of the camp, and in the executions and gas chamber killings. Transferred to Plaszow, November 1943 (GKBZHwP, Pohl Trial IX: 149-152; Perzanowska, 1968; and APMM, ref. no. AII-139).3
  • Franz von Bodmann, Hauptsturmführer SS, physician. Born March 23, 1909 in Munich. Came to Majdanek from Auschwitz in 1942, served as Standortarzt and head of the SS hospital. Committed suicide on May 25, 1945 in Salzburg4 (Perzanowska, 1966, 209; Jagielski, 75; Pawlak, APMM, ref. no. XVII-250:110; Reinartz statement; Kosibowicz, 4-6; and my private correspondence).5

  • Anton Enders, Oberscharführer SS, “disinfector.” Served in Majdanek in 1943 and 1944. Trained to administer cyclone B gas, attended the gas chambers. (Tesch & Stabenow correspondence, July 29, 1942, re. dispatches of cyclone B to Majdanek; APMM, ref. no. I d: 55).6

  • Karl-Josef Fischer, Untersturmführer SS. Born March 14, 1904 in Graz. Lagerarzt in Auschwitz I, 1941. Lagerarzt in Majdanek, 1942. Transferred to Sachsenhausen. Lives1TBU03] in the Federal Republic of Germany (Prosecution records in proceedings against Dr K.J. Fischer, OKBZHwL ref. no. II DS 5/65 ).7
  • Bernard Haberlacht, SS non-commissioned officer, SDG. Took part in gassing prisoners (Reinartz statement).
  • [Bernard] Havenith, Unterscharführer SS, SDG (Reinartz statement).
  • Günther Konietzny, Rottenführer SS, SDG. Born September 30, 1918 in Katowice. Ran the selection of prisoners (Pawlak, 104).8
  • Hans Perschon, Hauptscharführer SS, SDG. Born November 24, 1914. Gas chamber manager (Reinartz statement; Pawlak, 110).9
  • Max Popiersch, physician, Sturmbannführer SS, Auschwitz Standortarzt. Transferred to Majdanek, where he served as Standortarzt. Died of a stroke, April 21, 1942, in Lublin (Karabanik, ref. no. VII-245, 115; Kosibowicz).10
  • Willi Reinartz, Unterscharführer SS, SDG. Born March 17, 1910, in Reussrath (Rhineland). Participated in the selection of prisoners made by SS doctors. Stayed in Majdanek until it was wound up in July 1944 (Reinartz statement).11
  • Heinrich Rindfleisch, Untersturmführer SS, physician. Born March 3, 1916 in Strasbourg. Arrived in Majdanek in 1943. Initially deputy to the Lagerarzt and stayed in this post until the camp was closed down in July 1944, and was then transferred to Gross-Rosen. Lives in the Federal Republic of Germany. Dr Blancke was Lagerarzt from April or May 1943 and his deputy was Dr Rindfleisch. They never came to visit or examine patients. In practice their duties were limited to administrative matters and conducting gas chamber selections. They are mentioned in survivors’ recollections (Karabanik, 115-120; Pawlak, 110; Perzanowska, 1966: 207, 210–211 and 1968: 173–174).12
  • [Heinrich] Schmidt, Obersturmführer SS, physician (GKBZHwP, Records of proceedings against Udo Mennenga, inventory 386, ref. no. 960z).13
  • Karl Philip Theodor Schütz, born March 11, 1906 in Nentershausen. Dentist. Head of the dental station in the Majdanek SS hospital (WAPwL, ref. no. 26, 311).14
  • Albert Trzebinski, Obersturmführer SS, Ph. D. in medicine. Born in 1903. Came from Westphalia. Auschwitz Lagerarzt as of July 1941. In the fall of that year transferred to Majdanek, which was just being set up, and appointed Lagerarzt. Transferred in late 1942 to Neuengamme, where he served as Standortarzt. Stood trial after the war before the British Military Court (Karabanik; Gondzik; Pawlak; Kłodziński, 1966: 149).15

Notes

  1. Since the publication of the above article there have been several publications on the SS doctors at Majdanek, including Lasik, A. “Struktura organizacyjna oraz obsada osobowa stanowisk kierowniczych w obozie koncentracyjnym na Majdanku w latach 1941–1944” [The structure and staff of the SS management of Majdanek, 1941–1944]. Zeszyty Majdanka. 2003: 23: 121–196 and Leszczyńska, Z. “Oddział V – Lekarz obozowy” [Majdanek administrative unit V: the camp physician]. Mencel, T. (ed.), Majdanek 1941–1944, Lublin; 1991: 72–74. The latter article provides a short description of the 16 SS camp staff members connected with the medical service at Majdanek. It must be also noted that the archival signatures given by the author may be no longer up-to-date due to reorganization of the archives.b
  2. “Selection”—a Nazi German euphemism. Concentration camp inmates who were “selected” were sent to their deaths.a
  3. Max Blancke, * SS-Hauptsturmführer, MD, NSDAP member since 1 May 1933, SS member since June 1933. In April 1940 he worked as a functionary of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, and in July 1940 as a functionary of the administrative unit V in Dachau (as a camp physician). Between 22 February 1941 and 19 January 1942 he was an SS doctor in Buchenwald, from where he was directed to the reserve sanitary battalion of the SS (SS-Sanitäts-Ersatz-Bataillon*) in Oranienburg. Afterwards he was sent to serve in Office D III of the SS-WVHA, which was to deal with the sanitary conditions and hygiene in concentration camps. From January 1942 to May 1942 he was a member of the SS medical staff in Ravensbrück. On 15 Jul 1942 he was promoted from the service in SS-WVHA to the position of the chief SS physician in Natzweiler. Between 10 April 1943 and 20 January 1944 he was the chief SS physician at Majdanek and afterwards in Plaszow (until August 1944). He committed suicide in 1945.b
  4. At Markt Pongau near Salzburg (Austria).a
  5. Franz Hermann Johann Maria Freiherr von Bodmann, SS-Obersturmführer, MD. Member of paramilitary Nazi organisations (1920–1930), NSDAP member since 1932. Served in SS-Verfügungstruppe (early military SS units, later reestablished as the Waffen-SS) from 7 January until 19 September 1939, after which he was demobilized. On 26 January 1942 he was recruited for Waffen-SS assigned to a post in the Neuengamme concentration camp. In April 1942 he was transferred to Auschwitz, where he initially served as an SS camp physician, and later (May-August 1942) as an SS-Standortarzt. Later he assumed the same position at Majdanek, where he stayed until 10 April 1943. Having been transferred to Natzweiler, he was the chief physician of the SS garrison there until 15 September 1943. Von Bodmann committed suicide in 1945.b
  6. Anton Enders, member of the SS staff in Dachau, received the death sentence in the after-war trials.b
  7. Karl Josef Fischer, SS-Hauptsturmführer, MD, NSDAP member since February 1938 and SS member since April 1938, SS physician in Auschwitz until 20 November 1941, functionary of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate in Oranienburg (24 November 1941–25 February 1942), SS physician in Sachenshausen, Neuengamme, Mauthausen, and at Majdanek.b
  8. Günter Konietzny was tried in the tral of the SS staff of Majdanek in Düsseldorfie. He was discharged due to illness.b
  9. Hans Perschon, SS-Oberscharfuhrer, was in charge of the Majdanek gas chambers.b
  10. Max Popiersch, SS-Sturmbannführer, First World War veteran, NSDAP and SS member since 1 May 1933. Served as the chief SS physician in Flossenbürg since 1 September 1939. He was also an SS chief physician in Buchenwald and SS-Standortarzt in Auschwitz. In October 1941 he was given the task of establishing and then directing the SS medical workers in the camp. He died of typhus in April 1942.b
  11. Wilhelmi Reinartz, soldier of the 3rd Armoured Division SS Totenkopf since 1939, participated in invasions of Belgium, Netherlands, France, and the USSR. Having been wounded, he was delegated to non-frontline posts. Since August 1942 he was an SS orderly in Majdanek, one of the very few known and remembered as actually helping the prisoners, whom he brought medicines and books from the inhabitants of Lublin. The former prisoners then testified in his defence during the early after-war trials. Reinartz stood accused during the trial of the SS staff of Majdanek in Düsseldorf but he was discharged again due to illness.b
  12. Heinrich Rindfleisch, SS-Obersturmführer, MD, Allgemeine-SS member since 1934 and Waffen-SS member since 1942. SS camp physician in Ravensbrück (until May 1943), SS chief physician at Majdanek (May 1943-July 1944) and afterwards in Plaszow. He was also an SS physician in Gross-Rosen, Mittelbau, Sachsenhausen, and Bergen-Belsen.b
  13. Heinrich Schmidt, SS-Hauptsturmführer, MD, NSDAP and SS member since June 1931. SS physician in Buchenwald (January-May 1942), SS-Lagerarzt at Majdanek (until December 1943), and then in Gross-Rosen, Mittelbau-Dora, and Bergen-Belsen. He appeared in court a few times in the after-war trials, but he was acquitted due to the lack of evidence.b
  14. Karl Philip Theodor Schütz, SS-Obersturmführer, stomatologist. NSDAP and SS member since 1933, functionary of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate since November 1941, when he was directed to work at Majdanek.b
  15. Alfred Trzebinsky (Trzebiński), SS-Hauptsturmführer, MD, NSDAP member since February 1933, SS member since September 1932, in Waffen-SS since May 1941, SS camp physician in Auschwitz since July 1941, chief SS physician at Majdanek since April 1942, and the chief physician of SS garrison in Neuengamme afterwards. In 1946 he received a death sentence from the British war tribunal as part of the trial of the SS staff of Neuengamme. The death sentence was carried out.b
    a—notes by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa; b—notes by Marta Grudzińska.

References

  1. APMM [Archiwum Państwowego Muzeum na Majdanku (Majdanek State Museum Archives)].
  2. Falgowski, Józef. Private correspondence.
  3. GKBZHwP [Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce (Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi German Crimes in Poland)].
  4. Gondzik, E . 1966. “Pomniki Neuengamme.“ Poglądy: Pismo Społeczno-Kulturalne, 6.
  5. Jagielski, Stanisław. 1946. Sclavus saltans. Wspomnienia lekarza obozowego. Warszawa: nakł. Lekarskiego Instytutu Naukowo-Wydawniczego.
  6. Karabanik, Edward. “Wspomnienia” [Recollections]. APMM, ref. no. VII-245.
  7. Kosibowicz, Tadeusz. “Wspomnienia” [Recollections]. APMM, ref. no.VII-24.
  8. OKBZHwL [Okręgowa Komisja Badań Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Lublinie (Lublin District Commission for the Investigation of Nazi German Crimes)] Prosecution records in proceedings against Dr K.J. Fischer, ref. no. II DS 5/65.
  9. Pawlak, Zacheusz. 1969 (2nd Edition 1973). Przeżyłem…. Warszawa: PAX. Originally in APMM, ref. no. XVII-250 (“Przeżyłem nr 8308. Wspomnienia”).
  10. Pawlak, Zacheusz. 1945. “Sylwetki niemieckich zbrodniarzy w obozie koncentracyjnym Płaszów.” Przegląd Lekarski 3/4: 71.
  11. Perzanowska, Stefania. 1966. “O niektórych hitlerowskich lekarzach na Majdanku.” Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim: 209–211.
  12. Perzanowska, Stefania. 1968. “Szpital obozu kobiecego w Majdanku.” Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim: 173–174. English translation forthcoming on this website.
  13. Reinarzt Statement. Protokół przesłuchania Willego Reinarzta. Akta procesowe. Archiwum Sądu Powiatowego w Lublinie, ref. no. KSN 113/48. [Minutes of the prosecutor’s interview of Willi Reinarzt and his statement in proceedings against him for war crimes, held before the Lublin Powiat Court; records preserved in the court’s archives.]
  14. Tesch & Stabenow correspondence. APMM, ref. no. I d: 55.
  15. WAPwL [Wojewódzkie Archiwum Państwowe w Lublinie (Lublin Voivodeship Archives)]. “Zespół Standesamt in Lublin,” (Standesamt in Lublin Collection), ref. no. 26, 311.

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