Fortnight ago a Soviet correspondent described the Nazi murder camp near Lublin. Last week TIME'S Moscow Correspondent Richard Lauterbach visited Maidenek with a party of non-Russian newsmen. His report:
It was Sunday and the sun was hot. The Polish girls wore their best embroidered dresses to Mass and the men of Lublin chatted on street corners without a furtive, over-the-shoulder look. We drove out along the Chelm road about a mile from town. Dmitri Kudriavtsev, Secretary of the Soviet Atrocities Commission, said: "They called this 'the road of death.' " Kudriavtsev is a short man, with curly hair and a nice face. He has an even, soft way of talking. You could not guess that he has pored over more horrors in the past three years than any living man.
Our car halted before a well-guarded gate. "This is Maidenek," Kudriavtsev said. I saw a huge, not unattractive, temporary city. There were about 200 trim, grey green barracks, systematically spaced for maximum light, air and sunshine. There were winding roads and patches of vegetables and flowers. I had to blink twice to take in the jarring realities: the 14 machine-gun turrets jutting into the so-blue sky; the 12-ft.-high double rows of electrically charged barbed wire; the kennels which once housed hundreds of gaunt, man-eating dogs.
Gas Chambers. We got out to inspect the bathhouses. Said Kudriavtsev without emotion: "They came here first for a shower. Then the Germans said: 'Now you have had your wash. Go in there.' " He led us into one of four gas chambers. It was a solid grey concrete room, about 20 ft. square and 7 ft. high. A single large steel door sealed the entrance hermetically. There were three apertures, two for the pipes which brought in the gas, one, a thick glass peephole, protected by steel netting. It took about seven minutes for this "Zyklon B" to kill the occupants, as many as 250 at a time. Kudriavtsev was explaining: "The gas affects all parts of the organism. It is quicker when the body is warm, washed and wet."
I took notes calmly, feeling little emotion. It was all so cold and bare. I wrote: "There are four chambers fed with these small, innocent, pale blue Zyklon crystals which give off cyanide when exposed to air. Two extra chambers for plain carbon monoxide. Maximum simultaneous capacity: 2,000." Kudriavtsev was still explaining: "On one day, Nov. 3, 1943, they annihilated 18,000 people—Poles, Jews, political prisoners and war prisoners."
Death by Fire. We walked back into the sun. There was no horror left in Maidenek. It had evaporated with the Germans. We rode a little distance to some cabbage patches. The big, leafy cabbages were covered with a sooty, grey dust and next to them were high mounds of grey brown stuff. "This," said Kudriavtsev, "is fertilizer. A layer of human bones, a layer of human ashes, a layer of manure. This is German food production. Kill people; fertilize cabbages."