The SS imposed a strict daily timetable. Prisoners had to rise extremely early, often before 5 a.m. They had no time to catch their breath. The SS insisted on breakneck speed, so there was lots of running, shoving and cursing as prisoners tried to wash and wolf down their meagre breakfast. As the Slovakian Jew Dionys Lenard wrote in 1942, not long after his escape from Majdanek, the early morning rush in overcrowded barracks caused many tensions between inmates.

030 – The prisoner Dionys Lenard on early mornings in Majdanek

The daily routine was as follows: we were woken at 4.30 in the morning; roll call was at 5; at 7 we got the order to form work details and at 7.10 we set off for work. That lasted until 12 noon and then we returned to the barracks. Lunch went on until 1 and then we set off again for work. We worked until 6 and then returned to the huts. Roll call lasted from 6 to 7 or 7.30. After that there was a cold meal. Lights out at 9.

All hell broke loose

The day began when the gong was struck […]. Everyone got up in a hurry and then made for the lavatories. The latrines were constructed out of planks of wood with a roof above. There was room for 50, though there were 3,150 of us men in the first section. Then prisoners from every barrack were sent to collect the breakfast. […] All hell broke loose when the coffee and food were being given out. That was hardly surprising, for in these sorts of situations people of whom it would never have been expected revealed negative character traits. The prevailing conditions turned human beings into animals. Nobody showed concern for anyone else. People lived by the principle: “Push forward and shout and you’ll get to the food faster.” We tried various ways of sharing out the food fairly, if it is even possible to use such terms, but we never managed it.

Source: D. Lenard, “Flucht aus Majdanek”, Dachauer Hefte 7 (1991), p. 150

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes