Jews were often trapped for many hours in windowless freight trains. They suffered terribly from hunger, thirst and overcrowding. Most trains to concentration camps went to Auschwitz. Others went to Majdanek. One such train arrived there in May 1943. It carried Jews from the Warsaw ghetto, among them 14-year-old Anna Heilman. Her parents were killed on arrival. Anna and her sister were later moved to Auschwitz, where her sister was executed for her resistance activities. Anna was liberated from a Ravensbrück satellite camp on 2 May 1945. In the following notes, written in 1944–5, she recalls her journey to Majdanek in 1943.
On the second deportation from Warsaw, they loaded the boxcars with 150 to 170 people. Two days in closed cars without water or food! The lack of food didn’t matter, because one couldn’t eat under these conditions. But the lack of water! Our tongues felt like wooden wheels in our mouths. […] People were fainting and dying, one on top of another, relatives of the dying were hysterical; many went mad. There was no one to revive the fainted, there was nothing to revive them with, nor was there anyone left with enough presence of mind. Enough!
People were fainting and dying
Coming out of the car, there were 120 left from our original 170. Half of them were mad, half-beaten-up, half-dead from thirst. No food or drink ever tasted as good to me as the mud under our feet when we jumped out of the railway car.[…] Drinking, or rather eating, this mud, little did I suspect that this place [Majdanek] would become my first contact with the bitter reality and constant menace of life in the concentration camp.
Source: S. Schwartz (ed.), Never Far Away (Calgary, 2001), pp. 64–5