The Genocide of the Czech Jews

by Miroslav Karny
[personal details at the end; edited by David P. Stern 5-27-09]

The Beginning

    This commemorative book lists the names of those who became the victims of deportation, by means of which the German occupation powers dragged away from the Czech lands the men, women and children covered by the so - called Nüremberg Laws. These Laws were passed in September 1935 in Germany and were first used by the Occupation authorities in the Czech border -regions which were occupied by German troops in October 1938 and annexed by Germany. Later, when Germany occupied also the "Rest-Tschechei", "the remaining Czech country" as Hitler and Nazi propaganda mockingly called Czechoslovakia maimed by tearing away its bordeegions, the validity of these Laws was extended to the territory of the so - called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

    The Nüremberg Laws introduced the "racial" definition of Jewry, whereby the Jewish "race" was defined not only by the present or previous adherence of any person to the Jewish religion but, in addition, by the present or previous Jewish religion of his or her parents or grandparents, and/or his or her spouse. In the last prewar census in Czechoslovakia in 1930, 76 301 inhabitants of Bohemia and 41 250 of Moravia and Silesia stated they were of Jewish persuasion. Of these 117 551 citizens nearly 43 thousand people were recorded as having Czech nationality, 37 thousand Jewish nationality, 35 thousand German nationality and the rest various other nationalities. These numbers did not include those people who were not of the Jewish faith but in spite of this, under the Nüremberg Laws, they were to become victims of the genocide of the Jewish people.

    In Nazi Germany two basic categories of Jews were distinguished: "Glaubensjuden" and "Geltungsjuden", "believing Jews" and "valid Jews", to translate literally the term "Geltungsjuden", i.e. those whose Jewishness was defined by the valid anti - Jewish legislation. Naturally, statistics on "Geltungsjuden" did not exist in Czechlovakia.

    In the period from the pre - war census up to March 15, 1939, considerable changes in the composition of the Jewish population took place. After 1933 the Czech lands became a refuge for many Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. When, on the basis of the Munich Agreement, four European powers -Germany and Italy together with Great Britain and France -established a new Czechoslovak - German border and German troops occupied the Czechoslovak border regions, such a wave of terror was unleashed within the occupied territory that within a short time of the 30 thousand Jewish inhabitants originally living there less than one tenth were left. All the others fled from the terror or were forcibly chased away from their homes across the new border.

    In Most, Ostrava and other places improvised conceration camps and jails were established. During the days of the Reich's pogrom in November synagogues were set alight in the Sudeten region - in Liberec, Opava, Falknov, Krnov and many other places. In addition, Jewish citizens were deported from the occupied Czech border regions to Dachau. At that time and in the days following, dramatic scenes took place at the borders of Czechoslovakia over which the impoverished Jewish exiles were chased. By May 1939 in the whole Sudeten region there were only 2 373 inhabitants subject to the Nüremberg Laws.

    In the meantime, on 30th January 1939, Adolf Hitler in a speech to the Reichstag proclaimed to the world his threat that if there were a world war it would result in the "annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe". He uttered this threat as his "prophecy" but behind it was his real deteination to achieve it. Very few contemporary commentators warned the world that the German dictator meant his threat literally.

    Only nine days before - on January 21, 1939 - Hitler had received the Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs, František Chvalovsk . He was very frank with him concerning the "Jewish problem". The goal of its solution - as recorded in the protocol-was formulated by Hitler as follows: "The Jews in our country shall be exterminated." According to Hitler this was to serve as an example of how to "solve the Jewish problem" in Czechoslovakia.

    Between October 1, 1938, when the first occupation troops of the Wehrmacht and SS entered the Czech lands, and March 15, 1939, when together with the German tanks Adolf Hitler also came to Prague, the number of Jewish believers in the Czech territories diminished by approximately 14 thousand. They left the country out of fear for their existence, not only economic but also physical.

    According to official statistics reconstructed later, at the time of the proclamation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 118 310 Jews were living in this territory. Of this number 103 960 were of Jewish religion (according to the official designation of "Mosaic faith") and 14 350 persons of other religions or without any religion.

    From the first days of occupation the Czech lands were integrated into the framework of the plans outlined in Hitler's "prophecy", which started to be implemented everywhere where the power of the Third German Reich successively spread. Although the political and national leadership of Germany was "solving the Jewish problem" in each occupied country according to the different immediate and prospective goals and the needs of occupation politics there by modifying its function and forming specific models of their Jewish policy, the basic elements of the Nazi pattern of the "final solution" remained constant. The group of population affected by it had first to be defined, successively isolated in "ghettos without walls" through a system of increasingly drastic discriminatory measures but not yet the physical concentration of Jews in camps, gradually expropriated and deprived of the material basis of their existence and finally deported to extermination.

    The Protectorate was established within the Czech territories which were left after Munich. Seventy percent of all Czechoslovak industry was concentrated within its borders, and this included a particularly strong arms industry. The occupation policy of Nazi Germany was therefore based on the following strategy: to make full use of the human and material resources of the Protectorate for the war mobilization and for further ambitious aggressive campaigns.

   The "final solution of the Czech problem" thus meant the total germanization of the Czech lands and the annihilation of the Czech nation as such. Its prerequisite was the hegemonic domination of Europe by means of a victorious war. Even when these priorities had been established, ways should be found for combining the immediate goals with the prospective ones and, when the initial ones had been achieved, to approach as nearly as possible to the final goals.

    This strategic-tactical concept influenced the course of action of the occupying powers with respect to its Jewish policy so that it would not affect the economy of the Protectorate. The exclusion of Jews from the economy, as it was officially called, was, therefore, to be achieved in an organized manner, not by forceful "individual actions" and "wild aryanization" but in cooperation with the occupation administrative, economic and police authorities together with the main German Reich banks and industrial concerns which were qualified to incorporate the most important parts of the Czech industry into the German war economy.

    This concept of occupation policy clearly led to the integration of the "Jewish problem" with the "Czech problem". From the very beginning the occupying power made its Jewish policy one of its basic tools in the Germanization of the Czech lands. This was obvious in the economic field when plundering Jewish properties or those declared to be Jewish. Aryanization was to be realized as Germanization. To identify the actual share of Jews in economic enterises, establishments, organizations and institutions was quite a complex problem in itself. It was also complicated by the fact that even before the Munich Agreement, and particularly in the period between this Agreement and 15th March 1939, many factual and fictitious transfers of property as well as organizational changes and various other cover-up operations had taken place. On the one hand, this might endanger German Aryanization policy in that not a small part of the potential Aryanization loot would escape but, on the other hand, this could also be to its advantage because it would extend the sphere of Aryanization. A decree issued by Reichsprotector Konstantin von Neurath in June 1939 introduced such a wide definition of the term "Jewish firm" that its elastic application and the use of a broad scale of non-economic pressure enabled large German factories and other German capitalist enterprises to Aryanize colossal amounts of economic value and also those in which Jews had a negligible share. It is estimated that via Aryanization and expropriation of the Jews, together with their deportation, the economic gain from the "solution of the Jewish problem" in the Protectorate was more than two milliard Marks, i.e. 10 milliard Protectorate Crowns.

    During the first years of the Protectorate the German occupation authorities attempted to reduce the number of Jews as radically as possible by deportation. A cunning system was established for this purpose; a system of discrimination and terrorist measures which actually meant expulsion combined with full or very substantial expropriation. To obtain permission to leave the country one had to pay very high taxes and fees and one's remaining property was compulsorily transferred to German banks in charge of "trustees". By the end of 1939, according to official statistics, 19 016 Jewish emigrants had left the Protectorate and in 1940 yet another 6 176 Jewish emigrants. In the following two years the figure had dropped to 817.

    Jews were fleeing from the Protectorate also by other, non-official means; in pre-war times this was mainly by crossing into Poland and later mostly by crossing the Slovak border. We estimate that legally or illegally about 30 thousand persons, i.e. about every fourth of those subject to the Nüremberg Laws, left the territory of the Protectorate. However, how many of them were caught up in the "final solution" in Poland, Holland or Hungary we have not been able even to estimate. Jewish transports from France to death in Auschwitz alone included about 600 emigrants from Czechoslovakia.

    About one half of the emigrants--12 353==gave one of the European countries as their destination, i.e. they did not leave the sphere which Nazi Germany intended to govern. "First we caught them in Vienna, then in Prague and now in Warsaw. We caught them in Copenhagen and in Oslo and even in Amsterdam and Brussels; tomorrow we shall lay hands on them also in other towns of the world", declared the Governor General of occupied Poland, Hans Frank, on 20th May 1940 when referring not only to the emigrating German and Austrian Jews, but to Jews in general. After all, on November 28, 1941, Hitler solemnly promised the Great Mufti Hussein of Jerusalem that the German goal was the "extermination of Jews living in the Arab region under the protection of British power" as soon as the German troops left South Caucasia and broke through the Caucasian gate into the Middle East.

    Despite the fact that after starting the war the occupation authorities made Jewish emigration possible for a time, it was obvious that in the history of the "final solution of the Jewish problem" in Europe a new stage had opened. The time of the "big reckoning with the Jews" announced by Herman Göring on November 12, 1939 and by Adolf Hitler in his "prophecy" on January 30, 1939, had arrived.

    The Jews of Moravska Ostrava and Fr(?)dek - Mistek were the first on Czech territory to feel it. On October 18 and 27, 1939, two Jewish transports left with 1 292 men for the railway station Nisko on the river San in the eastern part of Lublinsk in occupied Poland. Within the framework of the preparation for the so - called "restratification" of Jews they together with the men in the transports from Vienna and Katovice were to build a camp which according to the original concept was to become a base for organizing a "Jewish reservation" or "Reichs ghetto" towards which the deportation transports from Poland, Austria, Germany and the Czech lands were to stream. To the world, these deportations were presented as a magnificent gesture from the Germans to give a place of "asylum" to the Jews in Eastern Europe and even to establish a "Jewish state under German rule". In reality, the forced concentration of such huge masses of impoverished people in this region, which was absolutely unprepared to absorb them, meant a sentence of death from hunger, cold and epidemics. Literally, it was "Vernichtung durch Aussiedlung" - annihilation through evacuation.

    The transports from Ostrava were included in the drive to "clean up" the Katowitz region of its Jewish inhabitants. The initiators of this campaign were Adolf Eichmann and Walter Stahlecker. These two organizers of Prague's "Zentralstelle für j&uumk;dische Auswanderung" (Centre for Jewish Emigration) dreamt that after Ostrava the whole Protectorate would rapidly follow. They had no difficulty in gaining the consent of the Reichsprotector Konstantin von Neurath to deport all Jews from the Protectorate.

    Actually, the "Nisko campaign" finished even before the first transports from Katovice, Ostrava and Vienna reached Nisko. The highest level of the Reich--i.e. Hitler--on October 17 set other goals in the sequence of deportations. The new German district--Wartheland and West Prussia--which were created on Polish territory directly annexed to the Reich, became the preferred area for expatriation. In compliance with September's German-Soviet Agreement German settlers who had to leave the Baltic republics were to be moved into these regions "to strengthen the German element". In addition, it very soon turned out that the "Eastern line", which was the safety line in the Reich's military no man's land, should pass through the region around Nisko. Of course, this was not a suitable place for Himmler's "dustbin" into which everything inconvenient and unfriendly to the Reich was to have been swept. It is worth noting that it was at this time, in the middle of October, that Hitler paid tribute to the creation of large ghettos in Lodz and Lublin and stressed the need to set up more of them in which to concentrate Jews from the Reich. Soon afterwards the ghetto in Warsaw was established. The Terezin ghetto was only founded two years later.

    The Nisko camp lost momentum at the very beginning. The number of deported in the second transport from Ostrava and Vienna was heavily reduced and only then because the preparation of the transports was already at too advanced a stage and cancellation would damage the prestige of the Gestapo. A third transport of 323 men was still dispatched from Ostrava on November 1, but they were not allowed to arrive at Nisko and had to stay in Sosnovec. An improvised camp was established there for them which after some time was dissolved.

    Only those stayed in the Nisko camp who were needed for its construction and operation. The rest were expelled from the camp or not even allowed to enter it. This camp existed up to April 13, 1940; the Gestapo then sent the remaining 516 men back. In a report on the situation issued in April by the Director of Police in Ostrava it was stated that 301 of them stayed in Ostrava, 18 continued on their journey to T(?)in and 197 to Vienna. They were officially described as persons returning after retraining. Nevertheless, most of them became the victims of further deportations to Lodz, Minsk and Terezin and from Terezin afterwards to extermination camps in the east. The reader can find their names in this book mostly in the list of exterminated and murdered persons and only very rarely among those who survived the war.

    According to official statistics, in the period from March 15, 1939 to March 15, 1945, 8 210 Jews died in the Protectorate (apart from Terezin). During the same period only 637 Jewish children were born, i.e. the so-called wastage was 7 573 persons.

    The sharp upward trend in the practice of this method of decimation of the Jews can be seen from the following gruesome table showing the number of "natural" Jewish deaths per 1 000 living Jews in the Protectorate:

  In 1939         16.9 Deaths  
      1940         19.7          
      1941         23.8          
      1942         54.2          
      1943         16.9          
      1943         74.2          
The 1943 data refers only to the first quarter of that year. It is obvious that the means for achieving the Jewish genocide were applied on a very large scale. In addition, all Jewish suicides were considered to be cases of "natural mortality".

    As we have already noticed, throughout the six years of German occupation only 637 Jewish children were born in the Protectorate. This figure does not include Terezin, i.e. the 174 children who were born there from Jewish parents coming from Bohemia and Moravia. The fate of Terezin's new-borns is known: 7 died in the camp, 142 died in the deportation transports to the eastern centres of extermination and only 25 lived to see the liberation. Also very few Jewish children born in the Protectorate outside Terezin survived the German occupation. Most of them sooner or later were deported to the Terezin ghetto and their lives extinguished either there or somewhere in the East.

A Ghetto without Walls

    The stream of anti-Jewish measures rolled on without interruption from the first day of German occupation. In this anti-Jewish activity the Protectorate Government did not lag behind. At its first meeting - on March 17, 1939 - they forbade doctors of "non - Aryan" origin to practice in any public or health organization or bodies of social insurance. They noted the measures of Prague's Chamber of Lawyers that non - Aryan lawyers would be forbidden to practice and the Minister of Justice was charged with submitting a plan for this. They authorized the Minister of Trade to have discussions with industrial organizations and enterprises over the removal of non - Aryan persons from leading positions and they agreed that the commercial union Merkur should distribute stickers for the external marking of Aryan shops. At their next meeting they approved a ruling making it possible to introduce trustees and forced administrators into Jewish enterprises.

    In the meantime the civilian administration of the military commanders in Prague and Brno issued a regulation which forbade the purchase, leasing and donating of enterprises which were wholly or partly Jewish property. Exemptions were permitted only by the heads of the civilian administration. They had the exclusive right to name commissars and administrators and also manage Jewish enterises and real estate. This was the beginning of the process by which the Jews were at first deprived of their rights to manage their properties and afterwards relieved of their properties.

    The exclusion of persons of Jewish origin from the civil service, which had started already in the second republic, went on in a more drastic form and extended even to tobacconists and Jewish salesmen of tobacco and artificial

    Gradually, some kind of a "ghetto" was established for the Jewish inhabitants of the Protectorate but for the time being without any forced confinement. The system of discriminatory measures was, however, very extensive and continued to be perfected. As time went on it affected the lives of all those who after February 1940 had identity cards marked with a large red letter "J".

    They were forbidden to enter various squares or particular streets and parks. For instance, at first they were not allowed to enter Stromovka park and later all public gardens and woods within the District of Prague; the banks of the Vltava between Hlavka Bridge and the Railway Bridge were out of bounds. The number of forbidden streets, especially in the town centre, was constantly increasing.

    Jews were forbidden to go to theatres, cinemas, libraries, sporting events and entertainments as well as swimming pools and public baths.

    In public transport they were allowed to use only certain compartments, e.g. only the last platform of the trams. Similarly, Jews were tolerated only in the last carriage of trains and later only in the last compartment of the last carriage. It was forbidden for them to visit railway station restaurants and waiting rooms as well as all other facilities of railway stations.

    At first they were allowed to do their shopping twice a day in two-hour intervals, later only between 3 and 5 p.m. Similar limitations were introduced in financial establisents. The use of post offices was radically limited, e.g. in Prague they were allowed to use only the post office located in Ostrovni Street between 1 and 3 p.m.

    Jews were excluded from using telephones; they were deprived of their telephone sets as well as their radio receivers which were confiscated.

    They were forbidden to leave their houses after 8 p.m. by an order of the Gestapo which was transmitted to all Jewish inhabitants by the Jewish community.

    Jews were forbidden to change their place of residence unless it was ordered by the German administration. A temporary absence from the district of Prague or other place of abode without summons or consent of the relevant authority was also forbidden.

    Jews were excluded from all associations, represeative bodies and public corporations. They were not allowed to go to Czech schools--long before that Jewish pupils and students had been expelled from German schools--and a ban on private teaching was also issued. Not to respect these and tens of other, sometimes ridulously petty bans and orders, meant cruel treatment from the Gestapo and imprisonment. The aim of such bans and orders was to isolate the ostracized Jews from the Czech, and of course, from the German population.

    Some of these measures were issued by the occupation authorities directly, but most of the bans and limitations had the form of Protectorate decrees. Sometimes, it is obvious from their text or existing documents that they were issued at the suggestion of the Reichsprotector Office or the regional German High Councillors but with a large number of them it is impossible to determine to what extent they were due to pressure or to personal initiative. However, we can safely distinguish a clear tendency for the occupation authorities more and more to monopolize the "solution of the Jewish problem" within a special "Jewish reservation".

    The support of broad strata of the Czech nation in condemning the anti-Jewish persecution and the part of the Protectorate authorities in it, the explanatory activities of the resistance movement, the solidarity, moral and practical help to the persecuted-all this weakened the effectiveness of the ant-Jewish measures. Even more so, since the sense of germanization in the "Jewish problem" was becoming more and more obvious and so was its connection with the future "solution of Czech problem".

    In the reports of the Sicherheitsdienst (German Security Service) and the Gestapo of that period we can find hundreds of documents providing evidence of courage and inventiveness in hampering the plans of the occupants to form a "ghetto without walls".

    Despite all the bans on any social contact between the Czechs and persons of Jewish origin there were continual reports about Jews taking part in Czech social gatherings, cultural events and even dances. Every denunciation of such a case led to new and merciless retaliations.

    The intelligence reports of the German Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) incessantly warned that the limited shopping time for Jewish citizens was not being observed, that their Aryan friends were shopping for them, that Czech shopkeepers and farmers were helping them, that butchers were selling the best meat only at the time when Jews were allowed to shop, that the shopkeepers were delivering goods to their houses, that they were being preferentially provided with coal, etc. These intelligence reports of the Sicherheitsdienst were full of complaints about the Jews getting help from physicians, lawyers, their former employees, the Czech authorities and sometimes even from gendarmes, that collections were being organized for their benefit, that Czech teachers were privately teaching Jewish children.

    It was not just an isolated case when it was reported that a mother in Roudnice had poisoned her two half-Jewish children and about 4000 people had attended the funeral ceremony, including most of the children's teachers and all civil servants. The Sicherheitsdienst reported that no funeral ceremony had ever had such a high number of attendants in that town. This was explained by the fact that the Czechs understood the death of these two children to have been a consequence of the persecution of the Jews. Moreover, the Sicherheitsdienst reports also contain information about threats being delivered to anti-Jewish pogromists and Aryanizators or their being exposed to disdain. Very soon there

   was pressure from the German population of the Protectorate, from the occupation administration and from Czech fascist circles too, for the Jews to be publicly marked.

    The leadership of the Reich did not, however, consider it expedient for foreign political reasons to introduce such an obviously medieval measure in Germany and the Protectorate. German aggression against the Soviet Union and the hope it would fail enormously stimulated the resistance movement in occupied Czech territory. The increasing activities of the Czech resistance movement, which in the summer of 1941 were significantly manifest in many ways, such as by strikes, greatly worried senior officials of the occupation administration, particularly Secretary of State K.H.Frank. One of the proofs of this, bordering on panic, was their hectic activity with respect to the "Jewish problem". This was in accordance with the function of the occupation administration which was mobilized in any crisis or any situation leading to a crisis.

    K.H.Frank considered it most important to enforce the public marking of the Jewish population in the Protectorate, regardless of the fact that in Germany it had not yet been introduced. He pressed the Chief of the Reich's Chancellery, Lammers, to obtain immediate consent to introduce this for the Protectorate. He did not use racist arguments but pointed to the negative political impact of the Jewish population.

    "The marking of Jews in the Protectorate is a political necessity. Its realization for calming the situation in the Protectorate is the more urgent as the provisioning situation becomes more critical and the more the morale of the Czech population deteriorates. The marking will necessarily lead to their separation from the Czech population and as a consequence will complicate the exchange of subversive news and the creation of a hostile attitude towards the Reich."
   The Reich's Ministry of the Interior no longer objected and the decision was within the competence of Reichrotector Konstantin von Neurath. On August 20, 1941, K.H. Frank sent a telegram to him at his estate in Leinfelden, requesting his consent to the immediate marking of the Jews in the Protectorate by bands on their sleeves. Again, Frank's reasoning was very characteristic. He wrote:
    "Reports are coming in from all sides that Jewish activities hostile to the Reich are increasing with every hour. Despite the ban, Jews are forming circles in public places and together with Czech circles they discuss news broadcast by the enemy and stir up the population".
    "We expect a positive effect" he insisted. By 4.20 p.m. of the same day Neurath had dictated the following reply to Frank: "I agree with your telegraphed proposal". However, the marking of the Protectorate's Jewish population with sleeve bands did not take place. Hitler had meanwhile decided, and on the basis of this decision Heydrich issued a police ruling on September 1, 1941, forbidding Jews older than 6 years to appear publicly without a yellow six -pointed star of palm size with black contour and with a black inscription JUDE. It had to be worn visibly, firmly sown to the left side of the breast part of the clothing.

    This ruling did not apply to Jewish spouses of mixed marriages if there were children who were not considered to be Jews, not even when the marriage no longer existed, or the only son had died in the present war. Nor, did it apply to a Jewish wife in a childless marriage as long as the marriage lasted.

    The police ruling came into effect 14 days after its declaration. On the first day when the Jews were due to wear the yellow star Heydrich sent out instructions via teleprier to the German Sicherheitspolizei to prevent any wilful and illegal violence against the Jewish population wearing the yellow star. He referred to similar instructions issued by the NSDAP Party buro to its organizations. The transition of Jewish policy to its final stage, i.e. the "final solion", was not to be disturbed by such activities.

    Heydrich's police ruling was effective also in the Protectorate but the Reichsprotector was to adapt it to local conditions. On September 17, 1941, K.H. Frank issued rules of procedure for it. He stressed: "Taking into account the friendship displayed by a considerable part of the Czech population towards Jews, this police ruling must be enforced especially strictly in the Protectorate."

    The response to the public marking of Jews is documented by the furious reaction of the Nazi dictator of the Protectorate press, Wolfram von Wollmar, expressed at a conference of the editors-in-chief of the Protectorate's daily press:

    "In a certain chocolate factory in Moravia one employee announced several days before the ruling that the marking of Jews would come into effect on 19th September, i.e. today. As a reaction to this a part of the Aryan employees of that factory came to work wearing a Jewish star thus expressing their sympathy with the Jews. Gentlemen, this is an outrage for the Czech nation that needs no further comment."
Newsmen were not allowed to write about this event but were told to warn their readers that
    "those people who were seen hand-in-hand with Jews or even publicly boasting their sympathy towards the Jews thus marked will be treated as any Jew, i.e. they would not get ration cards for clothing and tobacco, they would not be allowed to visit public localities and institutions and would also be marked with a Jewish star."
The collaborating newsmen obeyed. But the demonstration in the Moravian chocolate factory was not unique. A summary report by the Disciplinary police mentioned the demonstrative wearing of yellow badges on collars, walks together and discussions in public places with people marked with the yellow star. Similar manifestations of solidarity were recorded in other reports by the occupation authorities.

    On September 27, 1941, Reinhard Heydrich replaced Neurath, who on Hitler's order "became ill", as the Reichrotector at Prague Castle. From the very beginning he decided to act radically. As early as September 29, 1941 he issued a decree ordering all Jewish synagogues and places of prayer to be closed, substantiating this by declaring they were the meeting places of subversive Jewish elements and the centre of illegal whispered propaganda. At the same time he ordered the imprisonment of those Czechs who demonstratively showed their friendship with the Jews, i.e. their detention in concentration camps. He intimated they were Czech elements who in this manner wanted to demonstrate their hostility towards the Reich.

    On October 6, 1941, the Protectorate's Ministry of the Interior included Heydrich's order into its own decree and substantiated it in the following way: "Information gained during Court hearings proved again that the Jewish element of the Protectorate in Bohemia and Moravia participated largely in inciting the population and actively took part in organizing the resistance movement."

    During the following days and weeks many other anti-Jewish measures were adopted and also against those who expressed solidarity with the Jews and were helping them. Officially they were called "Jew - loving Czechs". The occupation authorities adopted all these measures with the sole aim of ensuring the deportations which were being prepared.

    In the middle of September 1941 Himmler met Hitler for a discussion which lasted several hours. The dominant subject of their talks was the "Jewish problem".

    Three days later, on September 16, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Reich's SS and Chief of the German police, wrote to Artur Greiser, governor of the Warthe Region: "The Führer wishes the old Reich and the Protectorate from West to East to be cleared of and liberated from the Jews as soon as possible. I am therefore trying to transport the Jews of the Old Reich and the Protectorate first to the eastern territory, which two years ago became part of the new Reich, if possible by the end of this year, and to remove them next spring farther to the East." Himmler asked Greiser to accept 60 thousand Jews from the Old Reich and the Protectorate into the Lodz ghetto. One week later Hitler assured Goebbels that the first towns to be "cleared" of the Jews would be Berlin, Vienna and Prague.

    Himmler's plan came up against the resistance of the occupation authorities in Poland who showed that the Lodz ghetto was overcrowded, that if there was to be a further increase in the number of its inhabitants there would be a danger of epidemics which could spread to the whole town. In addition, there would be a drop in production for the German army since some premises would necessarily be used to lodge the newcomers. The original plan to deport 60 thousand people to Lodz had to be reduced to one third. Himmler and Heydrich reported to Hitler on the situation on 2nd October. A short record of the discussion by one of Hitler's adjutants has been preserved. It says: "Himmler advised about the transfer of persons of foreign race (Jews), and spoke on the situation in the Baltic region and Ruthenia, the main points being Riga, Reval, Minsk." The result of this meeting was reflected in Hitler's decision four days later: "All Jews must be removed from the Protectorate without being first transported to the "Generalgouvernement" but must be sent directly to the East. This cannot be carried out immediately because of the large demands by the army on the means of transport. Together with Jews from the Protectorate, all Jews must also disappear from Berlin and Vienna."

    On October 10, in Eichmann's presence, Heydrich explained to the inner circle of leaders of the occupation regime in the Protectorate the next moves for solving the "Jewish problem". He started out from Hitler's wish that "if possible, the Jews have to be removed from the German area before the end of the year". Certain difficulties would arise, however, because for the time being it was still necessary to respect the authorities of Litzmannstadt (i.e. Lodz). Therefore, 50 thousand Jews would be sent to Riga and Minsk, declared Heydrich.

    On October 1, a census of all persons subject to the Nüremberg Laws took place in the Protectorate and 88 105 persons were counted. In view of the fact that in addition to this number not only Jews from the Protectorate but also from Germany and Austria were to be deported to Lodz, Riga and Minsk, it becomes clear that the task given by Hitler with the final date of December 31, 1941, was practically impossible. In this situation a way out was found in a temporary solution --Terezin.

The Beginning of the  Flow of  Deportations

    Before we start to deal with the history of Terezin we have to answer the question of what was to have been the fate of those deported from the Czech territories.

    In the minutes of the Prague meeting of October 10, 1941 there is the following paragraph:

    "SS - Brigadenftührers Nebe and Rasch may put the Jews into the camps for Communist prisoners in the operational region. As SS - Sturmbannfüthrer Eichmann reported, this has been already arranged."
The significance of this must be made clear.

    Artur Nebe and Emil Otto Rasch were at that time chiefs of two (out of four) so-called Einsatzgruppen, operational units of the Sicherheitsdienst and the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Service and Security Police), allocated to the various groups of the Northern, Central and Southern Armies and the 11th Army. One of their tasks was to exterminate all Jewish inhabitants in occupied Soviet territory. The existence of such a "Führerbefehl" (command of the Ftührer) was testified to by all the defendants in the ninth, so-called Subsequent Proceedings, which dealt with the commanders of these groups and their "commandos" (units). Its existence was, however, proved by the reports on their activities which the exterminating divisions sent to the Berlin centre. The language of these reports was so clear that the prosecutor in Nüremberg did not need to call a single witness. It was sufficient merely to submit the reports. The mission of Nebe and Rasch is most clearly characterized by one of the reports in which the Einsatzgruppe C gave the reason for 51 thousand persons being killed:

        "The executions carried out by the commandos were aimed at: "political functionaries, looters, saboteurs, active communists and political ideologues, Jews who by means of false data managed to obtain their release from prison camps, agents and informers of the NKVD, persons who by false testimony and by influencing witnesses took a decisive part in the evacuation of ethnic Germans, Jewish sadists and those taking revenge, unwanted and anti-social elements, partisans, political commissars, the carriers of pests and epidemics, adherents of Russian bands, volunteers providing Russian bands with food, instigators and agitators, demoralized youths, Jews in general."

    The head of this Einsatzgruppe was that very Rasch to whom Heydrich wanted the Jews from the Protectorate to be sent as soon as the transport situation would permit. The words used by Heydrich at the Prague meeting of October 10, 1941, are therefore quite easy to understand. It was an euphemistic expression for the evacuation of Czech Jews into the region where "Jews in general" were to be exterminated.

    The transition to the last stage of the "final solution" in Bohemia and Moravia was not due to the fact that on 27th September, 1941, Heydrich replaced Neurath in Prague Castle but arose out of the overall Nazi strategy in Jewish policy. Of course, the arrival of Heydrich in Prague immediately brought about a sudden increase in anti-Jewish terror.

    Heydrich regularly wrote reports on his Prague activities to the Chief of the NSDAP Party office, Martin Bormann, assuming that they were being passed on to Hitler. His 11th Report of October 11 contained inter alia information on the "Jewish problem":

        "At present 88000 Jews live in the Protectorate, of which there are 48000 in Prague, 10000 in Brno, 10000 in Moravska Ostrava and the rest spread over the whole of the Protectorate. In order to evacuate them, these Jews will be concentrated during the coming weeks at one place still to be designated; this will be some kind of evacuation camp and the men will be allocated to forced labour. The first 5000 Jews will be evacuated to the east after October 15, via Litzmannstadt (Lodz)."
The Hussite castle of Old Tabor or Terezin were proposed as collection camps (Sammellager), the latter being considered by Heydrich as particularly suitable. He planned that after "removing the Jews", Terezin would be reconstructed "within the framework of germanizion" as an ideal German housing estate. He promised to submit the plans for this as soon as possible.

    It is now obvious that the basic assumption-the expected "solution of the military situation" in the east-was not realized. It turned out that the actual evacuation of the Czech Jewish population would take longer and that therefore "ghettoization" within Czech territory would be necessary. The temporary character of the "evacuation camp" was explicitly stressed in the minutes of the Prague meeting of October 10:

    "After evacuation from this temporary collecting camp (where the Jews will have been already strongly decimated) to the eastern territory, the whole area can then be reconstructed into a model German housing estate." Here, the other mission of the future Terezin camp is already formulated -- the decimating mission. Although the term "Vernichting durch Aussiedlung" (extermination by evacuation) does not occur in Nazi documents, nevertheless, the principle of this decimating function of the various establishments where the Nazis concentrated the Jewish population after their evacuation was obvious, whether they were called ghettos or camps.

    At the meeting Heydrich explained the whole concept of this "ghettoization" on Czech territory. He considered it useful to organize two ghettos, one in Bohemia and the other in Moravia; one of them as an "Arbeitslager" (labour camp), the other as a "Versorgungslager" (provisioning camp). The opportunity for work was to be provided inside the camp where the prisoners were to produce without any machinery small articles such as sabots and straw mats for the Wehacht units in the north, etc. The Ältestenrat (the Council of Elders) was to collect these products and exchange them for the minimum of food for the inmates. Only small groups of particularly needed experts would be permitted to work outside the camp. In Moravia, one of the existing Jewish villages was to be transformed into a ghetto.

    The Centre for Jewish Evacuation took over the whole territory of Terezin. Heydrich promised to arrange the transfer of military units from Terezin to other garrisons personally with the military commander of the Protectorate, General Rudolf Toussaint. The Czech population of Terezin had to move out.

    The actual deportation was not to be protracted; two or three trains each transporting 1 000 persons were to arrive in Terezin daily. According to a well-tried method, the luggage of the deported was not to be heavier than 50 kg; however, they could also take provisions for two to four weeks.

    At that stage of the planning the living quarters were assumed to be very primitive -- straw spread over the floors in empty flats. It was said that beds would take up too much space. The bigger flats in better houses were to be reserved for the detached offices of the Centre for Jewish Evacuation, and also for the Council of Elders, for provisioning offices and for the guards. The minutes state: "Die Juden haben sich Wohnungen in die Erde hinab zu schaffen". That the Jews were to provide themselves with lodgings in the ground sounded ominous. When Eichmann was interrogated in Jerusalem as to what those words meant, he naturally "did not remember"; however, he declared that K.H. Frank, on Eichman's objection about the shortage of space in Terezin for such a large number of "ghettoized", answered with a laugh: "Let them dig into the ground! Let them dig holes! Or something like that."

    Heydrich asked for measures to prevent epidemics spreading from the ghetto to neighbouring territory, especially not to endanger the Sudeten region by sewage water flowing into the river Ohře. The dead in Terezin were in no circumstances to be buried; they had to be cremated in a small crematorium in the ghetto which was not open to the public.

    The Protectorate police were to guard the Terezin prisoners. For each of the two ghettos there were 600 men to work in three shifts.

    In concluding the meeting, Heydrich did not forget to remind the participants of Hitler's wish to clear the German region of its Jewish population if possible before the end of the year, and called for a speedy solution of all problems.

    At a confidential conference on the afternoon of the same day Heydrich announced the measures to representatives of the press and sent a copy of his speech to Emil Hacha, the President of the Protectorate. As the final goal he indicated the evacuation of the Jewish population from Europe and declared that in the very near future 5000 Jews would be leaving the Protectorate, while the others would be concentrated in a town or town quarter, separately for Moravia and Bohemia. These would be the collection points before evacuation. Those Czechs who for reasons of opposition or because of insufficient understanding tried to express their sympathy with the Jews, Heydrich threatened, were to suffer the Jewish fate: "That means: separation and evacuation."

    In the preparations for the territorial separation of the Jewish population of the Protectorate, the Centre for Jewish Evacuation included also the Jewish Religious Community in Prague. From the documents drawn up on the order of the Centre we can assume that the leading officers of this Community did not know anything, at least officially, about any deportations beyond the borders of Bohemia and Moravia. All their planning was based on the assumption that all 88 thousand registered persons would be "ghettoized". It was obvious from the analysis of October 9, recommending the concentration of Jews in the suburbs of Prague, Brno and Ostrava, and also from the records of "Judenstadt" that the concentration of Jews in one single town was not practically possible and that more, four or five, such centres needed to be established.

    The day after the meeting, i.e. October 10, the Head of "Zentralstelle", H. Günther, imposed on the representatives of the Jewish Religious Community the following tasks: 1) To carry out inquiries in Moravia as to whether there is any place ith a particularly high percentage of Jewish inhabitants; 2) To find communities with 5 000 to 6000 inhabitants, suitable for concentrating Jews; at the same time to state how many Jews were living there and the maximum number of Jews that could be sent there; 3) To elaborate the basic concepts of ghettoization, differentiating between a charity camp and a labour camp; 4) If none of these plans could be realized, to propose the evacuation of Jews from Prague and from Brno into the suburbs excluding individual housing estates and especially well situated residential areas; 5) To draw up a report on all work connected with building up such a township, including its economic ties and the exchange of goods etc.

    Into these preparations for "ghettoization" the news of the first deportation transport struck like lightning.

    On October 15, the first transport left Vienna for Lodz and was followed next day by the first from Prague. The latter happened under peculiar circumstances. The head of Prague's Jewish Community, Dr František Weidmann, and his deputy, Jakob Edelstein, heard the news about the forthcoming Prague transport from Vienna. Immediately, they asked to be received at the "Zentrastelle" for Jewish Evacuation. They were assured that nothing of the kind was known, that the situation in Prague was different from that in Vienna or Berlin. However, a few hours later on the same day, both men were called to the building of the "Zentralstelle" in Vršovice (a district of Prague) and were ordered to get five transports ready for deportation to Lodz.

    At the meeting on October 17, on future planning in the Protectorate, Heydrich repeated his ideas about Terezin, from where the Jews would be moved to the east and which would then be settled by Germans to become a centre of German life, as of prime consideration, strictly in accordance with the ideas of the Reich's SS Commander in his function as the Reich's Commissary for Strengthening the German Element. The only new feature was his firm declation that Terezin could comfortably accommodate 50 to 60 thousand persons.

    In the meantime transports to Lodz continued. The second transport from Prague left on October 21, the third on October 26, the fourth on October 31 and the last on November 3. Between October 16 and November 4, 19,837 Jews from Germany, Austria and Luxembourg were "ghettoized" with them. Of the five thousand Czech Jews only 275 persons survived the famine and epidemics wreaking havoc in the ghetto of Lodz, the transports to the gas chambers in Chelmna, Majdanek and Auschwitz and all the sufferings of forced labour.

    At about that time the Chief of the "Ordnungspolizei" (disciplinary police), Kurt Daluege, informed his subordinate police stations that from November 1 to December 4, 1941, the "Sicherheitsdienst" (Security Service) would dispatch Jewish transports numbering 50 thousand persons from the Old Reich, Austria and the Protectorate to the suoundings of Riga and Minsk; he also ordered the disciplinary police to escort the transports. Among those towns from which the deportation trains would be dispatched were Prague and Brno. As a matter of fact, there was only one transport from the Protectorate at that time -- 1000 persons from Brno to Minsk. This transport, dispatched on November 16, was made up mostly of persons supported by the Jewish Religious Community, of Austrian emigrants and the families of Polish subjects who were interned at the Brno fortress of Špilberk. Of them, only thirteen survived the Minsk massacre.

    The preparations for building the Terezin camp were in full swing. As early as October 15, the Commander of the Security Police, Horst Böhme, informed Heydrich that General Toussaint had just acknowledged via teleprinter that Terezin could be immediately cleared of its inhabitants if the political necessity arose. The burden of the organizational, material, technical and personal arrangements proper were borne by the leadership of the Jewish Community in Prague. According to the records of November 9, submitted to the Camp Commander Designate of Terezin, SS--Obersturmführer Siegfried Seidl, they proposed despatching an "Aufbaukomando" numbering 500 persons with the possibility of increasing this number to 1000 persons. Their plan for the successive settlement of a maximum of 5000 persons in Terezin proves what the representatives of the Jewish Community expected; the number they proposed was at least ten times smaller than that proposed by Heydrich.

    For the time being Terezin was to fulfil only the Protectorate mission - to concentrate Czech Jews before their "final" deportation to the east and to decimate their numbers as much as possible before that deportation. However, in the meantime a new idea arose of how to make use of Terezin for another of the Reich's missions. On November 18, 1941, Goebbels writes in his diary referring to his talk with Heydrich: "Heydrich informed me of his intentions concerning the evacuation of Jews from the territory of the Reich. The problem seems harder to solve than we originally believed. 15 000 Jews have to stay in Berlin anyway because they are working in the interests of the war effort and on dangerous jobs. Also, quite a lot of old Jews cannot be moved to the east. For them a Jewish ghetto in some little town in the Protectorate should be established...".

    To understand better the genesis of the function of Terezin it is necessary to pay attention to another record of that time. Three days after his talk with Heydrich, Goebbels met Hitler and noted: "We want an energetic policy towards the Jews but one that does not cause us any unnecessary difficulties." Therefore, Terezin was to become a "ghetto for the old" as an instrument which was to function against unnecessary difficulties.

    Already in his statement of October 10 in Prague, Heydrich had stressed that the lists of persons to be deported from the Old Reich would have to be checked "for the inclusion of any Jewish proteges of high officers of the Reich" so as to avoid letters of intervention on their behalf. Later on, at a meeting of the organizers of the deportations, Eichmann admitted that Heydrich had received 40 - 45 letters of intervention for persons unjustly evacuated to Riga. So as not to expose individual Gestapo offices to the temptation "to deport burdensome older Jews", Eichmann announced "as a calming measure" that the now deported Jews from the Old Reich would most probably be evacuated in the summer or autumn of 1942 to Terezin which had been chosen as a ghetto for the old. This, he noted, would "save face outwardly".

    At the notorious Wannsee conference, which took place in that Berlin suburb on January 20, 1942, the three-in-one mission of Terezin was firmly included into the strategy of the final stage of the "final solution", as Heydrich explained in his speech: as a concentration and transit camp, as a tool of decimation and also as a means of disinformation on the fate of deported Jewish inhabitants.

    State secretaries and other leading functionaries of the highest authorities of the Reich connected with the Jewish question had been invited to this conference by Heydrich. On the basis of Göring's directive of July 31, 1941, to prepare an all-European "final solution of the Jewish question", Heydrich was attempting to create a coordinated, purposeful extermination machine. His aim was to strengthen the power of the SS, the Gestapo and his own and to adjust this machine to new tasks - the murder of millions - to fulfil Hitler's "prophecy" of January 1939.

    We have at our disposal the minutes of that conference. According to Heydrich's instructions, Eichman had to rewrite this record several times from the rough language of the conference into "another language", as Eichmann called this peculiar translation from German into German. A language of official code-words was used and that part dealing with the method of extermination of the eleven million destined by Wannsee to die was omitted. The minutes characterized the discussion on various "possibilities of solution" which was translated by Eichmann during his trial as "possibilities for killing".

    The Conference dealt with the evacuation of the European Jewish population into the extermination centres which were at that time still in the process of being built. The territory of the Reich, including the Protectorate, was to be given priority in accordance with Hitler's directives.

    The evacuated Jews were to be located first in so called Durchgangsghettos (transit ghettos) and from there transported to the east. "It is our intention", Heydrich declared, "not to evacuate Jews above 65 years but to transfer them to the ghetto for the old - Terezin was recommended. In addition to old people the ghettos would also accept Jewish war invalids and the holders of war decorations (Iron Cross I). This solution would eliminate the numerous interventions."

    The deportations were made out to be resettlement to forced labour in the east. To cover up these deportations, the old people subject to the Nüremberg Laws, already unfit for such labour, together with those who had made a valuable contribution to Germany, particularly on the battlefield, and other prominent people, were to be transferred for life to old-age homes in the town of Theresienstadt (Terezin), which Nazi propaganda sometimes referred to as a spa, "Theresienstadtbad".

    On November 19, 1941, SS - Obersturmbannfthrer Siegfried Seidl told the representatives of the Jewish Religious Community that on 24th November at 12 o'clock noon an "Aufbaukommando" (a building detachment) should be lined up in Terezin. And this happened.

    It is a fact that on the given date the "Aufbaummando" of 342 men arrived in the afternoon hours at the railway station of Bohušovice, from where they marched to Terezin. There the gates of the Sudeten barracks closed behind them. That was the moment the Terezin concentration camp came into being...

    The news of the dispatch of this transport to Terezin spread like lightning all over Prague. Many accepted this news with relief, believing that the transports to Lodz would stop, as well as all transports beyond the borders of the Czech Lands. It was not even seven weeks before this illusion was dispelled. On January 4, 1942, Terezin prisoner Eva Roubičkova (?), at that time still Mandlova, noted in her diary: "Great agitation. A transport is leaving from here for Poland. Shall we be in it? It is horrible. We thought that here at least we would be safe from that and now we are in the same position as in Prague." Indeed, on January 9, one thousand persons left Terezin in the first transport. This transport went to Riga...

    Back to beginning

Terezin as a Ghetto and a Concentration Camp

    Terezin, founded by Austrian Emperor Joseph I as a military fortress in the basin of the river Labe at the confluence of the Labe and Ohře rivers, only 60 kilometres from Prague and about the same distance from Dresden, was a small border town in the autumn of 1942. Neighbouring Litomeřice was already part of the Sudeten district. Terezin had eleven barracks, a large number of other military installations partly built into the redoubt as casemates, also the Small Fortress, a police prison of the Prague Gestapo with a strong SS guard division, and 218 civilian houses. The town was populated by 3498 Czech and 347 German inhabitants. Up to that time the number of civilian and military persons living in Terezin never exceeded 7200.

    The Wehrmacht (the army) successively cleared the barracks and during the first seven months up to June 1942 (?) the Terezin concentration camp was divided into strictly isolated men's and women's barracks. The prisoners were allowed to leave them only supervised by the SS or the Protectorate Gendarmes, a special division of which was transferred to Terezin. If a prisoner came with a working squad into the women's barracks and met his wife for a while, he was punished with 25 strokes and a month of imprisonment in a bunker. The civilian inhabitants lived in the town. Any contact with prisoners was very strictly punished, even by death. During January 1942 ten prisoners were executed for smuggling out letters from the camp and for similar transgressions; during February seven. After this no executions were carried out inside the camp but those destined for execution were included in the next transport to the east with instructions that they should be liquidated on arrival.

    Even before the second "Aufbaukommando" (one thousand persons) arrived at the Terezin barracks, transports of whole families from Prague and Brno started to stream into Terezin. By the end of the year there were 7350 prisoners in the camp. During the first half of 1942 another 25862 persons were deported from Czech and Moravian towns to Terezin and in the second half of the year an additional 28 366. In other words, by the end of 1942 three quarters of all the Jewish population living on the territory of the Protectorate in November 1941 were "ghettoized".

    What was the fate of the Terezin prisoners?

    The first head of the Terezin Council of Elders, Jakob Edelstein, and his closest collaborators, hoped that by organizing productive work within the Terezin ghetto they might save a considerable number of Czech Jews from deportation to the east, or, at least, postpone their deportation. Work was to save them from death.

    As we have already learned, Reinhard Heydrich and Hans Günther originally planned one ghetto for labour and one for accommodation. The draft of the Protector's Directive on measures concerning the relocation of Jews into closed settlements, which was circulated on December 2, 1941, for comments, still envisaged the existence of two ghettos. Besides Terezin the Moravian town of Kyjov was mentioned. However, on February 16, 1942, when the Directive was issued, its title was in the plural but the text referred exclusively to Terezin. The town community was officially dissolved and the Commander of the Security Police of the Reich's Protector was entrusted with inaugurating the necessary measures for establishing a Jewish settlement on its territory.

    On July 3, the evacuation of the "Aryan" inhabitants from Terezin was completed and on July 6, 1942 at 12.30 p.m. the Gendarme guards were removed from the various prison barracks. Thus, not only the Terezin barracks but the whole town of Terezin became a concentration camp.

    Terezin's temporary mission as a transit camp for Czech Jews coincided with its second task - that of becoming a ghetto for the old and for meritorious German Jews. Its third task - that of decimation - was going ahead at full speed.

    On June 2, 1943, the first transport of German Jews, at that time still not numerous, reached Terezin. However, the continuous flow of these transports accelerated and from June 21 there were also transports from Austria; transports from the Czech lands also continued.

    Between April and September 1942 the number of prisoners in Terezin increased as follows (numbers valid at the end of the month):

    April 12 968
    May 14 300
    June 21 269
    July 43 403
    August 51 554
    September 53 264

    Even faster was the increase in mortality: in April 256 deaths, in August 2327 and in September 3941. While the number of prisoners between April and September increased about four times, the number of deaths was more than fifteen times higher. The highest number of prisoners recorded in Terezin was on September 18, 1942: 58491. On the same day 156 prisoners died; it was the highest number in one day. Indeed, the summer of 1942 represented the most horrible months in the history of Terezin.

    For German, Austrian and, from April 1943, also Dutch Jews this "removal" to Terezin (official term: Wohnsitzerlegung(?)--move of residence) implied a privilege. Instead of being evacuated to the feared east they started a journey into a town in the middle of Europe. They were leaving convinced that there, in a privileged ghetto for the old, they would find life-long board and lodging and medical care. Many of them signed a so-called agreement on buying a home (Heimeinkaufsvertrag) to ensure their security. How this legend about Terezin worked can be documented by a record in the diary of Egon Redlich. It was recounted to him by a Dutch woman:

    " 'My son was with a Christian. He treated him well. I could have left the child with him and come by myself. But before the journey the Germans told us that the ghetto was very nice, the town fairly large, with playgrounds and gardens and we would be allowed to move up to 25 km outside the town. On the last night before departure I decided to take the child with me.' Now she sees and regrets."

    Unimaginably drastic scenes took place when the disoriented German and Austrian Jews arrived at Bohušovice railway station with their 50 kg of luggage. Some had taken things with them which were not only useless in the conceration camp but sometimes grotesque. They had to carry their luggage three kilometres on foot to Terezin where they were placed not in a spa room but in casemates or lofts and their only food was ersatz coffee and a thin slice of bread. Their disillusionment was terrible. Many of them were not able to accept the reality and broke down both psychogically and physically.

    More than 6000 people had to scrape along in lofts without any light, without water, without any lavatories, many on the bare floor. Only a few had a straw mattress and some of them had at least some wood shavings. Some had to live in casemates which were dark and not well aired, so damp that the army had stopped using them as store-rooms. In August 1942 a Terezin prisoner had at his disposal an area of 1.6 square metres, including the lofts and casemates. That was the space allotted to him for sleeping, living and dying. In the barracks where 10 soldiers had occupied one room, there lived 50 to 70 prisoners.

    The water and electricity supply in the entire camp totally collapsed. There was a desperate shortage of catering facilities. It was impossible to manage the food distribution and the prisoners got their poor food mostly cold. The sanitary conditions were appalling. Long queues waited day and night in front of the lavatories and latrines. Many epidemics, particularly intestinal diseases, spread. For the most elementary health care, the people and the means were lacking.

    Terezin was carrying out its decimating function perfectly. During August, September and October, 1942, 10364 prisoners died there. However, if Terezin was to fulfil its disorienting, propagandist mission and avoid the danger of epidemics spreading to the surroundings, the "natural" death rate was not enough in the view of the SS headquarters.

    On August 17, 1942, the Protectorate Commander of the Security Police, Horst Böhme, sent a warning teleprinter message to Heinrich Müller in Berlin who after Heydrich's death temporarily headed the Reich's Security Main Office (RSHA). "At present there are 43 thousand persons in the Terezin ghetto, more than ten times the number of the original population. Another 26 thousand Jews from the Reich will be brought here during August and September", Böhme informed and warned: "Such overloading is not acceptable from the point of view of the sanitary police and it endangers the neighbouring Sudeten district. Moreover, the evacuation of German and Austrian Jews to Terezin in such numbers will make any evacuation from the Protectorate impossible." He acknowledged the necessity to clear regions endangered by air-raids but he asked for supplies from Vienna and other places not endangered by air-raids to be stopped until the new barracks in Terezin were built.

    The Berlin organisers of the "final solution" did not accept Böhme's proposal. They decided on another possibility: to drain off as many old and ill prisoners from Terezin as possible, to transport them to the extermination centres and to murder them there.

    The second series of deportation transports from Terezin started on July 14 and ended on October 26, 1942. To a certain extent it differed from the transports of Czech Jews deported between January 9 and July 13. The difference was not in the final exterminating effect, even though a small difference was involved there too. Out of 16001 prisoners of the sixteen transports in the first wave 175 persons survived to liberation, while out of 27890 prisoners of the nineteen transports carried out in the summer and autumn only 85 survived.

    In the first wave whole families were deported. Two transports were directed to Riga, others to the General Gouvernement, i.e. first to the Lublin district. Only one ended in the Warsaw ghetto. In the Lublin district the prisoners from Terezin were deployed either to different localities in which the local Jews had by then been mostly murdered or to various other camps.

    Of the 14 thousand prisoners sent in the first half of 1942 from Terezin to the General Gouvernement about six thousand men were chosen to work in Majdanek, mostly on building the camp. Following the strategy formulated by Heydrich in Wannsee, the members of their families who were unfit for work, together with other "useless eaters", were liquidated-either by hunger or in the gas chambers of Sobibor or Majdanek. However, the same fate was awaiting those who were thrown into the merciless clutches of the system "Vernichtung durch Arbeit" (annihilation through labour), to be exterminated by devastating labour.

    Another killing procedure was applied to the transports dispatched in the summer and autumn of 1942. Whole transports were destined for immediate mass destruction. Only those survived temporarily who were selected for work in the "Sonderkommandos" (Special detachments). They were forced to operate the extermination equipment and to collect, sort and dispatch to Germany everything usable from the stolen property of those killed.

    Minsk originally played an important role in Heydrich's deportation plans but the transports announced for January 1942 did not take place. They were thwarted by the defeat of the Wehrmacht in the battle of Moscow and the far-reaching retreat of the German forces. Heydrich arrived to prepare the transports as late as in April. He ordered Eduard Strauch, the local commander of the Security Police and Security Service, to kill the deported immediately after their arrival. Indeed, this was the fate of the prisoners of six transports from Terezhn. They were shot by execution squads in the little pine wood at Maly Trostinets, near Minsk; each prisoner was shot in the back of his head so that he fell forward into the pit and was then buried. This mass killing was complemented by the so-called "S cars" (Sonderwagen = Special cars) in which the prisoners were killed by exhaust gases.

    Only one of the Terezin transports stopped at Barovich. Actually, it should have arrived in Minsk the day after the "grand operation" about which Wilhelm Kube, the General Commissar for Belorussia, reported to his superior in the following terms:

        "In the town of Minsk on the 28th and 29th of July about 10000 Jews were liquidated, of which 6 500 were Russian Jews - mostly old men, women and children - the remainder being composed of Jews unable to work, who were sent to Minsk last November on the Führer's order, mostly from Vienna, Brno, Bremen and Berlin."
All the members of the Minsk Security Police and the Security Service took part in this operation, shooting away as though on an assembly line one after the other; in these two days they killed about ten thousand prisoners or possibly a few less if we assume that part of this bloody work was carried out by the gas cars which were often faulty. "In order not to overstrain the forces of the local Service Station", as it was stated at a post-war trial in Koblenz, the Service Station in Baranovich was ordered to stop the train with the Terezin prisoners and to liquidate them on the spot.

    The killing technique was straightforward. At the Barovich railway station the prisoners were ordered to get out with their utensils for lunch. Instead of lunch the SS and the collaborating local police took them to a wood five kilometres away near the village of Kolpenice, where all were shot. All of them were shot there. A group of prisoners from the nearby Koldichev camp buried the dead in prepared pits.

    The penultimate transport to Maly Trostinets was dispatched on September 8 and the last on September 22, 1942. In between the Trostinets series the Terezin SS Headquarters succeeded in pushing through two other transports, one to Riga and the other to Raasika in Estonia. However, due to the constant influx of new inmates, the deportation of 8000 prisoners had not solved the problem of Terezin. Minsk and Riga were too remote, transport by rail became more and more difficult and the technology of extermination used was too crude.

    The "final solution" needed an industrialized method of murder. For "Operation Reinhard", as the program of the extermination of Polish Jews was called, death factories were built. The first of them, at Chelmno, started to operate in December 1941, Belzhets in March and Sobibor in May 1942. The last one and at the same time the largest killing machinery in the General Gouvernement, Treblinka, started to operate on July 23, 1942. First it was the turn of those who were "resettled" from the Warsaw ghetto. The daily allocation grew fast: the first day 7 300 persons, on the 6th of August 10 085 and on the 8th of September 13 596. The number of Treblinka's victims is estimated at about 750 thousand.

    Treblinka - like Belzhets or Sobibor - was not a camp in the proper sense of the word. The arriving transports went straight from the railway station to the baths as if for disinfection, after which the prisoners were allegedly to have been sorted out for labour squads and for the camps. In reality the baths were the gas chambers. The prison camp of Treblinka itself was only the temporary abode of the Special Detachmnent. The other prisoners did not survive the day of their arrival in Treblinka.

    In spite of the fact that the Treblinka death machine was already overloaded with the Polish transports, Berlin arranged for the Terezin SS Headquarters to dispatch a series of ten transports of altogether 18004 prisoners between September 19 and October 22, 1942. These were transports of old people (Alterstransporte).

    Old people were included in earlier transports too but in small numbers and as members of families. In this series they represented more than four fifths of all deported. To these old there were added the very ill or chronically ill people. Some of them were brought to the train on stretchers.

    Of course, this time too the Terezin Headquarters tried to cover up the real purpose of the transports. They pretended it was a transfer to another, privileged ghetto. In the diary of Redlich we can find a record commenting on the registration of old men and women for the transport:

    "If it were possible to believe the Germans just a little, I might believe that they want to improve the situation of Jews from the Reich, because they are sending only Jews from the Reich, but one cannot believe the Germans. They are terrible and strange enemies."

    Indeed, the German and Austrian Jews were the first to be included in the transports of the Treblinka series, in spite of the fact that they were transported to Terezin just because they were excluded from the deportations to the east. Their "privilege" was only represented by the fact that they were deported there not straight from their homes but by a detour via the Terezin camp.

    Because of the influx of transports from Germany and Austria in the summer of 1942 the idea of Terezin becoming a "productive ghetto" totally broke down. While the average age in the transports from the Protectorate was 46, from Berlin and Munich it was 69, from Köln on the Rhine 70 and from Vienna 73 years.

    At the beginning of July 1942, persons older than 65 years of age represented 36% of the 22 thousand inmates, one month later already one half of the 43 thousand of the camp's population and in the middle of September 57% of the 58 thousand prisoners of Terezin.

    At that time Terezin could have been called a "ghetto for the old" but never a privileged one. "A privileged ghetto... a cover-up for the bloodshed and the victims of the east. A privileged ghetto where more than one hundred people die daily," as Egon Redlich characterized the situation in his diary.

    The transports of the old to Treblinka deliberately changed the age structure of Terezin. Out of 47427 German and Austrian Jews who were transferred in 1942 for life to the "privileged" old people's home of Terezin, 10 128 were deported to the extermination camps in the same year. On top this, as a consequence of the terrible conditions in Terezin, 14627 died before the end of that year, i.e. more than 30%.

    Because three transports of the old included 6000 Czech Jews who left Terezin during October, by the end of 1942 the number of prisoners older than 65 years dropped to 33%, i.e. to the level before the Terezin camp became a "ghetto for the old".

    The last deportation transport of 1942 was at the same time the first to go to Auschwitz. It was not one of the series in which old prisoners were dragged away to death. It had a "normal family composition" but out of 1866 Jews who arrived in Auschwitz only 215 men and 32 women were selected for work. The others were sent to the gas chambers.

    Back to beginning

The Transformation of Terezin

    In the summer of 1942 the concept of a productive, economically self-sufficient ghetto definitely failed. However, Terezin as a ghetto for the old and as a buttress for Nazi propaganda offered a certain number of Czech Jews, who were able to work, the chance to stay in Terezin. Already in February 1942, when Eichmann informed the Jewish representatives from Berlin, Prague and Vienna about the plans for Terezin as a ghetto for the old, he announced that some young people would have to be staying there too to carry out the necessary jobs and to care for the old.

    To change Terezin into a concentration camp it was not enough to remove soldiers from the barracks and the civilian population from their homes. In order to accommodate the maximum possible number of prisoners, if only for the purpose of their decimation in the camp itself or for their further early deportation, it was necessary to use a great deal of materiel and labour on some basic buildings, reconstruction and changes to existing premises. It was necessary to ensure at least a minimum of drinking water and perfect purification of the sewage flowing from the river Ohře into the Elbe, to equip the living quarters, if possible, with three-tier bunks, to put up barracks, particularly for manufacturing workshops, nearly 12 thousand square metres in area, to equip the kitchens with the necessary cauldrons, to secure hot steam for them and for the delousing baths and also the disinfecting chambers, and to operate and maintain medical equipment to prevent any epidemics. The high mortality rate necessitated a crematorium with four furnaces and with a capacity of 160 to 180 cremations daily; in 1943, 12967 persons were cremated.

    To obtain an idea of how demanding such work was, we can give, for example, the basic data on the reconstruction of the waterworks and the water supply. The water works originally delivered water just for the barracks and the military hospital, converted into a hospital for the SS. The civilians had pumped water from their own shallow wells, which were not sufficient for the tens of thousands of prisoners and, moreover, they had to be closed because after putting up latrines, it was impossible to prevent contamination of the well water. The general repair and reconstruion of the waterworks, the digging of five deep wells and the building of a new supply surface pipe extending the original water distribution system from five to sixteen kilometres, required about 50 wagons of pipes and other materials.

    Of course, the SS Headquarters was endeavouring to ensure the maximum possible isolation of Terezin and its prisoners. A railway siding was built from Bohušovice to Terezin, which was located away from the public railway network. In the beginning, the Jewish transports arrived at Bohušovice railway station from where the prisoners had to walk to the camp. All freight delivered to Terezin by train had to be reloaded at the Bohušovice railway station and transported by lorries. The railway siding would thus save both fuel and the work of reloading. First and foremost, however, the transfer between Terezin and Bohušovice without a direct railway connection took place in front of the nonjewish population and the Terezin prisoners had many opportunities to contact Czech people. The erection of a railway siding was therefore planned from the very first day of the camp's existence. The route chosen led the railway into the town through Bohušovice gate. The building of the railway siding started in August 1942 and, having reached a length of 2585 m, it was put into operation on June 1, 1943. Three hundred prisoners had worked there and 180 tons of iron, 4800 sleepers and 5 000 tons of gravel were used.

    Another measure for improving the isolation of the Terezin camp was the building of a by-pass connecting Prague and Teplice and the erection of a wooden fence without any gaps.

    From the above it is obvious that a substantial part of the working potential of Terezin had to be used to create the elementary preconditions for Terezin to function as a concentration camp in compliance with Nazi plans. No less important was the work force used for the daily running of the ghetto, which had a population of 45 thousand prisoners at the end of October 1942 and which in December again rose to nearly 50 thousand. Demands on those prisoners who were able to work were growing in connection with the role which Terezin was to play in deceptive propaganda.

    At his Jerusalem trial Eichmann euphemistically described Terezin as being "very close" to the heart of Heinrich Himmler, the SS Führer of the Reich. A document was handed down according to which in October 1942 Himmler mendaciously praised Terezin, describing it to Mussolini as a little town, a ghetto for the old where old Jews live, get their pensions and treats and arrange their life according to their own taste.

    At about that time Himmler intended to visit Terezin. In the draft agenda for the inspection of Terezin he assigned 210 minutes to be spent there. Every minute of it was planned.

    Before Himmler's arrival K.H.Frank was to have carried out an inspection of his route. However, the epidemics in Terezin made it impossible to take Himmler there and Frank preferred not to risk it either. As late as December 7 Robert Gies, Frank's personal assistant, wrote on the documents: "The inspection of the Terezin ghetto is postponed until further notice." The documents were submitted to Gies again on February 10, 1943, and again Himmler's visit was prepared. However, two weeks later Gies added an entry saying that the documents could be considered as dealt with and ordering them to be shelved. It turned out that this time it was for ever. Himmler never visited Terezin.

    The 1941 - 1942 winter in Terezin was extremely hard.

    "We shall again have 50000 inmates here, now in winter..... They intend putting up isolation barracks (there are more than 100 cases of typhoid fever) but when will all this be..... the situation is becoming catastrophic because of the high population density. It is worse than it has ever been here-intense cold, typhoid fever and starvation of the old",
wrote Egon Redlich in his diary.
    "People are living in holes in lofts where the temperature sometimes drops to a few degrees above zero". But he noted also: "They inspected the houses of eminent people and observed that too many lived in one room. The Germans ordered the area in the flats for the eminent people to be enlarged because visitors from Berlin are expected and these houses will be inspected. The Germans want to put up Potemkin villages (make-believe)."
And the next day: "Today they removed about 40 persons to enlarge the area occupied by the eminent people."

    In the first months of 1943 the typhoid fever epidemic reached its peak. In January there were 127 new cases and in February 413. "Typhoid fever must disappear from the ghetto or else....." Eichmann threatened on February 20 in Terezin but in March there were 150 new typhoid cases and in April still another 79.

    Three weeks after the Soviet Army completed its encirclement of Hitler's armies at Stalingrad, Himmler, referring to reasons important for the war-effort, ordered that at least 35 thousand prisoners be sent to the concentration [extermination?] camps by the end of January 1943.

    "This applies to every individual in the labour force" he stressed in his order. As early as December 16 the Gestapo Chief, SS Gruppenfuhrer H. Müller, informed Himmler how his order would be fulfilled as far as the Jewish sector was concerned. Forty five thousand Jews would be sent to Auschwitz, ten thousand being from Terezin. "The 45000 would also include those unable to work (old Jews and children). After the selection of Jews for Auschwitz, at least 10000 to 15000 Jews able to work would remain."
Thus Müller anticipated that on arrival at Auschwitz 30 to 35 thousand human beings would be selected for the gas chambers.

    In his letter to Himmler Müller explained the criteria for including the Terezin prisoners in the transport. One half would be people who had been assigned to less important construction work in the ghetto and the other half would be Jews unable to work and those over 60 years of age. His justification for this was his intention "to reduce the too high number of 48 000 prisoners in the interests of building up the ghetto." Müller asked Himmler to grant him special permission, promising that only Jews not having any special contacts and connections or outstanding distinctions would be included in the transport.

    Himmler did not reply. He did not grant special permission to deport the old prisoners and those who were not able to work. The question is still open why, without Himmler objecting and/or without any request for his permission at all, the preceding transports of the old had taken place and why now the Gestapo Chief needed his explicit consent. But it is a fact that between January 20 and February 2, 1943, not 10 thousand but only 7001 prisoners were dispatched from Terezin to Auschwitz and that people older than 60 years were included only exceptionally. However, the SS officers of the Auschwitz headquarters acted during the selection of those who arrived more drastically than Müller had envisaged.

    According to the headquarters official report, only 930 prisoners from the first three transports were accepted into the camp and according to the observations of the camp resistance organization 435 Terezin prisoners were accepted from the two remaining transports; all others were subjected to "special treatment"--killed in the gas chambers immediately on arrival.

    According to the Gestapo Chief 22 to 33% of these transports should have been chosen for labour; however, the Auschwitz headquarters selected less than 20% of the Terezin prisoners, despite the fact that people over 60 years were not included en masse, as originally suggested by Müller. The Auschwitz practice exceeded even the murderous ideas of the Reich's Security Main Office, the Gestapo Centre.

    The commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Höss, had a theoretical explanation for this practice. Even after the war in jail he justified it and reproached Himmler that because of him it was not carried out consistently enough in the interests of the war economy and--allegedly--even in the interests of the prisoners themselves.

        "If those Auschwitz prisoners had been taken immediately (i.e. from the arrival platform - M.K.) to the gas chambers they would have been saved a great deal of suffering. Without having done anything substantial for the war effort, often nothing at all, they died in a short time."
      Höss confessed that in his reports he underlined this fact but according to him Himmler was intoxicated by the growing numbers of prisoners carrying out forced labour.
    "If, as I said and constantly repeated, only the healthiest and strongest Jews in Auschwitz had been selected, it would admittedly have been possible to report lower numbers of those who were able to work but they would actually have been usable for a longer time."

    This classic way of Nazi thinking was shared by Oswald Pohl, chief of the concentration camps: "I do not like to maintain poor hospitals in concentration camps because I need every place for a healthy work force. The tasks of the war effort imposed upon the concentration camps by the Führer can be carried out only with full-value labour."

    This was not only the ideology adopted in selections after the arrival of transports but also in selections inside the camp complex. The people were starved, kept in atrocious sanitary and housing conditions, exhausted by inhuman work for I.G. Farben, Göring's concern, or the economic enterprises of the SS, and then periodically earmarked for the gas chambers or otherwise liquidated. They were no longer of use for the war effort and were only "a burden" to the camps. Without them, those who were "really usable" could remain longer under this heading. Such was the mechanism of the system "Vernichtung durch Arbeit" (extermination through work).

    When Höss referred to the interests of the prisoners themselves, saying that their immediate killing would save them much suffering, I do not consider it to be an expression of his Pharisaism. He was only brutally putting into words that Nazi attitude to prisoners' work power which coldly weighed human life and death as though deciding whether to leave a machine in operation or to scrap it. Indeed, the term "to scrap" burdensome people literally appears in Nazi documents.

    As far as the fate of the five Terezin transports from the beginning of 1943 is concerned, it should be added that of their 7 001 victims only 96 survived to liberation.

    After Heydrich's death the vacant office of Chief of the Reich's Security Main Office was filled by Ernst Kaltenbrünner. He reported to Himmler that in keeping with the ordered increase in the delivery of prisoners fit to work to the concentration camps, the approved transport of 5000 Jews able to work and below the age of 60 years had been dispatched from Terezin to Auschwitz. He renewed the request for Himmler's permission to deport 5000 Terezin prisoners older than 60 years to Auschwitz, and/or to the General Gouvernement. At the same time he again promised that these would be exclusively people who did not have any special relations or connections or high war decorations.

    He justified his request by the balance of the age composition and the working capacity of the Terezin camp. Out of 46735 prisoners there were 25730 younger and 21005 older than 60 years of age. According to Kaltenbrünner.'s calculations the camp had a work force of 21 thousand prisoners of which only 6000 were used for construction (building a road and railway siding, manufacture and production) while 15 thousand were earmarked for the maintenance and operation of the ghetto. Of these, nearly one third had to be used for attending and caring for the high number of old, ill and decrepit prisoners.

    It was necessary to lower the proportion of prisoners older than 60 years, Kaltenbrünner. argued, claiming that they were the main sources of epidemics and that they were tying down a large number of Jews who could be directed to more useful work. Their deportation to Auschwitz would free the work force for the needs of the war effort.

    Suprisingly enough, Himmler refused Kaltenbrünner 's request saying that this would "be at variance with the official statement that the Jews in the Terezin ghetto for the old could live and die in peace."

    The circumstances surrounding this letter will be dealt with later. Here we should only like to mention that in the Terezin camp the old people primarily died "in peace". In 1943 other 12701 prisoners, of whom 10366 were German and Austrian Jews, were maltreated to death.

    According to statistics on the exploitation of Terezin prisoners' labour, nearly 90% of the working capacity of the camp was spent on running it. In accordance with the ruling valid at that time for the operation of concentration camps, not more than one tenth of the prisoners was supposed to be used for their internal needs. The ratio in Terezin was just the opposite. Moreover, of the remaining 10% working hours claimed as being productive, a considerable part was spent on production for the needs of the camp.

    The various plans for production for "export" were of little significance: only a small number of prisoners took part and the fate of Terezin was in no way influenced by them.

    From April to June 1942 a group of women prisoners repaired stockings for the Wehrmacht and the Disciplinary Police, the material for which had to be obtained from unmendable pieces. In July uniforms were sewn but this was only an on-off affair which ended in September.

    The most significant were two production programmes indicated as important for the war effort. The first was the so--called "Produktion K (Kisten - boxes [crates])" introduced by order of the Council of Elders on June 1, 1943.

    The factory space for "Produktion K" was a two-masted circus tent erected on Terezin square. Two large tents on both sides of this circus tent served for storing parts. In fact the whole enterprise did not (?) involve the packing of winter equipment for motor vehicles into 120 thousand small cases. The parts were dispatched from different parts of Germany, including the occupied territories.The cases were merely nailed together in the camp. Ready- made sides and lids were brought in--allegedly from Auschwitz--in enormous quantities, but very often there were not [given] the parts to go in them. Whereas the store for cases was sometimes so full that the piles reached the textile roof of the marquee, both tents storing parts were usually empty. How the Terezin Headquarters solved such a situation is obvious from the reminiscences of one of the prisoners, Hana Jelinkova: "When the cases were packed and there was nothing more to do the Germans emptied the contents of the cases onto the conveyor belt and our work started again." Such a procedure was enacted particularly just before the arrival of officers of the Wehrmacht for which "Produktion K" was earmarked.

    A total of about one thousand prisoners, supervised not only by the gendarmes but also by the SS, were assigned to this kind of work. The last case was packed and dispatched on November 19, 1943, as published in daily order No. 385 of the Council of Elders. Soon afterwards the circus tent was removed and the square was tidied up for "Stadtverschönerung"--to beautify Terezin town.

    The second programme of production marked as important for the war effort was mica splitting which started in June 1942. The women prisoners who worked at it describe this job as stripping the mica core of its worthless surface layer and/or splitting mica into thin slices. This was an insulating material needed for airplane production. In 1942, 183 thousand working hours were spent on this work and the following year 331 thousand. At the end of 1943 work in the mica shop was stopped and renewed only in September 1944. The last information about mica splitting is in a record of the production for the month of February 1945. At that time an average of 842 women worked in the mica shop; they processed 6288 kg of mica from which they split off 2226 kg, i.e. the average yield was slightly more than a third.

    Various other manufactures and working activities--the production of ink powder, the spraying of uniforms with white camouflage, the sewing of a parachute component, the cultivation of silk-worms, the manufacture of boxes for explosive cartridges, of rag dolls, bags or lampshades, toys, decorative metal goods, etc.--were partly the result of attempts by the SS to prove their part in the war effort, partly they served to enrich the SS bosses of Terezin and partly they were meant to help create an illusion and to contribute to Terezin's "tranquillity". In addition, they were a factor in the decimation of the prisoners. The dynamics of the deportation transports was in no way influenced by them.

    Back to beginning

Terezin's Pseudo-Alibi

    Let us return to Himmler's surprising directive which was announced to Kaltenbrünner by his headquarters on February 16, 1943, and which actually stopped the flow of deportation transports from Terezin for seven months, when before that, over a period of just over than a year, there had been forty transports totalling 51 thousand prisoners. The last six ended in Auschwitz. What made Himmler decide that the seventh was not to leave?

    The direction in which the answer to this question lies is suggested by another of Himmler's directives, according to which on May 25 he strictly forbade the request of the army to establish a shooting range near Terezin: "Please inform the Wehrmacht that I cannot permit the setting up of a temperary shooting range near Terezin. This would provoke the most unforeseeable difficulties for Germany and would result in atrocity reports by the press (literally: schreckliche Greuelmeldungen)."

    Himmler, who was not afraid to kill millions of people, including the Warsaw ghetto, was suddenly afraid of an army shooting range in the neighbourhood of Terezin, even of a temporary character.

    The turn of 1942 was a time of shock for Germany caused by the Stalingrad disaster of its armies and the collapse of its North African expedition. The leadership of the Reich reacted not only by total mobilization but also by intensifying its efforts to disrupt the anti-Hitler coalition and on the basis of a separate peace with the western powers to get them to join the anti-Soviet front. Himmler, in one way or another, had a hand in most of them.

    On December 18, 1942, twelve allied governments--including the Czechoslovak government in exile--issued a joint declaration condemning the extermination of the Jewish population of Europe by the German authorities and stipulating the responsibility of the leading representatives of Germany for these crimes. It must have been obvious to Himmler that his responsibility for the genocide of the Jews was an embarrassment in his international-political manoeuvres and his ambitious plans were becoming illusory. This must also have been borne out by the results of contacts made in Switzerland between Himmler's confidants and the representatives of the American Secret Services from the middle of January 1943.

    It did not enter Himmler's mind to stop the extermination of the European Jewish population. What he wanted to do was just to cover it up more skillfully. By means of Terezin too. For Himmler, Terezin was to become an argument against the existence of the murderous "final solution of the Jewish problem". Himmler's directive which led to the seven months' pause in the deportations, his negative position with regard to the request of the Wehrmacht to set up a shooting range near Terezin, his latest efforts to "beautify" Terezin, his systematic preparations for receiving a delegation of the International Red Cross --all these, without doubt, played a role in this context.

    It may seem paradoxical but the reasons that led Himmler to stop the deportations from Terezin to Auschwitz, led also to their recommencement after seven months.

    Terezin had to exist mainly to prove that the extermination of the Jews was only a figment of Jewish "Greueropaganda" (propaganda of atrocities). Of course, for such a cock-and-bull story Terezin had to be made ready: the expected foreign visit would not see the real Terezin but a non-existent, fictitious one. A special route was chosen as the only one which the delegation would see and this was arranged systematically, with scientific thoroughness, into a perfect coulisse [stage prop]for the performance. A detailed programme had already been drawn up for Himmler's planned visit to Terezin and during 1943 this was expanded. The "beautificion" of Terezin started with a cosmetic make-up to give the concentration camp the appearance of a normal town. From May 1 the word ghetto was to be dropped and it was to be replaced by the term "Judisches Siedlungsgebiet" (Jewish settlement territory) and later Terezin was simply called the Jewish municipality of Terezin.

    It was strictly forbidden to use the expressions "Lagerkommandant" or "Lagerkommandatur". The Headquarters of the camp became the "Service Station" and the commander of the camp became the "Head of the Service Station". The names of streets were changed too; instead of a combination of letters and numbers (L 1 to 6, Q 1 to 9) the streets were named the Station Street, the Town Hall Str., Baker Str., Spa Str., Park Str., Upland Str., Huntsman's Str., Lake Str. The names of the streets which the Terezin prisoners had to give as their addresses on any post-cards they sent were to give the illusion that Terezin was actually some kind of Theresienbad (Terezin Spa) which was a name sometimes used by the SS in Germany. There was no lake anywhere, the Terezin park was out of bounds to the prisoners, and they could only see the mountains very far away beyond the walls of the ghetto; to call any Terezin street Spa Str. or Huntsman Str, was a cruel mockery for the prisoners.

    Some even more cunning measures were initiated. For example, a Bank of Jewish Self-government was established and a special "currency"-the Ghettokrone-was introduced just to feign the existence of a normal monetary system. A coffee-house was solemnly opened and a rich cultural life was permitted. One of the women prisoners, Eva Roubičkova (Roubiškova?) , noted in her diary: "Concerts, lectures, plays and even shows are organized here daily and at the same time German Jews are dying of hunger in the barracks". The German authorities granted permission for parcels to be sent to Terezin from abroad, mainly Portuguese sardines, but nine tenths of them "got lost" on the way via Germany and the Protectorate.

    But all this was merely the beginning of an organized charade. It was still a long way to perfection. The Nazi organizers considered one of the basic conditions for its successful implementation would be a radical reduction in the number of prisoners.

    It was actually impossible to achieve the planned exhibition with Terezin so overcrowded as it was at that time--at the end of July 1943 it again held within its walls more than 46 thousand prisoners. In addition, in the same month its capacity was reduced even further by moving a substantial part of the Central Office of the Reich's Security Archive into the largest barracks and other areas there. Under such circumstances it was impossible to prevent epidemics or their spreading into the surroundings.

    There were obviously other fears too. The April uprising in the Warsaw ghetto also left an impression. A repetition of the Warsaw events in any form was the last thing Himmler needed in Terezin. It was therefore necessary to weaken the resistance potential of the camp. Unlike earlier ones, renewed transports did not include primarily those who were unable to work, but on the contrary, mostly young and sturdy prisoners with their families, i.e. Czech prisoners. They were more dangerous not only because of their age but mainly because of their political views. Their experience was different from that of Jewish prisoners from Germany. Their persecution and imprisonment was the work of the German occupants, not of their own country. Their hatred of and their resistance to the occupation linked them with their Czech fellow-citizens.

    The organizers of the "final solution" also exploited these "beautification" transports for other purposes. Terezin in itself was not a sufficient argument against the existence of the "final solution". Another performance had to be produced which would-of course again in a fictive form-illustrate the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews deported to the East. From this came the idea of setting up a Jewish family camp in Birkenau, the largest branch of the Auschwitz camp, and to popularize it as much as possible as "Labour camp Birkenau near Nowa Beruna".

    On September 6, 1943, 5 000 prisoners left Terezin in two transports and in the middle of December another 5 000. These transports were not called "eastern transports" as hitherto but "Arbeitseinsatztransporte", labour transports. Their fate in Auschwitz did indeed differ from that of earlier transports dispatched from Terezin to Auschwitz. The prisoners did not go through the selection process and none of them were sent from the arrival platform to the gas chambers. All--men, women and children--were placed in Birkenau section BIIb, where a family camp of Terezin prisoners was set up. The families did not live together, but even this arrangement was a "privilege" because, with the exception of the gipsy camp, the men and women in Auschwitz were kept in separate sections of the camp, fenced off from one another by barbed wire.

    In the family camp the prisoners had still other "privileges". Soon, a children's block was established and the children were given somewhat better food; there was also a "weaving shed", a tailor's workshop and a large store of clothes; a new camp road was built and drains were dug. In other words: the camp was set up to show how the Jews relocated to the East were living and working and how their families and especially the children were cared for.

    The price for these "privileges" afforded to these ten thousand prisoners in the family camp can be measured by the simple fact that their "natural" mortality rate was not lower but, on the contrary, somewhat higher than the total mortality rate of the Auschwitz complex. Within six months of their arrival in September, and/or in December 1943, nearly one third of the family camp died because of the camp's conditions.

    Moreover, these "natural" deaths were radically accelerated. On the night of the 8th to the 9th of March those who arrived in the September transports and were still living were killed. They were allegedly sent to work in Heydebreck but in fact their route led to the gas chambers. It was characteristic that for purposes of credibility the SS Headquarters did not include any hospitalized prisoners in this "labour transport". In the interests of the uninteupted liquidation of 3732 Jewish prisoners they saved seventy or eighty prisoners of whom-as far as it was possible to establish-only 38 survived the end of the war.

    Among Terezin's Jews slaughtered on 8th March, 1944, there were at least 3700 Czech Jews. Thus, this was the biggest mass execution of Czechoslovak citizens carried out in the whole six years of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.

    Within the framework of "beautifying" Terezin the SS Headquarters of Terezin got rid of a further 7500 prisoners by transporting them to Auschwitz; of this number only one third had been sent to Terezin in transports from Bohemia and Moravia; two thirds were from Germany, Austria and Holland.

    After their arrival in the middle of May, 1944, the total number of persons deported to the Birkenau family camp rose to more than 17500. For the planned performance this would be too much but the high mortality rate and the murders on March 8 served their purpose.

    The collected correspondence of the German Red Cross at our disposal together with that of the Reich's Security Main Office and the documentation of the Reich's Ministry of Foreign Affairs enables us to reconstruct the background to the inspection of Terezin which was carried out as well as the visit to the family camp in Auschwitz by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which did not take place.

    The first documented positive reaction of the Reich's Security Main Office to the prospective admittance of a meer (?) or a delegate of the International Committee into Terezin is dated 28 June, 1943. On the morning of that day representatives of the German Red Cross, of Hitler's "Führerkanzlei", and of the Reich's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interior arrived in Terezin where Eichmann gave an explanatory talk before a three-hour tour of the town. He asked them to inform their supranational organizations, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross, about their observations and declared that, if it wished, this Committee could send a delegation to visit the camp. It was characteristic that the German Red Cross was invited to visit Terezin in June 1943, although it had not asked to do so. The initiative originated in Berlin's Gestapo Centre, as was stressed by Walther Hartmann, chief of the foreign section of the German Red Cross, in his report on what he had seen and mainly heard in Terezin.

    From October 5 to 14, 1943, the Terezin camp was the destination of three transports delivering 456 Danish Jews who had not succeeded in escaping or hiding before the German raid. The Danes had not only helped the large majority of eight thousand Jews to escape to Sweden but they had answered with a wave of protests and solidarity demonstrations; among other actions there was a week-long strike by Copenhagen University, joined by other universities too. In this atmosphere the Danish Red Cross asked immediately to be allowed to visit the interned Danes in Terezin. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerted constant pressure to get permission for a visit to Terezin as soon as possible. The German authorities, however, would only set a date in the spring of the coming year. Terezin was still not beautified enough and in addition the Terezin countryside would look better with green foliage on the trees.

    By May the scene had been set. The circus tents in the square, where the "K" production had taken place, had been taken down and instead a bandstand had been erected in the middle of the lawns as in a spa. In one of the parks a wonderful children's pavilion equipped with a small pool, a merry-go-round, cots and toys had been put up but was, of course, locked and strictly watched. The one-time Sokol Hall, used as a sick-bay, was changed into a social centre with a large hall for lectures, concerts and theatre performances, a library and restaurant with a terrace decorated with large colourful sunshades. One of Terezin's ramparts was equipped as a sports area with a playground for volleyball, basketball and football. Along the inspection route the facades were repaired, the streets newly paved, and the pavements brushed and washed. The three-storey bunks were replaced by beds, but of course only in the ground-floor rooms which the visitors could inspect. Attention was paid to the smallest and oddest details.

    Obviously, the last link in the chain of preparations was the dispatch of the May transports. As soon as the first had left, the chief of the Security Police and the Security Service informed the German Red Cross:

    "The SS Reich Commander consents to the inspection of the Terezin ghetto and of one Jewish labour camp by you and by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Representives of Denmark and Sweden will also take part in the inspection of the Terezin ghetto. The expected date of the inspection will be at the beginning of June, 1944. I shall inform you about the exact date."

    There is no date on the letter but the deputy of the head of the foreign section of the German Red Cross, Heinrich Niehaus, put his initials on it on 18 May and also a note to the effect that on 19 May at 18 o'clock he passed this information via telephone to Dr. Roland Marti, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Berlin.

    A similar notification was also sent to the Reich's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 17. However, it concerned only a visit to Terezin and the participation of Danish and Swedish representatives. Himmler permitted the two Scandinavian countries' representatives to visit only Terezin because Danish prisoners were in this camp, but not to participate in the planned inspection of "one of the Jewish labour camps". This was exclusively reserved for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the German Red Cross.

    Why, did Himmler in the middle of May, 1944 give his consent to the two inspections after delaying for such a long time? The choice of this particular date was due to other reasons than Terezin.

    When looking for a way out from the lost war and in an endeavour to split the antI-Hitler coalition, the Reich's government was trying to use the "Jewish problem" to make contact with the Western Powers. On the one hand, the genocide of the Jews, already carried out, greatly complicated any such contacts, but on the other hand, Himmler thought that such contacts were legitimate because of the "Jewish problem". During the last phase of the war Himmler spoke about Jews in this sense as about his "most precious capital". They would play the role of hostages, as goods convertible to political values. The political talks were to take place under the guise of humanitarian discussions as though dealing with the rescue of the Jewish population. It was therefore important for Hitler's government to present the murder of millions of Jews as pure "Greuelpropaganda" (propaganda of atrocities).

    In the spring of 1944, Himmler started one of the biggest hoaxes of its kind, known as "goods for blood, blood for goods". In exchange for one million Jews from the territory occupied by Hitler's Germany, Himmler's people requested 10 000 lorries on the understanding that they would be used exclusively on the anti-Soviet front-line. It was a deceitful manoeuvre. There were no longer one million Jews living in the German Reich. Moreover, Himmler instructed his negotiators to make any promises because his actual intentions were quite different. Of course, just because it was a deceitful manoeuvre it was even more important to gain credibility at any cost.

    On April 25, 1944, when Eichmann offered one million Jews to one of the Hungarian Jewish leaders, Joel Brand, he added: "You can take them from Hungary, Poland, from the Eastern March, from Terezin, from Auschwitz, from where you want." On May 19, a special German airplane flew with Brand on board to Istanbul where he was to present this offer. He was not flying alone but was accompanied by Bandi Grosz, a Jewish double agent working for the Germans and Hungarians but also for the English and American intelligence services too. From British documents published in the seventies as well as from the memoirs of Joel Brand, it is obvious that Grosz carried not only an offer that Hungary would change over to the side of the Allies on condition the Soviet offensive stopped at the Hungarian border, but in particular a proposal from the chief of Himmler's Security Service in Budapest, Gerhard Clages, that two or three higher German intelligence officers should meet with their American counterparts to discuss a separate peace. In case of failure, Grosz was to organize a meeting with British officers via officials of the Jewish Agency in Istanbul. Grosz stressed to Brand that the intelligence service mission was the main thing and Brand's mission was intended just as a cover. Referring to his talks with Clages, Grosz explained: "The Nazis know that they have lost the war. They know that peace cannot be reached with Hitler. Himmler wants to use all possible contacts to get down to negotiations with the Allies." He added: "Your Jewish affair was only an auxiliary question."

    Here, in its purest form we meet with Himmler's classical method of using "humanitarian" actions for the political goals of Hitler's Germany and also for his own, personal aim of becoming more acceptable to the world. However, this is not the only point of Himmler's procedure. What was important in this "humanitarian" manoeuvring was that the extermination machinery should not be appreciably hindered.

    Eichmann promised Brand before his departure that for fourteen days there would be no Jewish deportation transports from Hungary to Auschwitz; already four days before the airplane with Brand started, the greatest killing in Auschwitz history, measured by the number of murdered per day, per week, per month, started in accordance with the prepared scenario.

    Let us recall the basic chronology:

        May 15, for the last time Eichmann speaks with Brand, formulates the Nazi offer and promises that for the next fourteen days there would be no Jewish transports from Hungary to Auschwitz.

        The same day the first three transports leave from Hungary for Auschwitz. Nearly everyone ended in a gas chamber.

        The same day the first of three transports leaves from Terezin for the family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau; by May 18, 7 503 prisoners had been deported.

        May 17, Himmler gives his consent for a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross to inspect Terezin and "one Jewish labour camp"; at the same time he permits Danish and Swedish participation in the Terezin inspection.

        May 19, Dr Marti, head of the delegation of the Inteational Committee of the Red Cross in Berlin, is informed about Himmler's decision.

    By that time both sites were ready for inspection. The Berlin delegation of the International Committee as well as the Swedish Embassy, which had been asking to inspect Terezin for a long time, surprisingly enough, were not ready to go. Allegedly, Dr Marti had to start an urgent journey to Geneva and his deputy, Dr Maurice Rossel, later sought to justify himself by saying that he had not had enough time for preparation. The Swedish Embassy in Berlin refused to participate at all for the remarkable reason "that because of a Swedish holiday none of the Embassy employees could leave Berlin".

    On 23rd June, 1944, Dr. Rossel and two Danish delegates finally visited Terezin. The "beautification" procedure and the direction of the inspection which started at noon and ended before evening was absolutely perfect, so perfect that even a blind person must have realized that everything was merely a phoney set-up. Despite this the Nazi organizers of the "final solution" got an excellent reference from Dr Rossel. "Let us say that to our complete amazement we found in the ghetto a town which is living a nearly normal life... This Jewish town is remarkable..." he wrote in his report and as evidence he enthusiastically described his own impressions and took as reality everything that the SS had put before him.

    In addition, "ex privatissima industria", Dr Rossel sent photos taken by him in Terezin to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eberhard von Thadden, who had accompanied him to Terezin. Among them were also pictures of child prisoners playing in a park. Within four months all these children had ended their lives in a gas chamber. The German Foreign Office thanked Rossel and Thadden assured him that the photos would be "used on occasions when foreigners turn to him again concerning alleged horrors in Terezin". This happened and Nazi propaganda made use of Rossel's report. Thadden sent Rossel's photos to the Swedish Embassy and the deputy of the Reich's press speaker, Helmut Sundermann, at a conference on July 19, presented Rossel's testimony against "enemy propaganda about alleged deficiencies and about the treatment of Jews settled in Europe".

    Rossel's report unequivocally marked Terezin as a "final camp" (Endlager) from which nobody who came there would normally be transported any further. This assertion was made about a camp in which at that time there lived less than 28 thousand persons, i.e. a mere fifth of the number of persons "evacuated" to Terezin up to that time. By July 1944 nearly 32 thousand had died in the Terezin camp and more than 68 thousand had been deported further to the East to the extermination camps and their facilities.

    At that time the International Committee of the Red Cross had already authentic and reliable information on the deportations from Terezin to Auschwitz. In addition they were also in possession of a report by two Slovak Jewish prisoners, Alfred Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg (Rudolf Vrba), who successfully escaped from there, in which they described the fate of the Terezin transports to Auschwitz in detail. Thus, Rossel's report contradicted the report by Wetzler and Vrba and could cast doubt upon their disclosures in general and not only on the fact that from Terezin the Jews were deported to the extermination camp of Birkenau.

    How to explain that the International Committee of the Red Cross had not used Himmler's permission to inspect also "one Jewish labour camp" about which Niehaus had informed Dr Marti? Nowhere, in any published or archival document known to me, did I find any evidence or even an indication of any initiative exerted in this direction by the International Committee. We therefore assume that contentment with Terezin and its interpretations as a "final camp" were the cause of this passivity.

    As a result of this the "Arbeitslager Birkenau bei Neu Berun" (labour camp Birkenau at Nowa Beruna), created as a family camp of Terezin prisoners to be visited by a foreign delegation, was no longer needed. In the first half of July, 1944, when the organizers of the "final solution" were by then quite sure of this, it was liquidated in the usual manner of that time. Nearly 6500 prisoners, among them hundreds of children, were killed in gas chambers, but about 3500 men and women able to work were sent to various labour groups.

    As a result of the pressure of the practically uninterrupted bombing offensive of the Anglo-American airforce in the winter and spring of 1944, a large-scale programme for the production of German fighter-aircraft--JÄgerprogramm--based on building gigantic aircraft factories was worked out at the highest level of the Reich. In connection with this programme Hitler decided in the first week of April 1944 that 100000 Jewish workers chosen from the Hungarian contingents could be used for this construction work. Later this number was doubled and Jewish labour could be drawn also from other than Hungarian sources.

    Since these giants of the aircraft industry were to be erected on German territory (Hitler also considered locating one of them on Protectorate territory), Hitler's decision actually meant the cancellation of Himmler's earlier order of December 1942, i.e. that the concentration camps on German territory should be "judenrein" (cleared of Jews), who were deported from there to Auschwitz or Majdanek.

    Soon after April 1944, Jewish transports also started to leave Auschwitz for forced labour in the West, beyond the borders of the branch camps of Auschwitz, to German and also Austrian and Czech soil. This flow influenced also the fate of the Terezin family camp in Birkenau.

    On 1 July, 1944, under dramatic cicumstances, a transport of one thousand men left there for one of the ancillary camps of Sachsenhausen, Schwarzheide. There, the prisoners were placed at the disposal of the firm Braunkohlen-Benzin, the notorious "Brabag", working at synthetic petrol production, clearing the debris after numerous air-raids, building air-raid shelters and similar jobs. Many perished directly in Schwarzheide as victims of hard labour, hunger, illnesses and air-raids. A further 300 or so died in Bergen-Belsen to which they were transported at the end of February 1945 because they could no longer work and had become "idle eaters". At the end of March a group of prisoners was sent from Schwarzheide to Sachsenhausen. Of those left many died during the evacuation march which began on April 19. They are buried near Neustadt, Saupsdorf, Horni Ch(?)ibske and Varnsdorf. In the latter on May 5, 250 Jewish prisoners were loaded into freight cars and transported to Litomeřice; only a few dozen returned from there. The group dispatched from the Terezin family camp to Blechhammer, an ancillary camp of Auschwitz, in the first half of July 1944, numbered about 400 to 500 men. They worked there on the erection of a synthetic petrol plant and in its production.

    From there, the prisoners were evacuated on January 1, 1945 in a death march to Gross-Rosen, then on to Buchenwald and to Dachau. In the middle of July a large transport of women left Auschwitz for the concentration camp in Stutthof; among them were about 500 women prisoners from the family camp. In Stutthof they were divided into several groups and one of them was transported to the Praust camp at Gdansk where they worked on the site of the military airport; others were dragged through other ancillary camps of Stutthof. During the evacuation some of them got as far as the network of the Neuengamme camps of Hamburg. On July 4, a transport of about one thousand women left the family camp straight for Hamburg. First they worked on clearing debris; later they were divided into smaller groups-one worked in Neueraben, later in Tiefstack, others in Welden or Eudelstadt at various building sites, digging trenches, etc. Those who did not perish due to exhaustion or illness were gradually transferred to Bergen-Belsen. There ended also those women who had originally been transferred from the family camp to Christianstadt and then from there, in one of the longest death marches starting on February 2, they followed the route via Cheb and Zelle near Hannover to the Bergen-Belsen camp.

    The fate of the 3500 prisoners of the Terezin family camp, transferred from Birkenau to forced labour, was cruel: two thirds died from slave labour and death transports.

    Back to beginning

The Autumn Liquidation of the Camps

    In the late summer of 1944, a super-make-believe story was filmed in Terezin. It was a propaganda film shot as a "document" about the sweet life of the Jewish settlement at the end of the fourth year of war. One of the Jewish prisoners dubbed it a film "about a town which the Führer gave to the Jews". Nazi propaganda never used the film--not just because everything was unbelievably exaggerated but also, no doubt, because it contradicted the theme of Nazi race ideology about Jews being "sub-human". In the film the Jews were depicted as people of high culture and a high level of civilization, as people who through their intelleual and physical work attained great achievements.

    Not long after the film was finished on September 23, Paul Eppstein, Otto Zucker and Benjamin Murmelstein, the heads of the Jewish administration of Terezin, were summoned to the SS commander's office and informed that an inspection of Terezin's workshops had proved their uselessness for the war effort and therefore 5 000 men would be deported to forced labour. On September 28 and 29 and October 2, three transports with 5 499 prisoners left for Auschwitz. They left under dramatic conditions. The departure of the first transport was postponed for two days. Incredibly, the prisoners who had already assembled for transportation, were able briefly to leave the otherwise strictly isolated "shlojska" (Schleuse - sluice or lock) transport assembly area. A day before dispatching the transport the Jewish Senior Elder - Judenältester, Paul Eppstein, was arrested. He was transferred to the Terezin Small Fortress and executed there.

    In spite of the fact that particularly the first of those transports, marked Ek, was carefully chosen from the point of view of the ability of every individual to work and of the general professional structure complying with the alleged role of this transport to build a new working camp headed by engineer Otto Zucker, on the platform in Birkenau one thousand prisoners were immediately selected for the gas chamber, including O. Zucker and the staff chosen by him. The fate of the following two transports and others which followed up to October 28 were little different.

    The eleven transports of autumn 1944 left with 18402 men, women and children and of those only 1,474 survived to liberation, i.e. a mere 8%. The relatively highest percentages of survival - 15.2% and 20.4% - were exhibited by the Ek transport, dispatched on 28 September and the Em transport, dispatched three days later, respectively.

    These transports are sometimes called liquidation transports. If this name indicates that 16928 victims were tortured and murdered, it is correct.

    One of the reasons for dispatching these transports was without doubt an attempt to weaken the resistance potential of Terezin. The general development of the war and especially the Slovak National Uprising caused panic in the ranks of the leading representatives of the occupation regime in Bohemia and Moravia. K.H. Frank and Konrad Henlein desperately turned to Himmler and even directly to Hitler for help.

    Himmler in his letter of September 26, 1944 replied to Frank as follows:

    "Dear Party - member Frank, I received your letter. I know that you will not lose your nerve. ..... I am convinced that we must expect an uprising of the Czechs soon, at the latest within the next few weeks. The measures to be taken are clear to us. Heil Hitler! Yours sincerely, H. Himmler."
Among the first acts of the Slovak National Uprising was the liberation of prisoners detained in Jewish camps; these afterwards played an important role in the detachments of the insurgent fighters. A Czech analogy of the events which took place immediately after the beginning of the Slovak uprising, e.g. in the Jewish camp Novaky, would be especially unpleasant to the SS Reichsführer Himmler. It was not only the military value of an insurgent unit which might originate in such a case in Terezin. A contingent rising in this place would destroy a base which for years, by false manoeuvres, Himmler and his party-machine had been building up in Terezin to further his complicated foreign-policy manoeuvering as well as for the German home front. At the same time, just at this final period of the lost war, Terezin was for Himmler especially precious as a fallacious alibi in the "Jewish problem", with the Terezin prisoners as hostages. Therefore it was important to rid Terezin of those who might endanger Himmler's plans. The autumn transports from Terezin to Auschwitz indeed paralyzed the resistance organizations of all orientations.

    The need to use the working potential of Terezin for the German war economy did indeed exist but this did not stop genocide as the "final solution". Those Terezin prisoners who survived the selection at the platform in Birkenau were predestined to the fate of the murderous system "Vernichtung durch Arbeit" (liquidation by work).

    Some of them were sent to work in the Auschwitz branch camps and perished in the Monovic factory of the I.G. Farben Complex, in the cement works of Golesow near Cieszyn, in the coal mines Fürstengrube or Bismarckhütte. More than 1 200 men were sent to Kaufering and Landsberg where the prisoners of eleven branch camps of Dachau were decimated working on the large-scale construction of one of the factories of the aircraft industry. Other men's and women's groups of Terezin prisoners were sent to plants producing components for military aircraft, to the branch camps of Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald in Friedland, in Kudow-Sackisch, in Freiberg, in Niederorschel and elsewhere. Other groups of Terezin prisoners were sent to work in munition factories in Oederan, in the Meuselwitz plant of the HASAG concern, to the underground factory in Langstein and Dora, in the Ordruf quarries, in the Merzdorf textile factory, in the Lenzing chemical plant and also to dig trenches, anti-tank barriers and various fortifications in Birnbaumtal(?), Kurzbach, Schlesiersee, Trachtenburg and many other places. Very often groups of prisoners from those employed in production were relocated to these construction sites to slow down the forward march of the Allied armies.

    Back to beginning

The Last Conversion of the Terezin Camp

    After the departure of the autumn transports at the end of October 1944 only 11 068 prisoners were left in the Terezin camp and among them a mere four hundred men able to work.

    The first major action which opened a new chapter in the history of the Terezin camp, was typical. By means of the autumn transports the large majority of living witnesses knowing what had actually taken place in the three years' existence of the camp were removed from Terezin, particularly those who knew too much. Eighteen present or former members of the Council of Elders of that time were transported to Auschwitz as well as nearly all the remaining prisoners of the construction groups and those of the first administration. Three days after the series of transports ended the SS headquarters organized the removal of the dead witnesses. The Terezin columbarium, filled with paper urns containing the ashes of prisoners tortured to death in Terezin and cremated in the crematorium of the camp, was liquidated. About 17 thousand urns, possibly more, were dumped in the Ohře river, the remainder in a pit near the Litomeřice concentration camp.

    The radical reduction in the number of prisoners in Terezin --reduced to a mere fifth of the highest number ever present in the camp -- created new conditions for the prisoners' lives. The accommodation improved markedly and also sanitation and hygiene. The kitchens, the water supply and other technical facilities built for a large number of prisoners could serve better. Catering was improved by the possibility of also using food parcels sent to prisoners deported from Terezin.

    The situation in Terezin was influenced by the atmosphere connected with the intensive negotiations of Heinrich Himmler and his plenipotentiaries, particularly Kurt Becher, with the representatives of international Jewish organizions and the American Office for War Refugees.

    On November 9 the Berlin Central Office of the Gestapo informed the Reich's Ministry of Foreign Affairs that within the framework of plans approved by Hitler on how to "make use of Jews for the German war effort in a manner other than by their work for the Reich", a transport of 1000 prisoners would be sent to Switzerland.

    On December 6 a train dispatched from the Bergen-Belsen camp with 1368 Jewish prisoners actually crossed the Swiss border. Among them were 97 Jews from Czechoslovakia. Four days earlier -- according to the recollections of Felix Kersten whom Himmler had been using for his international political contacts -- the Reichsführer of the SS at a meeting in Triberg promised to free two to three thousand Jewish prisoners from Terezin on condition that the world press would not interpret this release as a sign of weakness on the part of Germany. Himmler refused to set 20000 Terezin prisoners free. (At that time, however, such a large number of Jewish prisoners were not present in Terezin anymore.)

    Shortly afterwards --on December 5 --during an inspection of Terezin, an unknown functionary of the Reich's Security Main Office visited the Jewish Elder Benjamin Murmelstein (officially appointed as late as December 13). According to Rahm, the Commander of the camp, he was satisfied with what he had seen. This visit gave birth to the legend that on the basis of this inspection "by a special commission from Berlin" it was decided not to liquidate Terezin but to make use of it for propaganda purposes.

    Various alternatives for liquidating Terezin are documented from the circles of Prague's Gestapo and from Eichmann's Office at the Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin. There are documents about actual preparations, particularly about the building of a "food store" in Terezin ravelin No. XVIII, which could easily become a gas chamber, and the building of a "duck pond" in ravelin No. XV, which could be easily changed into the area where all of the camp's inmates could be shot by machine-guns, burned by flame-throwers or drowned by a gush of water from the Ohře river. However, the leadership of the Reich had different plans for Terezin.

    On January 15, 1945, Himmler met Jean-Marie Musy, the former chairman of the Swiss Confederation Council for the second time, and displayed his readiness to enable the departure of Jewish emigrants if Germany received for every one of them goods to the value of one thousand dollars. The first of these transports left Terezin on February 5 and two days later was welcomed on Swiss soil.

    According to Himmler's records of his meeting with Musy in January, this Swiss politician, who sympathized with Nazi Germany, repeated again "that this Jewish problem by itself is only a secondary affair because the main thing is that it could stimulate greater developments". These, however, did not take place and the first Terezin transport to Switzeand was also the last one.

    The number of Terezin prisoners, which increased from the end of October to the end of the year 1944 by only 416 persons who were transferred there on December 23 from the Slovak camp in Sered, began to grow very fast as from January 31, 1945.

    In the middle of January the Reich's Security Main Office decided that all Jews able to work and living in mixed marriages should be sent to Terezin "for confined forced labour". On the last day of January, the first of nine transports marked Arbeitseinsatztransporte (transport of forced labour) arrived in Terezin. The majority of the 1056 prisoners had been working in the mica factory at Hagibor in Prague, which had been closed the day before. Altogether 3654 Jews were sent to work in Terezin from the Protectorate territory. Nearly all of them came from Prague, only 53 from Olomouc and 53 from Ostrava, while 55 were transferred to Terezin on February 12, 1945, from the labour camp at the country estate of Lipa. Similar transports arrived at Terezin from Berlin and other German towns and also from Vienna, from where on March 8 a transport of 1073 Hungarian Jews was dispatched. They had been evacuated from Budapest and had been living up to that time in labour camps on Austrian territory. From Slovakia three other transports arrived with 1031 prisoners who could no longer be routed to Auschwitz or Sachsenhausen as originally planned.

    The number of inmates in the Terezin camp between August 1944 and April 1945 is shown in the following table (numbers as at the end of each month):

    Year Month Number Year Month Number
    1944 August 27 565 1945 January 12 615
    September 25 520 February 15 487
    October 11 068 March 17 565
    November 11 117 April 17 517
    December 11 474

    Under the burden of a lost war and in a desperate effort to save himself for the post-war world, Heinrich Himmler and his people resumed or activated contacts already established earlier with Folke Bernadotte, the representative of the Swedish Red Cross, and Carl Jacob Burckhardt, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, with Roswell McClelland in Switzerland and Iver C. Olsen in Sweden, with representatives of the American Office for War Refugees, with the brothers Sternbuch, Hilel Storch, Norbert Masur and many others, representatives of international Jewish organizations. They started by discussing humanitarian problems but Himmler and the other German negotiators always tried to overstep these bounds. Himmler always wanted to make use of his "precious capital", the Jewish prisoners under his control in Terezin.

    In accordance with the well-tried model, the "beautying activity" ("Stadtverschonerung") of Terezin was again introduced. On March 5, 1945 Eichman announced a second visit of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He forbade the cremation of the dead bodies of Jewish prisoners, reasoning that Jewish ritual did not allow it. The mass graves were levelled and an imitation of a Jewish cemetery with Hebrew inscriptions was established. The pavements were again washed and the windows were furnished with curtains. The SS Headquarters checked nearly every day on how the rehearsals for the children's opera "The Beetles" was progressing. From Prague they ordered everything needed for staging The Tales of Hofmann. A day before the inspection, sugar, cheese and chocolate were distributed to the prisoners. On April 6, the delegation of the Red Cross International Committee arrived. The report by Otto Lehner was even more monstrous than the earlier one by Maurice Rossel.

    Nearly three months after the liberation of Auschwitz and the exposure of the apocalyptic horrors, Lehner attributed to Hitler's government well-meaning intentions with regard to Terezin and the Jews. He wrote: " The Reich government's idea when founding Terezin was to establish a Jewish community, which would afford them self-government and thus be a small-scale experiment in a future Jewish state..." He even dared to write that Terezin "from the social aspect certainly surpassed the majority of European towns" and Terezin prisoners -- Lehner called them "inhabitants" -- were generally better fed than the German civilian population!

    On April 3, Felix Kersten sent a letter to Hilel Storch, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Sweden, informing him of Himmler's decision to hand over the concentration camps together with their prisoners to the approaching Allies without fighting. Less than three days later Himmler sent an order to Buchenwald to reduce the number of the camp's prisoners by sending the largest possible number in the direction of Flossenburg. More than 28 thousand prisoners were driven onto these evacuation transports. The number who did not survive these death transports is estimated at 12 to 15 thousand persons. Among them were many Terezin prisoners.

    The concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, to which many evacuation transports with Terezin prisoners had been directed from various places of forced labour, was liberated four days after Buchenwald-on April 15. Its death toll was terrible. From the beginning of the year 35 thousand prisoners had died there and a further 13 thousand died within a few days or weeks after the liberation as a result of their sufferings and epidemics.

    On the day when American soldiers looked in horror at the piles of corpses in the newly liberated Bergen - Belsen camp, Swedish Red Cross buses drove all Danish prisoners away from Terezin.

    The next day Eichman's subordinates arrived in Terezin. They were Hermann Krumey and Otto Hunsche accompanied by Rudolf Kastner, the leading representative of the Hungarian Jewish Rescue Committee. Krumey informed Rahm, Terezin's commander, about Himmler's command to hand over Terezin to the Allies. Rahm commented on the order with the words: "I do not understand the world anymore".

    On April 19, Ernst Kaltenbrünner, Chief of the Reich's Security Head Office, stopped in Terezin on his way from Berlin to Vienna. He ordered a group of prominent prisoners to be despatched after him to Austria. However, Karl Hermann Frank, the supreme commander of the SS and the Police in Bohemia and Moravia, vetoed this. Let the Jewish hostages stay in his sphere of power. Afterwards, he actually tried to make use of them when several days later he sent his messengers on a desperate but of course hopeless mission to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Commander of the Allied Forces. Frank promised to guarantee the safety of captured and interned persons if the American and British Governments permitted the military grouping of Hitler's army, commanded by Marshal Schorner, to continue the war on the Eastern front and for this purpose to make use of the resources of Bohemia-Moravia. "The same also holds for the political prisoners and for the Jews confined in Terezin" states his grotesque memorandum.

    On the night of April 20 to 21, a phantasmagoric meeting took place between Heinrich Himmler, the Reich's Fuhrer of the SS, and Norbert Masur, the representative of the World Jewish Congress. To be able to attend this secret meeting Himmler had to leave the dinner held in the bunker of the Reich's Chancellery in Berlin in honour of Hitler's birthday. During the discussions with Mazur, Himmler referred to Terezin and to the February transport to Switzerland and asserted that Terezin was a camp of a special type established by him and Heydrich as a town inhabited only by Jews and administered by Jews, where everything was carried out by Jewish work. He recalled with nostalgia that he and Heydrich had once wished that all camps, which had unfortunately been branded by the wrong name of concentration camps, would look like Terezin.

    The factual result of the two-hour meeting was limited to Himmler's promise to free 1000 Jewish women from Ravensbrück and 200 Jewish prisoners explicitly mentioned by name. Himmler repeated his former promises about the treatment of Jewish prisoners in the remaining concentration camps and in particular that they would not be evacuated; this promise was not kept, either before April 20 or after April 21.

    On the very same day -- 20 April, 1945 -- the "beautified" Terezin was drastically confronted with the reality of the last chapter of Hitler Germany's genocidal campaign against the Jewish inhabitants of Europe--with the transports of prisoners being evacuated from the concentration camps before the arrival of the Allied forces and with the murders connected with them.

    On April 19, the Headquarters of the SS announced that Terezin had to be ready to accept "collection transports from the abandoned camps". On the morning of the next day, Terezin had 17515 prisoners; within ten days the number had risen to 29227. The main wave of these transports overburdened Terezin within 48 hours after the arrival of 25 freight cars with 1800 half-alive, half-dead and dead people at 6:30 in the morning on that 20 April, 1945.

    At that time Terezin was the endpoint of the Calvary of transports, lasting many days and often several weeks, which crossed Polish, German, Austrian and Czech territories on foot or in freight cars open to the cold and rain. Tens of thousands of prisoners died in these transports, perishing from hunger, thirst and disease, poorly dressed, without the possibility of the most primitive personal hygiene, without basic medical care and, in addition, exposed to the terror of the SS guards who shot anyone on these death marches who was already exhausted or ill and could no longer walk or who tried to escape. Often only small remnants of the numbers which were originally dispatched reached Terezin. Some of the transport columns were shot when the tower of the Terezin church was already within sight.

    It was an apocalyptic sight when the stale, foulsmelling freight cars were opened; the dead fell out and human beings half-mad with hunger staggered out totally exhausted, all infested with lice, many feverish and many infected with spotted fever, which afterwards developed into a terrible epidemic affecting more than two thousand inmates of whom every fourth died in Terezin.

    The number of prisoners arriving in Terezin in these death transports finally exceeded thirteen thousand. Nearly 5400 of them were from Hungary. 4200 from Poland, 1000 from Rumania, 800 from the Soviet Union, 690 from Slovakia, 450 from France and the same number from Yugoslavia. Among them were also Belgians, Greeks, Italians and individuals from many other countries. Thousands of them were not Jewish, especially among the Polish prisoners.

    The smallest number was of 298 Terezin prisoners who had been dragged away to the East with the deportation transports and who now were returning to Terezin in this way. The sufferings they had had to survive had changed them to such an extent that their closest relatives did not recognize them. Many of those who survived until the liberation of Terezin, died in the following days or weeks after terrible suffering.

    These 298 men and women represented only a small part of Terezin's prisoners who had been driven from their place of forced labour into the evacuation death transports and whose graves, if any, are scattered all over Europe.

    When the first of the evacuation trains arrived in Terezin, a chronicler of those days, A. Shek, wrote in her diary:

        News is flying through the ghetto: People from the camps! On their arrival they called: "Auschwitz", "Birkenau", "Hannover", "Buchenwald", all these dreadful names were shouted from the train. The heart of the town has stopped...

    Terezin prisoners learned the truth about the fate of 60382 men, women and children who had been deported to the East in the transports from the Protectorate, about the fate of their relatives, friends and acquaintances. The end of Terezin as a German concentration camp, as a ghetto and as a "Jewish settlement", was confronted with this horrible reality, with the real face of the "final solution of the Jewish problem".

    On April 21, Paul Dunant, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited Terezin, met the Council of Elders and promised the support of the Committee he represented. Later, on May 5, on behalf of the Committee he took under his protection the Terezin camp and also the Terezin Small Fortress with its five thousand prisoners. On the same day the Terezin commander Rahm, with his driver, left Terezin as the last of the SS Command. The administration of Terezin was taken over by a new Council of Elders. However, the Terezin road was still full of fleeing columns of the Wehrmacht (German army) as well as those of the SS. Fighting was still taking place in the surroundings of Terezin. The town itself was apparently protected by huge road signs warning that it was contaminated with typhus, and also by the haste of the SS trying to flee from the advancing Soviet army. Still, on May 8, two prisoners were killed by German artillery aimed at the town. By the evening of that day, Terezin welcomed the first divisons of the Soviet Army marching to liberate Prague.

        At the beginning of the German occupation - according to the official statistics and according to the Nüremberg definition - 118310 Jews lived on the territory of the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. According to the last official statistics of 15 March, 1945, there were only 3030 -excluding Terezin and prisons - i.e. a mere 2.56%.

        In the deportation transports from Prague and Brno, 7002 Jews were sent to Lodz, Minsk and Ujazdow of whom only 276 survived the deportation to Lodz, 13 to Minsk and 2 to Ujazdow.

        The deportation transports to Terezin numbered 73468 Jewish prisoners from the Protectorate territory. Of that number, 6152 died there and 6875 were liberated. More than half of those liberated - 3654 - were Jews from mixed marriages who were sent to Terezin only in 1945.

        From Terezin 60382 Jewish prisoners from the Protectorate were deported to the East of whom only 3097 survived the holocaust.

        From the Czech border territory -- "the Sudeten region" --611 Jews were jailed in Terezin; only 242 of them survived the holocaust.

    This commemorative book has been written to pay homage to all the Jewish victims deported between 1941 and 1945 from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and to describe their fate.


The Author

[From Wikipedia]
    Miroslav Kárny (1919-2001) was born into an assimilated Jewish family, his mother ran a shop selling candy and haberdashery. His father, a tradesman, left the Jewish community during the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.[1] After Kárny graduated at the gymnasium, he continued his studies of history and Czech language at the Charles University of Prague between 1937-39. During this time, he became member of the students' communist organisation Kostufra.[1] Due to his Jewish origin, in November 1941 he was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto. He was deported on 24 November, 1941, with the first transport "Ak". In Theresienstadt he met his future wife, Margita Krausová (1923-1998). Margita and Miroslav were active in the Communist resistance group in Theresienstadt, they collaborated with many members of resistance group, i. e. with Josef Taussig, Bruno Zwicker, Valtr Eisinger, Josef Stiassny and Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.[1] In September 1944, they both were deported to Auschwitz. From here, Kárny was deported for slave labour to the auxiliary camp Kaufering of the Dachau concentration camp. After the war, he became a journalist and then a freelance historian, specializing in the Holocaust and German fascism.[2] He was expelled for the first time from the communist party due to condemnation of his brother Jiři in the anti-Semitic Slánsky trial, and for the second time in 1969, after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.[1] He retired in 1973.

Curator:   Dr. David P. Stern
     Mail to Dr.Stern:   david("at" symbol) .

This page posted 24 July 2009