The Genocide of the Czech Jews

by Miroslav Karny

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.


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 Ohe rivers, only 60 kilometers from Prague and about the same distance from Dresden, was a small border town in the autumn of 1942. Neighboring Litome ice 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 3 498 Czech and 347 German inhabitants. Up to that time the number of civilian and military persons living in Terezin never exceeded 7.200.

The Wehrmacht (the army) successively cleared the barracks and during the first seven months up to June 1972 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 7 350 prisoners in the camp. During the first half of 1942 another 25 862 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, Jakub 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 Gunther originally planned one ghetto for labor 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 2 327 and in September 3 941. 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: 58 491. 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: Wohnsiterlegung -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 Bohu ovice railway station with their 50 kg of luggage. Some had taken things with them which were not only useless in the concentration camp but sometimes grotesque. They had to carry their luggage three kilometers 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 psychologically 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 meters, 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, 10 364 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 Bohme, sent a warning teleprinter message to Heinrich Mtller 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 orinal population. Another 26 thousand Jews from the Reich will be brought here during August and September", Bohme informed and warned: "Such overloading is not acceptable from the point of view of the sanitary police and it endears the neighboring 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 organizers of the "final solution" did not accept Bohme'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 centers 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 16 001 prisoners of the sixteen transports in the first wave 175 persons survived to liberation, while out of 27 890 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 Government, 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 Government 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 Terezin. 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 10 000 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 Fthrer'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 kilometers 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 8 000 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 Government, 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 labor 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 Detachment. 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 18 004 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 Koln 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 47 427 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, 14 627 died before the end of that year, i.e. more than 30%.

Because three transports of the old included 6 000 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 1 866 Jews who arrived in Auschwitz only 215 men and 32 women were selected for work. The others were sent to the gas chambers.

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 labor 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 Oh e 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 meters 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, 12 967 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 reconstruction 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 kilometers, required about 50 wagons of pipes and other materials.

Of course, the SS Headquarters was endeavoring to ensure the maximum possible isolation of Terezin and its prisoners. A railway siding was built from Bohu ovice to Terezin, which was located away from the public railway network. In the beginning, the Jewish transports arrived at Bohu ovice 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 Bohu ovice 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 Bohu ovice without a direct railway connection took place in front of the nowise 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 Bohu ovice gate. The building of the railway siding started in August 1942 and, having reached a length of 2 585 m, it was put into operation on June 1, 1943. Three hundred prisoners had worked there and 180 tons of iron, 4 800 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 Fuhrer 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 50 000 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 (makelieve)." 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 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. Muller, 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 45 000 would also include those unable to work (old Jews and children). After the selection of Jews for Auschwitz, at least 10 000 to 15 000 Jews able to work would remain." Thus Muller anticipated that on arrival at Auschwitz 30 to 35 thousand human beings would be selected for the gas chambers.

In his letter to Himmler Muller 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." Muller 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 7 001 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 Muller 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 labor; however, the Auschwitz headquarters selected less than 20% of the Terezin prisoners, despite the fact that people over 60 years were not included en mass, as originally suggested by Muller. The Auschwitz practice exceeded even the murderous ideas of the Reich's Security Main Office, the Gestapo Center.

The commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Hoss, 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." Hoss 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 labor. "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 Fuhrer can be carried out only with full - value labor."

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, Goring'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 Hoss 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 Kaltenbruer. 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 5 000 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 5 000 Terezin prisoners older than 60 years to Auschwitz, and/or to the General Government. 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 coosition and the working capacity of the Terezin camp. Out of 46 735 prisoners there were 25 730 younger and 21 005 older than 60 years of age. According to Kaltenbrunner's calculations the camp had a work force of 21 thousand prisoners of which only 6 000 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, Kaltenbrunner 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 Kaltenbrunner'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 12 701 prisoners, of whom 10 366 were German and Austrian Jews, were maltreated to death.

According to statistics on the exploitation of Terezin prisoners' labor, 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 unamendable pieces. In July uniforms were sewn but this was only a one - off affair which ended in September.

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

The factory space for "Produktion K" was a two - mast 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 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 "Stadtverschonerung" - to beautify Terezin town.

The second program 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 6 288 kg of mica from which they split off 2 226 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.

Terezin's Pseudo - Alibi


Let us return to Himmler's surprising directive which was announced to Kaltenbrunner 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 totaling 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 temporary 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 neighborhood 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 erected 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 for the performance. A detailed program had already been drawn up for Himmler's planned visit to Terezin and during 1943 this was expanded. The "beautification" 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 Roubi_kova, 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 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 "Labor 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 gypsy 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 "labor transport". In the interests of the uninterrupted liquidation of 3 732 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 3 700 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 7 500 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 17,500. 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 "Fuhrerkanzlei", 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 Center, as was stressed by Walther Hartmann, chief of the foreign seion 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 center with a large hall for lectures, concerts and theatre performances, a library and restaurant with a terrace decorated with large colorful sunshades. One of Terezin's ramparts was equipped as a sports area with a playground for volley-ball, basketball and football. Along the inspection route the facades were repaired, the streets newly paved, and the pavements brushed and washed. The three - story 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 Coander consents to the inspection of the Terezin ghetto and of one Jewish labor camp by you and by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Representatives 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 labor 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 endeavor 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 maneuver. 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 maneuver 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 particar 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" maneuvering 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 :

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 labor 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 International 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 phony 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 children 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 labor 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 Neerun" (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 6 500 prisoners, among them hundreds of children, were killed in gas chambers, but about 3 500 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 air - force in the winter and spring of 1944, a large - scale program for the production of German fighter - aircraft - Jagerprogramm - based on building gigantic aircraft factories was worked out at the highest level of the Reich. In connection with this program Hitler decided in the first week of April 1944 that 100 000 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 labor 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 produion, clearing the debris after numerous air - raids, building air - raid shelters and similar jobs. Many perished directly in Schwarzheide as victims of hard labor, 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 Litome ice; 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, 1995 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 3 500 prisoners of the Terezin family camp, transferred from Birkenau to forced labor, was cruel : two thirds died from slave labor and death transports.

The Autumn Liquidation 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 Fuhrer 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 intellectual 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 labor. 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 - Judenaltester, 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 18,402 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 16 928 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 eecially 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 Reichsfuhrer 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 maneuvers Himmler and his party - machine had been building up in Terezin to further his complicated foreign - policy maneuvering 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 Furstengrube or Bismarckhutte. 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 Birnbauml, 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.

The Last Conversion of the Terezin Camp


After the departure of the autumn transports at the end of October 1994 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, particarly 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 Oh e river, the remainder in a pit near the Litom ice 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 organizations 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 1 000 prisoners would be sent to Switzerland.

On December 6 a train dispatched from the Bergen - Belsen camp with 1 368 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 Reichsfuhrer 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 20 000 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 satiied 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 Oh e 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 labor) arrived in Terezin. The majority of the 1 056 prisoners had been working in the mica factory at Hagibor in Prague, which had been closed the day before. Altogether 3 654 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 1 073 Hungarian Jews was dispatched. They had been evacuated from Budapest and had been living up to that time in labor camps on Austrian territory. From Slovakia three other transports arrived with 1 031 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 :

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

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 represeative 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 "beautifying 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 inspeion, 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 attrited Hitler's government with 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 labor, 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 Kaltenbrunner, 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 dispatched 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 honor 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 1 000 Jewish women from Ravenruck 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 17 515 prisoners; within ten days the number had risen to 29 227. The main wave of these transports overburdened Terezin within 48 hours after the arrival of 25 freight cars with 1 800 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, foumelling 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 5 400 of them were from Hungary. 4 200 from Poland, 1 000 from Rumania, 800 from the Soviet Union, 690 from Slovakia, 450 from France and the same number from Jugoslavia. 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 labor 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", "Birkau", "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 60 382 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 reaty, 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 advaing 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 divisions of the Soviet Army marching to liberate Prague.
At the beginning of the German occupation - according to the official statistics and according to the Nuremberg definition - 118 310 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 3 030 -excluding Terezin and prisons - i.e. a mere 2.56%.
In the deportation transports from Prague and Brno, 7 002 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 73 468 Jewish prisoners from the Protectorate territory.
Of that number, 6 152 died there and 6 875 were liberated.
More than half of those liberated - 3 654 - were Jews from mixed marriages who were sent to Terezin only in 1945.
From Terezin 60 382 Jewish prisoners from the Protectorate were deported to the East of whom only 3 097 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.