Report on eyewitness accounts of Theresienstadt

Theresienstadt, also known as Terezín, was a town in northern Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), it was used from 1941 to 1945 by the Nazis as a walled ghetto and concentration camp, and was also used as a transit camp for western Jews en route to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

In 1943 the Nazis sent some 500 Danish Jews, who had managed to escape to Sweden. While Europeans elsewhere often quickly lost interest in their deported Jewish fellow citizens, the Danes persisted in demanding that the Germans account for these Danish citizens and allow the Red Cross to visit the ghetto.

To dispel rumours about the extermination camps, the Nazis permitted the visit, but they arranged an elaborate hoax. They deported many camp residents to Auschwitz to minimize the appearance of overcrowding and erected fake stores and cafés to give the appearance of a life of comfort and ease. The Red Cross visited the Danish Jews—no more than two or three in a room—in freshly painted quarters. A children’s opera, Brundibar, was performed for the guests. The hoax succeeded so well that the Nazis made a propaganda film at Theresienstadt showing how well the Jews were living under the benevolent protection of the Third Reich. When the filming was finished, the Nazis deported most of the cast, including nearly all of the children, to Auschwitz.

On September 18,1945 Lt. Colonel J.H.M. Benbow from the Indian army had compiled a report on eyewitness accounts of Theresienstadt.

Below is the transcript of the report.


Senior Search Officer
HQ 1 Corps District
14, Sudstrasse,
Iserlohn
B.A.O.R.

To: – Search Bureau

Bunde, BAOR. 18 Sept 1945

——————–

Subject: – Theresienstadt

Reference your PWDP/55711 dated 9th Sept 1945 and conversation of 15-9-45 between Col. ALLAN and Col. BENBOW.

  1. Samuel Wolff’s home was visited a second time in accordance with your request but he was not available and in view of the fact that he is an old man and not very well, it was deemed more desirable to obtain the information you required from other personnel in the vicinity of Iserlohn whom Lt. Apte knew of as having returned from Theresienstadt. A certain amount of information has been procured and it is hoped that this will give you some idea as to the conditions etc prevailing in that Camp.
  2. The following account is based on facts given by one local Jewish family but most of the points mentioned have been verified by a number of internees within 1 Corps District who were themselves at one time in Theresienstadt. The family concerned returned from Theresienstadt about two months after their liberation by the Allies.

DEPORTATION to Theresienstadt was restricted to Jews from Western and Central Europe and of those, only old people (i.e. over 60) families of disabled ex-serviceman of World War 1 with children under the age of 14, married couples of whom one member was non-Jewish and which, according to Nazi ideology, were privileged marriages. For these people, a warning of the impending deportation to Theresienstadt was given two weeks in advance, but the normal procedure appears to have been short notice of about 24 hours. 25kqm of baggage per head plus bedding consisting of only one blanket and cushion and foodstuffs for the journey was allowed.

Transport assembled at Dortmund railway station but deportees were detained for two days in a former cattle shed, from which it appeared, that cattle had only been moved just before the personnel arrived. During the short period between the removal of the cattle and the entry of the deportees into the shed, Nazis searched people for possessions. When entraining, the 25 kqm of baggage had to be stowed away separately and was not seen again. Deportees were accommodated in old passinger [sic] carriages which were overcrowded – about 1500 persons were involved in that move, in which the family concerned, took part. The deportees arrived at Theresienstadt after approximately about 36 hours journey and were then detrained after some day. At the end of July 1942, there were 15-20000 internees at Theresienstadt but later batches arrived weekly and the number increased to about 60000. The peacetime population of Theresienstadt was about 8000, but these had all been evacuated before the arrival of the deportees.

2

These 60000 persons were placed in the few small houses which were originally there and also into the five existing military billets which were not being used for administrative and industrial work. 25-30 people were accommodated in a normal-sized room, each person being allowed 2’2” x 6’ floor space. No beds were provided until 1944, (when wooden beds were introduced) and blankets were rolled up daily and placed against the wall together with the scanty personal belongings.

Sanitary conditions were practically non-existent, 400-600 people being obliged to use one water-pump in the courtyard for washing, laundry and cleaning of food utensils. Latrines were open trenches and the probable cause of much illness and disease.

Meals were prepared in a number of communal cookhouses, each one feeding upto 10000 persons. The daily ration consisted of 170 grams of bread, black coffee- (substitute) for breakfast, water-soup and half-pound of boiled unskinned potatoes or occasionally a kind of millet-pep for lunch, black coffee for supper. No mess halls were provided and deportees were obliged to eat their meals in their living quarters which made the task of keeping these quarters free of vermin so difficult, and infact [sic], almost impossible.

The death rate was approximately 100-150 per day owing to malnutrition and the consequent lowered resistance against prevalent disease. Corpses were removed from the Camp and buried in either the local cemetary or in mass graves. Later on, a crematorium was constructed and the ashes were stored away in urns or cardboard-boxes.

At the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, word came that the Swiss Red Cross Commission was expected to arrive and orders were given for all traces of these casualties to be removed. These orders were carried out and within a few days, 40000 urns or cardboard boxes had been loaded onto trucks and dumped into one of the nearby rivers.

At the same time, a special spectacle was arranged to deceive this Commission. This consisted of the construction of a children’s playground in the centre of the town, children were provided with new clothing and toys, which they had never seen before. They were then invited to a kind of garden party, with cakes etc provided. A special dance-party was arranged for adults and evening dresses and gowns etc were issued.

A few days after the Commission had departed, these same people were sent to Poland to be killed off at one of the ill-famed extermination camps.

Everybody had to work. Elderly people were engaged on administrative work or on the interior economy of the camp. The stronger and younger men were put-to work on the roads and on railway construction. Women were employed in special workshops which were set up in cold and drafty wooden huts. One of these workshops was used for the splitting up of micre into thin layers required for electrical appliances, another was utilised for the making of leather articles such as wallets, belts etc for German troops.

General conditions of work were extremely bad and even worse during the winter months.

One large wooden shed, erected on poles and standing well above the ground was erected. Three hundred people worked in this building in which there were six very small stoves. On several occasions, permission to light these stoves was withdrawn for periods ranging upto a fortnight, either as a punishment of a method of saving fuel.

3

Hours of work were very long – 14-16 hours daily and a 7-day week being normal.

At the end of 1944, it was announced that 1200 people would go to Switzerland under arrangements being made by the Swiss Red Cross Commission. Internees were permitted to apply to go to Switzerland provided they had no relatives who had previously been deported to Poland. Four days after this announcement, the personnel concerned were despatched to Switzerland and on arrival there, a few of the younger ones wrote letters, some of which did reach Theresienstadt, but no news from the older members ever came through.

In April 1945, another announcement was made that a further 600 people could proceed to Switzerland, but participation on this journey was restricted only to those whose relatives in Switzerland had asked for them to be sent and for those who had occupied a leading position inside the Ghetto Community.

Before these people could be despatched however, another Swiss Red Cross Commission suddenly arrived. This Commission was ignorant of the impending move to Switzerland which was allegedly supposed to have been arranged by the S.R.C.C. An investigation was carried out and the Camp Commandant is reported to have admitted that this move was a ‘fake’ and was really intended to supply the first batch of deportees to the newly-constructed extermination camp just-outside Theresienstadt, which had been provided with the notorious gas-chambers. But, due to the timely arrival of the S.R.C.C., these people were never despatched.

On the other hand, since September 1942, transports of personnel were despatched at intervals of 3-4 months to the so-called Death-Camps in Poland and no more was ever heard of the people involved.

In September 1944, the speed of these transports was stepped-up considerably and within five weeks, 11 transports were despatched, carrying a total of 18000 individuals to almost certain death.

When Theresienstadt was eventually liberated by the Russians, they found there, approximately 20-25000 Jews who were in an exceedingly poor state of health.

  1. It is not possible to ascertain the total number of the persons who either died or were killed in Theresienstadt owing to the SS. Guards burning the whole Registry when they desparted [sic] in a hurry just before the arrival of the Russians.
  2. It is regretted that no other information is available regarding the number of graves in the vicinity of the camp, but it is suspected that these may have been obliterated prior to liberation, in order to destroy all trace of evidence and prevent the allies from determining the extent to which this form of Nazi brutality reached in this Camp. However, the fact that 40000 urns etc of ashes were disposed of and approximately 20000 victims were sent to Poland, will give some idea as to the state of affairs that existed.
  3. I feel that this account illustrates fairly clearly the conditions etc under which these deportees were imposed, but if there are any more details required, please let me know and I will see what further information can be obtained, though a very detailed interrogation has already been carried out and I doubt whether much more knowledge of life in Theresienstadt will be forthcoming.

(J.H.M. Benbow) Lt. Colonel.

Indian Army

Senior Search Officer, HQ 1 Corps Dist.

I could not find too much on Lt. Colonel J.H.M. Benbow, but I do know that on August 26,1946 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

sources

https://www.britannica.com/place/Theresienstadt

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/holocaust/theresienstadt/

Miloš Forman’s extraordinary life..

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Amadeus, Goya’s Ghosts; Man on he Moon, these are some of my favourite movies. They were all directed by Miloš Forman. For two of them he received an academy award aka Oscar. That on its own is extraordinary, but it is nothing compared to Miloš’s story of his young life.

Miloš was born on February 18, 1932 in Čáslav, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) to Anna Švábová Forman who ran a summer hotel. Miloš grew up believing his biological father was professor Rudolf Forman. During the Nazi occupation, Rudolf Forman, a protestant teacher and activist, was arrested for distributing banned books. He died in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in May 1944, either from typhus or during interrogation. Miloš’s mother had been murdered in Auschwitz in March the previous year, he had been witness to her arrest by the Gestapo. Forman said that he did not fully understand what had happened to them until he saw footage of the concentration camps when he was 16.

Miloš’ was raised by two uncles and by family friends after the murder of his parents . His older brother Pavel was a painter 12 years his senior and he emigrated to Australia after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Miloš discovered in 1964 that his biological father was in fact the Jewish architect Otto Kohn, who had emigrated with his family to Equador after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. This meant Miloš had a half-brother, the mathematician Joseph J. Kohn.

Miloš died on April 19,2018 aged 86.However if the Nazis had found out his biological Father was Jewish, he more then likely not have survived the Holocaust.

I am not sure if the story of that part of Miloš ‘s life has ever been turned into a movie, it would make a fascinating film.

sources

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001232/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

https://www.timesofisrael.com/milos-forman-from-orphan-of-nazi-camps-to-oscar-winning-director/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Milo-Forman

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/15/milos-forman-obituary

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Holocaust Testimonies

There are millions of Holocaust stories I could write, but none will be as powerful as the testimonies of those who survived the darkest era.

Following are some of those testimonies.

Written by Zdeněk and Jiří Steiner, born 20. 5. 1929 in Prague, residents of Prague, former prisoners in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, residing in Prague XI., Vratislavova 13, Czech nationality.

“We left Prague bound for Theresienstadt on 22. 12. 1942 together with our parents and a great number of relatives. We spent 8½ months Theresienstadt, where things had been so-so for us. We left Theresienstadt on September 6th, 1943, and, after a miserable two-day journey, we finally arrived at the Neu-Berun train station. From there, they took us to the concentration camp in Birkenau. We were told that it was only a quarantine. After the usual procedures, such as a bath and a getting a tattoo (we were given the numbers 147742 and 147743), we were clothed in old rags (children in adult clothing) and housed in camp B II b, where we spent 6 whole months. We experienced so much in this place. Through the efforts of Fredy Hirsch, a children’s home was established. We children were better off than the adults because we didn’t have to work, our food was a little bit better, and, later, our clothes were better as well. Such was our life in the Birkenau children’s camp under extremely harsh conditions. A doctor arrived in December (each camp had a building for the sick and a single German doctor, who generally didn’t know how to do much else besides sending as many people as possible to their graves, served several of these buildings). With a wave of his fingers, Dr. Mengele decided who lived and who died, just like Nero did in ancient times. This renowned doctor was very interested in us twins, which was actually what saved us despite the fact that we came down with so many illnesses. Once, Dr. Mengele took a closer look at us, but then he contracted spotted typhus. In addition to him, we were tortured by the SS man Buntrock, who had a preference for beating children.

Another SS man, probably a Russian spy, who helped one of our people escape, was shot by other SS officers after he returned.

In the meantime, the fateful month of March began. This month took away our parents and all of our closest friends — the only thing that we still had in our lives. At the start of the month, it was rumored that the entire transport that had arrived in September 1943 would be taken to the labor camp in Heidebreck. And that’s exactly what happened. On March 5th, postcards on which we were supposed to write to our relatives that we were healthy and doing fine were handed out. These cards were sent dated March 25th-27th. We weren’t allowed to write about our departure. On the morning of March 6th, as usual: Blockälteste antreten — an order for the entire transport to go to the lower section of the camp immediately. From there they took us to camp B II a. There were so many rumors going about, for example that it wasn’t a labor transport, but a chimney. We didn’t believe it because we thought it was impossible. We waited all day, and in the evening we were told that the transport couldn’t depart because 100 persons were to be reclaimed. This news greatly disturbed us. A terrible sleepless night wreaked havoc with our nerves. The people, who were now extremely distraught, didn’t pay attention to anything; everyone just wished for this uncertainty to end. Midday, on March 7th, a call: Ordnung am Block, Raportführer Buntrok geht. And he really came, read the names of several doctors, and then we heard our names. We became very frightened, because father’s name wasn’t read, and mother wasn’t present on the block. Buntrok assured father that we would see one another in the evening, and we were taken to the Krankenbau of camp B II b. There, we found out what it was really all about. There were 32 of us in total, twins and doctors combined. Mengele reclaimed us twins because he was interested in us, as we’ve already mentioned. He came to see us the next day. When we told him that our parents had left on the transport, he said: Schade. In the meantime, we found out that the cars had driven off during the night ¨

“In the direction of the crematorium. The camp was empty; flames shot up from the crematorium. We will never forget this scene. But we didn’t believe that our parents were dead. However, we soon found out the truth from a doctor who was a member of the Sonderkommando, who was forced to do this work. Mengele arrived the following day, and took us by car to the Roma camp, which was where his station was. There, he precisely measured and weighed us, measured the length and width of our fingers and nails, the length and width of our noses, and anything else that could be measured and weighed. He also took down the color of our hair and skin. He carefully inspected us. He took fingerprints of our hands and feet. He worked alone; he never entrusted anyone else with the tasks he was performing. Then they brought us to the Krankenbau and life went on. We received 2 liters of soup per day, otherwise the food was the same as before. We were also photographed and x-rayed. Jewish doctors, who guaranteed the correctness of the examinations with their lives, had to examine our nerves, eyes, teeth, and ears.
The first labor transport from camp B II b left on 1. 7. In the meantime, another transport from Theresienstadt with 7½ thousand people arrived in May. This brought the number of people in the camp to 12,500, 3,000 of whom left to work. The rest were incinerated within 2 nights. We were taken to B II f. In this new camp, they drew our blood, which made our weakened bodies feel even worse. There is one horrible experience that we will never forget: one of our torturers, the camp doctor Thilo, was making a selection, i.e. choosing the people who would be sent to the crematorium, and he took our names down. What we felt when he did this cannot be described. Fortunately, Mengele heard this and saved us because he still needed us.

The front was approaching and the mood in the camp lifted. During this time, I became a Pipel in the Krankenbau, i.e. a runner, and so I was slightly better off. But then came winter and a new year, which was happier because we could hear the thunder of cannons. A rumor went around that the camp was going to be liquidated, but nothing happened. Finally, on January 16th, they led the first transport on foot out of Birkenau. The following days were extremely vexing, because one transport after another departed. Everyone left voluntarily and we children were the last to leave, partly because we didn’t want to go. People had to walk 60 km in the cold and frost, poorly clothed and hungry. We expected to be told that trains would come pick us up. We finally got what we wanted on January 20th, the day the last SSman left the camp. This was a wonderful time for us. We went wherever we wanted, ate whatever we wanted, did whatever we felt like doing. We roamed around the SS camp. In short, we were having a great time. We went without supervision for 5 days. Then, a group of SDmen arrived. They wanted to do us in, but didn’t get the chance. They, too, fled, and so we stayed until January 27th, when the victorious Red Army took over.

On March 27th, the Czech Svoboda’s Army took charge of us and brought us to Prague. Out of our family of 18, only 3 of us survived.”

Letter from Gerta Sachsová addressed to family friends. Gerta was deported with her husband from Prague to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in July 1943, from where she was sent to Auschwitz in autumn 1944. Her parents and husband were murdered . Gerta describes their fate and her difficult postwar adaptation..

“My Dears,

We are overjoyed that we are finally in written touch with you and that we can write to you in our mother tongue. We have so much to tell you that there isn’t enough paper in the world that could contain it all. Unfortunately, it’s mostly all bad news. So little of it is good. As you have perhaps already learned from Maruška, out of our whole family only Hanka and I returned, but we are happy that at least the two of us were reunited. I must tell you all about our departure from Prague. As you know, Kurt and I were transported to Theresienstadt in July 1943 to be with our parents and Hanka. We were together there for 1 ¼ years. We were doing rather well, all told. Kurt and my parents worked in the office, Hanka in the bakery, and I mostly did nothing because I was sick. Then, in the fall of 1944, we were gradually transported — father left separately, mother with Hanka, and I with Kurt. All of the transports went to Auschwitz. You cannot imagine what we suffered through. I don’t want to describe our experiences and so it’s perhaps a little cruel of me to write and tell you so directly that our dear mother died there. Father, who successfully made it past the selection process, was shot on the Czech border on May 3rd, 1945, just 5 days before the end of the war, during the evacuation of the labor camp where he was sent. Kurt was separated from me in Theresienstadt near the train and it was only when I returned to Prague that I learned that he was held for about 3 weeks in the Small Fortress and was supposedly shot there. We are positive regarding father since he was with Hanka’s young man, who returned. Jirka also returned and we’re living together with him now. I ran into Hanka by happy chance in Prague. She had come back one month earlier than I and she no longer believed that I would return. I’m sure you can imagine what our life is like now. Our financial situation is miserable; we don’t have enough clothes to wear.

I’ll likely find an office job. Hanka is graduating in September and then she’ll probably make her living as an illustrator. In short, this is all that we wanted to tell you about what we went through. We don’t know what the future holds. We are in touch with Maruška. Her little Jana is so adorable. We have visited them several times. Please write us soon and let us know if you are coming. We would love to see you, we have so much to tell. You can’t imagine how we are faring. But at least we are happy that you will come and see us.

sources

https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/learn/mengele-twin-stories.html?page=3

https://early-testimony.ehri-project.eu/

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A smiley face on a passport application form.

passport

A smiley face on a passport application form.

A smiley face of a girl who had high hopes of travelling and get many stamps in her passport.

A smiley face of a girl who maybe one day would become a famous child actor, like Shirley Temple because she looks just like her. The same Shirley Temple who would become an ambassador of the US in the country where this passport application was issued.

A smiley face of a girl who perhaps one day would become the scientist who who find a vaccine for many diseases.

A smiley face of a girl who just wanted to be that, a girl. But she was not allowed to be a girl.

A smiley face of a girl who became a statistic, but she is not a statistic. She was murdered for the crime of being a human being.

She was born on 29. October. 1930 and was put on Transport B, no. 411 on 21. October . 1941, Prague to Łódź, where she was murdered.

Her name is Eva Abelesova.a girl with a smiley face.

Source

https://www.holocaust.cz/de/opferdatenbank/opfer/141943-eva-abelesova/

All I feel now is pain

Siblings

At first I felt joy because who could not be joyful seeing those 2 beautiful smiley faces.

Then I am amazed because I see you two have the same birthday, April 4, 1932.

This is followed by bewilderment because you appear to have different last names.

Milan Herrmann and Dagmar Herrmannová. But after a bit of research I discover that it is the same surname but just a male and female version of the name.

You are twins. A whole world is open for you, The world is your oyster,you have the ability to achieve anything you want in life.

You have the ability but the opportunity was never given to you.

Evil men put you on a transport. 3 weeks after your 10th birthday. Shortly afterwards you were both killed.

Two beautiful children brutally murdered because of hate.

Knowing this hurts me.

All I feel now is pain.

 

 

Nine executions-International students day.

Protest

On  October ,28 1939, students from the  Charles University in Prague held a demonstration to remember the 21st anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. The demonstration was violently suppressed  by the occupying Nazi regime more then a dozen  students were seriously injured, one of the students  Jan Opletal later died of his bullet wounds on November 11,1939.

Four days later on November 15 1939 he was laid out and driven through Prague. Over  3,000 students were at the memorial event at the Institute of Pathology and the adjacent chapel.

funreal

The protectorate’s government had surprisingly given permission for the funeral procession. The event however quickly turned into another an anti-Nazi demonstration.

As a result, Reichsprotektor Konstantin von Neurath, the Nazi chief of  the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, initiated the so-called Sonderaktion Prag on the 17th of  November 1939. All Czech universities and colleges were closed , and 1,850 students were arrested .Eight students  and one professor who had been deemed the leaders of the demonstration, were executed.

  1. Josef Matoušek (historian and associate professor.
  2. Jaroslav Klíma (law student and Chairman of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia.)
  3. Jan Weinert (student of Bohemistics and Germanics.)
  4. Josef Adamec (law student and secretary of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
  5. Jan Černý (student of medicine)
  6. Marek Frauwirth (student of economics; as an employee of the Slovak embassy in Prague)
  7. Bedřich Koula (law student and secretary of the Association of Czech students in Bohemia)
  8. Václav Šafránek (student of architecture and record-keeper of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
  9. František Skorkovský (law student and Director of a Committee of the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants, Chairman of the Foreign Department of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)

funeral

Hitler authorised the execution without trial of the 9 protest leaders, and made it a policy to use force even for small gatherings.

If there were any further demonstrations, Hitler promised to “flatten” Prague.

1,200 students  were sent to concentration camps.

On the 50th anniversary demonstrations were held in Bratislava and Prague which eventually led to the Velvet revolution and the election of  artist Václav Havel as President on 29 December 1989.

November 17 is now also designated as International Students day, but if I see what some students protest or complain about nowadays I wonder if they are aware of the sacrifices made of the students in Prague in 1939.

 

Donation

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Sources

Radio Prague

Students EU

 

The last German massacre of WWII

Although the Germans had already surrendered and celebration to celebrate VE day had begun in many parts of the world,

FRANCE END OF WWII

some German troops decided to go for one more killing spree.

The Massacre in Trhová Kamenice happened on 8 May 1945 in what is now the Czech Republic.

9b53edb13fe6435afd1153adc8d6a791

German troops, escaping from Chrudim back to Germany, passed through the village of Trhová Kamenice where they decided to punish supposed partisans.

trhova-kamenice-1

Near the village they first killed five villagers, including Bedřich Mareš.

On the village borders, the troops found young Marie Pilařová returning from a visit to her relatives. They shot her instantly. They then entered the village, and in the church they captured the parish priest Oldřich Kučera and brutally tortured him to death.

The troops had previously captured four hostages in the near village of Rohozná – Jaroslav Kvapil, Jan Michek (a 17-year-old boy), Janko Trudič and Antonín Novák. The hostages were executed near house number 6.

Under the nearby hill called Třešňovka, the troops shot three more people – Antonín Alinč, Adolf Zábský and Emanuel Kacafír, who were trying to escape. They are buried in the Trhová Kamenice cemetery.

There is now a monument in the village to remember the event. Those responsible were never brought to trial.

1200px-Memorial_of_World_War_II_victims_from_Trhová_Kamenice,_Chrudim_District