A single rail track.

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I took the picture above this morning at about 11:00 am . It is a rail track just around the corner of my home. When I looked at that rail track this morning several thoughts came to mind.

Firstly I thought how the railways made such a big change in the lives of ordinary citizens. It connected cities and also countries. People were no longer bound by the location they were born in. To this day it still fuels the imagination of children. Shows like Thomas the Tank engine are immensely popular as are the books. Even my own children when they were growing up loved to read those books and watch the show. My oldest son first learned to read from a book entitled “My first book of trains”

My second thought when I looked at the tracks  and at the picture after I took it,was that it looked like a picture of a rail track to any of the concentration camps, be it Auschwitz,Treblinka, Bergen Belsen. It occurred to me that the Holocaust really could have happened any period in history. The picture could have easily been taken in 1942.

I also realized that for the survivors and their children and grandchildren the Holocaust is still a daily reality. For those who survived they still relive that train journey every day.

The one thing that was built to connect people was used to facilitate the mass murder of millions. 1.5 million of which were  children. Children who would have been in awe of the technology,

Train journeys were supposed to be pleasant but there was nothing pleasant about their journeys.Often a hundred or more people would be cramped in a cattle car with no windows , no sanitary facilities, nowhere to sit and many would not even survive the journey.

Below is a picture of some children who survived. Who they are I don’t know. All I know is that they were liberated from the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in April 1945.

survivors

They were some of the lucky ones, but I say lucky reluctantly because even though they survived their nightmare still went on in their minds for years to come,sometimes coupled with the insult by those who claimed the Holocaust never happened. The Holocaust would forever be a part of their lives.

1.5 Million were killed,although I do believe that number is higher.

Here are just some of their names

Harry Knöpfelmacher  Murdered age 9

Hedwig Zander Murdered age 12

Frederika Borstrock Murdered age 4

Ester Kwint Murdered age 12 or 13

Peter Czeisler Murdered age 2

The scary thing is that it appears we haven’t learned from our mistakes and the one thing I fear most is that a Holocaust is very likely to happen again  and it could happen to any group of people.

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Deutsche Reichsbahn-Transport to Death.

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The Holocaust would not have been possible without the help of the railways, at least not to the extend as it happened.

The Deutsche Reichsbahn was headed by Julius Dorpmüller, who was also Reich Minister for Transport, but it was  his deputy , Albert Ganzenmüller, who had the  responsibility for the organisation of trains for deportation.

Albert

Ganzenmüller had replaced Wilhelm Kleinmann, who’resigned’ on May 26,1942. Kleinmann had stated that he had exceeded the age limit for the position, the reality was that he was pushed out because the Nazi regime weren’t impressed by the performance of the Reichsbahn in relation to the deportation and Operation Barbarossa, Hitler even threatened to send Kleinmann to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, as he did with other railway executives.

However Ganzenmüller was a more enthusiastic Nazi than Kleinmann. He collaborated in the transportation scheme for elderly German Jews to Theresienstadt and made sure  the running of transport to the extermination camps set up under Operation Reinhardt would go smoothly.

On 16 July 1942, Karl Wolff, the Personal assistant to Heinrich Himmler, complained to the newly appointed deputy chief of the Deutsche Reichsbahn about irregular transport and track repairs on the line to the extermination camp at Sobibor.

On July 28,1942, Ganzenmüller sent the following reply in writing to Karl Wolff:

“A train carrying 5,000 Jews has run daily since 22 July from Warsaw to Treblinka via Malkinia; furthermore, another train has run twice a week with 5,000 Jews from Przemysl to Belzec. The senior management of the eastern division of the railways, ‘Gedob’ (Generaldirektion der Ostbahnen), is in constant touch with the security service  in Krakow.Timetable

The latter is in agreement that transport from Warsaw to Sobibor via Lublin should continue while the reconstruction work on this stretch renders such movements impossible until approximately October 1942.”

Karl Wolff, personally thanked him in writing on 13 August 1942 :

“I note with particular pleasure from your communication that a train with 5,000 members of the chosen race has been running daily for 14 days and that we are accordingly in a position to continue with this population movement at an accelerated pace.”

Train

Ganzenmüller was  directly approached by  Himmler in early 1943 in order to ensure the pending removal of Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Albert Ganzenmüller escaped to Argentina in 1945 but was given amnesty in 1952, he returned to Germany in 1955. He did serve a few weeks in remand in 1957, after his correspondence with Wolff and Himmler had been discovered but he wasn’t charged. In 1974 new charges were presented at a regional court but the case was halted and eventually terminated.

Aside from the obvious ,another sickening aspect of the transports was the fact that the victims had to pay for the tickets.Adults paid 4 pfennigs per kilometre, children 2 pfennigs, while those under the age of 4 traveled free. Trainloads of 400 or more, which amounted to massive overcrowding, received a 50% discount.

Train ticket

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Train journeys for Jews

Train

The terror the Jews ,in Nazi Germany, had to undergo was not only physical. Probably the most sickest aspect was the psychological terror.

The Nazis took over every element in the lives of the Jews, they decided who lived and died. And none of the victims knew when their time would come, because the criteria in relation who would live or die changed constantly, depending on what need the Nazis had for Jews at any give time. The ultimate aim though was the total eradication of the Jews, but sometimes they needed them.

Even a simple train journey out of town was controlled by the Nazis.

The Reichsbahn (state railway), was one of many state agencies that endorsed the the German Reich’s anti-Semitic policies and immediately adhered to and implemented the policies, as soon as the Nazis were in power.

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On September 1st, 1941, Reinhard Heydrich orderer that Jews   would only be allowed to
leave their town of residence with a police permit. This paved the way for mass deportation.

Permit

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Source

Deutsches Technik Museum

 

The logistics of the Holocaust

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The title might sound very cold and calculated but the fact is in order to facilitate the mass deportation the Nazis applied very efficient and sophisticated supply chain management principles.

In commerce, supply chain management (SCM), the management of the flow of goods and services,however they were the same principles used during the Holocaust.

Crucial to this was the involvement of the Reich Ministry of Transport.

Reichsverkehrsministerium

Between Feb 2, 1937 and May 23, 1945 the head of the ministry was Julius Heinrich Dorpmueller, although initially not a member of the NSDAP he did join the party in January 1941.

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After the Nazi seizure of power Dorpmüller replaced nearly all “non-Aryan” workers with National Socialists. Dorpmüller became Reich Transport Minister on 2 February 1937 after the resignation of his predecessor Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach. In April 1938, when a Berlin train stopped in Passau, Dorpmüller was ceremonially welcomed and escorted to the Danube, where he continued his trip to Linz and Vienna on board the Austrian Wotan.

On 11 July 1939  was confirmed as transport minister and also General Manager of the Deutsche Reichsbahn.

According to Albert Speer, Dorpmüller confessed that “The Reichsbahn has so few cars and locomotives available for the German area that it can no longer assume responsibility for meeting the most urgent transportation needs.” Speer then convinced Hitler to name Albert Ganzenmüller state secretary under Dorpmüller

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To solve the problem of having too few cars and locomotives the Reich Ministry of Transport took over state railways from occupied territories but also privately owned railways.

Date of takeover Name
18-Mar-38 Austrian Federal Railways (BBÖ)
19-Oct-38 Parts of the Czechoslovakian State Railway (ČSD)
23-Mar-39 Parts of the Lithuanian State Railway
01-Nov-39 Parts of the Polish State Railways (PKP)
from 1940 Parts of the Belgian Railways (NMBS/SNCB)
1941 Parts of the Yugoslavian Railways (JŽ-JЖ)
1941 Parts of the Soviet Railways (SŽD/СЖД)

Privately owned railways

Date of takeover Name
01-Jan-38 Lübeck-Büchen Railway (LBE)
01-Jan-38 Brunswick State Railway (BLE)
01-Aug-38 Lokalbahn Munich (LAG)
01-Jan-39 Lusatian Railway Company
1939 to 1940 In former Austria: Schneeberg Railway, Schafberg Railway, Steyr Valley Railway, Lower Austrian Waldviertel Railway, Vienna–Aspang railway, Mühlkreis Railway
1940 9 former Czechoslovakian private railways, which the DR had already taken over the operations of in October 1938
From 1940 Railways in Luxembourg (Prince Henri Railway and Mining Company, William Luxembourg Railway Company, Luxemburg Narrow Gauge Railways)
01-Jan-41 Mecklenburg Frederick William Railway Company
01-Jan-41 Prignitz Railway

 

01-Jan-41 Wittenberge-Perleberg Railway]
1 Mai 1941 Eutin-Lübeck Railway Company (ELE)
01-Aug-41 Kreis Oldenburg Railway (KOE)
01-Jan-43 Toitz-Rustow–Loitz light railway
01-Jul-43 Schipkau-Finsterwald Railway Company

In early 1940, a new unit was commissioned in the RVM Rail Operations Department E II: No. 21 Massenbeförderung or “Mass Transport”. It was responsible for the organization and timetables of special trains deporting Jews from Germany and the occupied territories, working closely with the SS Reich Main Security Office. Following the Wansee Conference in 1942, transports also began running directly to the extermination camps.As a result, the RVM became responsible for a substantial part of The Holocaust and was an essential component that made its full scale possible.

There is no record that Minister Dorpmüller ever considered the moral implications of this. So long as the Reichsbahn maintained its internal autonomy, he served whatever transport requirements the regime demanded. He was considered one-dimensional, only interested in running railroad

Ganzenmüller was immediately involved in the organisation of trains for deportation. He collaborated in the transportation scheme for elderly German Jews to Theresienstadt and ensured the smooth running of transport to the extermination camps set up under Operation Reinhardt. On 16 July 1942, Karl Wolff, the Personal Adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, complained to the newly appointed under-secretary about irregular transport and track repairs on the line to the extermination camp at Sobibor. Ganzenmüller replied in writing on 28 July 1942 as follows:

Karl Wolff

A train carrying 5,000 Jews has run daily since 22 July from Warsaw to Treblinka via Malkinia; furthermore, another train has run twice a week with 5,000 Jews from Przemysl to Belzec. The senior management of the eastern division of the railways, ‘Gedob’ (Generaldirektion der Ostbahnen), is in constant touch with the security service (Sicherheitsdienst) in Krakau. The latter is in agreement that transport from Warsaw to Sobibor via Lublin should continue while the reconstruction work on this stretch renders such movements impossible ([until] approximately October 1942).

Karl Wolff thanked him on 13 August 1942 in a personal letter:

… I note with particular pleasure from your communication that a train with 5,000 members of the chosen race has been running daily for 14 days and that we are accordingly in a position to continue with this population movement at an accelerated pace. […]

At the beginning of 1943, Himmler approached Ganzenmüller directly in order to ensure the pending “removal of Jews” to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The great Frankfurt Market Hall  played a significant role as a distribution center during  the Holocaust.

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On 1 January 2005, the City of Frankfurt transferred the Großmarkthalle and its area to the European Central Bank (the sale contract had been signed in 2002), which will erect its seat there.

There is a very little information on the role of the drivers of the trains. They must have had some indication to what happened to the passengers. There is one account though of a heroic driver.

On the 19th of April 1943 a  train of Transport 20, bound from Belgium for Auschwitz with 1,631 Jewish men, women, and children, as well as a Sonderwagen with 19 resistance members and escapees from previous transports (who were marked a cross painted in red, indicating that they should be executed immediately at Auschwitz), was stopped on the tracks in Belgium  Youra Livchitz,

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a young Jewish doctor and resistance fighter, and two non-Jewish comrades, Robert Maistriau and Jean Franklemon, who carried only one pistol and a red lantern among them. They successfully signaled the train to a halt, then opened one rail car and liberated 17 people while firing on the guards to create an impression of being a large attack group. Soon they themselves were driven off by gunfire, but because the train driver, Albert Dumon, deliberately drove very slowly and stopped frequently to allow people to jump without being injured or killed, 236 in all escaped, 115 without being killed or recaptured. Dr. Livchitz was arrested by the Gestapo one month later, but managed to overpower his guard and escape; he was rearrested in June and executed by firing squad the following year. His two compatriots in the train rescue survived the war. The entire Transport 20 delivered 25,257 Jews and 352 Roma to Auschwitz, of whom only 1,205 returned home alive.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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