Attack on the twentieth convoy to Auschwitz.

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War often brings out the worst in people. they commit crimes they would usually never even contemplate, but equally war also brings out the best in people performing heroic acts they know can cost their lives.

Early 1943 Jews throughout Belgium were rounded up and arrested.People like three members of the Gronowski family(Mother,son and daughter), who were arrested for committing the awful ‘crime’ of being Jewish.

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After the round up they were transported to the Kazerne Dossin,army barracks in Brussels.For most this would be last ‘residence’ in Belgium they would ever be in, for this was the gathering place for the final transport to the death camps.

Kazerne

On 18 April,  1,631 were informed they were going to be  deported by train the following day.The end station would be Auschwitz. The train was designated as Transport 20.

Shortly after the train had set off on route to Auschwitz it was stopped.

Three young students and members of the Belgian resistance including a Jewish doctor, Youra Livchitz  and his two non-Jewish friends Robert Maistriau  and Jean Franklemon armed with  only one pistol, and a makeshift  red warning  lantern ,  stopped the train on the track Mechelen-Leuven, between the towns of Boortmeerbeek and Haacht. This was the first and only time during World War II that any Nazi transport carrying Jewish deportees was stopped.

The train  was guarded by one officer and fifteen men from the Sicherheitspolizei. After a quick  battle between the Germans train  the three Resistance members, the train started again.In the mean time the resistance fighters had opened one rail car and were able to set 17 people free.

The train driver Albert Dumon most I have felt inspired by this  he deliberately drove  slow enough . and stopped frequently to allow people to jump without being injured or killed, 236 in all escaped. 115 of those were never recaptured.

Youra Livchitz unfortunately  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.

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His two brothers in arms survived the war. As did Simon Gronowski the son of the Gronowski family.

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Sources

BBC

 

The rescue of the Death train

Jewish prisoners after being liberated from a death train, 1945 small (2)

This is a Friday the 13th story with a positive twist, on top of that it is one of those rare positive Holocaust events.

On Friday, the 13th of April, 1945. A few miles northwest of Magdeburg there was a railroad siding in wooded ravine not far from the Elbe River. Major Clarence L. Benjamin in a jeep was leading a small task force of two light tanks on a routine job of patrolling. On that patrol they came across a train on a siding.

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But rather then putting the story in words I will let the pictures do the talking.(Photo credit: U.S. Army / George C. Gross)

The little fellow was pleased at having his picture taken.

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This is a view of the train from the rear, showing boxcars like those in picture 1.  On the hill to the left are people resting–some forever.  Some sixteen died of starvation before food could be brought to the train.

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This is a closer view of the scene in the previous picture. Note how quickly the starved people have regained their sense of purpose and are scrounging about for berries and other food.

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This view shows compartment cars.  Most of the train was made up of boxcars.  It looks as though one man at lower left is praying; others are sitting or lying on the ground.

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They were crammed into all available space and the freight cars were packed with about 60 – 70 people.

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This is Gina Rappaport, who spoke very good English and spent a couple of hours telling her story to the American troops. She was in the Warsaw ghetto under terrible conditions, and then was sent to Bergen-Belsen.

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The attempt was evidently to get them to a camp where they could be eliminated before they could be liberated.

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Most of these Jews were from Poland, Russia and other Eastern countries, so with the total destruction of their homes, loss of families and the serious prospects of coming under the jurisdiction of the Soviets, most were fearful about their future. Most chose the option of remaining in Germany, or the possibility of being repatriated to some other Western European countries. Eventually, many were finally repatriated to Israel, South American countries, for which many had passports, England, Canada and to the United States of America.

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The return journeys that never happened

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This metal train sign ‘Westerbork-Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Westerbork’ indicated a return trip that nobody would ever make.

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On 15 and 16 July 1942, the first two cargo trains packed with more than 2,000 Jews left the Westerbork Transit Camp headed for the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. Most of the people aboard these transports were killed the same day they arrived. A total of 65 trains left for Auschwitz alone.

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The prisoners at Westerbork lived from transport to transport and between hope and fear. The evening before a departure was unbearable because the names of those who would be transported were announced then. The next day there was no escape. Sometimes as many as 70 people with all their bags were crammed into each filthy boxcar of the lengthy train. The doors were then bolted shut from the outside. ‘It is overwhelming for the men; they swallow their tears. The train screeches: the poisonous snake begins to inch forward,’ wrote the Dutch writer and photographer Philip Mechanicus in the diary he kept in Westerbork.

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Of the 107,000 Jews and 245 Sinti and Roma who were deported from the Netherlands, for the most part via Westerbork, only a total of 5,000 people returned.

Sadly enough Westerbork was established and built by  Dutch government as a refugee camp, in 1939, financed partly by Dutch Jews, to absorb fleeing Jews from Nazi Germany. The Jewish refugees were housed after they had tried to escape Nazi terror in their homeland.

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Following the German invasion of the Netherlands, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a deportation camp.

The general supervision of the camp was in the hands of the SS and early on they were also responsible for the security in the vicinity of the camp. Daily life inside the camp was overseen by different Jewish work groups, including the Ordedienst  (Lit. Order Service). The members of this group, who wore these green coveralls, were responsible for fire safety and internal security.

oredediemst

 

They supervised the labour gangs, both inside and outside the camp. They also guarded the people scheduled for transport to the concentration and extermination camps. At times the Jewish Order Service was also deployed for razzias (roundups) in Amsterdam, to retrieve the sick from their homes and for instance to empty the Jewish psychiatric hospital the Apeldoornsche Bosch in 1943.

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Needless to say, members of the Orderdienst were not particularly popular among Westerbork’s prisoners and often referred to as the ‘Jewish-SS’. Eventually, most of the members of the Jewish Order Service were transported as well.

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I am passionate about my site and I know 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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