Theresienstadt concentration camp

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Plan of Theresienstadt 1940–1945
Plan of the Theresienstadt ghetto, around 1942
The administrative courtyard of the Small Fortress
The inscription “ Arbeit macht frei ” above the entrance to “Hof I” of the Small Fortress
Cell block
Theresienstadt - Entrance to Block A

The Theresienstadt concentration camp , also known as Theresienstadt or Theresienstadt ghetto , was set up by the German occupiers in Terezín (German Theresienstadt on the occupied territory of Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic ). After the occupation of Czechoslovakia , the National Socialists made Terezín / Theresienstadt a concentration camp in what they called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia : In 1940 a Gestapo prison was set up in the Small Fortress ; In November 1941, a collection and transit camp was set up in the garrison town, initially primarily for the Jewish population of the occupied country. After the Wannsee Conference , old Jews or Jews from Germany and other occupied European countries were also deported to the camp from 1942 onwards . In the Nazi propaganda in the German Reich, Theresienstadt was transfigured into an “old age ghetto” and, for a short period, presented to various foreign visitors as an alleged “Jewish model settlement”. The number of people in the “old age ghetto” fluctuated greatly: between autumn 1942 and the end of 1943, well over 40,000 people were often housed there. The "Theresienstadt concentration camp" fulfilled four tasks: It was a Gestapo prison, a transit camp on the way to the large extermination camps ; It served as part of the Jewish policy for the extermination of people and - for a time - the Nazi propaganda as an alleged "old age ghetto".

Small fortress

Little Fortress Gate
Prison cell in the Little Fortress

During the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by the Third Reich in June 1940, a Gestapo prison was set up in the small fortress bridgehead structure .

The National Socialists took advantage of the existing infrastructure and “perfected” the place in their favor. They made it part of their apparatus of repression and extermination. The prison was administered by the Gestapo office in Prague because the Pankrác prison was overcrowded. At first there were only male prisoners, but after the assassination attempt on Hitler's governor Heydrich in June 1942, a women's department was set up. In 1943, a fourth was added to the three existing prison yards, which was intended for male prisoners.

Between 1940 and 1945, around 27,000 men and 5,000 women were transferred to the Theresienstadt prison by the various Gestapo offices , initially prisoners from Prague, then from all of Bohemia and from 1944 also from Moravia. Most of the Czechs were held in the Small Fortress until the end of the war , including many resistors against the National Socialist regime, in recent years also citizens of the Soviet Union , Poland and Yugoslavia and, towards the end of the war, prisoners from the ranks of the Allied armies. In some cases, prisoners from the part of the camp, often called the ghetto, were also transferred there.

Of the initially prisoners there, around 8,000 perished in other concentration camps , to which they were deported until the end of the war.

2,500 died in the camp after torture, illness or because of the working and living conditions. 250 inmates were "executed" in the fortress itself. Among the victims is also a group of Jews from the Rhineland who arrived on October 4, 1944 - "by mistake" - in the small fortress and not in the "ghetto" section in a transport from Cologne . Because of this mistake, almost all of this group were murdered.

Since its establishment , the commandant of the Gestapo prison had been SS Hauptsturmführer Jöckel , who commanded the 1st company of the SS Guard Battalion in Bohemia and Moravia . He was subordinate to the respective Higher SS and Police Leader of Bohemia and Moravia (HSSPF) in Prague.

First concentration camp on Bohemian soil

Single cells in courtyard IV

Jan Merell was arrested in Prague in 1943 and imprisoned in the Small Fortress. In the volume Theresienstadt published by the Council of Jewish Congregations in Bohemia and Moravia , he has recorded his impressions and experiences under the title How they suffered and died . By them he means the Jews who came to the Small Fortress. He himself was a Catholic priest who, like thousands of other Czechs, came to the Theresienstadt concentration camp because he was in opposition to the National Socialists. The proportion of Jews among the 2,500 dead in the Small Fortress was high. Only in the first few months did the National Socialists use their own execution site in the garrison town. From the summer of 1942 onwards, all executions in Theresienstadt were carried out in the Small Fortress.

“In June 1940 it (the Small Fortress),” Merell writes in his report, “was taken over by the Prague Gestapo, which set up an emergency prison here to remedy the lack of space in the Prague police prison Pankrac. The Small Fortress thus became the first Hitlerite concentration camp on Bohemian soil. Soon afterwards, in November 1941, a second was added: the Great Fortress, the city of Theresienstadt adapted as a concentration ghetto. In the ghetto the Jews were not bedded on roses, but woe to those who came to the Small Fortress for whatever reason! "

Residence for the members of the SS garrison in the small fortress

The connection between the small fortress and the ghetto becomes particularly clear where Merell reports on the fate of the Jews who came directly to the small fortress or who were first brought to the ghetto and then entered into the Gestapo with the note "RU" (return undesirable). Were transferred to prison. Merell explains: “Jews who came to the Small Fortress from the ghetto were destined to be exterminated, so that only we who got away with our lives can raise our voices to bear witness to their great suffering. The Small Fortress was a transit station between pre-trial detention and admission to a concentration camp or prison, so that the inmates usually did not stay there long. But I spent a full fourteen months there, so that I had more opportunity than most of the others to witness the inhuman atrocities that the National Socialists committed on the prisoners, but especially on the Jews. "

Garrison town

The role of Theresienstadt between 1941 and 1945 was closely related to the plans of the National Socialists that “in the course of the practical implementation of the Final Solution (the Jewish question)” - as stated in the protocol of the Wannsee Conference - “Europe would be combed through from west to east” should. In addition to the Reich territory, high priority was given to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia at the Wannsee Conference .

About 88,000 Jews lived in the Protectorate area. Her fate was decided in Prague in October 1941. On October 10th and 17th of this year, two meetings took place on the Prague Hradschin in the office of the newly appointed Deputy Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich, in which the "solution of the Jewish question" was discussed. In addition to Heydrich, high-ranking National Socialists took part, including SS-Gruppenführer Karl Hermann Frank and SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann . The minutes of the meeting of October 17, 1941 record the short-term and long-term planning with regard to Theresienstadt's role:

“First, a transport of 5,000 Jews is evacuated to Litzmannstadt . Part of it is already gone. When all 5,000 are gone, a short press release about it should appear in the newspaper, but in a clever way, it has to express how quickly the German work is unrolling. Then there should be a short break in order not to disturb the preparations for further evacuation or ghettoization. In the meantime, the Jews from Bohemia and Moravia are each gathered in transit camps for evacuation. For this purpose, the Wehrmacht plenipotentiary at Reich Protector Theresienstadt has completely cleared all parts of the Wehrmacht. The Czechs there are encouraged to move elsewhere. If the land is not already owned by the Reich, it will be bought up by the Central Office for Jewish Emigration and thus German property. 50,000 to 60,000 Jews are comfortably accommodated in Theresienstadt. From there the Jews come to the East. "

A second camp was planned in Kyjov (or Svatobořice camp ) in Moravia . However, this camp was no longer needed because the transports to Theresienstadt were faster than planned. As early as April 14, 1942, the commander of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD) informed the Ministry of the Interior in Prague that "under the current circumstances, the establishment of a second concentration camp for Jews from the Protectorate will not be considered."

According to the plans of the time, Theresienstadt was to only temporarily take over the function of a transit camp for the Bohemian and Moravian Jews. “After the complete evacuation of the Jews” , the protocol goes on to say, “Theresienstadt will then be populated by Germans according to a completed plan and become a center of German life.

The decision in favor of Theresienstadt was closely related to the location and character of the place. It was located in the immediate vicinity of the Protectorate's borders with the Reich and was connected to the railway network via the Bauschowitz station on the Eger , so that transport to and from Theresienstadt was easy to organize.

In 1941 there were about 3500 inhabitants in the garrison town. Just as many soldiers - at that time soldiers of the German Wehrmacht - had been withdrawn from the local barracks in the autumn. Theresienstadt is surrounded by mighty, completely undamaged fortress walls and the place has a large number of casemates and underground passages, so that the National Socialists needed a minimum of SS men to guard the prisoners. In the event of an emergency, the SS garrison could also be deployed in the small fortress.

Concentration Camp or Ghetto?

If the function of Theresienstadt was clearly defined in the decisions of the National Socialists as a collective and transit camp, this did not apply to the external designation. While the minutes of the Prague October Conferences of 1941 fluctuated between “collective camps”, “transit camps” and “ghetto”, in the following years “ghetto” and “ghetto” became more and more popular. The intended deception of the victims was much easier in this way than with other names. In addition, the name “Ghetto” or “Judensiedlung” for Theresienstadt was picked up by the Jews. This is what it says in a paper from Department “G” of the Prager Kultusgemeinde, which worked out proposals for the organization in Theresienstadt on the Jewish side in autumn 1941 and then submitted these to the later commandant, SS-Obersturmführer Siegfried Seidl: “The ghetto administration is responsible for the care of all Jews in the ghetto. Your tasks are your own and assigned function. In its own function it has to carry out the internal organization, to handle the administration of the settlement through self-administration ... "And further:" Organs of the settlement are, a.) The management (...) b.) The council of elders ... "

From the "camp commandant" to the "office manager"

Neue Gasse 14 - until 1945 the seat of the SS headquarters - in the basement were the "bunkers" in which prisoners were interrogated and tortured

Outwardly, the Theresienstadt camp was under “Jewish self-administration”, namely under the direction of a Jewish council of elders . The "Jewish elder" (from 1941 to January 1943 Jakob Edelstein , then until his murder in the Small Fortress in September 1944 Paul Eppstein , finally until the takeover of the ghetto administration by the Red Cross on May 5, 1945 finally Benjamin Murmelstein ) was internal reporting to the SS "camp commandant" and bound by their (mostly verbal) instructions. The command office in turn was subordinate to the “ Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Prague ” under the direction of Hans Günther .

SS-Hauptsturmführer Siegfried Seidl initially acted as camp commandant (later referred to as "Dienststellenleiter" to disguise the concentration camp character of the ghetto) , then from July 1943 to February 1944 SS-Obersturmführer Anton Burger and finally SS-Obersturmführer Karl Rahm . In this capacity, Rahm also organized the “beautification work” in the ghetto, before the two visits by delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in June 1944 and April 1945.

About 20 SS men and about 100 Czech gendarmes were subordinate to the commanding officer. The latter had the task of monitoring the locks and entrances to the fortress. The Czech gendarmes were the first to report executions and the mass graves in the Theresienstadt camp. In one case, in 1942, photos that staff sergeant Karel Salaba had taken secretly appeared in a Swiss newspaper.

Collection and transit camp for the Czech Jews

"Magdeburg barracks" - in addition to the accommodation for countless prisoners, the seat of the "Jewish self-government" was there

In order to make room for the deported Jews in Theresienstadt, the first thing to do was to withdraw the German soldiers from the barracks of the garrison town. On November 24, 1941, the first Czech Jews came from Prague with the so-called " construction command " . Their task was to adapt the garrison town to use as a warehouse and to create a “ Judenrat ”. A member of this command was a young Czech student, Miroslav Kárný , who survived Theresienstadt and who later contributed through his studies and publications to clarifying the picture of the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

After the construction command had completed its task, the number of Jews deported to Theresienstadt from the now German area of ​​the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia grew rapidly. In order to create more space, the remaining Czech residents were expelled from their houses and apartments in spring 1942 and by May 1942 almost a third of the Jews living in the Reich Protectorate, more than 28,000 people, had been deported to Theresienstadt. The trains ran through the Bohušovice (German: Bauschowitz) station two kilometers to the south .

The first "transport to the east" of 1,000 prisoners took place on January 9, 1942. These and all other transports were ordered by the SS camp commandant on instructions from Berlin. It contained guidelines on the number and category of inmates. The selection of the prisoners who were to be deported further to the east had to be made within the framework of these regulations by the “Jewish self-government”.

“Old Age Ghetto” for selected German Jews

Armband with the inscription "KONZ LAGER TEREZIN - WULKOW - TEREZIN"
Grave of the Kahn family in the Bad Wimpfen Jewish cemetery with a memory of a family member who died in Theresienstadt in 1942

The first mention of the idea that Theresienstadt should become a camp for selected German Jews in addition to the assembly and transit camp for Jews from Bohemia and Moravia can be seen in a diary entry by Joseph Goebbels from November 18, 1941. The point was that the deportation of thousands of Jewish citizens to “work assignments in the East” does not seem plausible if it involves very old people who are no longer able to work. Goebbels says: “ Heydrich told me about his intentions regarding the deportation of Jews from the Reich territory. The question is more difficult than we first suspected. 15,000 Jews have to stay in Berlin anyway, as they are engaged in dangerous and important work. A number of old Jews can no longer be deported to the East either. A Jewish ghetto is to be set up for them in a small town in the Protectorate. “At the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, Theresienstadt was designated as a ghetto for the elderly. SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich announced after the "Wannsee Conference" without comment that all Reich Jews over 65 years of age would be brought to the Theresienstadt ghetto. It was also decided that in addition to old Jews, Jews who were severely damaged by the war and Jews with war decorations should be housed in Theresienstadt. These Jews were offered home purchase contracts in which they were guaranteed adequate accommodation, food and medical care. The Reich Security Main Office thus obtained the assets of the deportees for the party assets without having performed the promised services.

More than 140,000 prisoners

The total number of men, women and children who were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto was around 140,000 by the end of the Second World War . During the last days of the war, another 13,000 more prisoners arrived who had been deported to Theresienstadt from liquidated concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

Cell block watchtower

The number of those affected is broken down as follows:

Country of origin Number of internees
Bohemia and Moravia 73,500
German Empire 42,821
Austria 15,266
Netherlands 4,894
Slovakia 1,447
Bialystok (children) 1,260
Hungary 1,150
Denmark 476
Others 20th
Births + inconsistent additions 247
total 141.184

Children in Theresienstadt

Former school in which the children's home L417 was located (today: Ghetto Museum )

There were around 15,000 children among the prisoners in Theresienstadt, who were housed in so-called “children's homes”, separated according to gender and age group. The inmate self-government tried to take special care of them. At the expense of the older people's chances of survival, the children received slightly better food and secret lessons from their carers (also called madrichim ).

The children's opera in two acts by Hans Krása ( composer ) and Adolf Hoffmeister ( librettist ) Brundibár , composed in 1938 and premiered in 1941 in the Jewish children's home in Prague , was played 55 times after Hans Krasa's deportation to the concentration camp in 1942 and the new notation. She was able to offer the children playing a piece of normality and joy, but the roles had to be re-cast again and again, as many of the actors were deported to extermination camps. The Viennese Greta Klingsberg played the main role of Aninka and was able to survive.

The ghetto museum has been located in the former children's home L417 , which previously served as a school and in which mainly boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were imprisoned . "The girls from room 28" of the children's home became known, the fate of which the author Hannelore Brenner-Wonschick described in her book of the same title in 2004: Almost sixty young Jewish, mostly Czech girls were in room 28 of the girls' home L410 from 1942 to 1944 locked up together and destined to be killed in the extermination camps. Fifteen of them survived, of which ten, who live all over the world, meet once a year to exchange and pass on their memories so that the events are not forgotten.

The story of the magazine was studied and told by the Italian writer Matteo Corradini in his book There are no butterflies in the ghetto . English actor Sir Ben Kingsley read this novel and spoke on the subject on January 27, 2015. The ceremony took place in Theresienstadt to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Of the children who were also sent to the extermination camps by the SS, only about 150 survived the end of the war.

Cultural activities

The painting The rehearsal (2009, German The Dress Rehearsal ) from the Holocaust theater series by the expressionist artist Stefan Krikl shows a theater scene from a Hamlet parody in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Numerous and extensive cultural, sporting, religious and philosophical activities took place in the camp, which were carried out by the prisoners. More than 2000 prisoners who were already known at the time or who only became known later participated in this and raised the cultural scene there to a high level. This also included a so-called "University of Theresienstadt", where prisoners organized self-organized lectures on "comradeship evenings" for all prisoners. The self-appointed lecturers included important people such as Leo Baeck , Viktor Frankl and Desider Friedmann , to name just a few. The SS headquarters mostly gave the Jewish self-government a free hand in this area, as they could abuse the cultural diversity for their propaganda purposes and the cultural life of the prisoners was understood as an outlet for maintaining peace and order in the camp. However, some works were not performed because the authors obviously ridiculed their tormentors, such as B. in the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kien . In addition to the cultural events, a library was set up containing a large collection of books brought by the prisoners themselves.

Known prisoners who died in Theresienstadt

Machine-written postcard from Ester Berkowitz (1943) to her son Horst Berkowitz in Hanover ; with hand stamp "Reply only via the Reich Association of Jews in Germany Berlin-Charlottenburg 2, Kantstr. 158 "
Prisoner card from the Theresienstadt concentration camp - Small Fortress

Escape attempts that have become known

Some inmates tried to escape. Only a few managed to escape, especially from the Little Fortress.

  • On December 6, 1944, Miloš Ešner, Josef Mattas and Frantisek Maršik managed to escape. They used a breach in the walls next to the nursery and lowered themselves into the moat on ropes.
  • Zdeněk Vlasta also managed to escape, who fled the Elbe Castle work detachment (in Litoměřice) and was able to hide until the end of the war. Likewise Václav Steka from the Lovosice work detail on April 19, 1945. They survived.
  • An attempted mass escape from cell 38 on the 4th courtyard failed. Erwin Schmidt was shot and later executed in the 4th courtyard. Ladislav Šimek and Rudolf Vondrášek were killed by the guards in the 1st courtyard.

Known prisoners

The function as a model warehouse

Bank notes from the "Bank of Jewish Self-Administration"
Unpublished registration stamp "Bohemia and Moravia" Z1 for parcels for transport to Theresienstadt ( Michel catalog , registration stamp 1943, no. 1)
ID card of a Jewish prisoner issued on January 1, 1945

In October 1943, 476 Jews from Denmark were deported to Theresienstadt. There, too, the German occupiers tried to round up and deport all Danish Jews. However, the vast majority of Danish Jews from deportation was rescued are. Most of them fled to Sweden or were able to go into hiding in the country and were no longer within reach of the German occupying forces. But even the Jewish compatriots imprisoned in Theresienstadt were not abandoned by the Danish government. The pressure that it exerted on the Nazi regime played a key role in the fact that the Nazis - for propaganda purposes and to deceive the international public about the nature of concentration camps - turned Theresienstadt into a model camp for a few months.

In preparation for a “visit” by a commission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the SS began a large-scale “city beautification campaign” in December 1943. An ICRC commission visited Theresienstadt on June 23, 1944. Among other things, the commission inspected the cafés opened in advance, the “Children's Pavilion”, which was also set up only for the Red Cross, the infirmary and the Zentralbad and attended a performance of the Brundibár des children's opera in August Czech composer Hans Krása who was deported to the ghetto in 1942 . There were no separate face-to-face meetings with prisoners.

Propaganda film

Following the visit of the ICRC commission, the film Theresienstadt. A documentary film from the Jewish settlement area shot from August to September 1944. The prisoner Kurt Gerron , who was known as the director of films with Heinz Rühmann and Hans Albers , was commissioned to direct . The aim of the film was to show how well the Jews were doing under the “benefits” of the Third Reich. The film was shot from September 1 to 11, 1944. The film shows a “normal life” of the Jews in the Theresienstadt ghetto . Among other things, work scenes of various craftsmen are shown with the note, "They can pursue their professions in Theresienstadt". After “the end of work”, “the leisure activities are left to each individual” and football games in the courtyard of a former barracks are particularly popular. When the comment "A steam bath is available to the population" you can see naked men showering. The scene with wooden double bunk beds is commented on with the comment: “Single women and girls make themselves comfortable in their women's home”. After the shooting, most of the actors and the director were deported to Auschwitz. In March 1945 the film was shown for the first time in occupied Prague .

It also contains an excerpt from the children's opera Brundibár , performed 55 times in the concentration camp ; most of the contributors were murdered a short time later , like their composer Hans Krása .

The Israeli computer specialist Oded Breda, acting director of the Beit Terezin memorial ( House Theresienstadt ), which opened in 1975 in the Israeli kibbutz Givat Chaim north of Tel Aviv , has designed his own exhibition for the soccer game, which was prescribed for propaganda purposes : Liga Terezin ; a film of the same name was also produced.

Theresienstadt and the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question"

Deaths in Theresienstadt from November 24, 1941 to December 31, 1943; Statistics from the Nazi Building Department from January 1, 1944. Jewish Museum Prague

The fact that Theresienstadt was part of the extermination campaign against the Jewish population was not changed by the propaganda of the National Socialists. A quarter of the prisoners in the Theresienstadt ghetto (around 33,000) died there mainly because of the appalling living conditions. Around 88,000 prisoners were further deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau (including family camps) and to other extermination camps such as Treblinka , Majdanek or Sobibor . For the prisoners affected, it had the same function as the other “assembly camps” of the extermination camps in Poland.

The numbers of the "departures" looked like this:

Departures number
deported to extermination camps 88.202
died in Theresienstadt 33,456
freed 1,654
fled 764
arrested and presumably killed 276
survived on May 9, 1945 16,832

From the beginning, Theresienstadt was intended as a collective and transit camp, initially for the Czech Jews. The Czech historian Miroslav Kárný , who was among the first to be deported to Theresienstadt, has shown in his work on the "Germans in Theresienstadt" that the German Jews who were brought here were also subject to extermination by the National Socialists and in a comparison between there is only a slight difference in the death rate for Czech and German Jews.

“In Theresienstadt,” he writes, “there were 73,468 Czech and 42,921 German Jews who had been deported to Theresienstadt before April 20, 1945. The difference in mortality between Czech and German Jews directly in Theresienstadt was very large, which can be seen as a result of the different age structure. "

“A total of 6,152 Czech prisoners died in Theresienstadt itself; that was 8.37% of the total number of prisoners from Czech transports - every twelfth died. The mortality of the German group was almost six times higher in Theresienstadt. 20,848 German Jews died here, that was 48.57% of the total number of prisoners from German transports - every second. "

“But if we want to compare the fate of the Czech and German groups,” he continues, “we have to add the numbers of those deported from Theresienstadt to the east. 60,382 Czech Jews (that was 82.19%) and 16,098 German Jews (37.5%) were deported to the east from Theresienstadt. 3,097 of the Czech Jews survived, less than 100 of the Germans. This means that after the deportation from Theresienstadt in the east - during the migration to the east, as the head of the concentration camp Oswald Pohl called it - 57,285 Czech Jews and around 16,000 German Jews perished. "

"In summary: the percentage of all deaths of Theresienstadt prisoners - d. H. death in Theresienstadt and death after further deportation - is 86.35% (63,437 deaths) among Czech Jews and 85.85% (36,848 deaths) among German Jews. The death record of both groups of prisoners differs by only half a percent. "

The funeral system

In the Theresienstadt camp, the prisoners were mostly able to observe the religious rituals at burials. Until August 1942, the dead were buried with wooden coffins in individual graves. Afterwards, mass graves were dug for 35 to 60 deceased prisoners. On July 19, burials began in mass graves. Wooden coffins were no longer used in these graves. The burial place was in the Bohusovic valley basin. The transport to the cemetery took place in a Jewish hearse. Only a member of the ghetto guard and a Czech gendarme were allowed to accompany the hearse at night. The population still living in Theresienstadt at that time should not know anything about it.

The last burial took place in a mass grave on October 6, 1942. Between December 1941 and October 1942, a total of 8,903 victims of the National Socialists were buried in 1,250 individual graves and 270 mass graves in the Jewish cemetery.

The death chambers

Hall next to the death chambers in a casemate of the fortification

Two chambers in which the dead were laid out were located within the ramparts on the southeastern outskirts on the way to the cemetery. One served the Jewish deceased, the other the deceased who had a different faith. The first common prayer usually had to take place directly at the place of death.

The camp statistics show the highest mortality rate for autumn 1942, when more than 100 people died every day.

The crematorium

Until autumn 1942 the dead were buried in mass graves in front of the city's entrenchments. About 9,000 victims were buried this way. At the end of 1942, the camp management had the Teplice company Ignis Hüttenbau AG built a crematorium to burn the deceased from the garrison town and the small fortress - later also from the Leitmeritz subcamp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp .

Crematorium with memorial sculpture
Memorial of Nations

The central part of the building was occupied by four incinerators that were heated with diesel oil. The front room was used to place the coffins with the dead, next to it was the autopsy room. The annex to the main building housed the necessary ancillary rooms for the guards, who were on duty here, and for the workers of the crematorium. At the time of greatest mortality, up to 18 people worked here, taking turns in uninterrupted shift work day and night. When the death toll decreased, four stokers could do the job. SS-Scharführer Rudolf Haindl, a member of the SS-Kommandantur, often monitored the operations. The commanders themselves also carried out controls.

inside view

Those on duty pushed the corpse into the incinerator without a coffin or its top. It only burned with the board it was attached to. The rest of the coffin could be used several times for reasons of economy. The dead for whom an autopsy had been ordered arrived at the cremation with some delay. By opening the corpse, the doctors imprisoned here were able to determine the causes of death, especially in inconclusive cases.

The staff on duty at the ovens tried to stoke the remains of each cremated person separately from the oven so that they could be retrieved in an individual container. They had to search the ashes for pieces of gold (tooth crowns and prostheses), collect them and hand them over to the SS headquarters.

Daily logs were kept of the incineration process in the individual furnaces. Every urn with the ashes of a prisoner was also provided with the most important information about the cremated person. They were copied from the pieces of paper that had been attached to the legs of the dead and contained the name with the transport description and the corresponding cremation number. Then the urns, mostly made of cardboard, were allowed to be stored in the columbarium . The columbarium was in the ramparts. Up until the end of 1944, thousands of urns stood side by side on wooden shelves, and the prisoners assumed that they would be duly buried after the war. But when the National Socialists began to clear up the traces of their crimes in Theresienstadt, in November 1944 the camp administration ordered the ashes of 22,000 prisoners to be thrown into the Eger.

Memorial of Nations (Panorama) (2013)

In 1944 and 1945 the dead from the camp in Litomerice were also cremated in the Theresienstadt crematorium. There mortality reached enormous proportions as a result of unbearable working conditions and epidemics. Before this camp succeeded in opening its own crematorium (early April 1945), the wagons brought the dead prisoners to Theresienstadt.

The registry, carefully compiled by the staff on duty at the crematorium, recorded approximately 30,000 victims cremated there between 1942 and 1945.

The columbarium


In 1942, rooms to store the ashes of the deceased were set up near the death chambers. Thousands of cans were stored here. After the cremation, the ashes were collected and, instead of the usual ash jars, kept in simple cardboard boxes with the names and registration numbers of the deceased. Every day these cans were brought from the death chamber to the columbarium . “Two ghetto prisoners kept the cans here in their exact order so that each one could be located. These two inmates worked here for about two years. By 1944, more than 20,000 such ash containers had been stored in the columbarium. "

In October 1944, tractors appeared in front of the columbarium. Groups of inmates formed chains to load the cans, which were then brought to the banks of the Eger. The prisoners were forced to pour the ashes into the river under close guard. At the northeast exit from the city, on the river bank, where the ashes of the deceased were sunk in the water, there is now a memorial.


In addition to the main camp, the Theresienstadt concentration camp had various satellite camps. The Federal Ministry of Justice's "Directory of Concentration Camps and their External Commands" lists the following nine:

  • Budweis (České Budějovice) from April 13, 1942 to June 23, 1943
  • Oaks (Dubí) at / cf. Kladno - March 1, 1942 to October 1, 1942
  • Jungfern Breschan from July 1, 1942; the property used by Reinhard Heydrich's widow
  • Kladno - February 26, 1942 to June 22, 1943
  • Motischin ( Motyčín ) - March 1, 1942 to October 1, 1942
  • Oslawan ( Oslavany ) - April 4, 1942 to August 30, 1943
  • Pürglitz ( Křivoklát ) - April 10, 1942 to June 6, 1942
  • Wulkow (Brandenburg) - between Neuhardenberg and Trebnitz - March 2, 1944 to February 3, 1945
  • Schnarchenreuth / Bavaria - March 13, 1945 to April 22, 1945

Nazi perpetrators

  • Siegfried Seidl (1911–1947), SS-Hauptsturmführer, camp commandant from November 1941 to July 1943, executed in 1947
  • Anton Burger (1911–1991), SS-Obersturmführer, camp commandant from July 1943 to February 1944, sentenced to death in absentia, lived undetected in Germany until his death in 1991
  • Karl Rahm (1907–1947), SS-Sturmbannführer, camp commandant from February 1944 to May 1945, executed in 1947
  • Rudolf Burian , overseer, executed in 1946
  • Heinrich Jöckel (1898–1946), SS-Hauptsturmführer, commandant, executed in 1946
  • Anton Malloth (1912–2002), overseer, sentenced in 2001 to life imprisonment by the Munich Regional Court for the murder of a prisoner
  • Albert Neubauer , overseer, executed in 1946
  • Stefan Rojko , overseer, sentenced in 1963 by the Graz Regional Court to life imprisonment for the killing and mistreatment resulting in death of political prisoners and Jews
  • Wilhelm Schmidt , deputy commandant, sentenced and executed on November 12, 1946
  • Julius Viel , sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in the so-called Ravensburg war crimes trials
  • Kurt Wachholz (1909–1969), overseer, sentenced to death by the East Berlin City Court in 1968 for killing over 300 prisoners by killing, kicking, stoning, drowning and participating in the shooting of at least 183 people in over 25 shooting actions
  • Rudolf Haindl , SS squad leader and representative of the camp inspector in the Theresienstadt ghetto. He was sentenced to death in 1948 and executed.
Refugee ID of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, issued on October 26, 1945


Shortly before the end of the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), after long negotiations with the SS, succeeded in bringing Jews from Theresienstadt to neutral countries. A further 1,200 Jews were able to leave for Switzerland on February 6, 1945 . The former Federal Councilor Jean-Marie Musy , who was criticized for his pro-fascist attitude in Switzerland , had arranged this transport on behalf of the Jewish-Orthodox Sternbuch family in St. Gallen and with financial support from the “Orthodox Rabbis Association in the USA” and Canada ". Further hoped for transports failed because of Adolf Hitler's personal veto. On April 15, the surviving Danish Jews were released to Sweden. On May 5, 1945, the SS handed over responsibility for Theresienstadt to the ICRC.

The Red Army reached Theresienstadt on May 8, 1945 .


See also


Images and texts that were created in Theresienstadt

  • Bedřich Fritta: For Tommy's third birthday in Theresienstadt, January 22, 1944 . Pfullingen 1985 (picture book), ISBN 3-7885-0269-X .
  • Camilla Hirsch : Diary from Theresienstadt . Edited by Beit Theresienstadt . Mandelbaum Verlag , Vienna 2017 ISBN 978-3-85476-498-4 .
  • Philipp Manes : As if it were a life . Factual report Theresienstadt 1942 to 1944. Ed. Ben Barkow, Klaus Leist. Ullstein, Berlin 2005 ISBN 3-550-07610-X .
  • Hans Munk: Theresienstadt in pictures and rhymes . Ed. Peter Munk. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 2004 ISBN 3-89649-920-3 (also translated into English).
  • Ralph Oppenhejm: At the limit of life. Theresienstadt diary. Rütten & Loening, Hamburg 1961.
  • Alfred Philippson: How I became a geographer . Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-416-02620-9 (written 1942).
  • Eva Mändl Roubičková: “We are slowly getting used to ghetto life”. A diary from Theresienstadt [1941–1945], edited by Veronika Springmann. Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg 2007 ISBN 978-3-89458-255-5 .
  • Gerty Spies: Diary fragment from Theresienstadt . In: Three years in Theresienstadt . Christian Kaiser, Munich 1984 ISBN 3-459-01571-3 pp. 98-113.
  • Hana Volavková (editor): There are no butterflies flying here. Children's drawings and poems from Theresienstadt 1942–1944 . Youth service, Wuppertal 1962.
  • Ilse Weber : Suffering lives in your walls. Poems from the Theresienstadt concentration camp . Bleicher, Gerlingen 1991, ISBN 3-88350-718-0 .
  • Ilse Weber: When will the suffering come to an end? Letters and poems from Theresienstadt . Ed. Ulrike Migdal. Hanser, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-446-23050-7 .
  • Helga Hošková-Weissová : Draw what you see. Drawings by a child from Theresienstadt . Wallstein, Göttingen 2004 ISBN 3-89244-783-7 .
  • Thomas Freitag: Brundibár - The way through fire . Regia, Cottbus 2009 ISBN 978-3-86929-013-3 .
  • Rudolf M. Wlaschek (Ed.): Art and culture in Theresienstadt. Documentation in pictures . Bleicher, Gerlingen 2001 ISBN 3-88350-052-6 .
  • Marie Ruth Krizkova, Kurt Jiri Kotouc, Zdenek Ornest (eds.): Is my home the ghetto wall? Poems, prose and drawings by the children of Theresienstadt . Werner Dausien, Hanau 1995 ISBN 3-7684-1356-X .
  • Leo Haas: Terezín / Theresienstadt. Eulenspiegel-Verlag Berlin 1971, 24 plates, DNB 57624757X .
  • Dorothea Stanić (Ed.): Children in the concentration camp:… and flowers bloom outside. Elefanten-Press, Berlin 1982 ISBN 3-88520-021-X .
  • Arie Goral-Sternheim: Concentration Camp Transit Theresienstadt: Pictures and documents from ghettos and camps. Jewish Museum Rendsburg. DNB 944375952 .

Monographs and Articles

  • Hans Günther Adler : Theresienstadt 1941–1945. The face of a coercive community. Afterword Jeremy Adler. Wallstein, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-89244-694-6 (reprint of the 2nd verb. Edition Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen 1960. 1st edition ibid. 1955). Again WBG 2012.
  • Inge Auerbacher: I am a star . Beltz & Gelberg, Weinheim 2005, ISBN 3-407-78136-9 .
  • Stefan Bamberg: Holocaust and curriculum vitae. Autobiographical and narrative interviews with survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp . Dissertation, University of Heidelberg 2007 ( full text ).
  • Wolfgang Benz : Theresienstadt: A story of deception and destruction , CH Beck., Munich, 2013. Table of contents . 281 pages. ISBN 978-3-406-64549-5 .
  • Hannelore Brenner-Wonschick : The girls from room 28. Friendship, hope and survival in Theresienstadt , Droemer Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-426-27331-4 .
  • Matteo Corradini : There are no butterflies in the ghetto. Translated from the Italian by Ingrid Ickler. CBJ Verlag , Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-570-40355-6 .
  • Eva Erben: I've been forgotten - memories of a Jewish girl . Beltz & Gelberg, Weinheim 2005, ISBN 3-407-78956-4 .
  • Axel Feuss: Theresienstadt-Konvolut . Dölling and Gallitz Verlag, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-935549-22-9 (Contains 92 biographies and photographs of interned Jewish “celebrities” as well as 64 watercolors and drawings that were created in the ghetto. Passed on by Käthe Starke , prisoner from 1943 and after the exemption owner of the documents. Information on the "celebrity houses".)
  • Peter Finkelgruen: House of Germany or the story of an unpunished murder . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1994, ISBN 3-499-19610-7 .
  • Uta Fischer, Roland Wildberg: Theresienstadt. A journey through time . Wildfisch, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-9813205-1-0 .
  • Henry Friedlaender: The way to the Nazi genocide. From euthanasia to the final solution. Berlin Verlag, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6 (in the corresponding paragraph he goes into the function of the home purchase contract at Theresienstadt).
  • Jana Renée Friesová: Fortress of my youth . Vitalis Verlag, Prague 2005, ISBN 3-89919-027-0 .
  • Ralph Giordano : Children's drawings from the Theresienstadt concentration camp . In: I'm nailed to this land. Speeches and essays about the German past and present. Knaur-TB 80024, Droemer Knaur, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-426-80024-1 , pp. 181-189.
  • Anna Goldenberg: Theresienstadt concentration camp. The life after. In ZEITmagazin , December 12, 2013 No. 51. ( also online. The author's grandmother and great-aunt were imprisoned as children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Now the three of them went to the site together for the first time.)
  • Alfred Gottwald, Diana Schulle: The deportations of Jews from the German Reich from 1941–1945 . Marix, 2005, ISBN 978-3-86539-059-2 (Data from most of the “Jewish transports” from the “Greater German Reich” are compiled and commented on.)
  • Ernst Heimes: Mirjam ghetto child. Play about the Theresienstadt ghetto and the children's opera 'Brundibár . Frankfurt a. M .: Brandes and Apsel, 2011. ISBN 978-3-86099-712-3 .
  • Raul Hilberg : The annihilation of the European Jews . Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 1999, ISBN 3-596-10612-5 .
  • Jehuda Huppert, Hana Drori: Theresienstadt-Ein Wegweiser . Vitalis Verlag , Prague 2005, ISBN 3-89919-089-0 .
  • Kathy Kacer: The children from Theresienstadt . Ravensburger Verlag, Ravensburg 2005, ISBN 3-473-54253-9 .
  • Margot Kleinberger: Transport number VIII / 1 387 survived. As a child in Theresienstadt . Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-7700-1334-0 . Paperback edition by Piper Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-492-26412-9 .
  • Herbert Thomas Mandl Traces to Theresienstadt / Tracks to Terezín (Interview: Herbert Gantschacher; Camera: Robert Schabus; Editing and design: Erich Heyduck / DVD German / English; ARBOS, Vienna-Salzburg-Klagenfurt 2007)
  • Max Mannheimer : Late Diary . Pendo Verlag, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-86612-069-3 .
  • Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia: Theresienstadt . Translated from English by Walter Hacker. Europa-Verlag, Vienna 1968.
  • Mary Seinhauser, Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (Ed.): Totenbuch Theresienstadt - so that they are not forgotten . Junius Verlag, Vienna 1987, ISBN 3-900370-91-5 .
  • Wolf H. Wagner: escaped from hell. Stations of a life. A biography of the painter and graphic artist Leo Haas. Henschel Verlag, Berlin, 1987, pages 66-101, ISBN 3-362-00147-5 .


  • Jaroslava Milotová, Miroslav Karny, Michael Wögerbauer, Raimund Kemper and Anna Hájková (eds.): Theresienstädter Studies and Documents , Sefer, Prague, 12th year (1994 to 2008) Summary



Radio broadcasts


Web links

Commons : Theresienstadt Concentration Camp  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Günther Adler: Theresienstadt 1941–1945. The face of a coercive community. 2nd edition Tübingen 1960, tabular overview pp. 691–701.
  2. Malá pevnost , Prague 1988, p. 46.
  3. ^ A b Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia (translated from English by Walter Hacker): "Theresienstadt" , p. 293.
  4. Minutes of the Wannsee Conference ( Memento of the original from February 7, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. cit. in: Karel Lagus: “Foreplay” , in: Council of Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia. (Translated from English by Walter Hacker): "Theresienstadt" , p. II
  6. cit. in: Karel Lagus: “Foreplay” , in: Council of Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia. (Translated from English by Walter Hacker): “Theresienstadt” , p. I2
  7. Article Salaba, Karel in the Theresienstadt Lexicon with reference to Rudolf Iltis (Rd.): Theresienstadt. Europa-Verlag, Vienna 1968, p. 321ff
  8. 1. Deportation on
  9. ^ The diaries of Joseph Goebbels, ed. by Elke Fröhlich. Part II, Volume 2, Munich a. a. 1996, ISBN 3-598-21922-9 , p. 309 (November 18, 1941)
  10. ^ Raul Hilberg: The annihilation of the European Jews - Volume 2, pp. 457/458
  11. Ralf Baumann: We wanted to sing, we wanted to live. In: Konstanzer Anzeiger of November 26, 2014, p. 3.
  13. ^ E. Makarova, S. Makarov, V. Kuperman: UNIVERSITY OVER THE ABYSS . Ed .: Verba Publishers. Jerusalem 2000, p. 472 ( ).
  14. From the Theresienstadt Lexicon, keyword Die Kleine Fortress - Gestapo prison
  15. Jerry Klinger: "These Children Bore the Mark of Freedom" ( Memento of the original from August 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Theodor Herzl Foundation, pp. 21-24, ISSN 0026-332X @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. The full text of the report that the delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Maurice Rossel , wrote about his visit to Theresienstadt on June 23, 1944, was first published in 1996 in Theresienstadt Studies and Documents, 7/2000 .
  17. ^ This day in Jewish history / Filming in Theresienstadt. Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd, accessed May 24, 2015 .
  19. , Ronny Blaschke , January 25, 2015: Death and Games
  20. ^ Raul Hilberg: The annihilation of the European Jews - Volume 2, pp. 457/458.
  21. Miroslav Kárný : German Jews In Theresienstadt ( Memento of July 13, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), In: Theresienstädter Studies and Documents. Ed. Sefer - Terezín Initiative Institute, Prague 1994.
  22. Hana Drori / Jehuda Huppert: Theresienstadt - A guide from Hana Drori and Jehuda Huppert
  23. ^ Directory of the concentration camps and their external commands in accordance with Section 42 (2) BEG
  24. - ( Memento of the original from December 30, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. GDR justice and Nazi crimes @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. GDR justice and Nazi crimes
  26. Fritz Barth on details of the train journey
  27. ^ Bought free for $ 1,000 "each" , NZZ, February 9, 2015
  28. Wolfgang Benz (1995), The Holocaust , page 91 ( online )
  30. Udo Scheer: Songs: From Plauen. In: Welt Online . September 30, 2000, accessed May 24, 2015 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 30 ′ 49.1 ″  N , 14 ° 9 ′ 52.9 ″  E