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Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/theresienstadt/theresien.09

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Theresienstadt & The Bialystok Children
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Keywords: bialystok,theresienstadt

Archive/File: holocaust/czechoslovakia/theresienstadt theresien.09
Last-Modified: 1994/09/26

Bondy describes a particularly cruel and callous example of Nazi
"morality," as the fate of 1,500 Bialystok children is outlined in
chilling fashion:

   "At the end of August, instructions were issued to close off the
   area that bordered the new railroad line, an unusual security
   measure which aroused a good deal of curiosity among the cognizant.
   A train arrived at Terezin's temporary station, but the doors
   remained locked and no sound was heard from inside. On Burger's
   orders, food was brought for 1,500 people, and the doors opened
   only after those who delivered the provisions had left the station.
   Mad-hungry children, scarcely more than skeletons, fell on the food
   before being returned to the train cars. That night, a convoy of
   children with young bodies and old faces, barefoot or in wooden
   shoes, wearing rags and tatters of adult clothing, was led through
   the deserted ghetto streets to the disinfection center. At the
   sight of the signs POISON and CAUTION, the children cried out in
   terror. They huddled together and tried to flee, and the older
   children pushed the younger ones under the showers first. 'No, no!
   Gas! Gas!' some called.

   The disinfection of the lice-ridden children was carried out in the
   presence of the camp commandant and the SS in order to prevent
   conversation between the children and the staff of the disinfection
   center. The latter tried to reassure the youngsters by standing
   under the showers themselves to show them there was nothing to
   fear; they did not understand the children's panic. One of the
   staff workers managed to draw one of the older children aside in a
   dark corner, and the boy told him in Yiddish that they all came
   from the Bialystok ghetto, which had been destroyed, that some of
   their families had been shot before their eyes, and some had been
   taken to a place that bore the sign SHOWERS, where they had been
   gassed to death. Those who spoke to the children were in no hurry
   to publicize what they had learned for fear of incurring German
   wrath when the latter discovered that they had defied regulations.
   The few who did learn the story interpreted death by gas to mean
   that the families had apparently been taken to showers and from
   there to some unknown destination, which was why the children
   associated death with disinfection.

   The children were allotted clean clothing and taken to new barracks
   in Kreta, a suburb of Terezin outside the walls erected by laborers
   who were totally ignorant of its purpose. Nobody was allowed to
   approach the barracks behind the barbed wire, not even the Edler of
   the Jews or his assistant. Two doctors, fifty-two nurses, and
   instructors from the ghetto - including Otla, Franz Kafka's
   beloved sister - were permitted to join the children, having
   volunterred for the task, but they were forbidden all contact with
   their families in the ghetto. Dr. Blumenthal, a noted pediatrician
   from Berlin, was in charge of the staff and took cheerful leave of
   the nurses in the ghetto before being transferred to the children's
   barracks; he told some of them that the children were to be sent to
   Switzerland. Another rumor said that the children were to be
   exchanged for German citizens and their destination was Palestine.
   The best of the youth-movement instructors went to the Bialystok
   children, inspired by the challenge of returning these frightened
   souls to humanity, ethics, and values. Later, after the barracks
   were evacuated, they found the minutes of an open trial, led by
   Aharon Menczer, the former principal of the Youth-Aliyah school in
   Vienna and one of the leaders of Austria's Hehalutz. Under his
   guidance, the children had pondered the meaning of theft.

   The Germans told the children with contagious diseases that they
   were being quarantined for treatment, and the next day the SS
   carried out several undersized coffins from the Little Fortress,
   still dripping blood. They brought them to the crematorium and
   burned them themselves. But the rest of the Bialystok children
   gradually gained wieght, the fea disappeared from their eyes, their
   behavior improved, and after six weeks in the ghetto, on October 6,
   dressed in new clothes without the yellow badge, they left for the
   free world in the company of the nurses and instructors. Before
   leaving, the latter had to sign a document stating that they would
   not tell the world anything about the ghetto.

   Among the instructors walking toward freedom was Lazer Moldavan,
   the contact man between Prague, Budapest and Istanbul. The Zionist
   and Hehalutz leaders gave him a confidential and detailed letter
   for friends in Budapest and Palestine, signed by many people,
   including Edelstein, Kahn, Zucker, O"sterreicher, and Dittle
   Ornstein. Sometime after the Bialystok children left, O"sterreicher
   was summoned to German headquarters and questioned about the
   smuggled letter, and in this way the leadership discovered that
   their greetings had never reached their destination. Nothing was
   ever heard from those who accompanied the Bialystok children, led
   by Aharon Menczer (who had at one time passed up a certificate to
   Palestine because he was not prepared to leave the young people).
   It was as if the earth had swallowed them up.

   Only after the war did it become known that the Bialystok children
   and their escorts had been taken straight to the gas chambers at
   Birkenau. The entire affair had been an offshoot of negotiations
   between the German Foreign Office and various elements in the West
   over the question of allowing Jewish children to leave the
   conquered territories for Palestine. In March 1943, Eichmann
   quashed an attempt to take one thousand Jewish children out of
   Rumania through Istanbul. To the repeated requests from the Foreign
   Office about this, he replied on behalf of Himmler in May 1943 that
   the emigration of Jewish children must be rejected on principle.
   There was some willingness to consider Britain's proposal that
   5,000 "non-Aryans," 85 percent children and the remainder escorts,
   be allowed to leave the occupied countries in the East in exchange
   for 20,000 young fighting me incarcerated in Allied countries. In
   response to this proposal, which was transmitted to the German
   Foreign Office through the Swiss consul in Berlin, Eichmann pointed
   out that the Reich government 'could not help such a brave and
   nobel people as the Arabs to be disposses of their homeland by the
   Jews,' and that negotiations were possible only if the British
   government was prepared to shelter the Jews in Britain rather than
   Palestine. Should this proposal be rejected, Himmler felt, it would
   have a positive effect on Arab nationalists; should be be accepted,
   it was safe to assume that an additional 5,000 Jews in Britain
   would exacerbate anti-Semitism there. Either way, Germany would
   profit. One of the letters to the German Foreign Office about this
   from Eichmann's department emphasized that the negotiations must
   move quickly, for it would soon be 'technically' impossible to
   accomplish the departure of 5,000 children, 'as a result of the
   implementation of our activities against the Jews.' The plan failed
   because the British could not accept the German conditions. The
   Bialystok children, who had been kept alive in reserve, were no
   longer necessary." (Bondy, 386-89)
                             Work Cited

   Bondy, Ruth.  Elder of the Jews.  New York: Grove Press, 1989.
   (Translated from "Edelshtain neged had-zeman".  Zmora, Bitan,
   Modan, publishers, 1981

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