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Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Theresienstadt
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Keywords: theresienstadt

Archive/File: camps/theresienstadt/theresien.03
Last-Modified: 1994/09/20

   "Karl Hermann Frank, also present at the conversation, suggested
   the names of various cities that might server their purpose, and
   finally the name Thersienstadt (Terezin) was mentioned: a military
   fortress dating from the eighteenth century, less than forty miles
   from Prague. Eichmann was not familiar with the site, and he went
   to take a look at it. He found it unsuitable, he said, because it
   was too small (the fortress walls permitted the construction of an
   inner city of only 500 to 700 meters square). However, Terezin did
   have other advantages: the barracks were suitable for mass
   residences, the city walls and fortress easily insured isolation
   from the outside world, and no great guard force would be

   Department G of the Jewish community now started work at full speed
   (without being told anything about Terezin), and its first
   conclusion was that it was impossible to settle all the Jews of the
   Protectorate in a single city. Should the order be given
   nonetheless, the problem could be solved by erecting either one
   large camp of shacks or several smaller ones. For this purpose,
   1,300 shacks would be required, and their construction, together
   with vital sanitary facilities, would cost 195 million crowns and
   necessitate a considerable quantity of building materials.

   From the wording of the report, dated October 9, it was clear that
   Department G did not view the idea of a shack camp with equanimity:
   a relatively large number of Jews had been placed in jobs geared
   to the German economy, especially recently, and would now have to
   be taken out of the production line. In addition, non-Jewish labor
   would have to be used for work for which there was not enough
   skilled Jewish labor available. Furthermore, hastily erected shack
   camps tended to fall short of even the most primitive housing sites
   within existing settlements, and increased the danger of
   epidemics." (Bondy, 228-9)

   "Edelstein send Franta Friedmann (who, because he was married to a
   non-Jew, enjoyed greater freedom of movement) to take a look at
   Theresienstadt, or Terezin as it was called by the Czechs. The
   inital report has hardly encouraging: the city was located near the
   point where the Eger poured into the Elbe, and the level of
   undergound water beneath the fortress was relatively high. Beneath
   the outside walls, behind stone walls several yards thick, were
   subterranean cellars with only small apertures for light, and
   apparently very damp. The army had not used them for living
   quarters in over twenty years. Northeast of the town, where the
   river overflowed, was the small fortress whose dungeons had in days
   gone by served as a prison, and were considered a health hazard
   even under the monarchy. What the report did not say was that with
   the onset of the German occupation, the small fortress had reverted
   to its former purpose: it was the Gestapo's central prison, a
   substitute for concentration camps, and those who entered it were
   rarely seen alive again.

   As might be expected, the reservations the Jews had about the place
   made no impression on the Germans: as far as they were concerned,
   it had all been decided. At the end of October, Siegfried Seidl, a
   thirty-year-old Austrian national and a member of the National
   Socialist Party for ten years, who had proved his ability during
   the transportation of Jews from Warte-Gau to Poland in 1939, was
   appointed commandant of the future ghetto. According to the
   instructions about his appointment (received from Eichmann and
   signed by Heydrich), Seidl reported to Gu"nther in Prague and the
   next day left for Terezin to discuss the Wehrmacht's evacuation of
   the barracks with the commander of the garrison army (the small
   fortress was to remain under the exclusive jurisdiction of the
   security police and used as its prison). After Seidl saw the place,
   he voiced his opposition to the Zentralstelle's proposal that
   eighty thousand Jews be concentrated in the ghetto. Maximum
   capacity, he felt, could not exceed thirty thousand.

   'The ghetto is a sealed-off Jewish sttlement established by order
   of the Center for Jewish Emigation in Prague, and run by the Jewish
   administration under the supervision of the German authorities'
   local command. At the head of the ghetto is a Council of Elders and
   an advisory board consisting of between fifty and one hundred
   people, representatives of the various productive and consumer
   branches, a fairly representative cross section of the ghetto
   population. The appointment and deposition of the ghetto
   administrator and his deputy are in the hands of the
   Zentralstelle.' So ran the guidelines for ghetto regulations, drawn
   up by Department G at the beginning of November. The Germans had
   the leaders of the Prague community submit two tentative lists of
   the composition of the Council of Elders in the ghetto, one
   consisting of Czech Jews, the other of Zionists. Weidmann and
   Edelstein agreed between them to include unaffilated experts in
   both lists, so that all the Jews would have some representation on
   the future council. The Germans chose Edelstein's list, and so, at
   the age of thirty-eight, Jakob Edelstein led the Jews of Bohemia
   and Moravia on their road to the unknown." (Ibid, 238-40)

                               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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