The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/01

Q. Why?

A. There were various categories there.  There were people
who were invalids of the First World War, who had shed their
blood for Germany and who had special rights.

Q. Mr. Ansbacher, I did not mean that.  I was thinking of
certain activities and certain documents that possibly had
been signed for them in Germany, and which aroused hope in
them that perhaps they would not be deported.

A. There were some distinguished people, amongst them the
elderly, who still kept up their spirits.  There were some
who spoke about the substantial property they possessed,
they spoke about houses, about plots of land they owned in
Berlin.  One said: I was one of the important university
personalities - I will not be deported.  And while they had
not yet been sent off, they recounted that they had signed
contracts - we, too, had signed similar documents - a
contract for the purchase of a home (Wohneinkaufsvertrag),
and on the strength of that they would certainly not be
deported to the East.  They definitely believed that they
would not be deported.

Q. Were they deported?

A. They, too, were deported.

Q. Please describe to the Court your daily life in

A. Originally I lived together with my mother in house No.
L206.  The Theresienstadt ghetto was divided into large
buildings, barracks and blocks of houses.  Each block of
houses had its own specific number.  There was an office
called "Evidenz" (Registration).  There we were given a slip
of paper after we arrived with the transport from Wuerzburg,
on the way from Silesia. This was the place where they took
away from everyone those things that were considered
forbidden, such as thermos flasks, beverages, cigarettes and
toilet paper.

After we had waited a long time in the blazing sun, they
transferred us on foot to house L206.  We were allocated the
attics,  for all the rooms were already full, and said: This
is where you will sleep, this is your place.

Q. Was this beneath the roof?

A. Beneath the roof.

Q. How many of you were there altogether?

A. I remember in our building there were people from
Wuerzburg in the early days, for a week later half the
people died right away - amongst those who died was Director

Presiding Judge: Please do not diverge from the question.

Witness Ansbacher: Then there were about 100-200 of us.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Why do you say that a large number
of them died right away?

Witness Ansbacher: There was terrible hunger, and the
hygienic conditions were most awful.

Q. Did they attend to the people?

A. Not at all.  People were unable to wash themselves -
there was no water.  With difficulty a little water was
brought from another building, and that was supposed to
suffice both for drinking and for washing.

Q. How long did you remain there in the attic?

A. I remained in the attic for about four weeks.  Afterwards
I received a place on the floor in the room below, also
together with aged and sick people - no one knew who was
lying next to him.

Presiding Judge: Was this regarded as being an improvement?

Witness Ansbacher: Not necessarily, but upstairs it was so
full and additional transports had arrived, and they
compressed more people inside.  In the attics there was
neither air nor light.  Later on, they set aside special
places for the sick.  In every building there was one
special room for the sick.  Whoever went into the room for
the sick - it was called "Krankenstube" at first, and
afterwards "Revier" - in most cases never came out again
alive.  Everyone had to work in the ghetto.  And, in fact,
from this, from having been inactive and then having to
work, from this people died.  For in addition to the hunger,
they were not able to stand it.  There were various kinds of
work.  For example, my mother was living with me.  She was
registered as a nurse, but there she was given the job of
looking after the toilet.  It was called "Klowache."  It was
considered to be very respectable work, for then one
received extra food, and this was something very important.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  I want you to describe to the Court
what happened to you.  How old were you when you reached

Witness Ansbacher: Fifteen years old.

Q. Please describe your life in Theresienstadt.

A. For some time I stayed in the same building, in L206.
Afterwards an order came stating that the children were to
be concentrated in youth hostels.  I was moved with my
possessions to a youth hostel in Lange Strasse - it was
L414.  There were several youth hostels: One mainly for
children from Czechoslovakia, one for the children of people
from Germany and Czechoslovakia, and one for girls only.  In
the youth hostels the situation was much better.  We
received food which was totally different, there were
sanitary facilities, and we were forced to wash.  Every
morning there was a roll call where the children were
counted, instructions given and divided the work amongst
them.  Once I worked in agriculture, another time in
building work.  They sent us out to all kinds of work.  The
best thing was when they sent us to bring food, for then we
were able to "schleusen."  That was the expression for

Q. What was "schleusen"?

A. This was the most common word in Theresienstadt.

Q. For what?

A. If anyone was able to purloin food, then he was master of
the situation.  It was called
schleusen.  One did schleusen with wood, for there were no
chairs; one did schleusen with water, schleusen with
potatoes - everything needed schleusen.

Q. What was "Hundertschaften" in Theresienstadt?

A. All works in Theresienstadt were divided into
Hundertschaften, that is to say there was an instruction to
divide up the labour groups into tens and hundreds.  And for
each group of ten there was one who was responsible to the
administration, and the administration, in turn, was
responsible to the Gestapo.  If there was work outside the
ghetto - and I was also sent there several times - then they
were responsible to those who accompanied us, mainly the
Czech gendarmerie.  One person was the "Reinigungs-
Hundertschaft" (cleaning detail), one was the "Transport-
Hundertschaft."  They were also able to obtain all kinds of
things from the transports.  I was never in the Transport-

Presiding Judge: "Reinigungs-Hundertschaft" - this was a
group of one hundred for cleaning.  And "Transport" is

State Attorney Bar-Or:  What work were you engaged in during
the period you were in Theresienstadt?

Witness Ansbacher: There were many kinds of work.  First of
all, a boy who had not yet reached the age of sixteen could
study.  Although it was absolutely forbidden by the German
authorities, there were schools in all the youth hostels

Q. Was this forbidden in Theresienstadt?

A. It was forbidden to set up a school, but we organized
lessons.  There were excellent teachers, and they devoted
some of their time after work or during work, they obtained
special authority from Edelstein, who viewed this favourably
and supported the idea of maintaining lessons.

Q. Who was Edelstein?

A. Ya'akov Edelstein was head of the Council of Jews.

Q. Until when?

A. Until he was deported at the end of 1943.  He was very
well liked by everyone at Theresienstadt.
Presiding Judge: Where was he sent to in 1943?

Witness Ansbacher: We did not know.  Later on I heard that
they had deported him to Auschwitz and killed him there.  I
was also friendly with his son, Aryeh, for some time.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  You say that he was universally
liked by all of you in Theresienstadt?

Witness Ansbacher: Yes.

Q. For what reason?

A. He visited the youth hostels and attended the cultural
performances of the youth.  Perhaps here I ought to give a
short general description of what the life of the youth in
Theresienstadt was like.

Q. Please do so.

A. At the head of youth activities in Theresiensadt there
was a young man - I think he came from Germany - Freddy
Hirsch.  He was a wonderful lad, and the children were very
fond of him.  He had an assistant named Fritzi Zucker, who
was the wife of Otto Zucker, vice-chairman of the Council of

Q. Was he an engineer from Prague?

A. That is correct.  He was once one of the leaders of the
Zionist Organization in Czechoslovakia.  Fritzi was regarded
as the second mother of all the children.  She gave all her
time, day and night, to the children, taught them, instilled
in them high moral standards and helped to train them in the
Zionist spirit, in the spirit of love for the land of
Israel, in the spirit of "thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself."  Actually this was a very difficult precept, since
everybody, including the children, was exceedingly
egotistic.  Everyone worried only about himself.  All of us
were hungry, and everyone took care that he himself would
have food.  But she saw to it, and gave detailed
instructions to that effect, that on Sabbath days and on
Festivals they ate together, that is to say, each one had to
hand in his coupon - for there were food coupons for
everybody - and then they collected the coupons from
everyone and brought the food for that day collectively to
the hostels.  Occasionally we did this at the Bastei; this
was an elevated place from where one could gaze at freedom -
one could actually see what was going on outside the ghetto.
And that was where the Oneg Shabbat* {*Literally, "Sabbath
joy" - popular name for literary and social gatherings
arranged on Sabbaths (cf. Isaiah 58:13)} and Jewish Festival
celebrations were held.  This helped to raise the spirits of
the youth.

Freddy Hirsch issued instructions on how to organize aid for
the old people.  Those were special activities by which
children were sent to the houses of the elderly, and we had
to serve the food to them, to read to them from books,
fiction, books about Jewish tradition, or the Bible.  And it
used to happen that, when we were reading to them, these old
men and women were so moved that they cried all the time.
It would also happen that in the middle of the reading these
old folk, who were mostly sick and feeble, died in the
course of the reading of a chapter from a novel.

Q. The youth sat there reading and the old people died?

A. Yes.  The youth sat there reading and the old people
died.  After they died, they were taken below to the
courtyard where all the bodies were collected.

Q. Before you go on, I wanted to ask you: Do you remember a
particular occasion when Ya'akov Edelstein appeared before
the young people?

A. Yes, a number of times, as I recall; he showed up when
there was a parade of the young people.  Usually they
recited Jewish watchwords and sang Jewish songs, despite the
fact that this was absolutely forbidden.  Generally, we were
not allowed to sing the Hatikvah or to whistle or sing
Jewish songs.  But on the roads, and also at these parades,
we did sing Hebrew songs, songs of the Land of Israel, and
whistled them.  And when our escorts sometimes said: Keep
quiet - that is forbidden - then we sang even louder. Once,
when we held some meeting, I remember that Edelstein
appeared and addressed us.  Firstly, he greeted us with
"Shalom" - we actually used the word "Shalom,"  as a rule
the young people greeted each other with "Shalom."  Then he
said: "Children, you have a very important future - preserve
your cleanliness, be healthy and strong."  These were his
words which I well remember.  I also remember that Dr. Leo
Baeck appeared once.  In general they gave us lectures with
the object of strengthening the attitude of "Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself," for this was, nevertheless, an
important matter that had to be instilled again and again in
the mind, since, despite all, the situation tended to draw
us far away from that.

Q. Do you remember your mother's critical illness?

A. Yes.

Q. What happened then?

A. My mother, who once was a nurse herself, fell ill in
1943, as was the case with the majority of the elderly and
the aged, whether they were Czechs, Germans, or those from
Holland and Austria.  There were terrible cases of

Presiding Judge: Mr. Ansbacher, you are trying to bring in
too much, to compress too much.  Please answer the

Witness Ansbacher: I merely wanted to describe the general

Presiding Judge: Of course, one's heart is filled with many

Witness Ansbacher: My mother had a severe attack of
dysentery and became weaker from day to day.  At that time
there was a very high mortality rate in Theresienstadt.  The
doctors said that there was no longer any chance at all of
helping her; she would only live for a few more days.  One
evening I came from the hostel to talk to her.  I saw that
she could no longer speak - she had no expression in her
eyes at all.  I said to her: "Mother, see, I have come, I
want to speak to you."  And she replied: "No, my child, it
is not necessary."  I saw that she was in a very filthy
state - I am referring to her body - and there was no one to
clean her up.  All those who were lying in the Krankenstube
were also  seriously ill, and I could not ask them to do
anything for her or help her.  I searched throughout the
building, but there was no nurse or any help.  I asked
whether I could get a little water, for all the time she
kept saying: "I feel dry."  With great difficulty I obtained
some drops of water and I gave them to her.  Then she began
speaking and said: "It's not worth it, I cannot go on any
longer."  I did what children, generally speaking, do not do
- I cleaned her and I threw away the rags.  And I said: "No,
I will not leave you under any circumstances, we are living
together, and we shall remain together."

I stayed there until it was dark.  I had to go back to the
hostel because there was an inspection at that time, and the
exact position in every one of the buildings had to be
reported, and if I failed to return, the person responsible
for the hostel would be punished.  I ran home and asked them
to mark me as being present, for I had to be with my mother
that night.  I returned to my mother and managed to prepare
a little tea.  Again she was in a terrible state.  Her
muscles no longer functioned.  I sat beside her.  I tried to
give her a little food - she did not want to eat anything.
I said: "You must eat something."  And with difficulty I
actually forced into her mouth some crushed dry bread which
I had made into a kind of rusk.  She gradually became
stronger, and after a day or two she recovered her strength.
She looked like a skeleton, but nevertheless she was alive,
she was fully conscious.

State Attorney Bar-Or:  Why was it not possible to take her
to hospital, was there no hospital in Theresienstadt?

Witness Ansbacher: The situation at that time was that the
hospital was full to capacity.  I had an uncle in the
hospital who had become paralyzed while in Munich and who
was taken there directly. Those who were in the hospital
were mainly invalids in a very serious state, who had
arrived in this condition from Germany - they were the ones
taken to hospital, and most of them died there.  There it
was the end.  No one had any hope of coming out alive.

Q. Do you remember the time when Jews from Denmark came to

A. Yes.

Q. Please tell the Court about it.

A. I do not remember the exact date.

Q. I did not ask you for the date.

A. I remember well that we were terribly shocked, we
actually cried when we saw these people arriving.

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