The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/05/27

149. We have heard much testimony about the dreadful
suffering which befell the Jews in the final days of the
Third Reich, when the concentration camps in the East were
evacuated.  The exhausted and starving prisoners were
marched westwards for many days, in the cold and snow, by SS
guards.  In those days, on the eve of liberation, tens of
thousands of the survivors of the camps fell on the roads
and in the fields, all along the way, from the camps in the
north (evidence of Dr. Dworzecki, Karstadt, Ben-Zvi, Mrs.
Neumann) to Auschwitz, which was evacuated in the middle of
January 1945, when its last prisoners were led to other
camps inside Germany (evidence of Professor Wellers, Sapir,
Gutman, Bakon, Dr. Beilin and Mrs. Kagan).

It is not clear to us that the Accused was personally
concerned with the evacuation of the camps and with what
happened in them during this last stage, except for Bergen-
Belsen.  The report of the International Red Cross
representative of April 1945 (T/865) makes it clear that the
control of Jewish prisoners in this camp, and also in the
Terezin Ghetto, remained with the Accused until the end.
Accordingly, he bears at least part of the responsibility
for what happened in Bergen-Belsen towards the end of the
Nazi regime, and for the conditions in which the camp
prisoners were found by their liberators.

150. We must devote special consideration to two camps, both
because of their special character and also because of the
close connection which the Accused had with the
administration of these camps: Terezin (Theresienstadt) and

The Terezin Ghetto

Terezin was originally set up as a ghetto for the
concentration of the Jews of the Protectorate, following
upon the conference held in Prague on 10 October 1941 and
presided over by Heydrich (T/294).  This we have already
mentioned above in connection with the first deportations
from the Reich after Hitler had given his order for the
extermination of the Jews.  In his Statement T/37, at p.
117, the Accused stated that it was he who suggested to
Heydrich the idea of concentrating the Jews of the
Protectorate in this manner, thus rescuing Heydrich from an
awkward situation after the latter had publicly announced
that the Protectorate would be purged of Jews within eight
weeks.  Within a short time, additional functions were
allocated to the Terezin Ghetto.  At the Wannsee Conference,
Heydrich speaks of Terezin as a "ghetto for the aged" to
which Jews above the age of sixty_five are to be sent, as
well as war invalids and holders of distinguished service
medals, together with their spouses and children up to the
age of fourteen.  Jews of these categories were indeed sent
to Terezin, as well as other privileged groups, such as
descendants of mixed marriages - as is apparent from the
documents of the Duesseldorf Gestapo, dated July 1942

When Kaltenbrunner, in a letter dated February 1943,
- reference IVB4 - seeks permission from Himmler to evacuate
Jews over the age of sixty from Terezin to Auschwitz, he
received the following surprising reply:

     "The Reichsfuehrer is not interested in the dispatch of
     Jews from Terezin, because this would interfere with
     the aim that the aged Jews in Terezin Ghetto should be
     able to live and die in peace."  (T/858; T/859)

We do not know what lay behind Himmler's reply.  He
certainly cannot be suspected of any human feelings towards
Jews, of whatever age.  In fact, sick and old people were
deported from Terezin to Auschwitz at an earlier date (see,
for example, T/848), and also later (evidence of Mrs.
Henschel, Session 37, Vol. II, p. 674; evidence of Mr.
Ansbacher, Session 38, Vol. II, pp. 683-684).  Mr. Ansbacher
describes the deportation of old people from Terezin to
Auschwitz as follows:

"Generally, people arrived there already at the end of their
strength.  There were those who were already dying, and the
SS nevertheless shouted that the number had to be complete
and that they should be put inside the freight cars."
(Session 38, Vol. II, p. 690.)

151. The truth is that the Terezin Ghetto was established
for large-scale propaganda purposes and for camouflage, so
that it could be shown to foreign visitors to convince them
that rumours about the extermination of Jews and the way
they were maltreated in the camps were nothing but "atrocity
propaganda."  In the language of the Accused (T/37, p. 245),
this was "only Himmler's exterior signboard
(Aushaengeschild) for people abroad, and nothing else," and
on the same page he called Himmler's idea of transforming
Terezin into a ghetto for the aged "a devilish idea."

We find full confirmation of this in the documents.  Exhibit
T/734 is a report of a consultation on 6 March 1942 in
Section IVB4 of the RSHA, presided over by the Accused, when
he himself explained that the transports to Terezin were
made in order to "keep up appearances for the outside
world."  In exhibit T/537 (memorandum by Zoepf on a
conversation he had with the Accused), Terezin is described
simply as the "propaganda camp."

The witness Ansbacher told us of the severe hunger, the
frightful overcrowding, the diseases and general atmosphere
of desolation which prevailed in Terezin, and the pictures
of life in the ghetto (T/651-T/663) show all this to the
full.  In a single month (October 1942), more than three
thousand persons died there (declaration by Seidl, the first
commander of Terezin, T/842, second record of proceedings,
p. 5).
But, when foreign representatives visited the camp, such as
the representatives of the Red Cross, the appearance of the
ghetto changed beyond recognition.  In his evidence, Mr.
Ansbacher states (supra, p. 692):

     "...There were certain areas where there was a total
     curfew ... Only people who had a more or less human
     appearance were allowed to show themselves... They
     painted the houses on the outside, they prepared large
     signs which read: `Central School'...`Ghetto
     Theatre'... They prepared a special play hall...they
     constructed beautiful toys...they brought the children
     there in little beds with a heart carved on them,
     really like some palace."

In 1942, the Terezin Ghetto population reached close to
60,000 souls (declaration of Seidl, supra, p. 4).  From time
to time the population would be "thinned out" by
deportations, to make possible the reception of new Jews in
the ghetto, so that Terezin in fact became an assembly point
for deportation to Auschwitz, as Seidl says on page 8.  He
mentions February 1942 as the date of the first deportation
from Terezin to Auschwitz (supra, third record of
proceedings, p. 18), and estimates the number of persons
thus deported during the period of his service there
(December 1941 to July 1943) at 50,000.  In the autumn of
1944, again more than 20,000 persons were deported from
Terezin to Auschwitz (testimony of Viteslav Diamant, Session
45, Vol. II, p. 808).  When the witness Mrs. Salzberger
reached Terezin at the end of January 1945, she found only
6,000 people there.  On the eve of the collapse of the
Reich, the number again increased, because thousands of
prisoners from other camps were transferred there.

When they reached Auschwitz, some of the deportees from
Terezin were housed in a special "Families' Camp" (evidence
of Yehuda Bakon, Session 68, Vol. III, p. 12442; evidence of
Hoess in Poland, T/1356, p. 52 on the eleventh day of the
trial).  The Accused ordered "Special Treatment after six
months" for them, and during their stay in Auschwitz, they
had to write letters to Terezin according to a prescribed
text, to inform their friends that all was well with them
(testimony of Hoess, supra).  On this subject, the witness
Bakon relates that he and others with him were also obliged,
in January 1944, to write postcards bearing the date 25
March 1944 (Session 68, Vol. III, p. 1244).

In February and March 1945, the construction of gas chambers
at Terezin was begun (evidence of Engelstein, Session 45,
Vol. II, p. 815), but work was abandoned before its
completion, and these chambers did not reach the stage of
being used.

152. The Accused was competent to give instructions on all
matters connected with the administration of the Terezin
Ghetto, and he also used this authority in practice and
closely supervised what was happening there, to the point of
intervening in current administrative matters.  A sort of
"local government" of the Jews was set up in the ghetto, in
the form of a Council of Elders, which was, of course,
subordinate to the commander of the camp (Seidl, and after
him Rahm).  The commander, on his part, used to receive his
instructions from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration
in Prague, headed by Hans Guenther (the brother of Rolf
Guenther, the Accused's permanent deputy).  From an
administrative point of view, the Central Office in Prague
was attached to the office of the Commander of the Security
Police (BdS) on the spot, but in fact, the Central Office
was attached to the Accused's Section in the RSHA.  The
Accused's competence in regard to Terezin stands out clearly
in all the testimonies as well as the "Orders of the Day"
and the various memoranda of the Council of Elders which
have been preserved.

Rahm, who followed Seidl as commander of Terezin, gave
evidence in his trial that the Accused himself told him
that, from the point of view of technical administration, he
was responsible to the BdS in Prague, but from a political
point of view, to the RSHA in Berlin, and on questions of
policy, he, Rahm, would receive instructions from Moes, one
of the officials working with the Accused in Section IVB4
(T/864).  In his evidence, the Accused tried to limit his
competence to matters of state importance (Session 98, Vol.
IV, p.xxxx5), but this cannot be accepted as an accurate
description of the scope of his powers.  He not only decided
upon the transfer of Jews of foreign nationality from
Terezin to Bergen-Belsen (T/851), but the above-mentioned
Moes appointed the Council of Elders in the ghetto.  The
Accused organized the "Jewish Police" within the ghetto
(T/37, p. 2028); approaches were made to him for permission
to send letters from Terezin, and his interest even reached
the matter of deciding what type of beds should be provided
for the inhabitants of the ghetto (T/346).

The Accused visited Terezin frequently.  According to the
evidence of Mr. Diamant, which we accept as correct, in
spite of the Accused's denial, the Accused personally took
part in a selection in Terezin, which preceded the
deportation to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1944 (Session 45,
Vol. II, p. 808).  The Accused contends that during that
period he was in Hungary, but the fact is that he used to
travel quite often from there to Berlin and to other places.

We shall discuss the instructions for the prevention of
births in the Terezin Ghetto in a special section devoted to
this subject.

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