Newsletter 2/2014

Sonderbehandlung in the Police Prison in Terezin

„The Gate of Death“ – the way to the place of execution in the Small Fortress

„The Gate of Death“ – the way to the place of execution in the Small Fortress

The safety repressive authorities of Nazi Germany often introduced euphemistic expressions to cover the true nature of their approach to the population in the controlled areas. One of such terms, in addition to final solution of the Jewish question or evacuation, was also the innocent-sounding phrase of special treatment, in German Sonderbehandlung. If we asked a layperson about the meaning of such phrase, they would hardly guess that in fact it meant murder: execution without a trial based just on the police decision.

The concept of Sonderbehandlung was introduced by Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police (SiPo) and the Security Service (SD) in the Reich, in his order called Principles of the Internal Security of the State during the War in September 1939. In relation to the population of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Sonderbehandlung could be initially ordered only by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler following the proposals of chief commanders of Gestapo offices in Prague and Brno submitted to the Chief of the Security Police and SD in the Protectorate or to the higher SS and Police Commander KH Frank. However, from September 1943 this way of disposal of inconvenient people did not need the approval of Himmler any more and could be ordered, in the Czech lands, by Frank himself.

Although the executions under special treatment include, for example, the shooting of student officials in Prague Ruzyne on November 17th 1939, executions of Protectorate officers under Sonderbehandlung mostly took place outside Bohemia and Moravia in the first years of the occupation, especially in the concentration camp Mauthausen. However, from 1943 they were also performed on a larger scale within the territory of the Protectorate, especially in the Gestapo prisons, or at places where ​​a hostile action against the Reich had taken place and made the police authorities require the punishment by death right on the spot. In such cases the Sonderbehandlung should have a deterrent effect on the local population.

Place of execution in the Small Fortress

Place of execution in the Small Fortress

With 1943 the Police Prison in Terezin also became a place of executions without trial upon the proposal of Prague Gestapo management and approval of K. H. Frank. The first executions were probably carried out in the area of later prison yard IV, before they were finally moved to the shooting range. The first prisoner murdered in this way was most likely a member of the Communist resistance Frantisek Prokop in May 1943. Apart from members of local resistance groups there were also murdered some of the captured members of Czechoslovak military paratroopers and even mentally and physically disabled people, who had got into the clutches of the Gestapo for other reasons though. Altogether there were murdered about 250-300 people here. With a few exceptions the executions were carried out by members of the SS guard company. This unit was not subject to the prison commander Jockel, but to the headquarters of the SS Guards Battalion of Bohemia and Moravia and later to the SS Guards Battalion in Prague. The number of SS guards in the Small Fortress varied from 16 to 100 between the years 1940 – 1945 with 5 commanders successively taking over the position of the Head of the Company. Especially the last commander of the guard company Fritz Vogt became infamous for his sadistic behaviour during the executions performed under Sonderbehandlung. Before a salvo of the firing squad went out, he shot prisoners from his pistol in a way that just painfully wounded them. According to testimony, he also directed the members of the firing squad to charge the guns first with two blank cartridges. Victims were therefore first frightened by harmless shots before finally shot dead with a bullet fired from a sharp cartridge. The largest execution happened just a few days before the liberation (on 2nd May 1945), when 52 people were shot dead (50 resistance fighters, 1 Soviet partisan and 1 informer, who was punished by the Gestapo as a traitor for his efforts to join the resistance before the end of the war just for alibi reasons. The execution was performed ​​despite the fact that the head of the Main Reich Security Office Ernst Kaltenbrunner had ordered their termination during his visit to the Small Fortress on April 19th 1945. However, the Prague Gestapo and KH Frank were of a different opinion. Many of the murdered victims were very young people. (For more about the last execution in Terezin see the Newsletter 2/2010).


The life stories of two executed…

Jiri Langer (1916 – 1945)

Jiří Langer with his family, FAPT 8551

Jiří Langer with his family, FAPT 8551

After his childhood spent in Brandys nad Labem Jiri trained for an electrical engineer and in 1934 he obtained his certificate of apprenticeship. In the second half of the 30s he started a two-year full-time service. He first worked as a telephone operator of Artillery Regiment No. 51 and immediately afterwards, from October 1938 to February 1939, he continued in further active service.

From 1941 he worked in Prague Jawa company. A year later he married a milliner Anna and moved to Lysa nad Labem, where he became the father of a little Eva after 10 months.

At that time he began to work in the resistance. He was in contact with the Kohout brothers from Brandys nad Labem, who he knew from his childhood. Along with them, he set up the illegal organization Stred under the Headquarters of the Revolutionary National Committee and with the help of former military Defence of the Nation. According to the memories of his wife, he often pretended illness not to have to go to work, but to be able to secretly take part in illegal activities instead. He allegedly hid secret materials in a ruined wall in the garden.

Secret note by Jiří Langer for his wife from the Small Fortress, A 10405-9

Secret note by Jiří Langer for his wife from the Small Fortress, A 10405-9

For his activities he was arrested in mid-June 1944. First he got to Prague Pankrac prison with a record: preparation of high treason. At the end of 1944 he found himself in the Small Fortress in Terezin. His card said Communist Party, later also the sign XYZ appeared: a symbol used in Terezin to identify prisoners who were assumed to be sentenced to death in case of a trial.

For his apprenticeship he got to so-called workshop court in Terezin police prison, where he helped the civil employee J. Razka from Radosovice. Conditions for survival were slightly better in this court than in other parts of the prison as there was no typhoid here. His cellmate recalled after the war that Jiri sometimes very fervently preached communism on the cell and he had to calm him down because traitors were even among the prisoners.

On the eve of the last Terezin execution Langer got an injection against typhoid. The next morning, on May 2nd 1945, he reported that to the Head of the Workshop J. Razka telling him that he would rather stay in bed that day. However, after lunch, the guards came for him and put him against the workshop wall. Jiri assessed well what was going to happen and tried to escape. Barking dogs allegedly gave him away and Jiri Langer was shot dead during his attempt to flee. He was the only one of all selected for the last execution in Terezin, who the Nazis did not bring up to the execution ground.

Alzbeta Schwarzova (1923 – 1945)

Alžběta Schwarzová, FAPT 3652

Alžběta Schwarzová, FAPT 3652

Alzbeta Schwarzova was born to Czech parents in Vienna. In spite of their residence, the family felt Czech in hearts; therefore, after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, they registered for the Czechoslovak citizenship. Nevertheless, when Germany implemented “Anschluss” (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, the Schwarzes moved to Czechoslovakia. Their fears were well founded – Elizabeth’s father was a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws and Elizabeth a Jewish half-breed. In a year, however, they were not safe in Prague either.

In the school year 1942/1943 Elizabeth was attending the eighth year of the Academic Grammar School Na Prikope in Prague 2. Two months before the graduation, she was excluded from the grammar school for racial reasons. Afterwards, she found a job in a factory for chemical paper, where mostly Jews and people of mixed races were working. At that time she was already involved in illegal resistance. She was active in a communist resistance group which was spreading illegal publications. However, they were traced by the Gestapo in August 1944 and Elizabeth was arrested. She spent two and a half months in Pankrac prison in Prague and then was transported to the police prison in Terezin, where she met her mother at the woman’s yard. Her mum was taking a good care of her in the prison, as if Lisa was a little girl again. For example, she knitted her a sweater from wool scraps gleaned from other women prisoners. Both women spent Christmas here. In the spring of 1945 their chances of successful survival were growing because the conditions at the woman’s yard were not as difficult as in other parts of the prison affected by typhoid epidemics.

Elizabeth’s mother returned from Terezin after the liberation, however, Elizabeth was shot dead along with other prisoners during the last execution in Terezin on 2nd May 1945.


Information about the last execution in the Terezin police prison and the others executed there: Hajkova, A.: The last execution in Terezin, Svoboda, Prague 1988

Seminar for Czech and Polish teachers in Auschwitz

Visit of the Block 10 in Auschwitz I

Visit of the Block 10 in Auschwitz I

Thorough inspections of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps, special visit to publicly inaccessible block 10 associated with horrible experiments on women, information on the conservation laboratories of the museum and a meeting with the survivor of the Warsaw uprising and a subsequent prisoner of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, today a poet Bogdan Bartnikowsky – all of that will be remembered by twelve Czech teachers who participated in a special seminar at the State Museum Auschwitz – Birkenau in early March 2014. The seminar took place on the days of the tragic events anniversary – 70 years after the disposal of the so-called Terezin family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau (1944).
During the guided tour with Maia Srajerowa

During the guided tour with Maia Srajerowa

The seminar was exceptional for us in that respect that it was intended not only for Czech but also for Polish teachers, which gave the event another dimension – the dimension of a meeting. The International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, which organized this seminar, incorporated interesting educational blocks in the programme, thanks to which we learned a little about the historical development of education about the Holocaust in Western and Eastern Europe, and of course, the programme also included presentations of school projects delivered by teachers themselves.

We greatly appreciate the long-term cooperation with the State Museum Auschwitz – Birkenau and we hope that our next joint endeavour will be just as successful as this one.


Seminars “How to teach about the Holocaust”

Meeting with the survivors – Helga Hošková-Weissová and Lisa Miková

Meeting with the survivors – Helga Hošková-Weissová and Lisa Miková

The 15th spring season of the seminars for teachers on “How to teach about the Holocaust” took place in Prague’s Jewish Museum and the Terezin Memorial. They were attended by more than 80 Czech teachers. The three-day programme included lectures on Judaism and the Jewish settlement of Bohemia and Moravia, anti-Semitism, psychological aspects of the genocide, the history of the Jewish ghetto in Terezin, and the genocide of the Roma population.
Workshop done by the Museum of the Romani culture, Brno during the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“ “, jaro 2014

Workshop done by the Museum of the Romani culture, Brno during the seminar „How to teach about the Holocaust?“

The Terezin workshops offered to one group of participants a closer meeting with people who have gone through the ghetto, whereas the other group of participants worked with the theme of the biblical story of Queen Esther within the art therapy workshop and the last group attended a workshop of the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno. Through the workshops they had the opportunity to learn about some of the activities which the institutions offer to children within educational seminars.


“A strip o paper decides about the fate of a human [...]“

Transport of Jews from the Terezin Ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Autumn 1944

The historical-documentary exhibition of the Terezin Memorial was created to honour the 70th anniversary of the last wave of transports from the Terezin ghetto to the concentration and extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The exhibition is designed for both the professional and lay public and is divided into two main parts closed by a clear calendar of events in the autumn of 1944.

A strip of paper – calling to the transport for Irma Hirsch, October 1944, A 3667

A strip of paper – calling to the transport for Irma Hirsch, October 1944, A 3667

The first general part documents the development, progress and impact of the transport waves on the Terezin prisoners in September and October 1944. Among others, it brings important and often first published documents concerning prisoners’ responses to the upcoming transports (absence, mandatory placement, voluntary registration for a transport). The horror of transports is also monitored in the diaries of Terezin prisoners (Alisah Shek) or in the correspondence held in a neutral foreign country (Fritz Ullmann).

The second part of the exhibition is then devoted to several profiles of the Terezin prisoners. Of the many thousands of deportees in autumn 1944, we would like to introduce some of the personalities who participated in the organization of life in the Terezin ghetto. Among them shall be the leaders of the government as well as of various religious and hobby groups, the representatives of athletes and artists. This overview also contains information about the fate of children deported to the death, as well as their leaders. The sad story of a single rabbi active in the Terezin ghetto shall also be presented.

Both parts of the exhibition will be accompanied with rich documentary material from the collections of domestic and foreign institutions and will also offer original documents, drawings and three-dimensional objects.

The exhibition is situated in the Small Fortress on the IVth yard, cel No. 42, in term: July 17th – October 31st, 2014.


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S příchodem nacistů se mé dětské mysli otevřely podivné obzory. Uvědomil jsem si, že nelze spontánně ctít starosty, radní, duchovní, soudce, učitele, různé přednosty, ale že si naši úctu musí zasloužit. Vždyť někteří z těch, které jsem míval v oblibě, zvedali pravici k poctě vůdce a později pilně vstupovali do komunistické strany. Začal jsem brzy lidi třídit. — Tom Luke, Kolektiv autorů: Pokoj 127, Domov mládeže Q708, Terezín, Gymnázium Plzeň a o.s. HUMR, 2007, s. 89.