Zpravodaj 3/2014

Autumn transports of 1944 from the ghetto to the East reflected in prisoners’ recollections

The data in this article is based on the Terezín Memorial Exhibition “Through a Slip of Paper a Person’s Destiny is Decided[...]“, which was created on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the last wave of transports from the Terezín ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau in autumn 1944.

The Terezín ghetto in summer 1944

Aussenberg, A.: Stromy v Terezíně IV - Šance/ Trees in Terezin - Ramparts, PT 8578, ©Maureen McCarthy Koth, Deirdre McCarthy-King

Aussenberg, A.: Stromy v Terezíně IV – Šance/ Trees in Terezin – Ramparts, PT 8578, ©Maureen McCarthy Koth, Deirdre McCarthy-King

The events of spring and summer 1944 (the advance of Soviet troops and the invasion of the Western Allies in France) supported the Nazi plans for the extermination of the Terezin prisoners. The occupants were aware of the fact that Jews interned in the ghetto could set at defiance in extreme situations. This fear resulted in preparations for the removal of the “Czech element in Terezin.” June visit of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Terezin was extremely useful to cover the Nazi plans, especially the inspection report drawn up by Dr. Maurice Rossel. It said that Terezin was a “final camp” and no transports to the East were sent from there. Also the August Slovak National Uprising pushed Nazis to “solve” the security situation in Theresienstadt since Slovak insurgents had freed many Jewish labour camps winning the former prisoners on their side. The actual implementation of the Nazi plans in Terezin was eventually postponed to the end of September for a propaganda “documentary” was still being shot in the ghetto during August and September.

Transports in September and October 1944

Outlines to transport ´Et´ (23/10/1944) from Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It shows the numbers of deportees in the transport, number of volunteers (F), number of „weisungs“ (W) and also number of those, who were eliminated from the transport at the station. A 10966-4v

Outlines to transport ´Et´ (23/10/1944) from Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It shows the numbers of deportees in the transport, number of volunteers (F), number of „weisungs“ (W) and also number of those, who were eliminated from the transport at the station. A 10966-4v

The news of upcoming transports affected the whole ghetto in September 1944. It was generally believed that the transports were really going to work. This SS assertion of labour deployment was supported by set age limits as well as a notification to the Council of Elders stating that men recruited for work should enjoy the same privileges as other working groups before (protection of the closest relatives against transports, etc.). During one month, 18,402 prisoners were transported from the Terezín ghetto to the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Less than 10% of them survived to see the liberation.

Ghetto inmates were assigned to transports on the basis of given criteria. Nevertheless, there were also other ways to get on the transport list:

´Freiwilig´ – at least 1,270 people volunteered for a transport in autumn 1944. These volunteers were leaving with hopes to meet their loved ones. However, the chances of reunion in the death camp were slim.

The list of volunteers (F), transport ´Et´ from Terezin to Auswchitz-Birkenau, October 23rd, 1944. A 10966-5v

Inclusion in a transport by order of the SS -’Weisung’ orders were coming to the Council of Elders in the ghetto from more places – from the SS headquarters in Terezín, from the Prague Central Office for Jewish Emigration, etc. Prisoners with a “W” sign were found unsuitable for further stay in the ghetto and should be sent to the East. In the context of transports they were placed in the first or last cars with other prisoners. “W-prominent figures” were put into personal cars reserved for members of the Protective Police accompanying each transport. Those placed there were escorted to physical extermination immediately on the arrival. Weisung was given also to people who had avoided boarding previous transports. In this way about 338 Weisung inmates were deported with the autumn transports.

Exemption from transport – ´Ausgereiht´– it could be granted to a person needed in the ghetto, e.g. with respect to his professional skills. For this case there were protective documents – filing cabinets with names of such important people. They were cathegorized by colours in so-called “blue reserves“ (contingent of strictly necessary forces) and “white reserves“ (contingent of very important labour forces). Gradually, with the need of placing more people on transports, these protective documents slowly ceased to be valid though.


Strip of paper – removed from the transport, A 6567

Chances for official exemption from transport were very slim. Among the possibilities to avoid the deportation was not boarding a transport train. Prisoners already had experience from before and knew that avoiding transports was followed by collective draconian punishments. Yet, it did not discourage prisoners placed on transports in autumn 1944 from trying to avoid them. These efforts were allegedly supported by inscriptions in wagons which shuttled back from Auschwitz to Terezín for new prisoners: “Wir kommen gleich nach Auschwitz an.” (“We’ll soon arrive in Auschwitz.”) As a rule, however, prisoners who had not come to the transport were captured and sent to the East with the following train. According to the records, 32 prisoners managed to escape the threat of autumn transports and save their lives.

Autumn transports on diary pages – written by Pavel Weiner

The Weiner family before 1942, FAPT 8829

The image of the ghetto in autumn 1944 is reflected in many diaries of Terezin inmates. Let us take a closer look at these weeks using the notes in a diary of a thirteen-year-old Pavel Weiner (1931-2010). Pavel was deported to the ghetto in May 1942 along with his parents and elder brother Hanus (in the diary called Handa). He stayed at boys’ heim L 417 in quarters No. 7.

(The diary notes are shortened with left passages related to the topic; quotations are modified only for better comprehensibility of shortened records. The original diary is written in Czech in hand and consists of 7 parts. It is stored in the archives of USHMM in Washington and its copy can also be found in the archives of the Terezín Memorial.)

24th September 1944

“Mrs. Mautner wakes us up. Her first words are: Do you already know that the age limits were extended to 16 – 55 years? I get a direct hit. On my mind gets my dad and brother and their departure. It does not leave me in peace… I quickly run to my dad, who I luckily find sitting at his desk. In his talk he has already resigned to going. I must comfort my dad by saying that everybody is going. It is actually true. Whoever you meet, they will tell you they are on… I’m trying to comfort my dad, but without success. Different uncertain pieces of news are rumoured, like that šlojska (the registration place of incoming and outgoing transports, ed.) is going to be in the Hamburg barracks in the ghetto, five thousand of people shall be called up, the transport shall be divided into two with 2,5 thousand on each train… …The most protected shall be Forwarding, because women cannot do this work. On the way to barracks Dad tells me to treat Momwell and behave. I feel sad. .. Out of the whole Jugendfürsorge (Department of Youth Care, ed.) only 4 people are going to stay. All Betreuers are going, incl. Franta (František Maier, *1922, head of Pavel’s home, ed.) The entire programme (secret teaching in the ghetto, ed.) is ruined as Zwicker, Kohn and Eisinger are leaving too. I’m totally wrecked. All has come out of normality…“

25th September 1944

“Dad and Handa still think that their luggage is too heavy and keep repacking it. … They still do not realize what is happening. I can see only crying faces in the streets… Finally there is time to go to šlojska. Our bags are very heavy. I would not be able to carry any of them…. There is a cramped crowd of people in front of šlojska. We exchange a few kisses, not without tears, and soon Ours disappear in the gates…“

Page from the transport list of the transport signed ´Au1´, dispatched from Prague on May 15th, 1942. With numbers 908 – 911 – members of the Weiner family. Pavel and his mother are in frames – they survived in the Terezin ghetto. Father and Hans were sent to Auschwitz with tranport ´Ek in October 1944. A 7369

28th September 1944

“Although we can sleep longer I get up and run to šlojska. Police officers and Ghetto inmates are all around. In vain I look up to the window. Ours do not appear. In a crowd of people I can see my mother crying. … The ghetto looks sad without men. I cannot imagine that I could live for several months without Dad and Handa. I go for lunch. I keep looking at the chairs where Handa and Dad should be sitting. God knows when I’ll see them … ”

2nd October 1944

“… I go for lunch and spend the noon with my mum. Then something terrible. Voice: (coming into the barracks) Do you already know that tomorrow 1,500 women belonging to the men who left by previous transports are going? – as if struck by lightning. At first, I do not want to believe it. But it is almost certain that we will go …. I personally do not care at all … The only hope, in fact I do not know how to call it, is that my mum works in glimr (cleavage of mica, war production in Terezin, ed.). This one is said to be protected. But everyone says something different, so I’ll leave it to the fate. .. I talk to boys as an expert for matters of transport already. All the guys persuade me that I should not be going. So I go to my mum. My mum is all angry. She is really worried that we’ll have to leave ¾ of our entire property here. Now everything depends on what we can carry… I’ll carry a backpack, a bedroll and a food case… There is a rumour that we will also be allowed to have a hand baggage. We’ll see. Mom finds a backpack and wildly begins to pack us… I even have to dress like for a transport … ”

5th October 1944

“Today they again announce a transport. … In our room it is: Gansalka, Gustl, Brenner and Seiner….“

8th October 1944

“I feel someone wake me up. I can see it is still dark. I hear Mangl’s voice: See, we’re on. .. I’m truly sorry that Mangl is going. I’m unlucky that my best friend is leaving. The news about people who had gone before is terrible. They are said to be in Birkenau deprived of everything and suffering bomb attacks. I will rather not say it my mum. All the morning I then sit by my mum and read Little Lord, which is my best fun…. Still the same old song, transports… I’m in such a dreadful condition that I’m not capable of anything. In the evening we go for a walk with my mum thinking about the events of the past days. Then I go to šlojska to see Mangl…“

10th October 1944

“… Today another transport is announced. I’m already completely indifferent to that…“

13th October 1944

“Tomorrow’s transport is on the horizon. Such kind has not been here yet. It is true: All of the administration …they go to the registration and mostly everyone will go. … No news from my dad…“

14th October 1944

“The transport has not been announced yet, but everyone is sure to be in … Here come the first invitations: Bäumel and Eli are the first victims, immediately followed by: Götzlinger, Koko, Kopperl, Eckstein, Lappert. It’s horrible. Only 15 boys are left out of the whole house. ..Nothing but crying can be seen in the street… I myself feel like the last of the Mohicans, who is left after the storm. I do not know what they intend to do with us… ”

15th October 1944

“…I go to my mum. I sit and read. Then my mum comes to me, all tired and happy about my good look. I feel sorry for her that she toils so much. In the mornings she goes to the bakery, in the afternoons to glimr. When I think about not seeing my mum for all day, it makes me sad and homesick…. I’m walking along the empty streets with my head down. .. I recall Dad and Handa and feel like crying. I think of Mangl, my friend who I miss so much… now I can see only darkness and in the dark a single bright point and that is my mum, and still, somewhere in the distance, there is something more shining, that’s my dad and Handa and Mangl .”

18th October 1944

“Yesterday another transport was announced…. From us there was: Petera, März, Springer and Pedro, who has got out of it though. We are only 11 in the Heim. It gives the impression of emptiness…“


”The following days are terrible, maybe of the worst in my life. I feel so awfully alone, so alone that I would yell… I can see today’s transport again before me. I again inadvertently watch Beran going away. Now I’m thus alone, all alone. We were talking with Beran all days…”

21st and 22nd October 1944

“A transport is boarding and we do not know at all what will come next… We are only 8 in the house…“

27th October 1944

“… I wake up in the morning and see my mum in front of me. Her first words are that boys, 4 of them, are in the transport.“

28th October 1944

“So today is the famous 28th October that should be celebrated and instead it is such ugly and rainy weather, and only crying and sadness to be seen in Terezín. The transport is leaving. Again, a little spark of a big flame is leaving. Where? Nobody knows.“


Pavel with his mother survived in the Terezín ghetto. Father Ludvík died in Kaufering, branch camp of CC Dachau, in December 1944. Hanus, Pavel’s brother, a month later in January 1944.


Seminar for Polish teachers

The lecture by Vojtech Blodig during the seminar for Polish teachers. Photo: Památník Terezín

The lecture by Vojtech Blodig during the seminar for Polish teachers. Photo: Památník Terezín

At the weekend of 30th May – 1st June 2014, a training seminar for Polish teachers called Terezín – The Place of Memory was held. Less than thirty teachers from different parts of Poland attended the three-day programme focused mainly on increasing knowledge about the Terezin ghetto and the Gestapo police prison in the Small Fortress (lectures, tours, meeting with an eyewitness). Other sub-themes of lectures and workshops were the image of former ghetto in the postwar Czechoslovak film production as well as understanding the role and development of the Terezín Memorial from its inception to the present day.

The seminar could be held due to the excellent partner relationships between the Terezín Memorial and the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau together with the Polish Institute of National Remembrance; the seminar is part of the intensive cooperation of these educational institutions.


Czech-German Youth Meeting in Terezin (April 25th – 27th, 2014)

Last weekend in April, the Terezín Memorial hosted the 8th Meeting of Czech and German Youth, organized by Tandem, whose main activity is the coordination of youth exchange between these two countries. The event was attended by approximately 80 Czechs and Germans at the age of 16 to 26.

The programme reflected its motto Together on the Path to Memories. This focus became most accomplished through a meeting with eye-witnesses of the Terezín ghetto and other camps, Mrs. Dagmar Lieblova and Mr. Felix Kolmer. Both witnesses were rewarded with thunderous applause after the talk. They deserved it not only for their cordial demeanour, but also for their encouraging words about each individual’s responsible approach to contemporary society-wide developments.

Another emotional experience of the meeting came with the presentation of the children’s opera Brundibar performed by Disman Radio Children Ensemble. Scientific scope of the programme was ensured by lecturers of many inland and foreign institutions representingthe Jewish Museum in Prague, Lidice Memorial, Terezin Initiative Institute, Institute of History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, USC Shoah Foundation, Bavarian Youth Labour Union, Collegium Bohemicum, Brücke/Most Foundation, House of Conference in Wannsee, Terezín Memorial, Centre for Visual History Malach, Memory of Nations and others. The common theme of their activities, whether lectures, workshops or discussions, were the possibilities of using memorable places for today’s young people. The participants completed their intensive collective, but also individual return to the past by a memorial assembly at the National Cemetery in front of the Small Fortress.


Photo: Filip Singer

Important visits in the Terezín Memorial

In the first half of April, Terezin was visited by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the company of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Both politicians laid wreaths at the National Cemetery near the Small Fortress and, accompanied by Deputy Director of the Terezín Memorial Vojtěch Blodig, they visited the Memorial objects as well as recently renovated premisses in the town. A brief working meeting about the foundation of the European Centre for Holocaust education then took place in the Ghetto Museum.

In early May, Terezin welcomed German President Joachim Gauck with his life partner Daniela Schadt and his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman with his wife Ivana. The delegation, accompanied by former prisoners of Terezin Mr. Felix Kolmer and Tomáš Kosta and Deputy Director of TM Vojtěch Blodig, visited the Small Fortress and laid wreaths at the National Cemetery. German President and his company then continued their Terezin tour with a visit to the Ghetto Museum.

 from TM press release

“Do I really feel so good in Theresienstadt…?“

On June 12th 2014, an awarding ceremony of the 18th year of the art and the 20th year of the literary contests of the Terezín Memorial were held  in the Ghetto Museum under the title “Do I really feel so good in Theresienstadt? …”. The theme had been chosen due to the 70th anniversary of the Nazi propaganda efforts associated with the Terezín ghetto (film shooting, visit of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

In total, 427 works from 80 schools throughout the Republic registered in the competitions, out of which 44 were awarded. Score sheets and samples of art work are to be found on the website of the Terezin Memorial.

In addition to children, students, their parents and other guests, the afternoon ceremony was also  attended by the Children’s Choir Brno under the direction of their choirmaster Valerie MATASOVA. Accompanied by pianist Sarka Kralova, they sang the following pieces of Terezín composers: Three Hebrew Pieces For Boys’ Choir of Viktor Ullmann and four songs from the programme Flowered Horse composed for children from Prague Jewish orphanages in the time before Terezín by Karel Reiner and lyricist Norbert Fryd.

During the ceremony a special remembrance was paid to the founder and sponsor of the Terezín contests Mrs. Hana Greenfield, who died in January 2014.


Terezín commemorative ceremony

On 18th May 2014 at the National Cemetery in front of the Small Fortress in Terezín, a traditional commemorative event was held to honour the victims of Nazi persecution . The event was organized by the Central Committee of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters along with the Terezín Memorial and the following co-organizers: Usti nad Labem region, town of Terezín, Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and Terezin Initiative. Patronage of the commemoration ceremony was taken by the Minister of Culture Daniel Herman.

The reverent act was viewed by hundreds of people despite steady rain. Laying of wreaths and bouquets was followed by the anthem, a Christian prayer from the mouth of the Provost of St Stephen Chapter in Litomerice Jiri Hladik, and a Jewish prayer delivered by Prague Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon.

The main speech was delivered by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. The remembrance ceremony programme ended with a chorus from the third act of Verdi’s opera Nabucco performed by Děčín choir.

Before the commemorative ceremony at the National Cemetery, there was one another commemorative act, that took place at the former place of execution in the Small Fortress to honour the victims of the last execution carried out in the Terezin police prison at the beginning of May 1945.

from TM press release

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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.