Scrapbookpages Blog

May 13, 2012

The three trains that left Bergen-Belsen in April 1945….were they bound for an extermination camp?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:08 am

This morning I read yet another news story here about Marion Blumenthal Lazan who gave a talk to middle school students in which she said that, in the last days of World War II, she was put on one of the three trains sent from Bergen-Belsen to an extermination camp.

I previously blogged about Marion’s story here.  In that talk to students, Marion was more explicit: she said that the train was taking the prisoners to the gas chamber.

I decided to do a little research and found this article about the Oppenheimer family members who were on “The Last Train from Belsen.”  But before getting to their story, I want to quote this sentence from the article about Marion’s latest talk to students:

[Marion’s] family was among 2,500 Jews put on a train headed for an extermination camp. What should have been a 10-hour journey took two weeks as the Nazis tried to evade the allies.

This quote is from the article about the Oppenheimer family:

Every Holocaust survivor has a different story. This is certainly true for the three Oppenheimer children, Eve, Rudi and Paul, who were fortunate to survive for five years under the Nazis in Holland, and in the camps of Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen, and who finished up on ‘The Last Train from Belsen.”

All three of the trains that left Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 were on their way to the Theresienstadt camp, which had been turned over to the Red Cross in the final days of the war.

This quote from the story of the Oppenheimer children tells why the prisoners were taken to Theresientstadt:

At this time, 600 people were dying in Belsen every day, including Anne Frank and her sister Margot in another section of the camp. But we realized that the Allies were winning the war. Eventually we could hear the Allied guns approaching Belsen and we looked forward to our liberation and freedom. But there was another ordeal in store for us because the Germans wanted to keep the “Exchange Jews” as hostages and the Star Camp was evacuated.

All the inmates were marched to the nearby railway loading ramp and we boarded the third of three trains. The other two trains departed; the first one was liberated by the American army within just a few days, the second one may have reached Theresienstadt, the perceived destination of all three trains.

Did Theresienstadt have a gas chamber?  Of course!  Every concentration camp had a Gaskammer.  You can read about the Theresienstadt gas chamber on this page of my website.  (Scroll down to the part about the Litomerice gate if you don’t want to read the whole page.)