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May 16, 2013

Theresienstadt survivor says invasion by Russian Army prevented the completion of the gas chambers there

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:49 am

Way back on May 24, 2012, I blogged about Claude Lanzmann’s new documentary film, entitled Last of the Unjust, which will be shown at the Cannes film festival on Saturday and is expected to win an award.  I also blogged about Lanzmann’s film and the gas chambers at Theresienstadt here.

The Last of the Unjust mentions Nisko, the first settlement where the Jews were sent by Adolf Eichmann.  Dr. Wolf Murmelstein, the son of Benjamin Murmelstein, wrote an essay about his father and the Nisko settlement, which you can read on my website here.

The subject of gas chambers at the Theresienstadt concentration camp has been in the news lately, due to the release of Claude Lanzmann’s new film featuring Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish leader at Theresienstadt, who gave testimony 10 years ago about the gas chambers at Theresienstadt for Lanzmann’s film Shoah.  His testimony wound up on the cutting room floor, but has now been included in Lanzmann’s new film.  You can read about Lanzmann and the film here.

In a recent news article which you can read in full here, Inge Auerbacher, a child survivor of Theresienstadt, [Terezin], was quoted as saying this:

Only the invasion of that area by the Russian Army prevented the completion of gas chambers at Terezin, [Auerbacher] said.

Inge Auerbacher was also quoted as saying this in her recent talk to students in Montana:

Holocaust deniers are everywhere she said, noting that the president of Iran claims the crematories in the concentration camps were just bakery ovens.

I also blogged here about the claim that the cremation ovens at Auschwitz were bakery ovens.

Inge was lucky to have survived the Theresienstadt camp; you can read about the death statistics at Theresienstadt on my website here.

This quote is from the newspaper article about Inge Auerbacher’s talk:

Auerbacher was born on Dec. 31, 1934, in a little German village, that was over 1,000 years old. There were 60 Jewish families there and they happily lived next door to Christian families. Her father was a textile merchant and a disabled World War I veteran. Her grandfather, who lived in another village, was also a German war veteran. “We were very patriotic. We died for Germany,” she said. “Yes, we were Jewish, but we were good Germans.”

Her name, she pointed out, is a very common German name for a girl. She wore German clothing, she spoke German, the only difference, she said, was where she worshipped (sic).

Things began to change in 1938 with the beginning of riots against Jewish neighborhoods. On Nov. 10, 1938, riots struck her village, and mobs broke out every window in the homes and businesses of Jews and her father and grandfather were arrested and taken to the concentration camp at Dachau. The mob desecrated the synagogue in their community.

Somehow, after a few weeks, her father and grandfather were allowed to come home, and they immediately began trying to find a way to leave Germany. They sold their home and moved in with her grandparents in an even smaller village. They applied to immigrate to the United States and were put on a waiting list more than 10 years long. “We were stuck, with great hopes of leaving,” she said.

Auerbacher recalls the time they lived in this little village as her only childhood. During that time, her grandfather died of a broken heart from the way Germany betrayed its war veterans and from the physical abuse he endured at Dachau.

In 1941, deportations in her part of Germany started in the winter. The school was closed and she never finished first grade. She didn’t go back to school until she was 15 years old. Her grandmother was deported first. The family did not know for some time, but she was taken to the Black Forest and shot. She lies in a mass grave today. Eventually, Auerbacher, her mother and father, were deported to Terezin [Theresienstadt], a concentration camp built in an old military garrison in what is now the Czech Republic.

Auerbacher remembers that they could take almost nothing when they were deported. A few articles of clothing, metal dishes, a bedroll, and, for her, her special dolly, “Marlene,” named after the German-American movie star Marlene Dietrich.

Her time in Terezin is a blur of brutality, squalor, hunger, sickness and sorrow. She suffered scarlet fever there and many other illnesses. Her hair was filled with lice and her body covered with boils. “Hunger was a constant companion. You didn’t think about anything else but food, food, food,” she said. “You either lived or you died,” she said.

Terezin was a staging place, a transit area where two-thirds of those sent there were eventually shipped to killing centers, and a third died there. Of the 50,000 children under the age of 15 who came through Terezin, only a little more than 100 survived. Only the invasion of that area by the Russian Army prevented the completion of gas chambers at Terezin, she said.

Throughout this brutal time, she said, her father never lost hope. He told his wife, you wait and see, you’ll ride in a car again someday.

His faith sustained them, and on May 8, they were finally liberated. Eventually, they returned to her grandmother’s village and lived in an apartment there. “We were a miracle that our family survived,” she said.


After retiring, she became an activist for the Holocaust, traveling to Europe, revisiting Terezin and the places of her youth, writing her books and starting on speaking tours.

Theresienstadt, now known as Terezin, is most famous for the Red Cross visit in June 1944.  A second Red Cross visit was scheduled for April 6, 1945 and Adolf Eichmann came to Theresienstadt on March 5, 1945 to check out the camp.  According to some Holocaust experts, that is when he ordered gas chambers to be built at Theresienstadt because the gas chambers at Auschwitz had been closed in November 1944, and he wanted to continue the genocide of the Jews at Theresienstadt.

By March 1945, there was complete chaos in Europe in the final days of the war and Theresienstadt had become shabby again, after the first Red Cross visit in June 1944. Most of the able-bodied Jews in the camp had been sent on the transports to Auschwitz, where there were factories in which the Jews were being put to work for the German war effort. Most of the remaining inmates were elderly people or young children, like 10 year-old Inge Auerbacher, who were not able to work. Eichmann ordered the town to be cleaned up again, and the ghetto passed a second Red Cross inspection in 1945 with a good report.

On April 15, 1945, all the Danish Jews in the ghetto were transported back to Denmark with the help of the Red Cross.

On May 3, 1945, the Nazis turned the whole Theresienstadt camp over to Red Cross workers who now had the difficult task of trying to save the survivors from a raging typhus epidemic.

Typhus had been brought into the Theresienstadt ghetto by 13,454 survivors of the eastern concentration camps who began arriving after April 20, 1945. Some of them had been sent to Auschwitz a few months earlier and were now returning. In the final days of the war, the Theresienstadt ghetto became a hell hole, where a typhus epidemic was totally out of control, just like the epidemic in the unfortunate Bergen-Belsen camp which the Nazis had voluntarily turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.

Typhus is caused by body lice, and the Germans had tried unsuccessfully to control the lice in the death camps in Poland by using Zyklon B, the same chemical that they used to kill the Jews in the homicidal gas chambers.

Way back in 2010, I blogged about the gas chambers at Theresienstadt here.

Lanzmann should get in touch with Inge Auerbacher immediately and set her straight about her denial of the gas chambers at Theresienstadt, which were most certainly finished, according to his new film.  Holocaust denial is against the law in 17 countries and Auerbacher could wind up in prison for 5 years for saying that the gas chambers at Terezin were not finished because the Russian Army arrived in the nick of time.