Scrapbookpages Blog

August 15, 2015

Holocaust survivors who were sent from Auschwitz to Theresienstadt to be gassed

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 12:55 pm
Holoaust survivors who were saved when they were sent to the UK

Holoaust survivors who were saved when they were sent to the UK (Click to enlarge)

This quote is from a news story, which you can read in full here. The photo above is included in the news article.

In 1945, a group of Jewish children who came to be known as the “Windermere Boys” were granted refuge at hostels in the Lake District [in the UK].

The youngsters who arrived at the scenic Calgarth Estate near Windermere were orphaned boys and girls aged four to 18 who had somehow managed to survive the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust.

Among them was Samuel Laskier, a Polish Jew who spent seven months in Auschwitz before taking the “worst journey imaginable” to Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic, which was liberated by the Russians on May 8, the day Germany surrendered.

Why was going from Auschwitz to Theresienstadt the “worst journey imaginable”?  Auschwitz was a “death camp” where Jews were gassed; Theresienstadt did not have a reputation for gassing Jews. At least not until the very end of the war.

Gate into the Theresienstadt ghetto

Gate into the Theresienstadt ghetto (click to enlarge)

I blogged about the gas chamber at Theresienstadt in this previous blog post:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/gas-chamber-at-theresienstadt/

Toward the end of World War II, there were rumors circulating in all of the major Nazi concentration camps, that Hitler had given the order for all the inmates to be killed before the arrival of the Soviet or American soldiers, who would liberate the camps. This was believed to be the purpose for building a gas chamber at Theresienstadt in 1945 at the tail end of the war.

At Auschwitz, the inmates were given the choice of staying in the camp, or following the Germans on a death march to other camps in the west before the Soviet army arrived. Very few prisoners stayed behind, except those who were too old or too sick to walk; the prisoners believed that they would be killed by the Soviets if they stayed at Auschwitz.

After April 20, 1945, there were 13,454 of these wretched survivors from Auschwitz and other camps who poured into Theresienstadt. Some were housed in the Hamburg barracks, right by the railroad tracks. The others were put into temporary wooden barracks outside the ghetto, which were taken down soon after the war.

Some of the people who arrived from the evacuated camps were former inmates of Theresienstadt who were now returning. Others were Jews who had been in the eastern concentration camps for years. On May 3, 1945, the Theresienstadt  ghetto was turned over to the Red Cross by Commandant Karl Rahm.

Some of the newcomers had been evacuated from Buchenwald on April 5th just before the camp was liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. Before the Americans arrived, Hitler himself had given the order to evacuate the Jews from Buchenwald in an effort to prevent them from exacting revenge on German citizens after they were freed.

Some of the Buchenwald prisoners, who arrived at Theresienstadt, were in terrible condition after they had been traveling by train for two weeks without food.

After the liberation of Buchenwald, some of the prisoners, who had not been evacuated, commandeered American army jeeps and weapons, then drove to the nearby town of Weimar where, in an orgy of revenge, they looted German homes and shot innocent civilians at random. This was the type of thing that the Nazis were trying to prevent by evacuating the concentration camps before they were liberated.

According to Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who was one of the prisoners brought to Theresienstadt in the last days of the war, the inmates of the Theresienstadt ghetto went on a rampage as soon as they were released. They looted homes, beat to death an SS guard from the ghetto, and attacked the ethnic Germans who were now homeless refugees, fleeing to Germany, after being driven out of the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia.

According to Martin Gilbert in his book Holocaust Journey, Commandant Karl Rahm told the Red Cross that he had received orders from Berlin to kill all the inmates in the ghetto before the Russians arrived, but he had disobeyed the order. Because of this, Rahm was allowed to leave the Theresienstadt camp unmolested on the day before the Russians arrived on May 8, 1945. He was later captured and tried in a Special People’s Court in nearby Litomerice; he was convicted and was executed in 1947.

The life and death of Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:50 am

This quote is from a recent news article: “Samuel Pisar, who survived Auschwitz as a boy to become a successful lawyer, an adviser to presidents and the creator of the text for Leonard Bernstein’s symphony “Kaddish,” died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 86.”

Samuel Pisar

Samuel Pisar (Click to enlarge)

When I read in the news today that Samuel Pisar had died recently, that name instantly rang a bell.  I knew that I had written about him on my website many years ago.  I looked up his name, and sure enough, I found what I had written  about his survival, as a teenager in the Auschwitz death camp, and his march out of Dachau, just before the camp was liberated by American soldiers.

Prisoners marching out of Dachau

Prisoners marching out of Dachau just before the camp was liberated

This quote is from the news story about Samuel Pisar’s death:

In a series of interviews with The New York Times in 2009, he [Samuel Pisar] described how he had survived the death camps by becoming pitiless and cruel, finding older protectors and ways to appear privileged in a hierarchy of despair, like persuading a prisoner-tailor to refashion a cap so that the stripes on the top perfectly met the stripes on the side. He was condemned to die at least twice, but managed to slip back into the general prison population, once convincing a guard that he was there only to wash the floor.

“I had to learn bad habits,” he said, “to be good at lying and make instant judgments about people, what they were saying, what they really thought, and not just the guards and torturers, but my fellow prisoners, too. I was a cute kid, and there were a lot of psychotics around.”

At the end of the war, he escaped during a death march [out of Dachau].

But to rejoin the world, “I had to wipe out the first 17 years of my life,” he said. “I muted the past” and “turned to the future with a vengeance.”

This is what I wrote about Samuel Pisar on my website years ago:

Acting upon Hitler’s orders, the Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, made an attempt to evacuate the Dachau main camp before the American liberators arrived. On April 26th, 1945, Weiter left the camp with a transport of prisoners bound for Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachu in Austria. On that same day, 1,759 Jewish prisoners were put on a train that was headed south.

Also on April 26th, there were 6,887 other prisoners, half of whom were Jews, that started on a march south to the mountains.

[These prisoners were being marched out of Dachau because the Nazis were afraid that they would roam the countryside, killing German civilians, if they were released from Dachau by the American liberators. A few did escape and that is exactly what happened.]

One of the prisoners who survived the march out of Dachau was Samuel Pisar, a Polish Jew who emigrated to America after the war, became an international lawyer and wrote a book entitled Of Blood and Hope.

Pisar was 13 years old when the Bialystock ghetto in northeastern Poland was liquidated. He was sent to the extermination camp at Majdanek, but his mother and younger sister were sent to Auschwitz. His father had already been shot by the Gestapo.

A few months later, Pisar was transferred to Auschwitz where he was given a job working near the crematoria at Birkenau. He could hear the cries of the innocents as they were herded into the gas chambers while an orchestra played classical music.

When Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945, Pisar was one of the prisoners on the death march out of the camp; he ended up in Dachau where his misery continued. When American planes strafed the column of Jews marching out of Dachau, he managed to escape and was eventually rescued by American soldiers. He had just turned 16 and had survived three long years of Nazi persecution.

End of quote from my website

Samuel Pisar’s whole story is one of Holocaust denial. As everyone knows, the Jews went through a selection process in the death camps, and everyone under the age of 16 was gassed.

Pisar was sent to Majdanek, which was a death camp, at the age of 13, but he wasn’t gassed. From Majdanek, he was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, another death camp. When the Nazis marched out of Birkenau, he joined them instead of waiting to be liberated by the Soviets. For some reason, he had no fear of following the Nazis to Dachau where there was another gas chamber waiting for him.

Then he was sent on a death march out of Dachau, but he wasn’t killed. His whole story is one of Holocaust denial. The purpose of a “death march” was to kill the prisoners. The first time that I was called a Holocaust denier was when I wrote that the purpose of a “death march” was NOT to kill the prisoners, but to prevent them from roaming the countryside and attacking German civilians.