Scrapbookpages Blog

December 11, 2015

Throwing ashes of Jews into rivers — fact or fiction?

TheresienstadtGate

The gate into the Theresienstadst ghetto is shown in my photo above, taken several years ago. This place is now known as Terezín [rhymes with kerosine and gasoline].

The subject of throwing ashes into rivers came up in this recent news article:  http://m.taggmanager.cz/en/1075

Newbies, who want to know more about throwing ashes into rivers, can read about Theresienstadt on this kosher website:  http://www.outsideprague.com/terezin/terezin.html

This quote is from the kosher website cited in the link above:

The other statistics for Terezín [Theresienstadt] are equally as difficult to comprehend. Within three years 87,000 people were sent from Terezín to the concentration camps in Poland. Less than 4000 survived. The ashes of 22,000 people were thrown into the Ohře River at the end of the war, in an attempt by the SS to disguise their activities. At the beginning of the war, Terezín was a town of 7,000 inhabitants, including soldiers stationed there. By the end its population had swelled to almost 58,000. 9,000 people are buried in graves around the fortress and around 35,000 people in total perished in Terezín during the war.

My photo of one of the buildings at Theresienstadt

My photo of a building at Theresienstadt

One of the regular readers of my blog is Wolf Murmelstein, who is a survivor of Terezín,  the place formerly known as Theresienstadt.

My photo of the wall around the Theresienstadt ghetto

My photo of the wall around the Theresienstadt ghetto

As a child, Wolf was confined in the Theresienstadt ghetto where his father, Benjamin Murmelstein, was the last Jewish elder of the ghetto.

The building where Benjamin Murmelstein worked at Theresienstadt

The building where Benjamin Murmelstein worked at Theresienstadt

Wolf recently wrote this in a comment, which I have edited because English is not his first language:

On October 31, 1944, the Nazis took all the boxes containing the ashes of persons dead at Theresienstadt out of the COLOMBARIUM.

All the boxes were brought to the nearby Eger river, where a group of twenty prisoners had to empty the boxes, and throw the ashes into the river. Needless to say, those prisoners had been shot just after having done that work.

Throwing the ashes of murdered victims in the water of a river is a very old pagan rite and perfectly consistent with the Nazi doctrine of the extirpation of Jews.

Clearly the tragic story of the SONDERKOMANDO members is no way suitable for a Hollywood film [such as Son of Saul].

I have visited Theresienstadt twice, after which I wrote about it on my this section of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/CzechRepublic/Theresienstadt/TheresienstadtGhetto/History/index.html

I wrote about the ashes of the Jews on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/CzechRepublic/Theresienstadt/TheresienstadtGhetto/History/RedCrossVisit.html
The following quote is from my website:

On the outskirts of the town [Theresienstadt], the Sokol building, formerly used to house Jews who were suffering from encephalitis, was changed into a social club for cultural events with a library for the use of the Jews and a Synagogue.

A Columbarium to hold the ashes of the Jews who died in the camp was built near the crematorium and tombstones were placed on the graves in the cemetery.

The beautiful 18th century barracks buildings were refurbished and improved inside and out.

With Theresienstadt now beautified, the next step was to relieve the overcrowding in the ghetto so that the IRC [International Red Cross] would not realize the actual inhuman living conditions there.

In September 1943, December 1943 and May 1944, just before the scheduled visit, there was a total of seven transports on which 17,517 Jews were sent to the death camp at Auschwitz.

The Czech Jews from these transports were placed in a “family camp” at the Auschwitz II camp known as Birkenau. The men, women and children were allowed to stay together in contrast to the other prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau who had to live in separate fenced-off sections where the men and women were segregated from each other.

The Czech Jews were allowed to wear civilian clothes instead of the blue and gray striped prison uniforms that the other inmates had to wear. Most importantly, they were allowed to send letters back to Theresienstadt to tell the others about how well they were being treated in the camp.

Six months after it was opened, the “family camp” was closed and only 1,168 of the Theresienstadt prisoners survived. The rest are presumed to have perished in the gas chamber.

End quote

“That’s all she wrote, and she rubbed that out.”  [old saying]