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Theresienstadt
(Page 2 of 2)
Report No. 92
translation 
by Victor Diodon and Arnim Johannis.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
Severe abuse in the camp
Reported by: Hans Strobl Report of June 26, 1946

location of TheresienstadtComplying with the official instructions, my family and I reported to the Prague Police on May 9, 1945, and were detained for 14 days in Pankraz, where all of us inmates were grossly maltreated. On May 26 I was sent from there to Theresienstadt with a transport of 600 prisoners - men, women and children alike. On our arrival we were all brutally beaten, quite arbitrarily, with cudgels, axe handles, rifle butts etc. 59 men were beaten to death in the process; most of them were older men who couldn't run fast enough. In the time following, about 200 people died of the consequences of maltreatment.

Where I myself am concerned, my elbow joint was smashed and my ulna and radius bones were broken during the abuse I suffered. There was no medical aid. It was not until August 25, three months later, that I was admitted to the Leitmeritz Hospital to be operated. I then had to spend five months in the hospital.



 

Report No. 93

translation 
by Victor Diodon and Arnim Johannis.   zum deutschen Originalbericht
A prisoner's eyewitness account
Reported by: Eduard Fritsch (Theresienstadt)

location of TheresienstadtThe May 24, 1945 transport from Prague brought nearly 600 people of various ages and political orientations to Theresienstadt. All of them expected to be released to go home again after just a brief stay. At the gate to the fortress, the transport was segregated into men and youths, women and children, ill people and war-disabled. After a Czech wearing a Red Cross armband addressed us and treated us to a litany of all the evils the SS had committed in Theresienstadt, we were herded into the fortress. Many of us were already beaten during this procession. The path to Square 4 consists in part of a fairly long gate entrance sloping down to the square, and former inmates of the Theresienstadt concentration camp waited for us there to either side of the path. They were armed with iron-reinforced hoe handles, and it is difficult to describe what took place here. The approximately 10 meter (30 ft.) long gate entrance was lined with writhing, convulsing human bodies, who were screaming and whom we could not help, for none of us got through without a beating. The Czechs deliberately beat us on the kidney area and the back of the head. In the square itself, the remaining arrivals had to line up in rows of five and conduct their own head count. Since this took too long for the commandant of the fortress, Prusa, he took over the head count himself, by hitting each of us on the head with his iron-reinforced handle and counting as he went. It is not hard to understand why not many of us were left afterwards in the row that had been counted by Prusa. I chanced a glimpse towards the gate entrance, and a glimpse backwards. It was a gruesome sight. The ground was littered with people moaning in agony, and those who were silent were already dead. One of my cell-mates from Prankraz prison in Prague lay there with his skull smashed. Another man from Munich stood alone and quite helpless by the garbage pit. He was covered in bood from head to toe, forgot to join the line-up, and was driven to our line with constant blows. He walked with difficulty, dragging his feet, and the blows just rained down on his body. It was amazing that he managed to bear up under this treatment. We noticed that those who were beaten to the ground did not get up again. They were then beaten entirely to death. Those of us who managed to survive this procedure then had to stand facing the wall, hands raised, from about 9 o'clock until 5 o'clock p.m. Around noon it began to rain, and the water ran in our sleeves and out the bottom. Whenever anyone lowered his arms that was taken as a cause for the henchmen to knock our heads against the wall. During this time no doubt each of us decided that if we were not beaten to death or shot soon, we would commit suicide.

Evening came, and we were distributed among the cells. 480 men were crowded like sardines into our cell. Night fell, we heard shots outside, and screams, and we waited until it was to be our turn. Many were taken out and never returned. The next day we were disinfected and deloused. A strip of hair was shorn off from the forehead to the nape with a shaving machine. The Czechs called this shorn strip "Hitler Street". Then we had to run across the square naked to be issued our prison uniforms, which were dirty and often blood-stained. The next day, labor teams were sent out to various places to work. Together with some other men, I was ordered to clean up the solitary-confinement cells where those who had been beaten to death still lay. The floor was covered inches deep with coagulated blood, cut-off ears, knocked-out teeth, chunks of scalp with hair still on them, dentures, and the like. The stench from the blood etc. soon made it impossible for us to wash the cells and hallways. After two to three days many of the men on our cleaning team began to show growths and swellings on their back, neck, head and arms. Their heads looked like masks, all swollen up, eyes bulging out, lips thick, ears sticking out, the entire head swollen far beyond normal size, they were a heartbreaking sight. After two days I was ordered to report to the sick-bay. This facility consisted of five one-man cells. Each was occupied by up to five men, some lying down, some squatting or sitting on the floor. It was there that I saw something that utterly horrified me: patients from these cells were stripped naked and laid on a gurney, and then the doctor gave them an injection of some fast-acting poison. These people died within a minute. I admit that this injection was a release for many, but there were also people among them who could easily have been cured. It was the commandant of the fortress who had ordered that the sick people were to be disposed of in this manner. Many of my acquaintances ended like that.

CommentFor the first while, the rations we received consisted of coffee and soup containing potato and some rotten meat, some of which was riddled with clumps of maggots. This rotten meat, which was sold by shops specializing in substandard goods, was fed to us for three months. After the German salt stores had been used up, salt shortage began. In August 1945 a day's rations consisted of a half-liter of soup (read: unsalted water), with a few little pieces of potato if you were lucky. Also 6.3 ounces of bread. Despite these meager rations the internees had to do very hard work, such as digging graves etc. - and some barely had the strength to lift their hoe. Typhus raged among the prisoners. Great hunger was our constant companion. We had to dig up mass graves, retrieve the corpses and put them in coffins with our bare hands - all this accompanied by intense August heat and the penetrating stench of the decomposing bodies, constant hunger, and we were even beaten while we worked, some of us were even beaten to death. Due to the danger of cholera our overseers urged us to work faster and faster, and these conditions soon drove us to despair.

One execution method favored by the Czechs involved one Czech stepping into a rope loop and holding it down with his foot. The rope was then placed around the prisoner's neck, and at the other end of the rope was a second loop into which a truncheon was put. This truncheon was used to gradually tighten the rope, and in this way the victim was slowly asphyxiated.

It was not until the Russian camp command learned of these conditions that investigative commissions were dispatched, who actually took energetic action. The iron-reinforced truncheons were burned. The lethal injections stopped, and we began to be treated somewhat more humanely.

I came away from this prison camp with a pelvic injury, a broken nasal bone, an injured arm, and I lost all my teeth in my upper right jaw - and I consider myself fortunate not to have suffered even worse injuries.


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Documents on the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans
Survivors speak out