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HEDIENGHELBERG

THE TRAINS OF THE HOLOCAUST

Simple logistics won the problem of the daily transports.

LOS TRENES DEL HOLOCAUSTO ARTICLE IN SPANISH | ENGLISH


The infamous Auschwitz main train ramp, the PLACE of separation of life and death. Photo courtesy Yad-vashem

THE RAMP AND THE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES, ALL ACTORS IN VERY SYMBOL OF HOW LIFE CAN BECAME GROTESQUE.

The trains of the Holocaust       

 

   A Standard convoy of the German S-Bahn, was ensemble of 50 railcars (box cars) and a steam engine locomotive (Latin, loco: from a place + motivus: causing motion).  The steam locomotive (for freight and transport operations, with a tractive effort of 5-10,000 tons) could pull more rails cars and the trains could be longer, but for war reasons, they kept this number to about 50-55 units. The rail transportation offered some advantages to the Germans: mass transports, energy efficient, reliability, maximum utilization of space, flexibility, low cost, availability, easy access from the point of embarkation to the point of destination and safety. Some time, the train can have 2 steam-locomotives or, by 1944 and 1945 even an diesel-powered locomotive and in some places electric locomotives.

  

   50 people in a boxcar X 50 boxcars + 2,500 people in each convoy.  This was the minimum standard load written in the SS manuals. But normally the trains were loaded to 150 to 200% capacity. To supply all the logistics of the German Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union, the army needed some 100 to 110 daily standard trains, running from Germany to the east.  some of the trains coming back from the front were carrying destroyed equipment that needed major repairs, wounded soldiers, looted staff and Jewish civilians.

  

   To supply the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex (4 major camps) and the other myriad and network of concentration camps in Eastern Europe,  the SS needed only 1.5% of all daily German war logistics. 1.5% it's not much of all, thinking on the big picture and on the final achievement.

 

    All the "thinking" was doctored in Berlin. The operation was also a cleaver deceiving one, because the Jews, was made to believe that the transport was for relocation purposes and sometimes in better conditions than the previous ones.

    The SS worked in conjunction and conspiracy with local loyal police, local German military garrisons, civilian state-run institutions as the rails system  and special  military police forces. Under orders from the SS (SchutzStaffel: protective echelon) these forces were rounding up the Jew populations everywhere in Eastern Europe: Russia, Rumania, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, the Baltic States, on one side and occupied Western Europe: France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, etc. on the other side, with the advantage of the fairly developed railway system in Europe. All the the operation of shipping Jews, was surprisingly smooth. The Wehrmacht (German Armed and Defence Forces, 1935-1945) cooperated in rounding the Jews, and executions on the eastern Front and Poland, but was not declared a criminal organization as the SS was.

 

   This logistic that may seem "colossal" from outside and history perspective, directed from Berlin and muscled by SS & Collaborators, over a period of 36 month, was working perfectly. In conclusion, all the transport operation was very simple, basic, low cost and efficient. The average shipping time from embarkation to destination, engine/locomotive change, mechanic crews changes, fuel and transport documents, was 3-4,5 days.

         

      When in Wanasse Conference, in January of 1942, under Hitler's verbal direct order to  Goering, who then commended the task to Heydrich, the mission was  to organize and to look for consent inside the "establishment" to "emigrate" and to "evacuate" by force of all the Jews under the temporary domain of the Nazi Germany in Europe (at that time, about 11.000.000 people). You can tabulate that they needed only 1.600 trains (a round figure of the actual number of chartered train convoys). 1.600 convoys that should feed, in a continuous and orderly way, the complex network the concentration camps, where the Germans have just invented a new efficient, quick, silent and economic method of mass slaughter: the gas  chambers. (December of 1941 in Auschwitz***) ( see the movie "Conspiracy" made by HBO)

          

       Of the 6 million Jews that have been exterminated during the Second World War (WWII): the first 2 millions were murdered immediately by the second-rank military and political police, mobile death squadrons of the Eisentzgruppen *. The actions were mainly were mass executions conducted in the newly-conquered Russian territories. The Germans were assisted by the local polices and paramilitary groups. The tally slaughter was from hundreds to tenths of thousand of Jewish civilians, in only day on continuing shutting. Other thousands died of hunger, illnesses, extreme conditions in the forced-slave work camps, drowned and even poisoned with motor escape gases of the specially-built military trucks. until 1941, the Germans attempted, performed and improved all the well-known methods in the humanity history.

        In the light of the time remembered in the written memory, they were the most cruel conqueror people of the history, only seconded by the Mongols under Gingis-Khan, the inventors of civil terror and extreme brutality.

     Some hundred of thousand were just  ensemble and made to march on foot to the concentration camps in Rumania, Poland and  Bucovina. More than 40% of them died of extenuation and exposure, during the forced marches. The "lucky one" on the next type of accommodation and evacuation, some 3.5-4 millions Jews in total, were rail transported to camps in Poland.

 

        In the German official conversations about the Jewish matters, the one code word employed was "evacuation". One time, during a phone conversation in late 1942, Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and leader of the Nazi Party, admonished Himmler in very strong terms, who was informing him that 50,000 Jews were already exterminated in a concentration camp in Poland:  "They were not exterminated, only evacuated, evacuated, evacuated!!! ", Bormann screamed and closed the phone. 

        

         From Libya to  Scandinavia, from Ireland to Russia, for the Germans, the task of finding the Jews, to concentrate them and to "move" them in trains was unaccountably easy. It was super easy in the Balkans, Central Europe, Russia and in South-East of the Continent where they have a total control. They benefited of the benevolent cooperation of the French authorities and collaborators and their developed rails system for ferrying some 76,000+ people to the final destination: gas chambers and concentration camps in central Europe.

 

    But the Germans deals with Mussolini were  difficult and slow in this matter. He (Mussolini) refused giving in his Italian-Jews to the Germans meat-grinding machine. Only after his death in 1943 (killed by Italian Marxist/Communist partisans), the Germans could muster some 7,500+ Italian Jews and ship them to concentration camps.

   The SS collided with the total negative attitude of the Nordic and Scandinavian countries in collaborating with the evacuations plans. This was the reason that most of the concentration fields were mounted and installed in Poland,  whose civil population was openly manifesting a deep anti-Semitic attitude during the WWII and simple logistic and geography.

        

    In total, over 1,600 trains that were organized and logged. They transported their humble human load to the concentration camps all over Europe and the consequent death of 2,5-3,5000,000 Jews. I will repeat myself: this alone represented only (and maybe less than) 1.5% of the total daily logistics of German Wehrmacht war machine; this is an almost insignificant percentage and minimum warlike effort. 

 

          Between 1941 and 1944 (until December of 1944, the official date of closing organized-death-operations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex), the transport / arrival timetable was of 1.5 trains per day: this was the Germans Office or Reich Security's basic logistic need for this "project".  

            

        This simple calculation and the organized logistics of the German Rail Road System and logistics won, at the end of the day, the practices side of the problem: 50 boxcars X 50 prisoners X 1.5 trains/day X 1,066 days = 4,000,000 of "evacuated" (read: killed).

 

The accommodations were simply none: there were standard 10 meters long (30-31 foot-long) cattle**** cars. an average, uneventful shipment can last from hours to 3-5 days. All the time they were kept inside, with no water, food, basic sanitation or ventilation. Accounts were made that the floor was littered with lime stone, which burned the prisoners' feet. (Above: women prisoners inside a train. Photo courtesy of Yad-Vashem)

The trains of the Holocaust were as well a economical and financial operation. This shipping & logistics operation was not for free.

 

   On September 9, 1941, the parliament of "independent" Slovakia - a Nazi puppet state - ratified the Jewish Codex, a series of laws and regulations that stripped Slovakia's 80,000 Jews of their civil rights and all means of economic survival and in effect placed them beyond the bounds of law and society. The fascist Slovak leadership was so impatient to be rid of the Jews that it paid the Nazis DM 500 in exchange for each expelled Jew and a promise that the deportees would never return to Slovakia. The decision by Slovakia to initiate and pay for the expulsion was unprecedented among the satellite states of Nazi Germany. They paid 40 millions RM to the SS for this operation.

  

   In fact, the SS was paying the German Train Authority, the ReichBAHN,  the equivalent of a Third Class train ticket for every Jewish prisoner transported to the his final destination. Calculate: 0.5 pfennig X 8,000,000 prisoners X 600 Km (pro media of voyage length) and you get about 240 millions Riechmarks. The Jewish prisoners were paying as well for this "transportation", full one-way ticket. Children under 10-12 years of age paid half price, one-way ticket. All this money went to the German Rails Authority who regarded the evacuation as a simple local freight transportation matter.

 PICTURES COURTESY YAD-VASHEM/JERUSALEM

 Some prisoners have to considerer themselves lucky if they arrived alive. On some cases not everything was smooth: the longest rails shipment of the war, from Corfu, took 18 days. When the train arrived in Central Poland, and the locomotive stopped, the doors were opened and everyone was dead. On other instances, the prisoners have to wait in cramped waiting-rooms for days at a time, until a transport was available. Not all the railcars Were covered. some were with open top and the whether was of no importance for shipping  operations: day, night, rain, snow, sun, or freezing conditions.

 

     This logistic that may seem "colossal" from history perspective, directed from Berlin and muscled by SS & local Collaborators, over a period of 36 month, was working perfectly. In conclusion, on the SS side, all the transport operation logistics was very simple, basic, low cost, efficient, safe and smooth. Only for the purpose of organizing death and systematic genocide!!!

 

Hedi Enghelberg 

 Writer 

hedi@enghelberg.com 


* Organized by Heydrich and Himmler to fallow the German regular troops in Poland, in 1939. The Einsatz, had the mission of to look for, round up  and to concentrate to the Jews in ghettos. In the campaign of Russia from 1941, in an agreement with the  German Army, they were ordered to follow the assault troops and carry out the phase I of the "evacuation" of Russian Jewish. Four Einsatzgruppen ware formed by this reason, Gruppen A, B, C, D.   With this method is believed that more than 1.5 million Jews have been murdered. Mission:"the order was that the Jews and the Soviet political commissars were to be liquidated. Liquidated it meant killed." 
** Sixty years after sending Slovakian Jews to the death camps, the republic holds its first official state memorial ceremonies for victims of the Holocaust.

*** September 2003: Three Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets thundered over the Auschwitz death camp Thursday afternoon in a display of modern Jewish might.  As the jets zoomed by at 300 knots an hour, formation leader Brig.-Gen. Air Eshel read out the following statement, which was broadcast on the ground: "We pilots of the Air Force, flying in the skies above the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their silent cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its nation Israel."  

   The Nazis built the camp in occupied Poland in 1940. More than a million people, 90 percent of them Jewish, perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex before it was liberated by advancing Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.

**** Today there are maybe a dozen of real (authenticated) WWII cattle-rail-cars on display, in museums around the world: Washington D.C., Dallas, Chicago, Germany, Poland, Holland, Israel. One authentic rail car, on loan from the museum of Gdynia (Poland) will be on display Hollywood / Florida (October 2006) as part of the display of the South Florida Holocaust Museum Documentation and Education Center.
There is "no word about those who committed the crimes," Hans-Rüdiger Minow, a spokesman for the Train of Commemoration, told The Jerusalem Post. He said 200,000 train employees were involved in the deportations and "10,000 to 20,000 were responsible for mass murders," but were never prosecuted | JERUSALEM POST
No Berlin stop for Shoah train  |

 

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