HOLOCAUST TRAINS were railway transports run by the Deutsche
Reichsbahn national railway system under the strict supervision of the
German Nazis and their allies , for the purpose of forcible
deportation of the
Jews , as well as other victims of the Holocaust ,
to the German Nazi concentration , forced labour , and extermination
Modern historians suggest that without the mass transportation of the
railways, the scale of the "
Final Solution " would not have been
possible. The extermination of people targeted in the "Final
Solution" was dependent on two factors: the capacity of the death
camps to gas the victims and "process" their bodies quickly enough, as
well as the capacity of the railways to transport the condemned
prisoners from the
Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe and Jewish ghettos
in German-occupied Poland to selected extermination sites. The most
modern accurate numbers on the scale of the "Final Solution" still
rely partly on shipping records of the German railways.
* 1 Pre-war
* 2 The role of railways in the
* 2.1 Scale of the need for mass transportation
* 3 The journey
* 3.1 Point of arrival
* 4 The calculations
* 4.1 Payment
* 5 Operations across Europe
* 5.2 Bulgaria
* 5.3 Bohemia and Moravia
* 5.4 France
* 5.6 Hungary
* 5.7 Italy
* 5.8 Netherlands
* 5.9 Poland
* 5.10 Romania
* 5.11 Scandinavia
* 5.12 Slovakia
* 5.13 Switzerland
* 6 Aftermath
* 7 Remembrance and commemoration
* 7.1 Poland
* 7.2 Germany
* 7.3 France
* 7.4 Netherlands
* 8 Railway companies involved
* 9 Footnotes
* 10 Citations
* 11 References
* 12 External links
The first mass deportation of
Nazi Germany occurred in less
than a year before the outbreak of war. It was the forcible eviction
Jews with Polish citizenship fuelled by the
Jews were rounded up and sent via rail to refugee
camps. In July 1938 both the United States and Britain at the Évian
Conference in France refused to accept any more Jewish immigrants.
British Government agreed to take in the shipment of children
Nicholas Winton in
Prague , Czechoslovakia, on the
conditions that he pay the cost (via Czech travel agency Cedok) and
arrange for the foster care . Winton managed to arrange for 669
children to get out on eight trains to London (a small group of 15
were flown out via
Sweden ). The ninth train was to leave
Prague on 3
September 1939, the day Britain entered
World War II
World War II . The train never
left the station, and none of the 250 children on board were seen
again. All European
Jews trapped under the Nazi regime became the
target of Hitler's "
Final Solution to the Jewish Question".
THE ROLE OF RAILWAYS IN THE FINAL SOLUTION
Entrance, or so-called "death gate", to Auschwitz II-Birkenau,
the extermination camp
Within various phases of the Holocaust , the trains were employed
differently. At first, they were used to concentrate the Jewish
populations in the ghettos , and often to transport them to forced
labour and German concentration camps for the purpose of economic
exploitation. In 1939 for logistical reasons the Jewish communities
in settlements without railway lines in occupied Poland were
dissolved. By the end of 1941, about 3.5 million
Polish Jews had been
segregated and ghettoised by the SS in a massive deportation action
involving the use of freight trains. Permanent ghettos had direct
railway connections, because the food aid (paid by the Jews
themselves) was completely dependent on the SS similar to all newly
built labour camps.
Jews were legally banned from baking bread. They
were sealed off from the general public in hundreds of virtual
prison-islands called Jüdischer Wohnbezirk or Wohngebiet der Juden.
However, the new system was unsustainable. By the end of 1941, most
Jews had no savings left to pay the SS for further bulk
food deliveries. The quagmire was resolved at the Wannsee conference
of 20 January 1942 near
Berlin , where the "Final Solution" (die
Endlösung der Judenfrage) was set in place. It was a euphemism
referring to the Nazi plan for the annihilation of the Jewish people.
During the liquidation of the ghettos starting in 1942, the trains
were used to transport the condemned populations to death camps. To
implement the "Final Solution", the Nazis made their own Deutsche
Reichsbahn an indispensable element of the mass extermination machine,
Raul Hilberg . Although the prisoner trains took away
valuable track space, they allowed for the mass scale and shortened
duration over which the extermination needed to take place. The fully
enclosed nature of the locked and windowless cattle wagons greatly
reduced the number and skill of troops required to transport the
Jews to their destinations. The use of railroads enabled the
Nazis to lie about the "resettlement program" and, at the same time,
build and operate more efficient gassing facilities which required
The Nazis disguised their "Final Solution" as the mass "resettlement
to the east". The victims were told they were being taken to labour
camps in Ukraine . In reality, from 1942 on for most Jews,
deportations meant only death at either Bełżec , Chełmno , Sobibór
Treblinka , or
Auschwitz-Birkenau . Some trains that had
already transported goods to the Eastern front on their return carried
human cargo bound for extermination camps. The plan was being
realized in the utmost secrecy. In late 1942 during a telephone
conversation Hitler's private secretary
Martin Bormann admonished
Heinrich Himmler who was informing him about 50,000
exterminated in a concentration camp in Poland. "They were not
exterminated – Bormann screamed – only evacuated, evacuated,
evacuated!" and slammed down the phone, wrote Enghelberg.
SCALE OF THE NEED FOR MASS TRANSPORTATION
General map of deportation routes and camps
Wannsee Conference of 1942, the Nazis began to murder
Jews in large numbers at newly built death camps of Operation
Reinhard . Since 1941, the
Einsatzgruppen , mobile extermination
squads, were already conducting mass shootings of
Jews in the Eastern
territories which were occupied earlier by the
Soviet Union , as well
as east of the 1939 Soviet borders . The
Jews of Western Europe were
either deported to ghettos emptied through mass killings, such as the
Rumbula massacre of the inhabitants of the
Riga Ghetto , or sent
directly to Treblinka,
Sobibór extermination camps built
in spring and summer of 1942 only for gassing. Auschwitz II Birkenau
chambers began operating in March. The last death camp, Majdanek,
launched them in late 1942.
At Wannsee, the SS estimated that the "Final Solution" could
ultimately eradicate up to 11 million European Jews; Nazi planners
envisioned the inclusion of
Jews living in neutral and non-occupied
countries such as
Turkey , and the
United Kingdom .
Deportations on this scale required the coordination of numerous
German government ministries and state organisations, including the
Reich Main Security Office
Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), the Transport Ministry, and the
Foreign Office. The RSHA coordinated and directed the deportations;
the Transport Ministry organized train schedules; and the Foreign
Office negotiated with German-allied states and their railways about
"processing" their own Jews.
In recent years, the German spokesman for the Train of Commemoration
remembrance project, Hans-Rüdiger Minow told
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post that
from among the
World War II
World War II railway staff and officials, there is "no
word about those who committed the crimes" even though 200,000 train
employees were involved in the rail deportations and "10,000 to 20,000
were responsible for mass murders". The railwaymen were never
Auschwitz Album . "Selection" on the Judenrampe, May–June
1944. To be sent to the right meant assignment to slave labour; to the
left, the gas chambers . This image shows the arrival of Hungarian
Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia . The main entrance, or "death gate", is
visible in the background. Courtesy of
Yad Vashem .
The first trains with German
Jews expelled to ghettos in occupied
Poland began departing from central Germany on 16 October 1941.
Subsequently, called Sonderzüge (special trains), the trains had low
priority for the movement and would proceed to the mainline only after
all other transports went through, inevitably extending shipping time
The trains consisted of sets of either third class passenger
carriages, but mainly freight cars or cattle cars or both; the latter
packed with up to 150 deportees, although 50 was the number proposed
by the SS regulations. No food or water was supplied. The Güterwagen
boxcars were only fitted with a bucket latrine . A small barred window
provided irregular ventilation, which oftentimes resulted in multiple
deaths from either suffocation or the exposure to the elements. Some
freight cars had a layer of quick lime on the floor.
At times the Germans did not have enough filled up cars ready to
start a major shipment of
Jews to the camps, so the victims were kept
locked inside overnight at layover yards.
The Holocaust trains waited
for more important military trains to pass. An average transport took
about four days. The longest transport of the war, from
Corfu , took
18 days. When the train arrived at the camp and the doors were opened,
everyone was already dead.
Due to delays and cramped conditions, many deportees died in transit.
On 18 August 1942, Waffen SS officer
Kurt Gerstein had witnessed at
Belzec the arrival of "45 wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were
already dead on arrival." That train came with the
Jews of the Lwów
Ghetto , less than 100 kilometers away.
POINT OF ARRIVAL
The SS built three extermination camps in occupied Poland
specifically for Operation Reinhard: Bełżec ,
Sobibór , and
Treblinka . They were fitted with identical mass killing facilities
disguised as communal shower rooms. In addition, gas chambers were
developed in 1942 at the
Majdanek concentration camp , and at
Auschwitz II-Birkenau . In German-occupied USSR at the Maly
Trostinets extermination camp shootings were used to kill victims in
the woods. At the
Chełmno extermination camp victims were killed in
gas vans whose redirected exhaust fed into sealed compartments at the
rear of the vehicle. They were utilized in Trostinets as well.
Neither of these two camps had international rail connections
therefore the trains used to stop at the nearby ghettos in Łódź and
in Minsk respectively. From there, the prisoners were taken by trucks
to die. At Treblinka, Belzec, and
Sobibor the killing mechanism
consisted of a large internal-combustion engine delivering exhaust
fumes to gas chambers through pipes. At Auschwitz and Majdanek, the
gas chambers relied on
Zyklon B pellets of hydrogen cyanide, poured
through vents in the roof from cans sealed hermetically.
Once alighted, the prisoners were split by category. The old, the
young, the sick and the infirm were sometimes separated for immediate
death by shooting, while the rest were prepared for the gas chambers.
In a single 14-hour workday, 12,000 to 15,000 people would be killed
at any one of these camps. The capacity of the crematoria at
Birkenau was 20,000 bodies per day. The selected new arrivals who
looked healthy were put to slave labor in the Sonderkommandos ,
burying victims in mass graves and burning corpses under pain of
Interior of a boxcar used to transport
Jews and other Holocaust
World War II
World War II , the United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum in Washington, D.C.
The standard means of delivery was a 10 metre long cattle freight
wagon , although third class passenger carriages were also used when
the SS wanted to keep up the "resettlement to work in the East" myth,
particularly in the Netherlands and in Belgium. The SS manual covered
such trains, suggesting a carrying capacity per each trainset of 2,500
people in 50 cars, each boxcar loaded with 50 prisoners. In reality
however, boxcars were crammed with up to 100 persons and routinely
loaded from the minimum of 150% to 200% capacity. This resulted in an
average of 5,000 people per trainset; 100 persons in each freight car
multiplied by 50 cars. Notably, during the mass deportation of Jews
Warsaw Ghetto to
Treblinka in 1942 trains carried up to 7,000
In total, over 1,600 trains were organised by the German Transport
Ministry, and logged mainly by the Polish state railway company taken
over by Germany, due to the majority of death camps being located in
occupied Poland. Between 1941 and December 1944, the official date of
closing of the
Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, the transport/arrival
timetable was of 1.5 trains per day: 50 freight cars × 50 prisoners
per freight car × 1,066 days = 4,000,000 prisoners in total.
On 20 January 1943, Himmler sent a letter to
Albert Ganzenmüller ,
the Under-secretary of State at the Reich Transport Ministry,
pledging: "need your help and support. If I am to wind things up
quickly, I must have more trains." Of the estimated 6 million Jews
exterminated during World War II, 2 million were murdered on the spot
by the military, political police , and mobile death squads of the
Einsatzgruppen aided by the Orpo battalions and their auxiliaries .
The remainder were shipped to their deaths elsewhere.
Most of the
Jews were forced to pay for their own deportations,
particularly wherever passenger carriages were used. This payment came
in the form of direct money deposit to the SS in light of the
"resettlement to work in the East" myth. Charged in the ghettos for
accommodation the adult
Jews paid full price one-way tickets, while
children under 10–12 years of age paid half price. Those who were
running out of money in the ghetto were loaded onto trains to the East
as first, while those with some remaining supplies of gold and cash
were shipped as last.
The SS forwarded part of this money to the German Transport Authority
to pay the German Railways for transport of the Jews. The Reichsbahn
was paid the equivalent of a third class railway ticket for every
prisoner transported to their destination: 8,000,000 passengers 4
Pfennig per track kilometer, times 600 km (average voyage length),
equaled 240 million Reichsmarks . Children under four went free.
DRB Class 52 steam locomotive used by the Deutsche
Reichsbahn during the Holocaust. Poland's own locomotive Pt31-64
H. Cegielski – Poznań in the interwar Second Polish
Republic , utilized by
Nazi Germany for deportation actions
The Reichsbahn pocketed both this money and their own share of the
cash paid by the transported
Jews after the SS fees. According to an
expert report established on behalf of the German "Train of
Commemoration" project, the receipts taken in by the state-owned
Deutsche Reichsbahn for mass deportations in the period between 1938
and 1945 reached a sum of US $664,525,820.34.
OPERATIONS ACROSS EUROPE
Powered mainly by efficient steam locomotives, the Holocaust trains
were kept to a maximum of 55 freight cars on average, loaded from 150%
to 200% capacity. The participation of German State Railway (the
Deutsche Reichsbahn) was crucial to the effective implementation of
Final Solution of the Jewish Question ". The DRB was paid to
Jews and other victims of the Holocaust from thousands of
towns and cities throughout Europe to meet their death in the Nazi
concentration camp system.
As well as transporting German Jews, DRB was responsible for
coordinating transports on the rail networks of occupied territories
and Germany's allies. The characteristics of organized concentration
and transportation of victims of the Holocaust varied by country.
The Holocaust in Belgium
The Holocaust in Belgium
After Germany invaded
Belgium on 10 May 1940, all
Jews were forced to
register with the police as of 28 October 1940. The lists enabled
Belgium to become the first country in occupied Western Europe to
deport recently immigrating Jews. The implementation of the "Final
Belgium centred on the
Mechelen transit camp (Malines)
chosen because it was the hub of the Belgian National Railway system.
The first convoy left
Mechelen transit camp for extermination camps on
22 July 1942, although nearly 2,250
Jews had already been deported as
forced laborers for
Organisation Todt to Northern France. By October
1942 some 16,600 people have been deported in 17 convoys. At this time
deportations were temporarily halted until January 1943. Those
deported in the first wave were not Belgian citizens, resulting from
the intervention by the Belgian Queen Elisabeth with the German
authorities. In 1943, the deportations of Belgians resumed. A
cattle truck used for the transport of Belgian
Jews to camps in
Eastern Europe. The openings were covered in barbed wire. This
example is preserved at
Fort Breendonk .
Jews with Belgian citizenship were deported for the
first time. After the war, the collaborator Felix Lauterborn stated
in his trial that 80 per cent of arrests in Antwerp used information
from paid informants. In total, 6,000
Jews were deported in 1943,
with another 2,700 in 1944. Transports were halted by the
deteriorating situation in occupied
Belgium before the liberation.
The percentages of
Jews which were deported varied by location. It
was highest in Antwerp, with 67 per cent deported, but lower in
Brussels (37 per cent), Liége (35 per cent) and Charleroi (42 per
cent). The main destination for the convoys was Auschwitz
concentration camp in occupied Poland . Smaller numbers were sent to
Buchenwald and Ravensbrück concentration camps , as well as Vittel
concentration camp in France. In total, 25,437
Jews were deported
from Belgium. Only 1,207 of these survived the war.
The only time during
World War II
World War II that a
Holocaust train carrying
Jewish deportees from Western Europe was stopped by the Underground
happened on 19 April 1943, when the Transport No. 20 left Mechelen
with 1,631 Jews, heading for Auschwitz. Soon after leaving Mechelen,
the driver stopped the train after seeing an emergency red light, set
by the Belgians. After a brief fire fight between the Nazi train
guards and the three resistance members – equipped only with one
pistol between them – the train started again. Of the 233 people who
attempted to escape, 26 were shot on the spot, 89 were recaptured and
118 got away.
From the Holocaust Museum in
Skopje ; original wagon used
for transport of Macedonian
Bulgaria joined the
Axis powers in March 1941 and took part in the
Yugoslavia and Greece. The Bulgarian government set up
transit camps in
Dupnitsa for the
the former Serbian province of
Vardar Banovina and
Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia and
Greece ). The "deportations to the east" of
13,000 inmates, mostly to
Treblinka extermination camp began on 22
February 1943, predominantly in passenger cars. In four days, some 20
trainsets departed under severely overcrowded conditions to occupied
Poland requiring each train to stop daily to dump the bodies of Jews
who died during the previous 24 hours. In May 1943 the Bulgarian
government led by King Boris expelled 20,000
Sofia and at
the same time, made plans to deport Bulgaria's
Jews to the camps
pursuant to an agreement with Germany.
Holocaust train from
Thrace was witnessed by Archbishop Stefan of
Sofia who was shocked by what he saw. His protest letter along with
those of other Orthodox clergymen were ignored by the King. A
Sofia on 24 May 1943 by the Jewish community led by
Daniel Zion was quashed by Bulgarian police arresting 400 Jews.
Luckily, a small delegation under parliamentarian Dimitar Peshev
managed to launch a successful protest at the Ministry of Internal
Affairs. The new order issued by Minister
Petar Gabrovski to release
Jews already rounded up, was not reversed. His decision prevented
the Jewish community of 49,000 people from being exterminated in death
General Government . Nevertheless, the Bulgarian Jews
remained the subject of severe racial restrictions locally and were
stripped by the government of currency, jewelry and gold handed over
to the Bulgarian national bank. According to Bulgarian historian
Nissan Oren, King Boris did not show any humanitarian inclinations for
Jews of his country, and the later claims of his benevolence are
without firm foundation.
BOHEMIA AND MORAVIA
Czechoslovakia was annexed by
Nazi Germany in 1939. Within the new
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia the Czechoslovak
State Railways (ČSD) were taken over by the Reichsbann and the new
German railway company Böhmisch-Mährische Bahn (BMB) was set up in
its place. The Czech human losses were considerably lower in World
War II than among other nations (with a positive growth ratio), except
for the Jews. One entire town was turned into a walled-off ghetto in
1941, and named
Theresienstadt . In all, it contained around 50,000
Jews from the Protectorate and 37,000 from the Reich, with the
Jews transported to other camps. Three-quarters of
Bohemian and Moravian
Jews died in the Holocaust, of whom 33,000 died
in Terezín. The remainder were transported in Holocaust trains from
Theresienstadt mainly to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The last train for
Theresienstadt on 28 October 1944 with 2,038
whom 1,589 were immediately gassed.
The Holocaust "Güterwagen" boxcars used by Milles and Drancy
internment camps in France
The French national
SNCF railway company under the Vichy Government
played its part in the "Final Solution". In total, the Vichy
government deported more than 76,000 Jews, without food or water
(pleaded for by the Red Cross in vain), as well as thousands of other
so-called undesirables to German-built concentration and extermination
camps aboard the Holocaust trains, pursuant to an agreement with the
German government; fewer than 3 percent survived the deportations.
According to Serge Klarsfeld , president of the organization Sons and
Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France ,
SNCF was forced by German
and Vichy authorities to cooperate in providing transport for French
Jews to the border and did not make any profit from this transport.
However, in December 2014,
SNCF agreed to pay up to $60 million worth
of compensation to Holocaust survivors in the United States. It
corresponds to approximately $100,000 per survivor.
Drancy internment camp served as the main transport hub for the Paris
area and regions west and south thereof until August 1944, under the
Alois Brunner from Austria. By 3 February 1944, 67 trains
had left from there for Birkenau.
Vittel internment camp served the
northeast, closer to the German border from where all transports were
taken over by German agents. By 23 June 1943, 50,000
Jews had been
deported from France, a pace that the Germans deemed too slow. The
last train from France left Drancy on 31 July 1944 with over 300
July 1942 selection of
After the invasion and until September 1943
Greece was divided
between the Italian, the Bulgarian, and the German zones of
occupation. Most Greek
Jews lived in
Thessaloniki (Salonika) ruled by
Germany, where the collection camp was set up for the
Jews also from
Athens and the Greek Islands . From there 45,000–50,000
Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August 1943, packed 80 to
a wagon. There were also 13,000 Greek
Jews in the Italian, and 4,000
Jews in the Bulgarian zone of occupation. In September 1943 the
Italian zone was taken over by the Third Reich. Overall, some
Jews were deported in Holocaust trains by the SS
to Auschwitz, Majdanek, Dachau and the subcamps of Mauthausen before
the war's end, including over 90% of Thessaloniki's prewar
population of 50,000 Jews. Of these, 5,000
Jews were deported to
Treblinka from the regions of
Thrace and from Macedonia in the
Bulgarian share of the partitioned Greece, where they were gassed upon
While in alliance with Nazi Germany, Hungary acquired new provinces
at both the First and the Second Vienna Awards (1938; 1940). The
Hungarian Army received vital help from the Hungarian State
Railways (MÁV) in
Northern Transylvania (Erdély). By 1941 the
Jews under Hungarian control grew to a total of 725,007
officially. Some 184,453 of them lived in Budapest. Soon the
Jews were expelled from Hungarian territory. Some 20,000
Jews were transported to occupied Czechoslovakia and
Yugoslavia , and
Jews were sent back to Romania. Hungary took part
Operation Barbarossa supplying 50,000 Jewish slave workers for the
Eastern Front. Most of them were dead by January 1943. Later that year
Hitler discovered that Prime Minister Miklos Kállay secretly
conferred with the Western Allies. To stop him, Germany launched the
Operation Margarethe in March 1944, and took over control of all
Jewish affairs. On 29 April 1944 the first deportation of Hungarian
Jews to Birkenau took place. Between 15–25 May according to
Edmund Veesenmayer 138,870
Jews had been deported.
On 31 May 1944 Veesenmayer reported additional 60,000
Jews sent to the
camps in six days, while the total for the past 16 days stood at
204,312 victims. Between May and July 1944, helped by Hungarian
police, the German
Sicherheitspolizei deported nearly 440,000
Jews mostly to Auschwitz-Birkenau, or 437,000 at the rate
of 6,250 per day.
Holocaust train from Hungary, exhibition
On 8 July 1944, due to international pressure by the Pope , the King
Sweden , and the Red Cross (all of whom had recently learned about
the extent of it), the deportation of the Hungarian
Jews had stopped.
In October 1944, following a coup d\'état which put the Hungarian
government back in control, 50,000 of the remaining
Jews were forced
on a death march to Germany, digging anti-tank ditches on the road
westward. A further 25,000 were saved in an "international ghetto"
under Swedish protection engineered by
Carl Lutz and Raoul Wallenberg
. When the Soviet Army liberated Budapest on 17 January 1945, of the
Jews in the country, less than 260,000
still alive, including 80,000 Hungarian natives. Main article:
On 30 June 1944 one Hungarian passenger train later known as the
Kastner train transported 1,684
Jews to safety in Switzerland in
exchange for gold, diamonds and cash. It was organized by the
Hungarian journalist and lawyer
Rudolph Kastner , the de facto leader
of the Zionist
Aid and Rescue Committee (Vaada). For reasons that are
still disputed, the Nazi officials under SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf
Eichmann sold them exit visas in exchange for 6.5 million pengő (RM
4,000,000 or $1,600,000). In their secret negotiations with the SS,
Vaada compiled a list of
Jews to be considered including prominent
individuals, "paying persons" (i.e. Orthodox Jews, and Zionists),
orphans, known refugees, as well as some 600
Jews who held
Palestinian immigration certificates. The list also controversially
included 388 people from Kastner's home town of Cluj . Main article:
Hungarian Gold Train
In April 1944 the fascist government of
Ferenc Szálasi issued a
decree ordering all
Jews under the Hungarian jurisdiction to "deposit"
with the authorities their gems, gold jewellery ornamented with gems,
items made with the use of precious metals, and all valuables
including Oriental carpets, silver, furs, paintings and fine
furniture. These valuables were laden on a train consisting of 44
cars sent away ahead of the Soviet advance. This train was seized in
May 1945 by U.S. occupation troops in Austria. The Hungarian escort
pushed the train into a tunnel near Boeckstein where it was found by
the Americans who took control of the railway station in
Werfen . Two
Hungarian lorries were seized in the French sector. The goods were
Salzburg , with the valuables in one location and paintings
in another. After household items were given to furnish American
families, the remainder was repatriated to America where in June 1948
it was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries in
New York City
New York City .
Holocaust train exhibition,
The popular view that
Benito Mussolini resisted the deportation of
Jews to Germany is widely seen as simplistic by Jewish
scholars, because the Italian Jewish community of 47,000 constituted
the most assimilated
Jews in Europe. About one out of every three
Jewish males were members of the Fascist Party before the war began;
more than 10,000
Jews who used to conceal their identity, because
antisemitism was part of the very ideal of italianità wrote Wiley
The Holocaust came to Italy in September 1943 after the German
takeover of the country due to its total capitulation at Cassibile .
By February 1944 the Germans shipped 8,000
Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau
via Austria and Switzerland, although more than half of the victims
arrested and deported from northern Italy were rounded up by the
Italian police and not by the Nazis. Also between September 1943 and
April 1944, at least 23,000 Italian soldiers were deported to work as
slaves in German war industry, while over 10,000 partisans were
captured and deported during the same period to Birkenau. By 1944
there were over half a million Italians working inside the Nazi war
The Netherlands was invaded on 10 May 1940 and fell under the German
military control. The community of native-Dutch
Jews including the new
Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria was estimated at 140,000.
Most natives were concentrated in the
Amsterdam ghetto before being
Westerbork transit camp in the north-east near the German
border. Deportees for "resettlement" leaving aboard the NS passenger
and freight trains were unaware of their final destination or fate,
as postcards were often thrown from moving trains.
Most of the approximately 100,000
Jews sent to Westerbork perished.
Between July 1942 and September 1944 almost every Tuesday a train left
Sobibor extermination camps , or
Theresienstadt , in a total of 94 outgoing trains.
About 60,000 prisoners were sent to Auschwitz and 34,000 to Sobibor.
At liberation approximately 870
Jews remained in Westerbork. Only
5,200 deportees survived, most of them in
approximately 1980 survivors, or Bergen-Belsen , approximately 2050
survivors. From those on the sixty-eight transports to Auschwitz 1052
people returned, including 181 of the 3450 people taken from eighteen
of the trains at
Cosel . There were 18 survivors out of approximately
one thousand people selected from the nineteen trains to Sobibor, the
remainder were murdered on arrival. For the Netherlands the overall
survival rate among
Jews who boarded the trains for all camps was 4.86
percent. On 29 September 2005, the Dutch national rail company
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) apologised for its role in the deportation
Jews to the death camps.
Action Saybusch , 24 September 1940. Expelled Poles await
transport at a railway crossing (in this photo, some members of the
129 families deported from Dolna Sól ).
Following invasion of Poland in September 1939
Nazi Germany disbanded
Polish National Railways (
PKP ) immediately and handed over their
assets to the
Deutsche Reichsbahn in
Greater Poland and in
Pomerania . The Polish management was either executed in mass
shooting actions (see: the 1939
Intelligenzaktion and the 1940 German
AB-Aktion in Poland ) or imprisoned. The brand new Eastern division of
DRB acquired 7,192 kilometres (4,469 mi) of new railway lines and
1,052 km of (mostly industrial) narrow gauge in annexed areas .
Managerial jobs were staffed with German officials in a wave of some
8,000 instant promotions. The first Polish agglomeration subjected to
forcible expulsion of Polish nationals was the port city of Gdynia
strategically important to Nazi Germany. Beginning in mid October 1939
(one and a half month after the attack), DRB began transporting
expelled Polish families to
Kielce and Lublin
. The Poles were required to leave the keys in the doors of their
homes and businesses, for the incoming families of German industrial
workers and administration. Poles were given only a few hours to pack
carry-on luggage, about 30 kilograms (66 lb) per person. In the grand
total, 70,000-80,000 civilians have been expelled from
The parallel expulsion of Poles from
Silesia entailed the forcible
displacement of some 18,000–20,000 people during
Action Saybusch ;
the number of Poles deported from the region grew to around 50,000
before 1944. Meanwhile, the total number of Polish nationals expelled
from all Polish areas annexed by
Nazi Germany reached 923,000.
In November 1939, as soon as the semi-colonial
General Government was
set up in occupied central Poland, a separate branch of DRB called
Generaldirektion der Ostbahn (Kolej Wschodnia in Polish) was
established with headquarters called GEDOB in
Kraków . All of the
DRB branches existed outside Germany proper. The Ostbahn was granted
3,818 kilometres (2,372 mi) of railway lines (nearly doubled by 1941)
and 505 km of narrow gauge, initially. In December 1939, on the
Hans Frank in Berlin, the Ostbahndirektion was given
financial independence after paying back 10 million Reichsmarks to
DRB. The removal of all bomb damage was completed in 1940.
Warsaw Ghetto who died on the journey at
Treblinka extermination camp , August 1942 Expulsion of
civilians from Poland's capital after the
Warsaw Uprising through
Pruszków . Female prisoners attended by Red Cross,
destination: Auschwitz II Birkenau.
The German SS employed Ostbahn to conduct the first mass transport to
Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp (which just opened) in mid June 1940.
Notably, the Birkenau infamous "Gate of Death" (pictured above) for
the incoming freight trains at Auschwitz was built in 1943 long after
its gas chambers went into operation. Trains were used during the
ethnic cleansing operations to create "living space in the East " for
the German settlers. Deportations were part of a broader Nazi policy
Generalplan Ost , whose final version was essentially a
grand plan for genocide divided into phases: the "Small Plan" (Kleine
Planung) covered the actions which were to be taken during the war,
and the "Big Plan" (Grosse Planung) covered intended strategy to be
realized after the war was won. Hitler intended to destroy the
Polish nation completely within 10 to 20 years, and resettle the
prewar Poland with ethnically German colonists. The plan resulted in
a massive Nazi German operation consisting of the forced resettlement
of over 1.7 million ethnic Poles from the annexed territories of
occupied Poland . Poles were deported to any one of the German forced
labour camps including over 30
Polenlager camps either in Germany
itself or in the occupied territories.
Mass deportations of Polish nationals using freight trains (but also
lorries and even horse-drawn wagons) took place during the ethnic
cleansing of Zamojszczyzna by
Nazi Germany between November 1942 and
July 1943, in which all branches of German police including Orpo and
Sonderdienst , as well as Wehrmacht and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police
participated. Over 110,000 Poles were forcibly removed from 300
villages, including around 30,000 children most of whom were never
found. In the second phase of the same plan which was dubbed the
Ukraineraktion, the Germans brought in trainloads of Ukrainian
peasants into the area of
Zamość Lands" or
Zamojszczyzna), in order to form a buffer zone, shielding the 10,000
ethic German colonists from Romania (among other places), arriving
Heim ins Reich
Heim ins Reich . In the areas surrounding German settlers, from which
15,000 Poles had been forcibly removed, over 7,000 Ukrainians were
placed in 63 previously Polish villages of the
Hrubieszów county. By
the end of March 1943, the total of 116 villages of the Zamość
region had been cleansed of their Polish inhabitants. One of
the 1942 executions of the Polish railwaymen kept hanging for two days
along the tracks in
Kraków , for their alleged sabotage action in
Deutsche Reichsbahn acquired new infrastructure in Poland worth
in excess of 8,278,600,000 złoty , including some of the largest
locomotive factories in Europe, the
H. Cegielski – Poznań renamed
Chrzanów renamed Oberschlesische Lokomotivwerke
Krenau producing engines Ty37 and Pt31 (designed in Poland), as well
as the locomotive parts factory Babcock-Zieleniewski in Sosnowiec
renamed Ferrum AG later tasked with making parts to V-1 i V-2 rockets
also. Under the new management, formerly Polish companies began
producing German engines BR44, BR50 and BR86 as early as 1940
virtually for free, using forced labor . All Polish railwaymen were
ordered to return to their place of work, or face death. Beating with
fists became commonplace, although perceived as shocking by Polish
long-term professionals. Their public executions were introduced in
1942. By 1944, the factories in Poznań and
mass-producing the redesigned "Kriegslok" BR52 locomotives for the
Eastern front, all stripped of coloured metals by the rule with
intentionally shortened lifespan. Original carriage at the
Before the onset of
Operation Reinhard which marked the most deadly
phase of the Holocaust in Poland many
Jews were transported by road to
killing sites such as the
Chełmno extermination camp , equipped with
gas vans . In 1942, stationary gas chambers were built at Treblinka,
Majdanek and Auschwitz. After the Nazi takeover of
prewar Polish railway company PKP, the train movements, originating
inside and outside occupied Poland and terminating at death camps,
were tracked by
IBM -supplied card-reading machines and
traditional waybills produced by the Reichsbahn.
The Holocaust trains
were always managed and directed by native German SS men posted with
that express' role throughout the system.
The shipments to camps under
Operation Reinhard came mainly from the
Warsaw Ghetto created by Nazi Germans on 16 November 1940
held eventually over 450,000
Jews cramped in an area meant for about
60,000 people. The second-largest
Łódź Ghetto held 204,000 Jews.
Both ghettos had collection points known as
Umschlagplatz along the
rail tracks, with most deportations from
place between 22 July through to 12 September 1942. The gassing at
Treblinka started on 23 July 1942, with two pendulum trains delivering
victims six days each week ranging from about 4,000 to 7,000 victims
per transport, the first in the early morning and the second in the
mid-afternoon. All new arrivals were sent immediately to the
undressing area by the
Sonderkommando squad that managed the arrival
platform, and from there to the gas chambers. According to German
records, including the official report by SS
Stroop , some 265,000
Jews were transported in freight trains from the
Warsaw Ghetto to
Treblinka during this period. The murder operation
Warsaw concluded several months before the
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising resulting in new deportations. The
Nazi 1942 record of the total number of victims most of whom were
transported by train to
Operation Reinhard death camps, including
cumulative numbers known today, is as follows:
NUMBERS AND NOTES
quoted: 434,508 (real total of 600,000 with 246,922 deportees from
within the semi-colonial
General Government alone, per contemporary
quoted: 24,733 (cumulative number of 130,000 victims, per Majdanek
State Museum research)
quoted: 101,370 (final count in excess of 200,000 with 140,000 from
Lublin , and 25,000
Lviv alone per contemporary historians)
quoted: 713,555 (overall minimum of 800,000–900,000 at Camp II
and 20,000 at Camp I)
Höfle Telegram lists the number of arrivals to the
Aktion Reinhard Camps through 1942 (1,274,166)
Höfle Telegram lists the number of arrivals to the Reinhard
camps through 1942 as 1,274,166
Jews based on Reichsbahn own records.
The last train to be sent to
Treblinka extermination camp left
Białystok Ghetto on 18 August 1943; all prisoners were killed in gas
chambers after which the camp closed down per Globocnik 's directive.
Of the more than 245,000
Jews who passed through the
Łódź Ghetto ,
the last 68,000 inmates, by then the largest final gathering of Jews
in all of
German occupied Europe , have been liquidated by the Nazis
after 7 August 1944. They were told to prepare for resettlement;
instead, over the next 23 days they were sent to Birkenau by train at
the rate of 2,500 per day, with some of the crippled selected by Josef
Mengele for his "medical experiments".
The rail traffic on most Polish railway lines was extremely dense. In
1941 an average of 420 German trains were passing through every 24
hours on top of Polish internal traffic; in 1944 the number rose to
506 military transports per day. No new lines have been built by Nazi
Germany. Most supplies from layover yards were taken away. However,
almost all Polish language signs were replaced with German, which led
to new problems. On 24 November 1944 two trains (one German with
military cargo , and one Polish) traveling at regular speeds collided
Barwałd Średni near
Wadowice . It was the biggest train
World War II
World War II in occupied Poland with both locomotives and
nearly half of their trainsets destroyed completely. Some 130 people
from the Polish passenger train were killed and over 100 wounded.
Jews already dead from the still traveling Holocaust
train in Romania See also:
Responsibility for the Holocaust §
Căile Ferate Române (Romanian Railways) were involved in the
transport of Jewish and Romani people to concentration camps in
Romanian Old Kingdom ,
Bessarabia , northern
Bukovina , and
Transnistria . In a notable example, after the
Iasi pogrom events,
Jews were forcibly loaded onto freight cars with planks hammered in
place over the windows and traveled for days in unimaginable
conditions. Many died and were gravely affected by lack of air,
blistering heat, lack of water, food or medical attention. These
veritable death trains arrived to their destinations
Podu Iloaiei and
Călăraşi with only one-fifth of their passengers alive. No
official apology was released yet by
Căile Ferate Române for their
role in the Holocaust in Romania.
Norway surrendered to
Nazi Germany on 10 June 1940. At the time,
there were 1,700
Jews living in Norway. About half of them escaped to
neutral Sweden. Round ups by the SS began in the fall of 1942 with
support of the Norwegian police. In late November 1942 all
Oslo including women and children were put on a ship requisitioned by
the Quisling government and taken to
Hamburg , Germany. From there,
they were deported to
Auschwitz-Birkenau by train. In total, 770
Jews were sent by boat to
Nazi Germany between 1940 and
1945. Only two dozen survived.
On 9 September 1941, the parliament of the Slovak Republic – 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. The fascist Slovak leadership was
so impatient to get rid of
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 it. Some 83 percent of
the Jewish population perished in two waves of deportations to
Auschwitz, Belzec, and Majdanek; the second wave after the Uprising of
28–29 August 1944.
Switzerland was not invaded because its mountain bridges and tunnels
between Germany and Italy were too vital for them to go into war.
Also, the Swiss banks provided necessary access to international
markets by dealing in pilfered gold. There were 18,000
Jews living in
Switzerland at the onset of World War II. The country did not turn
over their own
Jews to the Germans, but according to three anonymous
eyewitnesses, allowed the Holocaust trains (aware of them since 1942)
to use the
Gotthard Tunnel on the way to the camps. Most war supplies
to Italy were shipped through the Austrian
Brenner Pass .
Entrance to the
There exists substantial evidence that these shipments included
Italian forced labour workers and trainloads of
Jews in 1944 during
the Nazi occupation of northern Italy, when a German train passed
through Switzerland every 10 minutes. The need for the tunnel was
complicated by the British
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force having bombed and disrupted
services through the Brenner Pass, as well as a heavy snowfall in the
winter of 1944–45.
Of 43 trains that could be tracked down by the 1996 Bergier
Commission , 39 went via Austria (Brenner,
Tarvisio ), one via France
Nice ). The commission could not find any evidence that
the other three passed through Switzerland. It is possible that the
train could have been carrying dissidents back from concentration
camps. Started in 1944, some repatriation trains went through
Switzerland officially, organised by the Red Cross .
After the Soviet Army began making severe inroads into the
German-occupied Europe and the Allies landed in
Normandy in June 1944,
the number of trains and transported persons began to vary greatly. By
November 1944, with the closure of Birkenau and the advance of the
Soviet Army, the death trains had ceased. Conversely, the subsequent
death marches had the advantage of being able to utilize the forced
labour to build defences.
As the Soviet and Allied Armies made their final pushes, the Nazis
transported some of the concentration camp survivors either to other
camps located inside the collapsing Third Reich, or to the border
areas where they believed they could negotiate the release of captured
Prisoners of War
Prisoners of War in return for the "Exchange Jews" or those that
were born outside the Nazi occupied territories. Many of the inmates
were transported via the infamous death marches, but among other
transports three trains left Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 bound for
Theresienstadt —all were liberated.
The last recorded train is the one used to transport the women of the
Flossenbürg March , where for three days in March 1945 the remaining
survivors were crammed into cattle cars to await further transport.
Only 200 of the original 1000 women survived the entire trip to
REMEMBRANCE AND COMMEMORATION
File:ISR-2015-Jerusalem-Yad Vashem-Wagon monument 01.jpg The
Yad Vashem , Jerusalem.
There are numerous national commemorations of the mass transportation
Jews in the "Final Solution" across Europe, as well as some
lingering controversies surrounding the history of the railway systems
utilized by the Nazis.
Warsaw national monument to Holocaust trains at the former
Umschlagplatz of the
All railway lines leading to death camps built in occupied Poland are
ceremonially cut off from the existing railway system in the country,
similar to the well-preserved arrival point at Auschwitz known as the
"Judenrampe" platform. The commemorative monuments are traditionally
erected at collection points elsewhere. In 1988 a national monument
was created at the
Umschlagplatz of the
Warsaw Ghetto . Designed by
architect Hanna Szmalenberg and sculptor Władysław Klamerus, it
consists of a stone structure symbolizing an open freight car. In
Kraków , the memorial to
Jews from the
Kraków Ghetto deported during
the Holocaust spreads over the entire deportation site known as the
Square of the Ghetto Heroes (Plac Bohaterow Getta). Inaugurated in
December 2005, it consists of oversized steel chairs (each
representing 1,000 victims), designed by architects Piotr Lewicki and
Kazimierz Latak. At the former
Łódź Ghetto , the monument was
built at the
Radegast train station (Bahnhof Radegast), where
approximately 200,000 Polish, Austrian, German, Luxemburg and Czech
Jews boarded the trains on the way to their deaths in the period from
16 January 1942, to 29 August 1944.
In 2004/2005, German historians and journalists began publicly
demanding that at the German passenger train stations commemorative
exhibits be set up, after the railroad companies in France and the
Netherlands began commemorations of Nazi mass deportations in their
own train stations. The
Deutsche Bahn AG (DB AG), the state-owned
successor of the
Deutsche Reichsbahn replied: "we do not have either
the personnel or the financial resources" for that kind of
commemoration. Demonstrations then began at railway stations in
Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main and in
Cologne as well as inside the long-distance
border-crossing trains. Because the DB AG had responded by having its
security personnel repress the protests, German citizens' initiatives
rented a historical steam locomotive and installed their own
exhibition in remodeled passenger cars. This "Train of Commemoration"
made its first journey on the 2007 International Holocaust Remembrance
Day of January 27. The
Deutsche Bahn AG refused it access to the main
Hamburg and Berlin. German Jewish communities protested
against the company levying mileage tariffs and hourly fees for the
exhibit (which by December 31, 2013 reached approx. US $290,000).
Parliamentarians of all parties in the German national parliament
called on the DB AG to rethink its behavior. Federal Transport
Wolfgang Tiefensee proposed an exhibition by artist Jan
Philipp Reemtsma on the railways' role in the deportation of 11,000
Jewish children to their deaths in Nazi concentration and
extermination camps throughout World War II. Because the CEO of the
railroad company maintained his refusal, a "serious rift" occurred
between himself and the Minister of Transport. On January 23, 2008, a
compromise was reached, wherein the DB AG established its own
stationary exhibit Sonderzüge in den Tod . As national press
journals pointed out, the exhibit "contained nearly nothing about the
culprits." The post-war careers of those in charge of the railroad
remained "totally obscured." Since 2009 the civil society association
Train of Commemoration which, with its donations financed the
exhibition "Train of Commemoration" presented at 130 German stations
with 445,000 visitors, has been demanding cumulative compensation for
the survivors of these deportations by train. The railroad's
proprietors (the German Minister of Transport and the German Minister
of Finances) reject this demand.
Jews being loaded into railway trucks in
SNCF commissioned a report on its involvement in World War
II. The company opened its archives to an independent historian,
Christian Bachelier, whose report was released in French in 2000.
It was translated to English in 2010.
In 2001, a lawsuit was filed against French government -owned rail
SNCF by Georges Lipietz, a
Holocaust survivor , who was
SNCF to the
Drancy internment camp in 1944. Lipietz
was held at the internment camp for several months before the camp was
liberated. After Lipietz's death the lawsuit was pursued by his
family and in 2006 an administrative court in
Toulouse ruled in favor
of the Lipietz family.
SNCF was ordered to pay 61,000 Euros in
SNCF appealed the ruling at an administrative appeals
Bordeaux , where in March 2007 the original ruling was
overturned. According to historian
Michael Marrus , the court in
Bordeaux "declared the railway company had acted under the authority
of the Vichy government and the German occupation" and as such could
not be held independently liable. Marrus wrote in his 2011 essay
that the company has nevertheless taken responsibility for their
actions and it is the company's willingness to open up their archives
revealing involvement in the transportation of
Holocaust victims that
has led to the recent legal and legislative attention.
Between 2002 and 2004 the
SNCF helped fund an exhibit on deportation
of Jewish children that was organized by Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld .
SNCF helped set up a railway station outside of Paris to a
Shoah Foundation for the creation of a memorial to honor Holocaust
victims. In December 2014, the company came to a $60 million
compensation settlement with French Holocaust survivors living in the
Nederlandse Spoorwegen used its 29 September 2005 apology for its
role in the "Final Solution" to launch an equal opportunities and
anti-Discrimination policy, in part to be monitored by the Dutch
council of Jews.
RAILWAY COMPANIES INVOLVED
Deutsche Reichsbahn , the
German Reich Railway
* National Railway Company of
Belgium , National Railway Company of
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) in the Netherlands
SNCF , French National Railway Company
* CFR , the state railways of Romania
* MÁV , Hungarian State Railways
* ^ Although Kastner was later criticised for putting his own
family on the train,
Hansi Brand , a member of the Vaada testified at
Eichmann's trial in
Jerusalem in 1961 that Kastner had included his
family to reassure the others that the train was safe, and was not
destined, as they feared, for Auschwitz.
* ^ To date, of the 1,176 paintings on the Gold Train originally
stored by the U.S. Army, only one has been repatriated. On 30
September 2005, the U.S. Government reached agreement with the
representatives of the Hungarian Jewish community to pay $25.5 million
in compensation with additional $500,000 for the creation of archives
preserving documents associated with the Gold Train, and to declassify
any remaining documents related to it.
* ^ Following the Lipietz trial, SNCF's involvement in World War II
became the subject of attention in the United States when SNCF
explored bids on rail projects in Florida and California, and SNCF's
partly owned subsidiary,
Keolis Rail Services America bid on projects
in Virginia and Maryland. In 2010,
Keolis placed a bid on a contract
to operate the Brunswick and Camden lines of the
MARC train in
Maryland. Following pressure from Holocaust survivors in Maryland,
the state passed legislation in 2011 requiring companies bidding on
the project to disclose their involvement in the Holocaust. Keolis
currently operates the
Virginia Railway Express , a contract the
company received in 2010. In California, also in 2010, state
lawmakers passed the Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act. The bill,
written to require companies to disclose their involvement in World
War II, was later vetoed by Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger . While
bidding on these rail contracts,
SNCF was criticized for not formally
acknowledging and apologizing for its involvement in World War II. In
Guillaume Pepy released a formal statement of
regrets for the company's actions during World War II. Some
historians have expressed the opinion that
SNCF has been unfairly
targeted in the United States for their involvement in World War II.
Human rights attorney Arno Klarsfeld has argued that the negative
SNCF was disrespectful to the French railway workers who lost
their lives engaging in acts of resistance.
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functions that facilitated the movement of trains. They constructed
and published timetables, collected fares, and allocated cars and
locomotives. In sending
Jews to their death, they did not deviate much
from the routine procedures they used to process ordinary train
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