“Since then I have believed in fate…“ Transports of Protectorate Jews to the Baltic States, 1942
From 14. 04. 2005 to 10. 07. 2005
Jewish Museum in Prague, Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Prague 1
14 April – 10 July 2005
The exhibition Transports of Protectorate Jews to the Baltic States deals with the transport trains that were dispatched from the Terezín ghetto before 26 October 1942, when deportations to Auschwitz began. The first part of the exhibition is on the fate of Bohemian Jews who were transported between 9 January and 22 October 1942 to the Nazi-occupied Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia. The second part, which is currently under preparation, will be on deportations to Belarus and eastern Poland.
This exhibition has followed extensive research in a number of archives and museums across the world and in many dozens of private collections. This research was instigated by, and based on, Lukáš Přibyl’s long-term studies, his photography collection and his interviews with Shoah survivors, which will be presented in the spring of 2006 in a four-part documentary film. Some of the material brought together for this film can be seen in this exhibition.
The Latvian capital Riga was the destination for the first two transports – “O” and “P” – which left the Terezín ghetto on 9 and 15 January 1942. The prisoners from the first Czech transport, together with German Jews, replaced the original inhabitants of the Riga ghetto, most of whom had been shot during two extensive massacres in the nearby forests of Rumbula and Bikernieki. Dozens of fit young men from the Czech transports were taken away to work in the labour camp at Salaspils, where many of them perished due to the harsh winter and the barbaric conditions. Nor was life in the ghetto any easier – male and female inmates were forced to do the hardest labour and all had to struggle to get a little extra to make up for the meagre rations. In addition, there were occasional liquidation campaigns, directed mostly at the elderly, children and the sick. After the liquidation of the ghetto in the summer of 1943, the remaining Jews were relocated to the newly opened concentration camp of Kaiserwald. The vast majority were then sent via the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig to another slave labour camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the US and British forces, or to the area around Stutthof, where, after the Death Marches, they were found in the spring of 1945 by the Soviet army.
The transports “Bb” and “Be”, which were dispatched in the same year (on 20 August and 1 September 1942), were also directed to the Baltic states. Of the one thousand prisoners on transport “Bb”, not a single survivor was found after the war; it is most probably that they were all murdered immediately upon arrival.
Transport “Be”, which was apparently originally destined for Riga, was sent on to Estonia, due to “overcrowding” at the Riga ghetto. It pulled into the small station of Raasiku, where a selection was carried out, after which most of the people were taken away in buses. At a sandbank called Kalevi Liiva, all the men, women and children who were “unfit for work” were forced to undress and to hand over all valuables. They were then shot and pushed into freshly dug mass graves. The only ones to survive the war was a small group of women who had been sent to Tallinn via the Jägala concentration camp at the end of 1942 and in the course of 1943, where they were put to work clearing up the ruins after air raids and labouring on construction sites, among other things. They were then sent to other concentration camps in Estonia, particularly in Ereda and Goldfields. After the evacuation of these camps at the end of the summer of 1944, the women were relocated to Stutthof, where they met with survivors from Latvia. The largest group of women was then transferred to the Neuengamme concentration camp in Ochsenzoll, where they were put to work in the munitions factory. From there they were deported to Bergen-Belsen, although some of them were reclaimed by Ochsenzoll after a few days. Shortly before the end of the war, they left on a Red Cross transport via Denmark to Sweden. Having managed to survive the appalling conditions at Bergen-Belsen, these women were liberated by the British army on 15 April 1945.
This exhibition features hitherto little-known information not only on the ghettos and camps in this area, but also on the lives of the inmates who were forcibly dragged here. The curators have prioritised authentic testimony over mere factual accounts of historical events, and have provided scope for those who survived the horrors to convey their impressions and individual experiences.
The exhibition has received financial support from the Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic, Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, and the Holocaust Survivors Foundation.
The exhibition was prepared in association with the Terezín Memorial and the Terezín Initiative Institute and with the financial support of the Foreign Institute of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Thanks for their kind support are due to Rabbi Norman R. Patz and Adam Agins, Jessica Barker, Benjamin Burnham, Eric Felcher, Sarah Gold, Iris Leibowitz, Matthew Mattioli and Matthew Siimeoni - students of his congregation Sholom West Essex in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, USA - who have donated US$1,000 towards further research into the transports of Czech Jews to concentration camps in Belarus, the Baltic States and Poland.
The exhibition will be on view at the Robert Guttmann Gallery in Prague (at U Staré školy 3) from 14 April until 10 July 2005. The gallery is open daily from 9am to 6pm, except for Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
For more information, please contact the Museum’s Publicity Department