The 60th anniversary of the „liquidation” of the Czech family camp in Auschwitz


The 60th anniversary of the liquidation of the so called family camp in Auschwitz Concentration Camp for Jews deported from the ghetto in Terezin (Theresienstadt, now in the Czech Republic) is being commemorated.

Famillienlager Theresienstadt or Familienlager BIIb in Birkenau Concentration Camp was liquidated over the nights of 10-11 and 11-12 July, 1944, when the Nazis exterminated approximately 7,000 Jews in the gas chambers.

Terezin is a small city in the Czech Republic. A fortress was built there between 1780 and 1790. Military and political prisoners were held there beginning early in the 19th century. Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, was imprisoned there.

During the Second World War, after the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the fortress became a center of political repression. The Prague Gestapo opened a prison in the Small Fortress in June 1940. A ghetto and concentration camp for Jews was opened in the Main Fortress in November, 1941.

More than 32,000 people, mostly Czechs but also including some Russians, Poles, Germans, Yugoslavians, and others, were imprisoned in the Small Fortress. For many of them, it was a transit point on the road to other prisons and concentration camps where 8,000 of them died. Over 2,500 prisoners died in the Terezin prison itself as a result of inadequate living conditions, sickness, and inhuman mistreatment.

More than 140,000 Jews from Bohemia, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, Slovakia, and Hungary were deported to Terezin between the opening of the ghetto and its liberation on April 20, 1945. Over 33,000 of them died because of the overcrowding and terrible sanitary conditions there.

Over 87,000 prisoners were deported from Terezin to death camps in the East in 1943. 46,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp: about 20,000 to the family camp in Birkenau and 26,000 to other parts of the Auschwitz camp, or straight to the Birkenau gas chambers.

In May 1944, the Germans were holding approximately 11,000 prisoners in the Familienlager. In the first days of July, camp physician Josef Mengele carried out a “selection” that sent 3,800 young, healthy men and women to other camps. The remaining 7,000 Jews, including women and children, were exterminated in the gas chambers on the nights of July 10-11 and 11-12. Thus was the Familienlager liquidated.

The barracks that formerly housed the Familienlager were later used for other purposes, including storing articles plundered from Jewish deportees.

In all, fewer than 4,000 of the Jews imprisoned in Terezin survived the war.