This book is the outcome of the search for the students who attended our grammar school at the end of the 1930s and who were persecuted for their Jewish origin on the basis of the so called Nuremberg Laws. At that time this school was officially called "II. československá státní reálka". The language of instruction was always Czech although the school was founded in 1906, in the era of the Austrian Monarchy. During the period of "the first republic" (from the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918 till the signing of the Munich Agreement in October 1938) it was attended by students from Plzeň and its surroundings, but there were several foreigners as well. Most of the students professed a Catholic faith, some Evangelist or Orthodox; some weren't members of any church. And there were also some Jews. At the end of the thirties there were eight Jewish students and a few others were additionally labelled as "Jews" or "Jewish half-bloods" by the Nazis. Anti-Semitism was quite latent during the period of "the first republic" and Czech anti-Semites stayed silent till October 1938. After the signing of the Munich Agreement president Edvard Beneš left the country and the Czech nationalistic and anti-Semitic right wing came into power. The first anti-Jewish discriminatory regulations on the Czechoslovak territory were issued by the Czechoslovak government in February 1939 - Jews were banned from working in state control. The press contained inflammatory anti-Semitic articles. Slovakia broke off after the Nazi occupation on March 16th, 1939 and the occupied land was attached to The German Reich and renamed "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia". After the arrival of the Nazis the same anti-Jewish regulations and restrictions as the already valid in Germany and Austria were enforced in the Protectorate. Jewish children had to leave schools of all levels and a great number of bans was issued. All of that finally lead the Czech Jews to social isolation and made them destitute. At the end of the year 1941 a large ghetto was founded in the former garrison town of Terezín where Jews from the Protectorate and other countries, e.g. Germany and Austria, were concentrated. Later they were transported from there to the East, to concentration and extermination camps. Five former students of our grammar school were murdered, the others survived thanks to good luck, help or coincidence. But their families mostly did not. This book was made to keep their memory alive.
Emil Ehrlich (died in Auschwitz)
Jiří Stein (died in Raasiku)
Eva Brummelová (emigrated to Great Britan)
Hana Fantová (died most probably in Izbica)
Mirko Lauterstein (was imprisoned in Postoloprty)
Egon Löbner (survived Auschwitz and was liberated in Flossenbürg)
Hana Porgesová (died most probably in Sobibor)
Arnošt Epstein (was imprisoned in Postoloprty)
Hanuš Deiml (survived Auschwitz and was liberated in Altenburg)
Jiří Schanzer (died in a concentration camp, most probably in Auschwitz)
Extermination of the Plzeň Jews
More than sixty years ago an unprecedented event happened in Plzeň. Within ten days between 17th and 26th January 1942 at least two thousand of Plzeň citizens of all social classes and professions (from workers, craftsmen, tradesmen, teachers to physicians, lawyers, bankers and officials) divided into three large groups were deported from the town. This affected the whole families, including old people and even very small children. The only thing that made each of them apparently different from the other inhabitants was a six-pointed yellow star in size of a palm sewn on the left side of the coat.
These people were labelled as "Jews" on the basis of genealogical origin and Nazi criteria without any consideration of their own national or denominational feeling. According to the so called "Nuremberg Laws", since 1935 valid in the region of the German Reich and after the German occupation of the rests of Czechoslovakia also in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, they were gradually deprived of their civil rights and liberties, their social status, property and employment, they were treated like people legally and humanly inferior and they were exposed to graduating administrative, psychological and physical repression. This forced transfer was just another phase of a horrific process which was euphemistically called by its Nazi authors "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question".
The destination of the three special trains which left the Plzeň railway station on January 17th, 22nd and 26th, was the town of Terezín. In autumn 1941 this town was chosen by Reinhard Heydrich as a place of concentration of all the Jewish people from the protectorate territory. Together with the citizens of Plzeň there were also other 540 Jews - men, women and children - from nearby areas - the districts of Rokycany, Kralovice, Radnice, Zbiroh, Blovice, Manětín and Hořovice. Among all the trains heading for Terezín from the protectorate and later from other European cities taken by Germans, these three transports from Plzeň were one of the earliest ones.
Before the deportation took place all its participants were interned in the Sokol building in Štruncovy Sady for several days. Hundreds of people, men, women and children, spent days and nights together in the main hall and in the adjacent rooms. They slept on straw mattresses on the ground, cramping for space and treading on each other. When the train departure was scheduled armed units of the German occupation army escorted them in columns of four as prisoners. Each of them had to wear a label with the name and the transport number. The same marking was also used to label the luggage - suitcases and backpacks - which contained all their remaining property - warm clothing, a few personal things and food for several days. No one could carry more than fifty kilograms.
After many hours of the journey the train finally arrived in the Bohušovice railway station about two and a half kilometers far from Terezín. Then they walked the distance carrying their luggage and being accompanied by Czech gendarmes. Some old or sick people were transported on trucks. When they came to Terezín, the family members were separated - the town didn't become the "open ghetto" yet and there were just some abandoned barracks serving as places of accommodation. There were different sections chosen for men able to work, for women with children younger than twelve years, for old and sick people. But the capacity was not adequate; people had to sleep on straw on the ground and were troubled with sanitary conditions and standard of the meals. These barracks became prisons for its new "lodgers" - they were watched over by gendarmes, with no freedom of movement. This changed on June 27th, 1942 when the eviction of the civilian population was finished and the gendarmes under the SS command were withdrawn from the barracks to guard the city walls and the gateways.
The transports from Plzeň were marked with letters "R", "S" and "T". They deported 2064 people right from Plzeň and 540 from its surrounding districts. The oldest person was Marie Ebenová from Litohlavy in the "T" transport. She died four days after her arrival in Terezín. By the end of January other 21 people of old age perished; eighty-year-old Luisa Schwarzová from Plzeň coming in the second transport died as early as on January 23rd. The youngest transported person was eight-month-old Eva Fischerová (the "T" transport). She survived in Terezín with her mother.
As early as on March 11th and 18th, 1942 two transports marked "Aa" and "Ab", each containing 1000 people, were sent from Terezín to the Izbica ghetto. They carried 620 men, women and children from the Plzeň region.
Izbica is located in the district of Lublin in the eastern Poland - the Nazi establishment called this area "General Gouvernement". In 1940 a ghetto for local and neighbouring Polish Jews was founded there. Other similar ghettos were set up in many cities and towns with rather large Jewish community. A ghetto was usually enclosed with a wooden fence with a barbed wire, had several entranceways and was guarded by SS units or Ukrainian guards. Jews interned there were used for slave labour in agriculture or nearby industrial complexes. Their already inhumane living conditions were getting worse and worse as the situation on the eastern front was changing.
During the first six months of 1942 fourteen transports of Czech Jews arrived in ghettos and concentration camps in the Lublin district - fourteen thousand men, women and children, those who had been concentrated to Terezín from the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In these transports there were 1320 people coming from the Plzeň region, i.e. more then a half. The following transports to General Gouvernement departed from Germany and some other countries controlled by the Nazis.
During the next eight months other people from Plzeň were deported from Terezín to ghettos, concentration camps and extermination camps in eastern Poland, Belorussia, Estonia and Latvia. On October 26th, 1942 the first transport to Auschwitz left Terezín; the "KL Auschwitz II - Birkenau" camp became the destination of all later transports leaving Terezín.
Two hundred and eight people transported to Terezín from the Plzeň region died in Terezín during the year 1942 (and until the liberation in May 1945 other seventy-one). By the end of the year 1942 almost all deportees to the East died under extra horrific circumstances in ghettos and extermination camps. In December 1942, eleven months since the Jewish inhabitants left Plzeň to build "the town donated to Jews by the Führer", not even one third of the deportees was alive; more than one thousand eight hundred men, women and children were dead. Other people died during the next years at various places, mostly in Auschwitz. Considering the number of more than two thousand people deported from Plzeň to Terezín in 1942, only two hundred and four of them survived till the end of the war.