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Deutsches Technikmuseum - "Deportation of the Jews" 1941-1945

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Deportation of the Jews from the German Reich between 1941 and 1945

The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin portrays the fate of twelve Berliners

Photo montage: A coloured photo of a roll of cloth with yellow stars combined with a black-and-white photo of transportees at a deportation train

Roll of cloth with yellow stars, 1941. Photo: Transportees from Hanau near Frankfort/Main

Between 5 and 6 million people in Europe were victims of the holocaust. In the German Reich alone, 130,000 Jews were taken away by rail to numerous ghettos and extermination camps from October 1941 to May 1945. German State Rail trains were scheduled to transport up to 1000 people at a time to the concentration camps. Bureaucrats calculated the cost. Most transportees were murdered shortly after arrival. However, the railway’s involvement in the genocide was concealed long after the war was over.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin has dedicated an exhibition to this darkest chapter of German rail history. In addition to displaying a typical freight wagon of the period, the exhibition endeavours to provide a complete overview of "Jew transports" from the German Reich to the ghettos and death camps.

Train transports from Berlin

More than 60 transport trains left Berlin between October 1941 and early 1945 heading "East", i.e. to Lodz, Minsk, Kowno (Kaunas), Riga, the Lublin region, Warsaw, Maly Trostinec near Minsk and, from the end of 1942, to Auschwitz. At the same time, from June 1942 onwards, over 120 transport trains brought mainly older Jewish men and women from Berlin to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Bohemia. Countless people died in the ghetto, many others were deported from there to extermination camps.

The exhibition names the destination of each of the 180 "Jew transports" from Berlin. It also depicts the fate of twelve people who were branded Jews and deported from the German capital and Brandenburg province. Nine were murdered. The principal data for all "Jew transports" between 1941 and 1945 can be accessed via a media console.

Photo: Freight wagon, around 1920. It represents the participation of the German state rail by implementing the German Reich’s anti-Semitic policies.

Typical freight wagon in the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

German State Rail and the Jews

The state railway, or Reichsbahn, was one of many bodies and authorities that immediately implemented the German Reich’s anti-Semitic policies once the National Socialists were in power. By 1935, all the railway’s Jewish employees had been sacked.

Shortly afterwards, the first special trains carrying Jews started to cross the country. In October 1938 alone, German State Rail transported well over 12,000 Polish Jews to the former eastern border. Following Kristallnacht in November 1938, the rail company took approximately 25,000 Jewish men to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen. In 1939, trains travelling to the seaports carried over 10,000 Jewish children who had been forced to emigrate to England.

On September 1st 1941, in addition to ordering Jews to wear the yellow star, Reinhard Heydrich decreed that they would only be allowed to leave their town of residence with a police permit. This paved the way for mass deportation to camps in the “East” of Germany’s sphere of control; victims totalled 50,000 in Berlin and Brandenburg alone. Transportation began on October 15th 1941. One after another, deportation trains left the stations of Grunewald and Moabit on Berlin’s outskirts and Anhalter station in central Berlin.

Photo: A brown leather suitcase with white inscription Berta "Sara" Rosenthal and detailed address

Suitcase of transportee Berta "Sara" Rosenthal from Berlin. Each Jewish woman was forced to use "Sara" as her second Christian name.

Organisation of the transportations

The deportations were carried out on Hitler’s and Himmler’s orders and planned by Adolf Eichmann and his staff in section IV B 4 of the Reich’s main security department; their office was at Kurfürstenstraße 116 in the Tiergarten district. Berlin Jews were deported following the same pattern as the "Jew transports" elsewhere in the German Reich.

German State Rail carried out transportation on the Gestapo’s orders. During World War II the railway was mainly occupied in organising train transport for the war economy, the military and workers. However, it was always able to provide sufficient locomotives and wagons for deportation purposes.

Photo: Book cover "Die Judendeportationen aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941 - 1945"

Book cover

Publication (in German)

"Die "Judendeportationen" aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941-1945"

presenting the current research.

Alfred Gottwaldt und Diana Schulle
marixverlag, Wiesbaden 2005
ISBN 3-86539-059-5
15,00 EUR.