Deportation of German Jews from Breslau 1941-1944 as Described in Eyewitness Testimonies
The Jewish population in Germany numbered around 525,000 in 1933. By September 1939, it had dwindled to 185,000. Until October 1941 Jews could still emigrate voluntarily. In 1939 a total of 12,880 Jews lived in Breslau; some were of mixed origin or married to non-Jewish partners. In April 1941 the eviction of Jews from their homes commenced. At first, they were transported to nearby camps. However, between 1941 and 1943 the mass deportation of Breslau Jews to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz took place. It is claimed that thirty-eight of those deported survived. In 1966 the first of three trials related to war crimes committed in Breslau took place. The Gestapo and Nazi officials on trial included Hans-Joachim Gerke, Hermann Fey, and Walter Hampel, who were in charge of the deportations. Despite survivor eyewitness accounts of the events, the prosecution failed to procure convictions. It transpires from the testimonies that early in 1942 the Jews still thought that the transports were destined for labor camps. Later in the year, they came to realize the devastating truth and many committed suicide. Some Jews, mainly of mixed marriages, survived in Breslau.