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Cattle Cars Stuffed with Human Cargo Became Rolling Death Wagons



Once arrived at the railroad station of Chelmno, the Polish Jews were transferred from closed cattle cars to open box-cars which would bring them to the place of extermination.

The S.S. Killing Squads could not deal with individually murdering so many people. So the Nazis began shipping the Jews off to more “efficient” death camps.

The Jews were lulled into false security. They were told they were going to work camps with better conditions.

A key element of the Final Solution was the railways, which made the mass transports possible.

The transports typically used cattle cars. At times, the floor had a layer of quick lime which burned the feet of the human cargo.

An average transport lasted about four days. There was no water. No food. No toilet. No ventilation. Some boxcars had 150 people stuffed into them. It did not matter if it was summer or winter, boiling hot or freezing cold.

Each of the trains carried in excess of a thousand victims.

Sometimes the Germans did not have enough cars to make it worthwhile to ship the Jews. So the victims were stuck in a switching yard – “standing room only” – for days on end.

The longest transport, from the Greek island of Corfu, lasted 18 days. When the train got to the camps and the doors were opened, everyone was already dead.

Eyewitness Testimony: Cattle Car Deportations

The Jews are deported to Auschwitz daily, on schedule. They leave from the ghetto embarkation depots, on schedule. Conductors signal, “All aboard.” Brakemen wave lanterns. German and Hungarian guards shoot a few reluctant travelers, club and bayonet a last group of mothers into the compartments. The engineer opens his throttle. And the train is off for Auschwitz, on schedule.

Eighty Jews ride in every compartment. Eichmann [said] the Germans could do better where there were more children. Then they could jam 120 into each train room. But 80 is no reflection on German efficiency.

6,000 Jews are deported each day on cattle cars from the rail station north of the ghetto. They are taken to Treblinka and gassed to death.

The 80 Jews must stand all the way to Auschwitz with their hands raised in the air, so as to make room for the maximum of passengers.

There are two buckets in each compartment. One contains water. The other is for use as a toilet, to be shoved by foot, if possible, from user to user.

I wonder here, why the water and toilet buckets? One water bucket, one toilet bucket for 80 despairing men, women and children plastered against each other as in a packing case, and riding to death. Why? One water bucket, one toilet bucket are not enough to relieve the misery of these barely living ones. Jammed together, how can they use any buckets? They must urinate and defecate in their clothes. They must continue to burn with thirst until they arrive at the gas ovens. But the buckets are there.

I look at these two buckets as some curious souvenirs. Of what? I answer hesitantly; of the fact that humanity is hard to stamp out completely. It persists. It sneaks a token of itself into each foul-smelling, Jew-jammed compartment. The two buckets are like the spoor of some wounded thing – a German memory of humanity not quite dead.

from: “Perfidy,” by Ben Hecht, Julian Messner, Inc., New York, 1961 

By: Staff


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. brian sokoloski

    01/26/2018 at 3:04 am

    just wanted to live a better life

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