Erich Schön, the death of Jacob Edelstein and his family in Auschwitz

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Testimony of Erich Schön (later called Kulka), a Czech-Israeli writer and historian, which became a part of the “documentation campaign” in Prague. In 1939 he was arrested by the Gestapo and was later imprisoned in the Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Auschwitz concentration camps. He describes the fate and murder of Jacob Edelstein and his family in Auschwitz. Edelstein was the former Elder of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

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Document Text

  1. English
  2. Czech
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Statement

Written with Mr. Erich Schön, born 18. 2. 1911, residing in Vsetín, Žerotínova 992, former prisoner of the concentration camps Spielberg, Dachau, Hamburg-Neuengamme, Auschwitz and Birkenau, profession clerk, Czech nationality.

Report on the tragic fate of Jakub Edelstein’s family.

On December 20th, 1943, roughly 5,000 men, women, and children, most of them Czech Jews, arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau from the Theresienstadt ghetto. They were placed in the special so-called Czech Family Camp in Birkenau, section B-II-B.

Amongst them was the family of Jakub Edelstein from Prague.

However, Jakub Edelstein, together with three companions, was called away from the transport at the Auschwitz train station and brought by car to the main camp Auschwitz I.

Here, they were imprisoned in block no. 11, the so-called Bunker, which was used as an investigation prison by the camp Gestapo, the so-called Politische Abteilung. Few made it out alive from there. It contained all kinds of instruments of torture, which were used to force either true or false confessions from the accused. Executions took place in the courtyard of this block.

Edelstein was interrogated several times and accused of enabling the escape of several people from the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Meanwhile, his family was in camp B-II-b. His wife worked at the children’s home, which was overseen by Fredy Hirsch. She, along with her mother and child was faring quite well. Through Jakub, who was a guard in block no. 11, we managed to put Jakub Edelstein in Auschwitz I in contact with his family in Birkenau. Two letters were exchanged in secret.

Sometime in February 1944, high-ranking SS officer Eichmann of the RSHA arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He spoke with  Fredy Hirsch and Janowitz, was briefed on the conditions in the camp, and asked to see Edelstein’s wife.

He asked her how she was doing and whether she had a request. He also asked her whether she knew about her husband. She requested to be allowed to see her husband. He promised she would be able to do so at a later date and asked her to write a letter to her husband, which he promised to deliver. Edelstein was supposedly somewhere in the Reich.

About one month after his departure, the liquidation of the Czech Family Camp took place. On March 8th, 3,860 men, women, and children from the transports of September 7th and 9th, 1943, were annihilated in the gas chambers of Crematorium I and II.

We found out that the prisoners of the Czech Family Camp were ordered Sonderbehandlung (SB) after being in quarantine for half a year. According to this, the second liquidation was then expected on June 20th, 1944.

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The second liquidation took place a short time later, but it it began exactly on June 20th with the annihilation of the Edelstein family, which happened like this:

On June 20th in the afternoon, a prison transport vehicle (paddy wagon) arrived in front of block no. 11 in Auschwitz I. The escorting SS man from Politische Abteilung requested that Jakub Edelstein and his companions be brought to him. He told the guard that they would be released to the Czech Family Camp and took their personal files with them. They told Edelstein that he would go to his family.

They were taken away by car, but not to the Family Camp. In fact, they were brought to Crematorium III in Birkenau.

The same car then drove to the Family Camp, from where it was supposed to take Edelstein’s wife and his family. That same day, E.’s wife, gravely ill, lay in block no. 32. The doctor refused to release her with the explanation that she was unable to be transported. The car left.

A few minutes later, the car returned with a strict order by Schwarzhuber, the commander of the camp, that Mrs. Edelstein and her family must be released immediately in the state that she was in.

They were also brought to Crematorium III. There, all of them were then shot to death in the execution hall and burned in the crematorium.

This statement can be verified by the eyewitnesses who have returned:

Filip Müller, Sered n. Váhom, who saw the execution in Crematorium III., Josef Neumann, Žilina, was was a prisoner in block 11 in Auschwitz and spoke with Jakub Edelstein.

Signature:

Erich Schön

Statement was accepted by:

Berta Gerzonová

Signatures of witnesses:

Helena Schicková

Marta Fischerová

On behalf of the Documentation campaign:

Scheck

On behalf of the archive:

Alex. Schmiedt

26. X. 1945

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Protokol

Sepsaný s panem Erichem Schönem, nar. 18. 2. 1911, bytem ve Vsetíně, Žerotínova 992, býv. vězněmkonc. táborů Spielberg, Dachau, Hamburg-Neuengamme, Osvěnčím a Birkenau, povoláním úředník, národnosti české.

Zpráva o tragickém osudu rodiny Jakuba Edelsteina.

Dne 20. prosince 1943 přijelo z terezínského ghetta do Osvienčíma-Birkenau asi 5.000 mužů, žen a dětí, většinou Židů českých. Byli dodáni do zvláštního, t.zv. českého rodinného tábora v Birkenau, úsek B-II-B.

Mezi nimi byla i rodina Jakuba EdelsteinaPrahy.

Jakub Edelstein sám i a ještě třemi společníky byl však na osvěnčímském nádraží vyvolán z transportu a dopraven autem do ústředního tábora Osvětim I.

Tam byli uvězněni na bloku č. 11, t. zv. Bunker, který sloužil jako vyšetřovací vězení pro táborové Gestapo, t. zv. Politische Abteilung. Málokdo odtamtud vyšel živ. Byly tam nejrůznější druhy mučíren, jimiž od obviněných vynucovali ať již pravdivá nebo nepravdivá vyznání. Na nádvoří tohoto bloku se konaly rozsudky smrti.

Edelstein byl několikrát vyslýchán a obviněn, že umožnil útěk několika lidí z terezínského ghetta.

Mezitím byla jeho rodina v táboře B-II-b. Jeho manželka pracovala v dětském domově, jehož vedoucím byl Fredy Hirsch. Dařilo se jí, její matce a dítěti poměrně dobře. Prostřednictvím Jakuba, který byl dozorcem na bloku č. 11 podařilo se nám navázati spojení mezi Jakubem EdelsteinemOsvienčímě I., a jeho rodinou v Birkenau. Byly tajnou cestou vyměněny dopisy.

Někdy v únoru 1944 přijel do Osvěnčíma-Birkenau vysoký důstojník SS od RSHA Eichmann. Mluvil s Fredy Hirschem, Janowitzem, informoval se na poměry v táboře a nechal si zavolat manželku Edelsteinovu.

Ptal se jí, jak se jí daří a má-li nějakou prosbu. Ptal se jí také, ví-li o svém manželi. Prosila, aby jí bylo umožněno manžela vidět. Přislíbil to na pozdější dobu a vyzval jí, aby svému muži napsala dopis, který slíbil doručit, Edelstein je prý někde v Říši.

Asi za měsíc po jeho odjezdu došlo k prvé likvidaci českého rodinného tábora. Dne 8. března bylo zničeno 3860 mužů, žen a dětíplynových komorách krematoria I a II, z transportu z 7. a 9. září 1943.

Dověděli jsme se, že vězňové českého rodinného tábora mají po půlroční karanténě nařízeno Sonderbehandlung /SB/. Druhá likvidace se dle toho očekávala na 20. června 1944.

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K této druhé likvidaci došlo o něco později, byla však zahájena přesně dne 20. června zničením rodiny Edelsteinovy, což se událo následovně:

Dne 20. června odpoledne přijelo uzavřené vězeňské auto /zelený anton/ před blok č. 11 v Osvienčíně I. Doprovázející SS z Politische Abteilung žádal vydání Jakuba Edelsteina a jeho společníků. K dozorci prohlásil, že budou propuštěni do rodinného tábora českého a vzali s sebou i jejich osobní kartotéky. Edelsteinovi řekli, že půjde ke své rodině.

Autem byli odvezení, ale ne do rodinného tábora, nýbrž do krematoria III v Birkenau.

Totéž auto jelo pak do rodinného tábora, odkud mělo odvést Edelsteinovu manželku a jeho rodinu. Toho dne ležela manželka E. těžce nemocná na bloku č. 32. Lékař odmítl ji vydat s odůvodněním, že je transportu neschopná. Auto odjelo zpět.

Po několika minutách se auto vrátilo s přísným rozkazem velitele tábora Schwarzhubera, že Edelsteinová s rodinou má býti ihned vydána v takovém stavu, jak je.

Byli odvezeni rovněž do krematoria III. Tam byli potom všichni v popravčí síni zastřeleni a v krematoriu spáleni.

Tuto zprávu můžete si ověřiti ještě u očitých svědků, kteří se rovněž vrátili:

Filip Müller, Sered n. Váhom, který viděl popravukrematoriu III., Josef Neumann, Žilina, který byl vězněn na bloku 11 v Osvienčíně a mluvil s Jakubem Edelsteinem.

Podpis:

Erich Schön

Protokol přijala:

Berta Gerzonová

Podpis svědků:

Helena Schicková

Marta Fischerová

Za Dokumentační akci přijal:

Scheck

Za archiv přijal:

Alex. Schmiedt

26. X. 1945

References

  • Updated 2 years ago
The Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia) were part of the Habsburg monarchy until the First World War, and of the Czechoslovak Republic between 1918 and 1938. Following the Munich Agreement in September 1938, the territories along the German and Austrian frontier were annexed by Germany (and a small part of Silesia by Poland). Most of these areas were reorganized as the Reichsgau Sudetenland, while areas in the West and South were attached to neighboring German Gaue. After these terr...
This collection originated as a documentation of the persecution and genocide of Jews in the Czech lands excluding the archival materials relating to the history of the Terezín ghetto, which forms a separate collection. The content of the collection comprises originals, copies and transcripts of official documents and personal estates, as well as prints, newspaper clippings, maps, memoirs and a small amount of non-written material. The Documents of Persecution collection is a source of informati...