half fare for adults and all children between 10 years and four years; those under four years traveled free!
The two figures bottom right: the author and Michael Tregenza, who were engaged for many months
in the archaeological investigations at Bełżec.
Central control of deportation trains
The administrative center of the transports to the death camps was the RSHA in Berlin. From the offices of 1V B4, the Jewish Affairs department of the Gestapo, Adolf Eichmann supervised a web of deportation transports. In a co-ordinated exercise, the offices of the Ministry of Transport and the senior police chiefs in the Generalgovernment were brought together and between them planned and organized a systematic program of destruction.. Through the three regional Reichsbahn operational centers, the Ministry administered the timetables, fare rates, concessions, and arrangements for the escorting security personnel.
A commercial deal was concluded between Eichmann's 1V B 4 office and the Ministry of Transport. Exact times of departure were specified with details of the locomotives and number of cars/wagons. Sonderzuge (Jewish transports) took priority over Wehrmacht (OKW) transports. The minimum charge per transport was 200 Reichsmarks, with no charge for the return of trains after they had been emptied of their human cargo. A cargo of 1,000 persons per train was the norm, but for the Sonderzug the norm was 2-5,000 for short hauls (within Poland) allowing 2 sq. ft per person, and adjusted accordingly for transports elsewhere in Europe. That is one of the reasons why there was no shortage of resettlement transports - it was good business.
We have first-hand details of the resettlement transports to Bełżec of men, women, and children. We also know that the organizers of these deportations were Ordnungspolizei (Order Police), Shutzpolizei (City Police), Ukrainian guards, Polish collaborators (public officials), rail personnel, Sipo SD, and the SS. The Jewish Ordnungsdienst (OD) Order Police on orders from the Judenrat were also involved.
All resettlement rail transports to Bełżec from East and West Galicia districts were controlled from the Head Office of all Eastbound Traffic in Krakow. The coordinating center for Reinhardt death camps was the Aktion Reinhardt HQ at the Julius Schreck barracks in Lublin. The organization of a death transport for Jews from Krakow to Bełżec received exactly the same attention as 50 wagons of freight, military personnel, or armaments to any other designated location. Providing the bill was paid, it was only another entry in the ledger and surprisingly, the movements were not marked secret.
In present-day travel offices, leaflets point out the benefits of group travel. This is exactly how it was in the occupied territories in 1942. The Reichsbahn offered the SS special rates for Jewish transports. For these resettlement policies of Reinhardt, Jews were transported at discount rates from these areas. There were special rates for large parties of more than 400 people, half fare for adults and all children between 10 years and four years; those under four years traveled free! The agency responsible for payment to Gedob was, of course, the SD, via Eichmann's Department 1V B 4 at the RSHA in Berlin, who then in turn reimbursed themselves from Jewish assets. This is another reason why there never was any shortage of trains for Jewish transports.
The RSHA was invoiced per transport at single fare (return was of course not necessary), with appropriate discount adjustments for the children, plus return fares for the guard detachment accompanying the transports. There may have been other adjustments resulting from damage to rail property, the damage caused by Jews breaking and jumping (known as jumpers or parachutists) and from the trains to Bełżec. Another considerable cost was for the labor to remove the dead and clean transports before the return journey. All these tasks were billed to Eichmann's department in Berlin, which paid the rail authorities from a special Reinhardt bank account that was continually swallowing up Jewish assets. The principle was very simple - Jews paid for their own demise.
The Nazi killing policy may be summed up as follows. Up to June 1941, approximately 80,000 had been murdered under the euthanasia program. Up to March 1942, two million Soviet prisoners of war had been murdered. In March, 1942, 20% of the Jews had been murdered; 80 % were alive in the ghettos and camps. By February 1943, it was the reverse: 80% had been murdered and only 20% lived. Sonderbehandlung (Special Treatment) was raging throughout the occupied lands, but the operation, Aktion Reinhardt, was so secret that few people in Greater Germany were aware of the death camps built specifically for killing Jews.
In spite of everything, the thought of mass murders, gas chambers and crematoria was not yet conceivable. By their art of deception the Germans had managed to shield their actions. Then, one sunny day in late 1942, a young dentist named Bachner, who had previously been deported from Prokocim to Bełżec, arrived back in the Krakow Ghetto, where he told his story of unbelievable horror. On arrival at Bełżec from the June deportation train, Bachner avoided the guards and concealed himself under a pile of clothing waiting sorting. When the coast was clear he dived into the nearby latrine pit. Immersed up to his chest in human waste he remained there and was a witness to the mass slaughter of his fellow beings. When the last of the deportees had been processed and stillness returned, he escaped by tunnelling under the wire fence and found his way back to the Ghetto, where he related what he had seen and heard of the destruction of the Jews from the June deportations of the Krakow Ghetto. There seems little doubt that Schindler and Madritsch knew of the Bachner testimony from Stern and that the information must be passed to the Jewish organizations in the West. execution. It became known at a later date that they survived the OD executions due to the intervention of Tadeusz Pankiewicz.
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