Witnesses of Theresienstadt

 

Realisation project:

Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Religious Studies

 

Timeframe: 1943-1945, postwar period
Location: Amsterdam, Theresienstadt, Westerbork

Number of interviews: 25

 

Restricted access

 

 

 

With a dozen filmed interviews, this project contributes to the knowledge and image of the Jews deported from the Netherlands and their memories of the German concentration camp Theresienstadt in the present Czech Republic. Theresienstadt was mainly a transit camp for Jews, who were mostly sent to the extermination camps. The interviewees are Jews who were deported from the Netherlands to the camp in 1943 and 1944 and stayed in the camp for short or long periods of time (or even twice) during the last two years of the Second World War. The following questions are central to the interviews: How did the eyewitnesses experience Theresienstadt and which elements played a decisive role in their survival strategies? How did the prisoners cope and what gave them their strength?

 

The approximately 5000 Jews from the Netherlands in Theresienstadt were a very heterogeneous group. About half of them were German-speaking and as Austrian or German emigrants or refugees they had a completely different history than the Jews born in the Netherlands. There were also several groups of privileged Jews (such as the ‘Barneveld group’ and the ‘Mussert Jews’), while other categories (such as the Jews on the ‘Puttkammer list’) had a much less protected status.

 

It is often said about the Dutch group that they were conspicuous in Theresienstadt for their unwillingness to work, their maladjustment and their passive resistance. These characteristics, attributed mainly to Dutch prisoners, were mentioned indirectly in the interviews with survivors, but were not automatically confirmed by the respondents.