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Zuzana Glaserová * 1925
Falkenbergsweg 62 (Harburg, Neugraben-Fischbek)
Zuzana Glaserova, born on 27 July 1925, deported to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and to the Neuengamme concentration camp, died there on 20 Mar. 1945
Neugraben district, Falkenbergsweg 62
Zuzana, called Susi, Glaserova was 13 years old when German troops occupied her Czech homeland on 15 Mar. 1939 and her life changed dramatically. After the early death of her mother, her father (born 27 Aug. 1871) and older sister Marianne (born on 30 July 1920), called Mimi, had done everything to help her get over this loss. Thus, it came as an even greater shock when her father was dismissed from his post of plant manager because he was a Jew, and her sister, too, was no longer able to take care of her. She and her husband, newly-wed, had managed to escape to South America in time.
Her father, Viktor Glaser, had no chance to find a new job, leaving him no choice but to move with his daughter Zuzana into a smaller apartment in Prague. When food stamps were introduced for the inhabitants of the new "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” ("Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren”) a short time afterward, Jewish men and women had to make do with smaller rations from the outset. However, this was just the beginning. Further restrictions were not long in coming. One day, Zuzana Glaserova, like other Jewish children, stood before the closed doors of their schools.
The situation became even more difficult when in the fall of 1941 the old Czech garrison town of Terezin (Theresienstadt) was turned into a ghetto where all Czech Jewish men and women were to be concentrated. The implementation of this plan was chaotic. The reconstruction command had just left for Terezin when the first deportation trains from Bohemia and Moravia arrived. The next ones followed quickly.
In Feb. 1942, Zuzana Glaserova and her father, Viktor Glaser, also received the order to report for "resettlement” to Theresienstadt. Three days before the deportation date, they had to arrive at the collection point and hand over everything that was not allowed to be taken along. They left the city on 12 Feb. 1942.
The arrival at her new home was a terrible shock for her. After a march of about three kilometres with luggage from the nearest railway station Bauschowitz (Bohusovice) and hours of registration, they were distributed to different barracks, with family members separated from each other. There were barracks for women, barracks for men and soon there were also homes for older girls and older boys. The entrance gates to all barracks were strictly guarded. As long as Czech civilians were still living in the town, there was a strict ban on going out. There were no beds in the buildings. The new inhabitants slept crowded together on straw sacks and mattresses lying on the floor. In a room intended for 10 soldiers, 50 prisoners now lived. Their luggage served them as pillows. There was a complete lack of privacy.
Even worse were the abuses in the sanitary facilities. The communal toilets and washrooms were far too small. Often the crush was so great that the residents queued up. In addition to the constant hunger, these inadequate conditions increased the health hazards to which the elderly people here in particular were exposed.
A further scourge of the camp were lice, fleas and bugs, as well as the rats, which appeared more and more frequently. They also contributed in no small measure to the spread of epidemics in the camp. The medical staff was less and less able to provide relief. Despite desperate efforts, the Jewish doctors and nurses were unable to make up for the enormous shortcomings in the provision of medical instruments and medicines.
The situation worsened with the arrival of further transports in the summer and autumn of 1942, with the highest mortality rate recorded in the statistics for the autumn of 1942, when the camp was occupied by almost 60,000 people and more than 100 men, women and children died daily. On 9 December 1942, Viktor Glaser's life also ended in this forecourt to hell.
While Zuzana Glaserova had already grown up without a mother as a child, she now had to find her way to a brighter future as a teenager without a father in an inhuman time. After her arrival in Theresienstadt she had to move into the first girls' home of the ghetto in the Hamburg barracks and was thus already separated from her father. After his death, however, this arrangement apparently proved to be a lucky coincidence: Here she experienced a community in which young people met with respect and mutual understanding. She probably found comfort and new confidence in this community of Jewish girls of the same age.
One day, her attention in these weeks after her father's death fell on the Gettoswinger, a jazz troupe. In the course of 1943 a firm friendship apparently quickly developed and Zuzana Glaserova took part in performances as a singer. Although the number of those who contributed to the impressive cultural life in Theresienstadt was very large, especially among the musicians, the ghetto swingers were able to establish themselves firmly in this environment quite quickly. Many inmates enjoyed being carried away into a dream world free of fear and worry by the music of the jazz ensemble in this horrible place. After initial hesitation, the SS commandant's office granted all those involved in culture more opportunities for development. However, this period did not last long and changed fundamentally after a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was allowed to visit the camp for an inspection. Subsequently, extensive beautification work was initiated in Theresienstadt. A massive deception was to confirm the National Socialist propaganda of the 'model settlement for European Jews'.
All Jewish cultural workers, including the ghetto swingers, were involved in these programme preparations. On June 23, 1944, they too had to keep cheering their audiences on for hours, so that the passing delegation was suitably impressed. The perfect staging did not fail to make an impact, as the laudatory words of the head of this international delegation at the end of the inspection showed. His conclusion was that, contrary to all expectations, the delegation had come to know a Jewish city during their visit, "which is really amazing ... and lives an almost normal life. He also gave his German SS unrestricted trust; when they explained to him that Theresienstadt was the last stop for the prisoners.
Zuzana Glaserová, however, was no longer there on that day, because the overcrowded camp had also been cleared out in the course of the preparation of Theresienstadt for the ICRC visit. Like others, she had to go on a transport on December 18, 1943, which led from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In contrast to the general practice with many other transports arriving at this concentration and extermination camp, these mostly Czech Jews from Theresienstadt did not have to appear for selection. They were taken to camp section B II b, where the Theresienstadt family camp was located and where they met many relatives and friends again who had been deported from Theresienstadt to this camp three months earlier.
Men and women were also accommodated separately in this camp, but the accommodations were not far from each other. Family members and friends were allowed to visit each other briefly after work and evening roll call. The smaller children were looked after by adults in a special barrack during the day.
The men, women and children who were locked up in this section of the camp suffered, like all other prisoners in Auschwitz, from the inadequate nutrition and hygiene, and the hard work robbed many of them of their last strength.
Two privileges applied here, which were denied to other Auschwitz prisoners. The prisoners who were housed in the Theresienstadt family camp were allowed to receive parcels and send postcards, although the camp administration did not allow them to do so without ulterior motives. These greeting cards conveyed private messages and at the same time served the purpose of nipping any rumors of the mass murder of Jews in the bud.
But most of the prisoners of the Terezín family camp were not spared this fate either. The liquidation of this section of the camp began in the night of March 8-9, 1944, with the murder of almost all those who had been deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in September 1943. This was followed by a second stage, in which on July 2, 1944 all others who were still registered in the Theresienstadt family camp had to take part in a large selection. The notorious concentration camp doctor Joseph Mengele and his colleagues quickly sorted out from this huge crowd more than 3,000 young and healthy women, men and adolescents who the doctors considered 'fit for work'. The great majority of those who had taken part were led to the gas chambers of the extermination camp on 11 July 1944, thus ending the liquidation of the Theresienstadt family camp.
Three days later, Zuzana Glaserova and 999 other Czech female prisoners, who were regarded as able to work, left the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp with destination Hamburg, where they were committed to the newly established subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp, located on Dessauer Ufer in Hamburg’s harbor. Despite many ideological reservations, bottlenecks in the war economy were the decisive factor in Jewish people being transported into instead of out of Hamburg for the first time in several years. However, this did not constitute the beginning of a fundamental shift in extermination policy but only an additional variation. Extermination through labor and murder through poison gas were two paths leading to one aim.
In Hamburg, the female prisoners had to perform clearing work in connection with the so-called Geilenberg Program – an emergency program toward rebuilding the destroyed plants of the mineral oil industry – at major Hamburg refineries, such as Rhenania-Ossag (today: Shell), Ebano-Oehler (Esso), then Holborn, Julius Schindler, or Jung-Öl. Many of these female prisoners were physically unable to cope, even though food rations and accommodation were better than in Auschwitz.
On 13 Sept. 1944, Zuzana Glaserova, along with 497 other female comrades, was transferred to the Hamburg-Neugraben subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp on Falkenbergsweg. There they were used in the nearby Harburg for clearing work after Allied air raids, for construction of an antitank ditch, and for building an emergency accommodation settlement.
Constant hunger, permanent exhaustion, hard labor, cramped accommodations, completely inadequate clothing, the variable moods of the guard personnel, and many diseases marked her everyday life in this camp. Every workday began with the morning roll call on the camp square. Then the work columns marched out with their guards to the different work sites. The distances covered to reach work were often long. The working hours were 12 hours a day, including Saturdays. Upon returning in the evening, the women were searched for food items, before another roll call and punishments followed.
But even in this horrible place, the women did not give up hope for their salvation and a better future in the years that would follow, as the grandiose New Year's Eve celebration they staged in the washroom of their camp shows. There they served up a colourful programme that could not be more entertaining and atmospheric. With her golden voice, Zuzana Glaserová also contributed to making everyone feel happier that evening than they have in a long time.
On 8 Feb. 1945, all of the prisoners of the Neugraben camp were taken to the Hamburg-Tiefstack subcamp. Zuzana Glaserova was 19 years old when she lost her life in a bombing raid on 20 Mar. 1945.
Translator: Erwin Fink/Changings Beate Meyer
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: June 2020
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: 3; 8; Meyer, Kinder Auschwitz, S. 125ff.; Eichengreen, Asche, S. 96ff.; Schultz, Neugraben, in: Ellermeyer u. a. (Hrsg.), Harburg, S. 493ff.; Diercks, Hafen, S. 54f.; Czech, Kalendarium, 2. Auflage, S. 684ff.; Benz, Theresienstadt – Eine Geschichte von Täuschung und Vernichtung, München 2016, S. 92ff. 119ff., 186ff.; Dita Kraus, Ein aufgeschobenes Leben – Kindheit im Konzentrationslager. Neuafang in Israel, Göttingen 2020, S. 184f.; Gespräch mit Peter Saxi (Neffe) vom 23.6.2010; email Anna Hajkova v. 19.5.2020.
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