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January 20: More Trains

January 20, 2014
trains2A train from the Terezin concentration camp arrived at Auschwitz on this date in 1943, carrying 2,000 Jewish prisoners, of whom 160 women and 80 men were assigned to slave labor. Only two of them would survive beyond the next six weeks. The remaining 1,760 were sent directly to the gas chambers. (During the previous three weeks, fifteen trains had reached Auschwitz from Belgium, Holland, Berlin, Grodno and Bialystok, with 4,000 Jews sent to the barracks while 20,000 were killed upon arrival. To accommodate the rate of murder, four new crematoriums were constructed.) Also on this date, SS chief Heinrich Himmler wrote a letter to the Reich Minister of Transport Julius Dorpmüller asking for “your help and support. If I am to wind things up quickly, I must have more trains.” Historians have estimated that 200,000 train employees were involved in the deportations, with between 10,000 to 20,000 directly involved in abetting mass murders, but none have ever been prosecuted. Dorpmüller was “denazified” by the U.S. after the war but died in 1945. “I know very well how taxing the situation is for the railways and what demands are constantly made of you. Just the same, I must make this request of you: help me get more trains.” —Heinrich Himmler