We Remember the Children!

Bialystok Children's Transport List from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, DN/a October 5th, 1943

The list was originally published on the web in Tilford Bartman's web site, with more material at:


The material was submitted to this web site by Bialystok Landsmanschaft ("The Vaad"). I was  given permission by Mrs. Hana Greenfield, author of the book "Fragments of memory" to post the material in the Bialystok memorial web site.  Mrs. Hana Greenfield  has  explored for many years the fate of the Bialystok children, transported to Ghetto Terezin upon liquidation of the Bialystok Ghetto in August 1943 and from there, by a German deceit, they were transported and  murdered in Auschwitz immediately upon arrival, on October 5th, 1943, together with about 50 nurses and doctors who accompanied them from Ghetto Terezin.

We Shall Remember the Children!

Hana Greenfield: Murder on Yom Kippur

Hana Greenfield: Documents

Hana Greenfield: Exchange and Robbery

Hana Greenfield  from "Fragments of Memory from Kolin to Jerusalem", Gefen Jerusalem  1998

Murder on Yom Kippur

One sad day in 1943, the 24th of August, an order was received in Ghetto Terezin that all inmates were to remain in their present dwelling places, be it the old army "Kaserne," large stone barracks, or the overcrowded houses, where 20 to 50 people lived in each room. No one was allowed to look out, even peep from a window, under the threat of severe punishment. Rumors circulated. In fear we asked ourselves: "What now? What new blow have the Germans thought of? What humiliation, what punishment awaited us this time? Another transport to the East? Did somebody succeed in escaping?"

Suddenly, a column of bedraggled children appeared, hundreds of them between the ages of four to twelve years, holding each other’s hands. The older ones helped the small ones, their little bodies moving along in the pouring rain. A column of marching ghosts, with wet rags clinging to their emaciated bodies, accompanied by a large number of SS men.

Were these the enemies of the Third Reich to be so fiercely guarded? The children were led to a building where disinfection and delousing of inmates was performed. Suddenly they started to shout and cry: "Gas! Gas! Gas!" They huddled together, refusing to be washed or have their wet rags changed for dry clothing. Nobody understood the children’s reaction. What kind of children are these? Where did they come from? What are they talking about?

The children, looking like scarecrows, refused to undress. They held on to their dirty clothing, the older stepping in front of the young ones, protecting them with their bodies, clutching their hands and comforting those that were crying. Their clothing permeated with lice, their bodies full of sores, these children refused to wash.

In 1943, we, the inmates of Ghetto Terezin, didn’t know anything about gas chambers. Locked away, isolated from the outside world, we lived in fear and ignorance of what awaited us once we left the Ghetto, advertised by the Germans as "Die Stadt die Hitler den Juden geschenkt hat." ("The town which Hitler gave to the Jews.")

Prior to the children’s arrival, there was a great deal of rushed work done outside the walls of the Ghetto, in a place called Kreta. A special group of male inmates, constantly accompanied by 55 guards, was putting up wooden barracks for an unknown purpose.

With the Ghetto under strict curfew, the best doctors and nurses were picked out from among the inmates of Terezin, all those chosen having worked until then with children of the Ghetto in some capacity. They were rounded up and taken outside of the Ghetto walls to the newly erected barracks, to meet these strange children — that had arrived no one knew from where.

Food, clothing, and medicine were immediately delivered to the children, all under the supervision of the SS men. No one was allowed to talk to them. Yet as time went by, the children told their horror stories to the doctors and nurses, who, in time, defying German death threats, smuggled these stories back to the Ghetto. Sometimes they hid them in the utensils that brought their food to and from the Ghetto.

The children came from Bialystok Ghetto in Poland. They spoke Polish and Yiddish. They were terribly frightened and in a state of shock.

Our family had been sent to Terezin a year and a half earlier. We were a dwindling group. My father was sent away in a transport in 1942, as were my grandmother and aunt and many of my friends. My grandfather, knowing he was too old to survive the daily suffering, took his life. Only my mother, sister and I remained.

At Terezin, my mother worked as a nurse in a home for babies. She loved children and felt a deep need to care for those little creatures who could not understand why they did not receive enough food to still their hunger.

One day, when I returned from work, my sister told me that our mother had been removed outside the Ghetto that morning to work in the children’s barracks. The move was so sudden that she had to leave her belongings behind and could take only a few things with her.

Only one thought then occupied my mind. How could I get to see my mother again?

Through a friend who was in charge of agriculture, I arranged to be included in a work crew growing vegetables for the Germans in the fields outside the Ghetto. The first day at work I observed the guards’ movement and planned how to approach the children’s barracks, which sat behind barbed wire on a hill separated from us by a moat. The next day, wearing a green sweater and a borrowed green skirt for camouflage, I watched the children’s compound while I worked, until I saw my mother come out of the barracks. I waited until the guards were not looking my way, crawled to a clump of greenery facing the barracks and called out: "Mother, Mother!"

She could not see me. I called again: "It’s I, Hana." She turned in the direction from which my voice was coming, and I asked how she was and what had the children told her. "Terrible, terrible," she answered, "I cannot talk."

As she sat down on the grass in her white nurse’s outfit, the children around her, her black hair framing her face, she was beautiful. That is the picture I carry of her in my mind. A guard drew near, and I crawled back to my work place without being discovered.

And then, one day, they all disappeared in the same way they had arrived. In the morning of the 5th of October, 1943, the wooden barracks at Kreta were empty. Again, through the Ghetto grapevine, we, the inmates, learned that all the doctors and nurses, on leaving the Ghetto in an exchange deal, had been ordered to remove the yellow stars Jews wore on every garment and had been forced to sign a pledge of silence as to what they had seen and lived through, and were on their way to Switzerland to be exchanged through the Red Cross for German prisoners of war.

From that moment my spirits soared. No matter how hard my life became, I believed that my mother was alive, in some safe place, and that we would be reunited after the war.

Six months later, 1 was transported with 5,000 others to Auschwitz. None of us was prepared for the visual horror and harsh treatment that greeted us there. When we asked what happened to the transports that arrived before us, there was a standard answer: "Up the chimney" I consoled myself that at least my mother wasn’t there to witness the horror of Auschwitz.

Unknown to us, the prisoners of the Ghetto. their sentence had already been pronounced by their murderers.

Adolf Eichmann, influenced by strong protestation from the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Hussein, that these Jewish children would soon be adults reinforcing the Palestine Jewish community, cancelled the entire operation on express orders from S.S. chief Himmler.

And so, on the eve of Yom Kippur, October 7, 1943, 1,196 children from Bialystok Ghetto in Poland, and 53 doctors and nurses from the Terezin Ghetto in Czechoslovakia, who accompanied them to the end, said their last "shema"  שמע ישראל in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Hana Greenfield  from "Fragments of Memory from Kolin to Jerusalem", Gefen Jerusalem  1998

My quest to find out what happened to my mother began April 15, 1945, the day I was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. The search took me to the files and archives of the Red Cross, the United Nations, YIVO, the Joint Distribution Committee and Yad Vashem; to information centers in the U.S., Europe and Israel, and to many long interviews and arduous correspondence.

As soon as I returned to Prague, I began sending telegrams to the Red Cross in Switzerland, England and Sweden. The answer was always in the negative. They had never heard of a children transport from Terezin.

For some years, this remained the case. Although I witnessed that a large number of children had come to Terezin and were sent out again after six weeks of intensive rehabilitation, I had no evidence to prove that it actually happened.

1. Finally, material about Terezin began appearing in publications. The first confirmation came in 1953 in a book by Zdenek Lederer, "Ghetto Terezin," which mentioned a transport of children accompanied by doctors and nurses, from Terezin to Auschwitz. Lederer wrote: "The Germans had pretended that this transport would be sent to Switzerland, but according to the evidence given by prisoners working in Oswiecim, the whole transport was taken from the station to the gas chambers. Survivors — 0 (zero)." Aside from an overstatement of the number of children — Lederer put it at 1,500— the essence of the story appeared in those few lines. The issue of German motivation heightened the questions in my mind.

2. Two years later, HG. Adler wrote in his book: ‘Theresienstadt 1941-1945.’ Tubingen 1955, published by J.C.B. Mohr, pages 54, 151, writes: "1,200 children were brought to Theresienstadt on 24th of August 1943. On Erev Yom Kippur, 7th of October 1943, transport Dn/a, consisting of 1,196 children and 53 adults, was sent to the gas chambers immediately upon arrival in Auschwitz. The children were originally from Bialystok. Their Parents were shot during an uprising in the Ghetto in August 1943."

As the facts about the transport became more and more precise, I looked further for an explanation of what the Germans intended to do with the children and why the deal fell through. Eventually I accumulated details that fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

3. On the tenth anniversary of the uprising in Ghetto Bialystok, historian Berl Mark wrote in Bulletin Lidowskiego Instytutu Historycnego, published by Kwiecien-Wrzesien, 1953, No. 2-3.

"Ten years have passed since the last of the Jewish people’s tragedy in Bialystok. On August 16, 1943, Hitler’s murderers entered the Bialystok Ghetto and with the help of tanks and artillery started the ultimate annihilation of the remaining 40,000 Jews. The most refined bestiality was applied to the elderly, to the sick and to the children.

"Babies were killed on the spot by crushing of their skulls on the walls. A transport of approximately 2,000 older children was sent to Theresienstadt Ghetto, where murderers in white coats used the children for medical experiments and their blood for transfusion to wounded German soldiers."

4. Zeszyty Oswiecimske, published by the museum in Auschwitz, reports: Copies of handwritten lists of transports arriving in Auschwitz were found. One of the entries reads: "7.10.1943 RSHA transport brought from Ghetto Terezin camp 1,196 children together with doctors and nurses. They were disposed of the same day in the gas chambers."

5. Josef Lanik, prisoner No. 29162, who escaped from Auschwitz to warn the world, wrote in his book, "Co Dante nevidel" (What Dante didn’t see), how he marked down all transports that arrived and were exterminated in Auschwitz, how many people, and exact date of gassing. In his records he also mentions: 7th October 1943, gassed 1,200 children and about 50 accompanying adults that were brought into the camp. Book published by Osveta-Bratislava, 1964, Czechoslovakia.

6. The testimony of Dr Tuvia Citron, Yad Vashem Archives, MM/B165:

"On Tuesday, 17th of August 1943, the Bialystok Ghetto was in flames after an uprising was started by the Jews who were being deported out of the Ghetto to their annihilation in Treblinka. The SS selected 2,000 children, tearing them away from their parents. The Sienkiewicz Gymnasium, located opposite the Toz Hospital, was emptied and the children were brought in on orders of two Gestapo men, Friedel and his assistant Gibus.

"The wife of the head of the Judenrat, Mrs. Barash, brought me an order to prepare the gymnasium. I was in charge of the children for the next two days. Messrs. Bernstein and Mansach were also with the children.

"That same night the Germans began shooting into the Ghetto, including the building where the children were located. The bullets penetrated the windows of the building, hitting the children standing nearby Many children were wounded, some were killed.

"On the 19th of August, the situation changed. Dr. Katznelson, a member of the Jewish council in Bialystok, replaced me. Mrs. Sprung, secretary of the Jewish council, and a few women were put in charge of the children. All contact between the Ghetto inmates and the children ceased.

"On Friday August 20th, 1943, after the Germans suppressed the uprising, the children were taken in trains out of Bialystok."

7. The testimony of Andrew Steiner, architect-engineer from Tatranska Lomnice, Czechoslovakia, which I found at the YIVO Institute in New York City and in Yad Vashem archives M5-165, in Jerusalem:

"I was negotiating with the German Adviser for Jewish Affairs at the Slovak government, SS Hauptsturmführer Dieter Wisliceny, member of the German embassy in Bratislava. I was representing Jewish interests and as such was in constant contact with respective places in Switzerland and in Palestine... "I suggested his [Wisliceny’s] help for saving Jewish children from Poland. At first his reply was negative... I persisted until he promised to present the situation to Eichmann. Several weeks later he informed me that an action of this kind could be carried out in principle, providing we were prepared to pay a considerable sum in dollars and the delivery of certain consignments from Slovakia to Germany."

Steiner relates that he promised to meet all conditions in return for the release of 1,000 Jewish children to Palestine via Switzerland, taking it for granted that overseas Jewish sources would provide the dollars needed.

"The terrible disappointment cannot be described when we received the notification by the American Joint and by other Jewish agencies... that due to patriotic reasons they were unable to support... a plan to deliver large sums of dollars that would be equal to direct aid to the enemy."

According to Steiner, instead of notifying the Germans that the deal was falling through, he decided to stall in the hope of obtaining the money He asked for proof of German readiness. An agreement was reached: an initial payment to the Germans when the children arrived at Terezin, the balance payable when the children entered Switzerland. Steiner added:

"One day Wisliceny informed me that the children had arrived in Terezin and asked me for the first payment... Unfortunately, an ill-applied sense of "correctness" won with our foreign partners and... the dollar payment was denied. I had no choice but to notify Wisliceny... whereupon the children, after several weeks’ stay in Terezin — instead of traveling to beautiful Switzerland and to free Palestine were deported to Auschwitz and into the gas chambers." The testimony seems straightforward: no money, no children.

8. The testimony of Dieter Wisliceny on the 15th of July, 1946, Nurenberg trial documents, Yad Vashem, states:

"at the end of 1942, I tried, at the request of a group, to persuade Eichmann and Himmler to stop exterminating European Jewry and to allow some Jewish children to emigrate to Palestine." I had already discussed with representatives of the Joint in Bratislava the possibility of allowing adults to accompany the transport and we even discussed the number. Later some of the children arrived in Theresienstadt.

"Eichmann then told me to report to him in Berlin. He told me there the matter had come to the notice of the Mufti through his intelligence service in Palestine. Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who spent the war in Berlin as guest of the Germans, has protested to Himmler against the scheme, giving as his reason that these Jewish children would be adults in a few years and would reinforce the Palestine Jewish community ".

"According to Eichmann, Himmler canceled the entire operation and even issued an order banning any future occurrences of this nature, so that no Jew would be allowed to go to Palestine from areas under German control."

Another possibility has been suggested. General Erwin Rommel, after the defeat of his Africa Corps at El-Alamein in 1943, returned to Germany and asked Hitler’s approval of a deal to raise the morale of his troops by ransoming thousands of German soldiers captured by the British. The quid pro quo would have been Jews, particularly Jewish children, for German soldiers. Far-fetched as this may seems it could tie in with the Mufti’s learning of the Theresienstadt transport.

9. In an old age home in Israel I interviewed 87 year old Hadassa Lefkowitz, who as secretary to the head of the Bialystok Judenrat, had been chosen to accompany the children out of Bialystok. Although she wrote an article about this episode in a Yiddish publication in 1948, no one had spoken to her about this incident until our meeting on October 23rd, 1987.

Hoping to save one four year old girl, she pretended to be her mother. The Germans discovered the pretext, and instead of letting the child off the train at Terezin, sent them both to Auschwitz, where the little girl was immediately gassed. Because she knew five languages, Hadassa was put to work in an office at Auschwitz. Six weeks after her arrival she saw an index card noting that a transport of children had been given "special treatment." She knew that the Bialystok children were no more.

10. The Yad Vashem archives have obtained material from Ghetto Terezin. Among the documents was a list, Abtransport Dn/a 5.19.1943. It is complete with the names of 1,196 children, giving the date, place of birth, and names of both parents. Some families had three or four children in the transport. The oldest was fourteen and the youngest four years old. It could not be more clear, that this was the list of the Bialystok children.

Exchange and Robbery

By Hana Greenfield

 Published in the "Jewish Chronicle", September 17th, 1999


On August 16, 1943, there was a rebellion by the Jews in the Bialystok ghetto in Poland. Before the inmates were deported by the SS to the Treblinka extermination camp, 1196 children were snatched from these horrors and transferred to the Terezin ghetto in Czechoslovakia.

The story of these children has been the subject of my research for the past 50 years.

On their arrival in Terezin, the youngsters received special treat­ment. Housing was built for them outside the ghetto walls; they were deloused, given clean clothing, medicine, food, even toys. Fifty-three doc­tors and nurses - my mother among them - were chosen from among the Terezin inmates to care for these children.

While they were being deloused, they shouted: "Gas! Gas! Gas!" But the inmates could not understand what they meant because they were unaware of events taking place in Poland extermination camps.

After six weeks, when the children were beginning to look human again, they and accompanying staff were sent in passenger coaches out of the ghetto area, ostensibly to be exchanged, with the assistance of the Red Cross, for German prisoners of war. In the Nuremberg trial records, SS Hauptsturmführer Dieter Wisliceny holds the Mufti of Jerusalem responsible for sabotaging that particular rescue.

In the course of my investigations during the past half-a-century, I have found and identified the transport list of the 1,196 children, with their names, the names of their parents, their ages and the towns from which they came.

In all these years, I had never suc­ceeded in finding even one parent or relative still living. Then recently I met someone who, after reading my book, "Fragments of Memory," told me of a woman whose child was deported from Bialystok in 1943. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I reluctantly met Masha.

One of the most difficult dilemmas faced by those who experienced the Holocaust was how to save one's children. It was not in the Jewish tradition to give up one's most precious gifts, to sacrifice offspring who represented the continuity of our history.

But there wasn't much time for deliberation as the ghetto was in turmoil, and a decision had to be taken, on the off-chance that the children might thereby be saved.

So it was in Masha's case. And she has provided me with the latest piece of the puzzle concerning the fate of the Bialystok children, which ended tragically in Auschwitz.

Masha's testimony confirms that after the Uprising in August 1943 (which started on August 16th, 1943 during the final "Aktion" which started then), the ghetto inhabitants were deported to Treblinka death camp. Before the deportation got under way, negotiations were in progress to exchange 2000 Jewish children for German prisoners of war, with the help of the Red Cross. But, by that time, few children were still alive, except in the Bialystok ghetto.

The Germans included three families with valid Palestinian visas in the transport. That gave hope to parents who – albeit reluctantly, and with heart-rending doubts – let their children go. No one knew the exact destination of the transport, but the Gestapo hinted that this lucky group would be likely to survive.

Masha had to make her choice: part with her six-year-old daughter Deborah or take her along into the unknown. In doing so, she reasoned that anything was better than Treblinka.

I listened to Masha's story and started to inspect page after page of the Abtransport list  Dn/a dated 5.10.1943. On page 14, under number 748, I found the name of Deborah K., born in 1937 to parents Naum and Masha in Bialystok.

Masha survived the camps; her husband, a young doctor, perished. She kept silent about her past and her suffering. My search allowed her to discover her daughter's fate and the date of her death, but the pain resulting from her agonizing decision will stay with her forever.

The photograph of Deborah reproduced above is the only one known of any of the 1,196 children who perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on erev Yom Kippur, 1943.

The List:

 A - F | G - R | S - Z

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Last updated October 10th, 2004


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