Concentration centre

Rajecká cesta

Deportations of Jews from Slovakia, preparation of deportations, deportations themselves and active participation of the military of the Slovak State and its representatives at the Final Solution to the Jewish question are still the subject of research and discussions by historians. The final decision was to deport the Jews and to get rid of them for good. On 10 February 1942 the Ministry of Interior issued Resolution No. 68 on reporting obligation; on 12 February the Ministry Presidium ordered to make a list of all the Jews. In Žilina there lived 1,011 male Jews altogether. The majority of them were listed as unemployed – they were discharged or fired tradesmen, businessmen, physicians, advocates. Several days later a so-called presentation of the Jews was ordered of men aged 16 to 45 and some categories of women. Authorities gathered information required for deportation. On 12 March the Ministry of Interior ordered the district authorities to prepare and perform the deportation. Policemen and Hlinka Guard members prepared deportation trains.

There were several concentration centres: Bratislava – Patrónka, Sereď – Jewish camp, Nováky – Jewish camp, Poprad – barracks under Gerlach, Žilina – military camp – Štefánik’s barracks. The local centre was designed for 2,500 Jews and it was led by the commander Rudolf Marček. The centre started its operation on 21 March 1942. A monthly report of the District Authority states: “There were many cases of leaving the domicile without a permit, or cancellations of domicile.” The names of 1,882 Jews from Žilina, including children and the elderly, are listed on 92 sheets and in an amendment under the title of the Concentration Centre Žilina. Information about every head of the family and all his family members include name and surname, domicile, possibility of employment, firm, type of business and seat of a plant.

Several pieces of evidence about the situation in the Žilina centre were preserved. Ervín Steiner in a criminal case against Anton Vaško stated before the National Court that the centre was situated in 6-7 very unhygienic wooden barracks, some of them without a floor, and there was one duct only. The majority of personal possessions were stolen by the guardsmen during personal searches. Furthermore, the wardens used to beat the Jews and were even cutting their packs off before they got on the train wagons. Very bad hygienic conditions and poor supplies, fleas and lice and in particular all the cruelty from the wardens indicated what kind of hell could be expected in Auschwitz. Many people were moaning and screaming while getting on the cattle wagons and vainly struggled not to get on. The wardens drove them in wagons with sticks. The commander of the Žilina Centre admitted before the court that he had to fire 66 out of 75 wardens for brutal treatment of people in the camp. It unfolded during the post-war proceedings that wardens were taking bribes that amounted to 500 – 20,000 crowns, however the redeemed ones had to be replaced by other people, since the overall numbers had to be complied with.

The first transport of the Slovak Jews – one thousand girls – departed from Poprad on 25 March 1942. The last one on 20 October 1942. Deportations were restored only after Slovakia was occupied by the German army. Not only there was the concentration centre in Žilina, all other transports were driving though this town. Two wagons with food for two weeks for the deported people were added to the trains in Žilina. The transports always departed in the evening and in the morning they arrived to Zwardoń, where the German side took charge. The trains ended up in Auschwitz or in Lublin area. According to the German lists, 19 transports taking 18,223 Jews for a one way trip departed from Žilina in 1942. The district head in Žilina reported to the Ministry of Interior on 19 July 1942 that 1,321 Jews from the Žilina district were transported. Until 18 May 1942, i.e. until the day of publishing the constitutional law about deportation of Jews; 38,169 were deported from Slovakia and until 26 June the number increased to 53,000 Jews.

Slovakia was the first satellite of Germany, from where the trains with the deported Jew citizens were dispatched, and, at the same time, it was the first country to decide to stop the deportations before all the Jews were deported. The transports were stopped also due to manifestations of disapproval by the Slovak public. Out of 57 transports dispatched from Slovakia, 19 went directly to Auschwitz and 38 to the Lublin area. The documents of the Ministry of Interior state that the overall number of deported citizens was 57,628 of whom only 282 people survived. Presidium of the Ministry of Interior informed on 24 October 1942 that the concentration centre in Žilina was closed as of such date, while the centres in Sereď and Nováky remained.

Source: Mgr. Peter Štanský and Milan Novák

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