Richard Goldschmid, later better known as Richard Glazar, was born in
on 29 November 1920
into a Jewish- Bohemian family. His father,
, had been an officer in the
Austro- Hungarian army and his family spoke both Czech and German. In
, his parents divorced, and four years later his mother
remarried. Her second husband was a wealthy leather merchant,
, who had two sons,
who died in KL Mauthausen
on 16 May 1942
, and Adolf
was rescued from the
Nazis by the Danish Red Cross. Richard’s father was deported by the Nazis to
Nisko and subsequently died from
pneumonia in Russia during 1940.
Richard matriculated in March 1939
and was accepted by the University of
in June of that year as a philosophy
student, but anti –Jewish legislation meant that he could take up that syllabus. Instead
he was offered a course reading economics. At
his stepfather managed to obtain a
permit for the entire family to travel to England, but ultimately he did not have the courage
to leave everything he had built up in Czechoslovakia behind and start up again in another
country. On 17 November 1939
demonstrated after several of their colleagues had been executed and all Universities
were closed. Richard then worked for his stepfather until
, when he was sent to a farm outside of
where his family thought he
would be safer. There he stayed until 2 September 1942
when the Nazis summoned him to the Mustermesse
, a huge exhibition-hall in
, where he remained until
12 September 1942
, before being transported on transport BG417 to
, a village
built around the fortress of that name. The address for Richard Goldschmid Glazer was
stated as 17 Klimenstka Street, Prague
a modern-day photograph of which is shown below
|Modern day photo - Klimentska 17
Richard only stayed one month in Theresienstadt
His registration card from Theresienstadt
, is displayed below . After being assigned
quarters in a stable he was put to work in the refuse disposal unit. A few days later he
was moved to a larger barracks where he met
, who was destined to
become his closest friend, and with whom he escaped from Treblinka
Together they were subsequently to become foreign workers in
. Richard Goldschmid / Glazar was transported to
on 8 October 1942
on transport BU639.
In the film “Shoah”, Glazar described the journey:
“We travelled for two days. On the morning of the second day
we saw we had left Czechoslovakia and we were heading east. It wasn’t the SS
guarding us, but the Schutzpolizei, the Police in green uniforms.
We were in ordinary carriages and all the seats were filled. You couldn’t choose
a seat; they were all numbered and reserved. In my compartment there was an
elderly couple. I still remember: the good man was always hungry and his wife
scolded him, saying they’d have no food left for the future.
Then, on the second day, I saw a sign for
Malkinia. We went on a little farther. Then,
very slowly, the train turned off the main line and rolled at a walking pace through a wood.
While he looked out – we’d been able to open a window – the old man in our compartment
saw a boy…cows were grazing…and he asked the boy in signs, `Where are we?’ And the
kid made a funny gesture. This: (draws finger across his throat.)…Not in words,
but in signs, we asked: `What’s going on here?’ And he made that gesture. Like this.
We didn’t really pay much attention to him. We couldn’t figure out what he meant.
He went on to describe his arrival at the
“And suddenly the yelling and screaming started: `All out, everybody out!’ All those
shouts, the uproar, the tumult! `Out! Get out! Leave the baggage!’ We got out, climbing
over one another. We saw men wearing blue armbands. Some carried whips.
We saw some SS men. Green uniforms, black uniforms…
We were a mass and the mass swept us along. It was irresistible. It had to move to
another place. I saw the others undressing. And I heard: `Get undressed! You’re to
be disinfected!’ As I waited, already naked, I noticed the SS men separating out
some people. These were told to get dressed. A passing SS man suddenly stopped
in front of me, looked me over and said: `Yes, you too, hurry up, join the others get
dressed. You going to work here, and if you are good you can be a kapo – a squad leader.
Glazar then described meeting up with his great friend
“All I could think of then was my friend
Karel Unger. He’d been at the back
of the train in a section that had been uncoupled and left outside. I needed someone.
Near me. With me. Then I saw him. He was in the second group. He’d been spared too.
En-route he had learned somehow, he already knew. He looked at me. All he said
was: `Richard, my father, mother, brother…’ He had learned on the way there.
(This) was about twenty minutes after arriving in
Treblinka. Then I left the barracks and
for the first time I saw the vast area that I soon learned was called `the sorting place.’
It was buried under mountains of all sorts of objects – mountains of shoes, of clothes
ten metres high.I was overwhelmed and said to
'It’s a hurricane, a raging sea. We are shipwrecked
but still alive and we can do nothing but watch out for every new wave, float on it,
get ready for the next wave, and ride the wave at all costs. And nothing else…'
“We were taken to a barracks. The whole place
stank. Piled high in a jumbled mass were all the things people could conceivably
have brought. Bed linen, suitcases, everything, piled up in a solid mass.
On top of it, jumping around like demons, there were people making bundles
of things and carrying them outside. I was turned over to one of these men with
a ‘Squad Leader’ armband. He shouted at me and I understood that I was to take
a bed-sheet , bundle things into the sheet and take it outside. As I worked I asked him:
'What’s going on? Where are the ones who stripped?’
He replied in Yiddish: 'Dead! All Dead!’
It still hadn’t sunk in, I really didn’t understand. It was the first time I had heard
Yiddish spoken. He didn’t say it very loud, and I noticed there were tears in his
eyes. Suddenly he shouted at me and raised his whip. Out of the corner of my
eye, I saw an SS man approaching. I understood I should not ask any
more questions, just rush outside with the bundle.
He described the ending of his first day in Treblinka
“Greenery, and sand everywhere else. At night we
were put in a barrack, which had a sandy floor, nothing else. We all dropped where
we stood. Half asleep, I heard some men hang themselves. We didn’t react then.
It seemed almost normal at that time. Just as it was normal that for everyone behind
whom the gate of Treblinka
closed, there was death , had to be death, for no one was supposed to
be left to bear witness. I already knew that, three hours after arriving in
He described the burning of the bodies, which began a month or so after his arrival:
“It was at the end of November 1942. They chased us
away from our work and back to our barracks. Suddenly from behind the
embankment separating the Totenlager, flames shot up. Very high. In
a moment the whole countryside, the whole camp seemed ablaze. It was
already dark. We went into the barracks and ate, and through a small window
we saw the fantastic backdrop of flames of every imaginable colour: red, yellow,
green, purple. Suddenly, one of us stood on a bed. We knew he had been an
opera singer in Warsaw. His name was
Salve, and facing that curtain of fire,
he began chanting a song, I had not heard before:
'Eli, Eli, (my God, my God) why has thou forsaken us?
We have been cast into the fire before, but we have never denied Thy Holy law.’
He sang the words in Yiddish, while before him blazed the pyres on which they
had begun then, in November 1942 to burn the
bodies in Treblinka.
That was the first time it happened. We knew that night that the dead of
Treblinka would no longer be buried,
they would be burned.
Of the Lazarett
, Richard said:
“The Lazarett ('Infirmary’) was a little area very close to the ramp, to
which the aged were led. I had to do this too. This execution site was not covered, just
an open, roofless place, but screened by a fence, so no one could see in.
The way in was through a narrow passage, very short, but somewhat similar to
the `funnel.’ A sort of tiny labyrinth. In the middle there was a pit, to the left as
one entered there was a little booth with a plank in it, like a springboard. If people
were too weak to stand on it, then they’d have to sit on it, and then as the saying
went in Treblinka jargon, the
would 'cure each one with a single pill’ – a shot in the neck. In the peak periods, that
happened daily. In those days the pit – and it was at least three and a half
to four metres deep - was full of corpses.
There were also cases of children, who for some reason arrived alone, or were
separated from their parents. These children were led to the
'infirmary’ and shot there. The 'infirmary’ was also for us, the
Treblinka slaves, the last stop – not the
gas chamber. We always ended up in the `infirmary.
Glazar described the “Dead Season” – January to March 1943
“The 'Dead Season’, as it was called, began in February 1943
after the big transports from Grodno and
Bialystok. Then nothing. Not a movement
from late January, February and into March. Not a single transport. The entire camp
was empty, and suddenly, everywhere there was hunger. It kept increasing. One
day when the famine was at its peak, SS-Oberscharführer
Kurt Franz appeared before us and
told us: 'Starting tomorrow, transports will arrive again.’ We didn’t say anything,
we just looked at one another and each of us thought: 'Tomorrow no more hunger.’
At that time, we were actively planning the rebellion. We all wanted to survive until the rebellion.
The transports came from an assembly camp in Salonika. They’d collected Jews from
Bulgaria, and Macedonia. These were rich people; the transports bulged with possessions.
Then an awful feeling gripped us, all of us, my companions as well as myself, a feeling
of helplessness, of shame. For we threw ourselves on their food. A detail carried off
a box full of crackers, another full of jam. They deliberately dropped these boxes,
falling over each other, devouring the crackers, and jam. The trainloads from the
Balkans brought us a horrible realization: we were the
Treblinka factory workers and our lives
depended on the whole manufacturing process, that is the slaughtering process at
(The Balkan transports consisted of) 24, 000 people, probably without even one sick
person among them, not one invalid, all healthy and robust! I remember watching them
from our barracks, already naked, milling amidst their baggage, and
David Bratt said to me: "Maccabees!
The Maccabees have arrived in Treblinka.’
Sturdy, physically strong people, unlike the others, fighters, yes they could have been
fighters. It was staggering for us, for these were splendid people, wholly unaware of what
awaited them. Wholly unaware. Never before had things gone so smoothly and
quickly. Never. We felt ashamed and appalled and also that this couldn’t go on,
that something had to happen. Not as an act by a few, but by all of us.
The idea was almost ripe back in November 1942.
From about November 1942 we’d noticed we were
being `spared’ in quotes. We noticed it, and we also learned that
Stangl had decided it would be more efficient to
hang onto trained people – specialists trained for various jobs such as sorters,
corpse haulers, barbers to cut the women’s hair, and so on. And this is what later
gave us the chance to prepare, to organise the uprising. We had a plan worked out
January 1943, code-named 'The Hour’. At a set moment we were to attack the
SS everywhere, seize their weapons and storm the Kommandantur. But it didn’t
happen because the camp was at a standstill and because typhus had already broken out.
Glazar and Unger
during the prisoners’ revolt on
2 August 1943, via the Ukrainian barracks. They broke
out through a damaged gate, raced across the vegetable field, and fled into the peat bogs.
Making their way across Poland they were arrested by a forester. Using their new false
names (Glazar becoming Rudolf Maserek
becoming Vladimir Frysak
they were able to convince their captors that they were Czechs working for the Organisation Todt
in Poland, and had been attacked by partisans. They were both sent to Germany to work for
Heinrich Lanz GmbH
Liberated by the Americans, Glazar attended the
trials for a number of the former
SS men in Germany during 1964/65
, as well
as the trial of Stangl
In the post-war years, Glazar studied in Prague
, and London
earning a degree in economics. After the failed uprising of the “Prague Spring” in
, he left Czechoslovakia with his family,
and moved to Switzerland.
Richard Glazar helped ARC’s founder member
death camp, following a visit to Glazar’s flat in
Sadly, the model was not completed before Glazar committed suicide in Prague
20 December 1997
, following the death of his wife.
Glazar, Richard. Trap with a Green Fence
. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1999.
Sereny, Gitta. Into that Darkness
. Pimlico edition, London, 1995.
Lanzmann, Claude. Shoah – The Complete Text
. Da Capo Press, New York, 1995.
Yad Vashem Central Database of Victims
© ARC 2005