History of the convoy 4
On 14 May 1941, 3,700 Jews of foreign nationality living in Paris and its close suburbs were arrested in the assembly areas where they had been summoned “to examine his situation”. The green note addressed to them requested that a member of his family or a friend accompany them. It was generally this relative who brought back some strictly specified personal effects before the men left for the two internment camps opened in the Loiret, at Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.
On 20 January 1942, senior officials of the Nazi party met at Wannsee to discuss the implementation of the final solution. Following this conference, the deportation of Jews from the whole of occupied Europe to the extermination camps intensified. In France, deportations began in March 1942 and reached their peak in the summer of 1942.
In May 1942, Theodor Dannecker, of the anti-Jewish section in Paris, reported that the rail transport service in occupied France, Lieutenant General Kohl, had assured him of his full support for the deportation of the Jews, whose “annihilation without a remnant” he wished for.
The Wehrmacht took semantic precautions in relation to the deportation. In a secret telegram of 13 May 1942, it is noted that “sending to the East” should be avoided. The same applies to the term deportation, which is directly reminiscent of the deportations to Siberia during the time of the Tsars. In all publications and correspondence the term “forced labour” should be used.
On June 11, 1942, a conference was held in Berlin under the direction of Adolf Eichmann, head of the Office of Jewish Affairs at the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, Reich Central Security Office). The heads of the Jewish affairs offices of the Sipo-SD in France, Belgium and the Netherlands are present. At this meeting, plans for the final solution of the Jewish question are put in place.
In order to obtain the necessary number of workers at Auschwitz, it would be necessary to deport Jews from South-East Europe or the occupied territories in the West. The guidelines specify that Jews (of both sexes) aged 16 to 40, of whom up to 10% are unfit for work, may be deported. For France, it is agreed that 100,000 Jews would be deported from both areas.
On 18 June, Eichmann asked Dannecker to immediately announce the stations of departure in chronological order. He replied that there are 2 trains from Bordeaux, 1 from Angers, Rouen, Nancy, Dijon, and 30 from Paris. He insisted on the fact that the first three transports will start on 22, 25 and 28 June. On 19 June 1942, the timetable was established.
Dannecker, confirmed the departure of train 813 from Pithiviers station on 25 June at 6.15 am. The head of the transport is the lieutenant of the Feldgendarmerie Kleinschmidt, responsible for the train to the border in Neuburg (Novéant-sur-Moselle).
On that day, the first convoy of Jews from France interned in the Loiret, bound for Auschwitz, left from Pithiviers station. It included 1000 people, only men aged between 20 and 54 years old. 937 of them were from Poland.
The train could carry up to 350 tons and run at a speed of 80 km/h. It consisted of a locomotive, a sleeping car and ten cattle cars marked “men 40 or horses 8”. These cars were leaded. It had to be ready on the platform three hours before the scheduled departure time.
The convoy probably took the following route once it had crossed the German-French border: Saarbrücken, Frankfurt-Main, Dresden, Görlitz, Nysa, and Katowice before arriving in Auschwitz.
The conditions of transport were appalling. In each wagon more than one hundred Jews were crammed into the wagons, leaving very little room to move. Every time the train stopped, the deportees begged for water and nobody agreed to help them.
In one car, a small group of deportees decided to escape from the train. Their unfortunate companions, fearing reprisals from the Germans, prevented their escape attempt.
After a journey of three days, the deportees arrived at night on 27 June at the station at Oświęcim, and then at Auschwitz by what was known as the Judenrampe, located halfway between Auschwitz and Birkenau. They had to walk about 1 km on foot to the main entrance of the Birkenau camp with its sinister porch topped by a turret.
They were assaulted by soldiers and vicious dogs who led them inside the camp. All the men were assigned to forced labour and were tattooed on their left arm. The numbers of convoy 4 ranged from 41773 to 42772.
Of the 1000 deportees, 80 returned.
Sources Yad Vashem and Serge Klarsfeld.