Todesfallanzeigen (Death Certificates)

The document presented in this post is one of more than 20,000 death certificates (Todesfallanzeigen) from Terezín (Theresienstadt) that have been preserved from December 1941 until September 1943 and were issued for all of the 30,000 people who perished in the ghetto. These death certificates, informed by normal procedures medical inspection, were completed by the doctor working in the barrack at the time of an inmate’s death. Due to the detailed description, the death certificates offer a significant amount of personal information on the deceased people. Besides that they can offer an insight into the living conditions of the inmates in Terezín.
The death certificates were kept in the National Archives in Prague. Several years ago all preserved death certificates were digitised by the Terezín Initiative Institute and published online on www.holocaust.cz.

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Historical background

During the Second World War, the Terezín (Theresienstadt) Ghetto was one of the major sites of suffering and death for the Jews of the Bohemian Lands, Germany and Austria as well as several other European countries. Of approximately 150,000 prisoners, over 30,000 died there between 1941 an 1945 due to starvation, poor hygiene conditions, overcrowding and disease. Another 90,000 were deported to the ghettos and extermination camps in the East, from which only roughly 4,000 returned. The Terezín ghetto is also known for its cultural life, education of children and for the misuse of the ghetto for Nazi propaganda purposes.

Due to overcrowding, hunger, sickness and death, the elderly people often succumbed to disease and hunger the quickest, since most of them were assigned accommodation in cold attics of the former barracks or stables. The growing number of transports from the “German Reich” to Terezín also led to a continuous rise in the number of prisoners, reaching its peak of 58,491 on 16th September 1942. At the same time, September 1942 also saw the highest mortality rate, with 3,941 people dying that month.

The diseases and causes of death cited by the death certificates have to be considered with scepticism given the malnutrition and poor living conditions in the ghetto. This leads to the fact that the most common causes of death on the death certificates are intestinal diseases and decrepitude.

For further information on Terezín and documents from the Terezín Ghetto see the EHRI Terezín Research Guide.

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Gabriel Frankl and his family

Gabriel Frankl was born in Pohořelice (Pohrlitz) in Moravia but moved to Vienna when he was young. He was working as a director of the Ministry of Social Affairs. He was transported from Vienna to the Terezín Ghetto on September 24th 1942 together with his wife Elsa and his son, Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl, founder of the third “Viennese School of Psychotherapy” worked at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna. Despite being in possession of a visa to the United States, he stayed behind in Vienna to be able to look after his parents. In Terezín, Viktor Frankl worked as a doctor in and led the Unit for assisting ill people (Referat für Krankenhilfe). On October 19th 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz and later on to Kaufering where he was liberated. In 1946, Viktor Frankl reflected on his experiences in his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1959). It was only in 1995 that Frankl described in his autobiography that he had smuggled morphine into the ghetto in order to hasten his father’s death and spare him further suffering.

Gabriel Frankl’s wife Elsa was transported to Auschwitz in 1944 where she was murdered. His daughter in law, Mathilde Frankl died shortly after the liberation in Bergen-Belsen.

 

Wolfgang Schellenbacher
EHRI WP12 New Views on Digital Archives
Jewish Museum in Prague