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Richard Glazar
Richard Glazar on the cover of his book titled Trap with a Green Fence
Richard Glazar on the cover of his book titled Trap with a Green Fence
Born Richard Goldschmid
(1920-11-29)November 29, 1920
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Died December 20, 1997(1997-12-20) (aged 77)
Known for Treblinka survivor, author of Treblinka memoir

Richard Glazar born Richard Goldschmid (November 29, 1920 – December 20, 1997) was a Czech Jew who lived through World War II. He was one of only a small group of survivors of the Treblinka death camp prisoner revolt. He portrayed the horror of Treblinka in his autobiographical book titled Trap with a Green Fence. Glazar had committed suicide at the age of 77 suffering from survivor guilt syndrome.


Glazar was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. His family was Jewish Bohemian, his father having served in the Austro-Hungarian Army. As such, the family spoke both Czech and German — a skill that would stand him in good stead later in life. In 1932 Glazar’s parents divorced. His mother married a wealthy leather merchant, Quido Bergmann and four years later they had two children, Karel and Adolf. Karel died in the Austrian concentration camp at Mauthausen on May 17, 1942. Adolf was captured by the Nazis, but later rescued by the Danish Red Cross. Hugo, Glazar’s father, died of pneumonia in the Soviet Union, to where he had escaped from Nisko in the General Government of Poland. 1100 Czech Jews had been deported there by the Nazis in 1939. The only member of his family still alive when he returned to Prague in 1945 was his mother, who had survived both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Early life and Terezin

Richard Glazar was accepted into the Charles University of Prague in June 1939. He was originally enrolled as a philosophy student, but anti-Jewish legislation after the German occupation forced him into a course reading economics. His entire family had the chance to move to England at Christmas in 1938, when his stepfather obtained a permit. Glazar however did not take this opportunity, as he did not want to leave behind all that he had built up in Czechoslovakia. At this stage there could have been little understanding of the horrors that were to occur in the coming years.

On November 17, 1939, all Czech universities were closed until the end of the war following student demonstrations against the execution of a number of their fellow students. This terrible act would have been one of the Glazar family’s first warnings of the horrific events to follow, and fearing for his safety, his family sent him to a farm outside Prague in 1940. Glazar stayed there for two years. But on September 12, 1942 he was transported to the Nazi concentration camp or ghetto at Theresienstadt (previously the fortified town of Terezin. It was located 35 miles north of Prague). Following the German occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939, Theresienstadt became a holding area for transports to other concentration camps, such as Auschwitz.

In Terezin, Glazar met Karl Unger who became a close friend. He was to stay in Terezin for only one month, before he and Unger were transported to Treblinka on October 8, 1942.


Glazar describes his arrival at Treblinka: “We were taken to the barracks. The whole place stank. Piled high in a jumbled mass were all the things people could conceivably have brought......As I worked I asked him: ‘What’s going on? Where are the ones who stripped?’ He yelled in Yiddish: ‘Dead! All Dead!’”

New arrivals to Treblinka were told to strip so that they could go to the disinfectant baths. Herded into communal “baths”, gas was pumped in instead of water — an efficient method of mass extermination. About a month after Glazar arrived in Treblinka, as an alternative to mass burial, the burning of bodies began. Glazar and Unger were “fortunate” that the commandant of the camp, Franz Stangl, had decided to train some inmates as workers to sort the belongings of those sent to the gas chambers. Glazar’s command of both the Czech and German languages may have helped him to secure one of these jobs. Packs of clothes were sent to Germany or to the fighting fronts, gold from teeth was extracted and added to coins and jewelry Jews had brought with them and added to the wealth of the Reich. Food and luxuries helped sustain both the German guards and any workers who could steal them. Glazar and Unger were to spend the next several months working in the camp, knowing that they were working for a cause that killed thousands of their people every month.

From January to March 1943, no transports came into the camp. The captives had virtually no food. This brought a horrible realisation to these Jewish workers that their lives depended entirely on the transports arriving regularly: their own survival depended on the ongoing deaths of their fellow countrymen, for food and clothing.

It was this kind of knowledge that drove them to try and escape. With no Jews to do the work, the Nazis would have had a lot more trouble running such camps so efficiently. The first escape attempt was planned for January 1943, and was code-named “The Hour”. The idea was that at a specified time, all those working for the camp would attack the SS and Ukrainian guards, steal their weapons and attack the camp Kommandantur. Unfortunately, this did not go ahead as typhus broke out and many inmates either died, were hospitalized or were too sick to participate. The escape that actually worked was slightly less violent and ambitious. On August 2, 1943, men broke out through a damaged gate during a prisoner’s revolt. While most of the escapees were arrested close to the camp, Glazar and Unger fled from the area and made their way across Poland.

While on the run, Glazar and Unger were arrested by a forester, but they managed to convince him that they were Czechs working for “Organisation Todt” (a Nazi construction and engineering group in Poland). Both men were later sent to Mannheim, in Germany, to work for Heinrich Lanz as immigrant workers, using incorrect papers.

Life after the War

Following the end of the war, when Glazar and Unger were liberated by the Americans, Glazar attended the trials of many of the Nazis concerned with Treblinka, including Franz Stangl. Glazar also went on to study in Prague, Paris, and London, and received a degree in economics — the field he had been forced into by anti-Jewish legislation in 1939. In 1968 he and his family moved to Switzerland after the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Glazar also helped Michael Peters, the founder of the Aktion Reinhard Camps (ARC, a network of private Holocaust researchers), build a model of the Treblinka death camp.

Glazar committed suicide on December 20, 1997 by jumping out of a window in Prague after the death of his wife, leaving the model incomplete.

See also

External links


  2. Glazar Glazar at German Wikipedia

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