Publication Date

Spring 2016


College of Arts and Sciences




Holocaust, deportation, survivor testimony, World War II, Operation Reinhard, train journey, oral history interview


European History | Jewish Studies | Military History | Oral History


Over the course of World War II, trains carried three million Jews to extermination centers. The deportation journey was an integral aspect of the Nazis’ Final Solution and the cause of insufferable torment to Jewish deportees. While on the trains, Jews endured an onslaught of physical and psychological misery.

Though most Jews were immediately killed upon arriving at the death camps, a small number were chosen to work, and an even smaller number survived through liberation. The basis of this study comes from the testimonies of those who survived, specifically in regard to their recorded experiences and memories of the deportation journey.

This study first provides a brief account of how the Nazi regime moved from methods of emigration and ghettoization to systematic deportation and genocide. Then, the deportation journey will be studied in detail, focusing on three major themes of survivor testimony: the physical conditions, the psychological turmoil, and the chaos of arrival.

Survivor accounts of the train experience are overwhelmingly tragic. Though decades removed from their time on the train, survivors grapple with the memories that remain vivid and painful. Their words and stories demonstrate the fact that the deportation journey stands as an icon of Jewish suffering and Nazi cruelty, and that by studying and learning about them, Holocaust victims are rightfully remembered, celebrated, and honored.