Following the Munich Conference and the annexation of the Sudetenland to the Reich in October 1938, Nazi anti-Jewish laws were implemented throughout the region. The Jewish population was persecuted and dispossessed of its property (Aryanized). These measures led many Jews to flee, mostly to neighboring Czechoslovakia.
In 1939, in an attempt to segregate the Jewish population, the local authorities began transferring the Jewish population to camps such as Oder (Edersgrühn) near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), or to designated communal housing (Judenhäuser).
In September 1941, Reulens, a Gestapo official, informed the regional branch of the Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) in Usti nad Labem (Aussig) that all elderly Jews declared unfit for labor would be relocated to a camp situated in an abandoned castle in the small, remote village of Schönwald. At that time this village, located 30 km from Usti nad Labem, had been declared ‘free of Jews’ (“judenfrei”).
The authorities forced the Association of Jews in Germany to finance the renovation of the castle and to cover all maintenance costs of the camp and its inhabitants. Similarly, at the end of 1941, the regional council of Litomerice (Leitmeritz) decided to move all of its Jews to a camp in Dlaschkowitz castle.
Towards the end of November 1941, the Nazi authorities began to deport the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia (the Protectorate) to the fortress city of Theresienstadt, about 60 km north of Prague. The city’s 18th century fortress now served as a ghetto. Thousands of deportees were housed in the army barracks under terrible conditions. By depicting Theresienstadt as a "model of Jewish settlement" and thus concealing its role as a transit camp for Jewish deportees, the Nazis were able to camouflage their true objectives and policies namely, the mass annihilation of the Jews.
Commencing in January 1942, transports began to leave Theresienstadt for Riga. Later, some of the transports were sent to extermination camps and murder sites, including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Maly Trostenets.
At the Wannsee Conference on January 20 1942, Head of the RSHA (Reich Security Main Office) Reinhard Heydrich announced that Hitler had authorized the evacuation of the Jewish population in Europe to the East. Heydrich added that the evacuation of the Reich’s Jews would be given priority because of housing problems and other socio-political considerations. Jews over the age of 65, war invalids, or Jews decorated with the Iron Cross would be sent to the newly established “old people’s ghetto” – Theresienstadt.
On 6 March, following Heydrich’s announcement, Adolf Eichmann, Director of the Department of Jewish and Dispossession Affairs (Department IVB4) in the RSHA, convened a meeting of Gestapo delegates from all over the Reich to discuss the measures necessary to carry out the deportation of 55,000 Jews from Germany and the Protectorate. Eichmann stressed not to include elderly Jews in the transports. Jews of this category would be deported to Theresienstadt. Eichmann also warned the Gestapo not to notify the Jews in advance about their deportation in order to prevent attempts to elude the transport.
On 15 May 1942, Department IVB4 issued new guidelines signed by Gestapo Head Heinrich Müller, regarding the deportation of Jews to the “old people’s” ghetto in Theresienstadt: The evacuation of the residents from old age homes was cited as the top priority. Jews of foreign nationality or those enrolled in the war industry were exempt from deportation.
In November 1942, the RSHA initiated transports of the remaining Jews in the Sudetenland region. Gestapo headquarters in Liberec (Reichenberg), headed by Rudolf Schröder, oversaw the deportations.
The transport left Usti nad Labem to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 6 May 1943. This transport was listed as Ez, which were the German initials for special transport of individuals (Einzelreisende Sondertransport). It consisted of a single deportee, Josef Altmann, a 62 year old man who was incarcerated in the Dlaschkowitz camp prior to his deportation. Very little is known about this transport.
It is assumed that the Josef Altmann was driven in buses or trucks from Dlaschkowitz to Theresienstadt. In the Theresienstadt Ghetto listings the transport was recorded as XIX/4 where the Roman numeral XIX refers to Usti nad Labem region.
According to the Thersienstadt ghetto listings, Altmann Josef died in Thersienstadt on 10 August 1943, two months after his arrival.