Despite the German withdrawal from the Eastern front and the heavy aerial bombardment of German cities, the deportation of Jews from German cities did not stop. On December 18, 1943, a circular signed by Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller was sent out to all local Sipo (Security Police) headquarters. It permitted the deportation of Jews whose marriage to non-Jews had terminated due to divorce or death of the non-Jewish spouse.
Transport XVII/3 was the third of the transports from Darmstadt to Theresienstadt. It arrived in Theresienstadt on January 10, 1944 and had most likely departed Darmstadt one or two days earlier. The transport consisted of ten elderly Jews. The youngest deportee was 51 years old, the oldest was 80.
Apart from the Gauleiter (district leader) of Hesse-Nassau, Jakob Sprenger, there were other key figures involved in the execution of this transport: the head of the Gestapo offices in Darmstadt, Robert Mohr, authorized it. Georg Dengler, the head of the Darmstadt Department of Jewish Affairs in the RSHA, was responsible for organising and carrying it out.
The RSHA’s guidelines recommended that Gestapo units force the Reich Association of Jews in Germany and local Jewish communities to assist in preparing the transports. As soon as the Gestapo obtained the lists, they would pass copies to their local Department of Jewish Affairs, known in German as “Judenstelle”. Those Jews selected for deportation were notified in writing. The deportees were permitted to bring a sum of 50 Reichmarks, a suitcase, a full set of clothes, suitable shoes, bedding, tableware and food supplies for eight days. Additionally, those selected for deportation had to produce an inventory of all their property. Several members of the Gestapo from the Jewish Desk would usually round up the Jews destined for deportation and bring them to a “Jew House”. The Jews were requested to hand over the apartments in tidy form after they had paid all taxes. The Gestapo searched the deportees’ luggage and apartments, and confiscated valuables. Subsequently they sealed the apartments. This process usually took place between one and two days prior to the actual deportation.
The Jews from outside Darmstadt were most likely brought there in the days preceding this transport. One of them was Mathilde Stracke from Giessen, whose non-Jewish husband had died in 1938. Under the new guidelines she lost the protection that had prevented her deportation and was imprisoned in the fall of 1943.
Little is known about the execution of this transport. It is unclear which building in Darmstadt served as the assembly camp. The transport was most likely conducted by train and went directly to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, without stopping at Bohusovice.
The transport was given the reference XVII/3 in the Theresienstadt ghetto listings where the Roman numeral XVII refers to Darmstadt. In Theresienstadt many of the elderly Jewish deportees who had arrived on these transports died of hunger and disease during the following months. Others were later transferred to extermination camps in the East where they were murdered. It is not known whether anyone from this transport survived.