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Richard Glazar

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Richard Glazar

Richard Glazar
Richard Glazar on the cover of his book titled Trap with a Green Fence
Born Richard Goldschmid
November 29, 1920
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Died December 20, 1997 (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: Survival in Treblinka (1994).[1] Glazar, suffering from survivor guilt syndrome,[2] committed suicide at the age of 77, after the death of his wife.[3]


  • Life 1
  • University years 2
  • Treblinka 3
  • Life after the war 4
  • Death 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
  • Further reading 9


Glazar was born in Prague in newly sovereign Czechoslovakia. His family was Jewish Bohemian. His father Hugo Glazar served in the Austro-Hungarian Army before independence. 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. During World War II, 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. Glazar’s father, Hugo, died of pneumonia in the Soviet Union, to which he had escaped from the Nisko reservation in the General Government of occupied Poland; some 1,100 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.[4]

University years

Richard Glazar was accepted into the Charles University in 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.[3]

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 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, 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.[5]

In Terezin, Glazar met Karl Unger, who became a close friend. Glazar was to stay in Terezin for only one month, before he and Unger were transported to Treblinka on October 8, 1942.[6]


Glazar described his arrival at Treblinka in the Trap with a Green Fence.[3]

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 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 - along with coins and jewelry Jews had brought with them - 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 they were working for a cause that killed thousands of their people every month. They were the only two Czech Jews who were not murdered immediately after their arrival to Treblinka, out of some 18,000.

After the big transports from Grodno and Białystok Ghettos in January 1943, in February and March 1943 no transports came into the camp. The Sonderkommandos had virtually no food. This brought a horrible realisation to the Jewish workers that their lives depended entirely on the transports arriving regularly:[7] their food, clothing, and own survival depended on the ongoing deaths of their fellow countrymen.[3]

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 proceed, 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. Most of the escapees were arrested close to the camp, but 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 “Mannheim in Germany, to work for Heinrich Lanz as immigrant workers, using falsified papers.[3][8]

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 associated 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.[3]

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. Sadly, the model was not completed during Glazar's lifetime.[3]


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.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Glazar, Richard (1994). Treblinka, slovo jak z detske rikanky (Eng. Trap with a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka) (Hardcover ed.). Torst. 
  2. ^ Friedländer, Saul (2009). The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945. HarperCollins. p. 432.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h ARC (August 17, 2005). "Treblinka: Richard Glazar (Goldschmid)". Death Camps. Retrieved August 2015. 
  4. ^ Benz, Wolfgang (in) Glazar, Richard (1995). "Foreword". Trap with a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka (illustrated, revised ed.) (Northwestern University Press). p. VIII.  
  5. ^ "1941: Mass Murder". The Holocaust Chronicle. p. 282. Retrieved 2012-12-15. 
  6. ^ "Survivor Richard Glazar: Treblinka Recalled". Holocaust Research Project. Retrieved August 2015. 
  7. ^ Richard Glazar (1995), "Dazzling spectacle" (in) Trap with a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka reprint, page 91. ISBN 0810111691.
  8. ^ "Richard Glazar - Treblinka". Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 

External links

  • Model of Treblinka on the Hebrew WorldHeritage

Further reading

  • "Terezin". 
  • Glazar Glazar at German WorldHeritage
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