A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

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A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Aaron Richards » Sat Jul 21, 2018 12:46 am

Only recently did I hear about a forced labor camp near the Slovak town of Novaky, for Slovak Jews. Unfortunately, via a twitter denier. There aren't any direct articles about it on Wikipedia, but Yad Vashem has a segment:

http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibiti ... _camps.asp

The denier presented a few cherry-picked photos from the camp's construction album, which included the building of a swimming pool:

Image

...and its subsequent use.

Image

However, the following photo was not in the Yad Vashem website, but shared by deniers on twitter. I tried reverse image searching it, could get no results:

Image

Is this really from the war, or was the camp's swimming pool put to use by Slovak authorities after the war as well? The denier couldnt prove to me the above pic is from the war.

I found some other photos showing recreational activities in a neighboring camp called "Sered", that included a nursery for children. I was just wondering why we have not heard much about these camps the way we have heard about e.g. the Nazi Potemkin Village of Theresienstadt, in part built to fool the Red Cross. Is it perhaps because these Slovak camps were tiny by comparison?
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Balmoral95 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:29 am

I had understood both camps to have been holding pens (sammellager) for deportation onward. R. Vrba was deported from Novaky in 1942... Sorry, can't flesh it out farther....

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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Balmoral95 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 3:24 am


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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Balmoral95 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 3:29 am


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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 6:34 am

This camp wasn’t under the control of the SS so it didn’t matter if the Jews swam 10 laps a day and played Marco Polo.
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The inhabitants ask who it is.
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Statistical Mechanic » Sat Jul 21, 2018 10:24 am

IIRC this camp, Sered, and others under control of the Slovakian government are discussed quite a few times in Dlugoborski , ed, The Tragedy of the Jews of Slovakia: 1938-1945 Slovakia and the Final Solution of the Jewish Question; I don't recall their being described as similar to Theresienstadt. I will poke around later today in the book and see if there's a discussion of aquatics or anything of interest.
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Statistical Mechanic » Sat Jul 21, 2018 12:41 pm

Yeah, The Tragedy of the Jews of Slovakia has a fair amount of discussion of Novaky and the other Slovakian labor/transit camps, including an essay by Juraj Spitzer on Novaky with a focus on the underground resistance that developed in the camp. In that essay, Spitzer gives background on the camp outlining how the Slovakian authorities administered the camp, which put significant burden on inmates and the Jewish community to provide for the prisoners held there. Jewish youth organizations were active in the camps, along with left-wing groups, and material and other needs of the prisoners were looked after by outside Jewish groups, especially the Jewish Center in Bratislava. Novaky, says Spitzer, held about half the inmates in these labor camps, which were administered by the Interior Ministry and staffed by the Hlinka Guard.

Spitzer writes that Novaky, which was located at a former ammunition dump, underwent different phases. "Moderate periods alternated with strict ones" (p 269). In the very first phase, before the deportations began, there were few inmates in the camp, which was established at first as a labor camp. On 12 March 1942, to support the deportation agreements made with the Germans, the Interior Ministry issued directives for the commandants of the five existing labor camps: under these directives, Novaky "became a concentration and transportation center" (p 265). At this time, writes Ivan Kamenec, prisoners did not stay long in the Slovakian camps (p 123); Kamenec characterizes the period as one where the guards brutalized prisoners before their deportation, robbing and humiliating them. According to Akiva Nir (pp 48-49) too, the Hlinka Guard ratcheted up terror in the camps (Polhora and Gindel are named as particularly brutal at Novaky) during the 1942 deportations.

Spitzer describes the period after the deportation halt as one of "recovery" and stresses that these camps were not death camps and that in them, during this phase, "work represented an opportunity for survival and preservation" (p 267). After the deportation halt, according to Spitzer, the number of inmates at Novaky increased from about 200 to about 1,000 by fall 1942 and eventually to 1,700. During this period there were positive reports on life in Novaky, which Spitzer describes as one-sided and ignoring corporal punishment, the circumscribed lives of inmates, lack of heat in winter, exhaustion and disease among inmates, and other elements of the poor camp conditions. That said, Spitzer describes how Jewish prisoners managed, with outside assistance, to build up workshops (equipment, e.g., came from Jews outside the camp); establish a kindergarten and school; organize a library; set up an orchestra; etc. Spitzer: all this "did not result from care for the Jews but in spite of" the Hlinka Guard's administration of Novaky (p 269).

Spitzer attributes some of the relative laxity during this phase to the situation with the Hlinka Guard, as the end of the deportations reduced opportunities for personal enrichment of those working at the camp at the expense of prisoners; the size of the guard complement decreased, and the guard came into conflict with the commandant whose goal had become to build up a successful forced labor camp. One has to recall that during this phase the Slovakian state was no longer on board with deportations, let alone extermination of the Jews. In 1943, in fact, "the guards were replaced by gendarmes, which brought about a positive change in the camp" (p 269).

As Jeffk noted, these were distinctly not SS camps, and their histories reflect both German-Slovakian relations and agreements, and the course of wartime Slovakian politics. If your denier means to analogize Novaky, Sered, and other camps under Slovakian control to SS camps, s/he is on a fool's errand. I didn't find discussion of (non-Trumpian) water-sports in the Dlugoborski collection but did find, as you can see, support for limited melioration, at times, of conditions in these camps, including provisions for children and so on. "We" don't hear much about these camps, I think, because the internal Jewish policy of the Slovak government following the deportations isn't a major topic for deniers.

Btw Hilberg discusses these camps briefly, at a high level in fairly similar terms as those of Spitzer, describing their administration and the "auxiliary" assistance in their administration assigned to the Jewish Community, noting a Slovakian government document on the role of the Jewish community (vol II, p 773). He mentions a second network of Slovakian camps run by the Defense Ministry. He also mentions a unit of resistance fighters formed by Novaky inmates, as discussed by Spitzer.
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Sergey_Romanov » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:31 pm

Just ask the deniers to give their sources.

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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Statistical Mechanic » Sun Jul 22, 2018 8:15 pm

Denier are unlikely to be aware of this but sources for Novaky, including Spitzer's essays and memoir along with 77 other testimonies and trial materials, are listed in USHMM, Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, volume III, p 876; PDF not yet available from USHMM. (That article says that Novaky "was dissolved" at the end of August 1944 near the beginning of the Slovak National Uprising.) Again, I doubt your deniers know of this but here's a link (https://bir.brandeis.edu/bitstream/hand ... sequence=1) to Karen Spira, Memories of Youth: Slovak Jewish Holocaust Survivors and the Nováky Labor Camp (Brandeis University, MA thesis, 2011, with fleeting references to the swimming pool).
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Balmoral95 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:40 am

One of the above photos is described on a certain other site as " prisoners building a wall".... same photo as the alleged pool...

No provenance, no proof....

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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:29 pm

A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Statistical Mechanic » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:36 pm

Jeffk 1970 wrote:Sergey posted this on Twitter:
https://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Micr ... 205969.pdf
That's the Yad Vashem resource page, which I think is taken from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem also has, as Aaron's OP noted, a number of photos of the swimming pool.
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:42 pm

So the pool is real and conditions better in this camp but this is a very rare outlier. Aaron’s denier took this very rare outlier and blew it out of proportion when this camp wasn’t even under the control of the SS.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

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The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Statistical Mechanic » Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:01 pm

Jeffk 1970 wrote:So the pool is real and conditions better in this camp but this is a very rare outlier. Aaron’s denier took this very rare outlier and blew it out of proportion when this camp wasn’t even under the control of the SS.
. . . but conditions in Novaky were not, judging from Spitzer's essay, always that good, especially during the deportations of Jews from Slovakia during 1942 when the Hlinka Guard reigned with brutality and when inmates were subject to being robbed, beaten, etc; conditions improved as Slovakia backed out of continuing the deportations and emphasized labor in the camps and as the Hlinka Guard staff were replaced with gendarmes later in the war - but even then, according to Spitzer, conditions, although better than during mid-1942, were harsh . . . Aaron's denier has the context wrong (these were not German camps at all, they were never designed for exterminating Jews, and they reflected Slovakian politics), is cherrypicking (examples of improvement only), and may have, if Aaron is right about the last photo in the OP, tarted up a photo that doesn't belong in order to support his slanted view . . .

. . . best I can tell the YV construction photos are undated, so I can't fit them into Spitzer's "phasing"; here's another photo, showing a competition in the completed pool, according to the caption: https://photos.yadvashem.org/photo-deta ... 152&ind=11 (undated)
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Re: A second Theresienstadt? Nováky forced labor camp

Post by Jeffk 1970 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:36 pm

All this is true. As always Jews were hostages to the conditions they found themselves in. They had no control.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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