Skip to main content
Selma Israelowitz. LBI, F14467
84 percent of all prisoners over sixty years old died in Theresienstadt. One of them was Selma Israelowitz. She died in the camp in 1943 at 76. Not knowing about her death, her children tried to secure a visa for Selma to bring her to America in 1944. LBI, F 14467.

Hunger and hard physical labor were dangerous companions to daily life in the camp. Elderly people — the majority of the 57,000 deportees from Germany and Austria — were at the bottom of the food hierarchy. While all detainees above 60 were exempt from physical labor, they also received the smallest food rations as the least productive group, causing them to suffer from malnutrition. They also lived in the worst conditions. All this could easily lead to disease and death.

The psychological torment could be equally powerful. Newly arrived prisoners were often assigned to bury the ashes of those who had died and been cremated before them, sometimes even other family members. Like Jewish leaders in other ghettos, the first of the Jewish elders in Theresienstadt, Jakob Edelstein, believed that by proving useful and productive to the German economy, the prisoners could avoid deportation.

Heinrich Stahl. Prewar image. LBI, F 22937.
Heinrich Stahl was president of the Jewish Community of Berlin under the Nazi regime since 1933. In 1942, at age 74, he was deported with his wife to Theresienstadt and died there shortly after. Prewar image. LBI, F 22937.