(Railway Administration)
   The death camps ran efficiently because the German railway system cooperated in the Final Solution. German trains, under the jurisdiction of the German Ministry of Transportation, carried Jews from every part of Europe to the death camps. The German railroad system stretched from Bordeaux to Dnepropetrovsk, and although the railway system was the prime vehicle for moving soldiers, military cargo, and industrial products for the war effort, officials were also assigned to schedule special trains to move Jews to the extermination centers. Administrators designed the train schedules so that there would be an uninterrupted movement of Jews to the camps. Once the allocation of freight cars and locomotives was arranged, Jews were herded like cattle into the sealed cars and dispatched to the extermination camps. The trains were generally overcrowded, with the norm in Western Europe or Germany being 1,000 persons per train. The crowding was greater in the east but subsequently, to save on engines and the frequency of the trips, the number of Jews herded into the cattle cars was doubled. The crowded freight cars were filled with men, women, and children who traveled in unheated conditions in the winter and terribly hot temperatures in the summer. There was little air, food, or water, and the Ordnungspolizei (ORPO), who were responsible for escorting the trains, shot anyone attempting to escape from the freight cars. Rarely did a transport arrive without 1 or 2 percent of the deportees having died en route.
   The movement of trains to the death camps was a high priority, and large numbers of transports of Jews were scheduled even as the Wehrmacht (German army) launched its final offensive in the Moscow area in order to avoid the Russian winter. Raul Hilberg put it best when he wrote, “Apparently, military considerations also were not to be considered in the ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish problem.” Moving millions of Jews to the death camps was an expensive proposition. The use of trains, the use of the ORPO to guard the victims, and the salaries of railway personnel all created a financial burden. To help make the books balance, the Railway Administration charged the Jews for the cost of transportation to the extermination camps. Train tickets were “sold” to Jews at the third-class rate, children aged four to 10 were charged at half-fare, and those under the age of four traveled free of charge. Half-fare group rates were also charged for more than 400 “passengers.” The fare was billed to the Gestapo, which, in turn, passed on the cost to authorities in foreign areas where Jewish property had already been confiscated, or charged the Jewish communities themselves. In Germany, the Gestapo billed the Reichsvereinigung (Jewish Association) for defraying the cost of moving the deportees to the east. The German Railway Administration was indispensable to the running of the extermination camps, inasmuch as camp officials depended on the trains to bring them victims on a regular basis. There is no evidence that a single Jewish life was spared because of the lack of transportation. At the conclusion of the war, however, only one official of the Railway Administration was tried for participating in the Final Solution.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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