Central Mortuary and ceremonial room in the ramparts used to treat the deceased and the last farewell to them. The prisoners was not allowed to go over the ramparts. Coffins was then taken to Bohušovická kotlina, where the dead were buried and burnt by September 1942.


With calm, steady steps the mourners would walk behind the black cart. On it a father, an uncle, or simply an old man in a wooden or metal coffin, depending on the fee paid - for a first, second, or third class funeral. It could be with Chopin's funeral march, for important persons, or with nothing but the mournful howl of a poor unknown dog, the deceased's only friend. That was how the last respects, these final leave-takings of our departed ones were conducted. Flowers, wreaths, black sashes with messages written on them. There were large, medium and small carts, and we turned our backs superstitiously when we met them somewhere on the road. These carts were symbols of death to us, those huge, lumbering coffins, filling us with terror and dismay. We were afraid to touch them. They were not of this world. They belonged to another, distant unknown world. Months and years have gone by. Again people walk behind these same funeral carts loaded with wood, coal, luggage, furniture inanimate objects that have never been alive, and therefore have never departed from this world. A strange feeling came over us when we first saw this image of ghetto life. It stopped us short and confused us. The symbol of another world, the terror of black wood, the last resting place for so many millions - and suddenly they were being used in the public service, for daily work, because there was a shortage of other means of transport. And the faces of the men walking behind these carts? In the beginning they were sad and serious. "That is our fate, that is our lot, hunted and eternally wandering." But the faces got used to it, and not only that, they even began to smile, and after a time they completely forgot that the cart now laden with milk cans once served a different purpose.
We have shown once more that we will not let our heads hang, that we are able to overcome even such ignominy. With our heads held high and proud. Beat us, shame us, make life impossible for us, we shall overcome, for even death has lost its secret terror for us, and the funeral cart - this currus moratoríum - "Hey, Frank. Bet you I can drive this jalopy through the gate without crashing it!"

- ele (probably Josef Stiassny)


The Zentralleichenkammer is situated at the very edge of Terezín. It lies deep within the fortifications. The entrance looks like the gates of Hell. Only a dim light penetrates from the outside through the embrasures. Every now and then a cart rumbles up laden with corpses and behind white-coated pallbearers. Their steps echo through the underground passages. Coffins made of planks are stacked in dead-end tunnels. Some are full and ready to be taken away, some are empty, waiting for their lodgers. This was the scene that met my eyes when I visited this gloomy place. Silence reigned, even the attendants working at the back in the corridors talked in whispers. The oppressive terror of death lay over everything. When I got to the end of the passage, the attendants were just wrapping a corpse. That was a terrible sight, because the outlines were so clear, yet the figure was immobile and stiff. When they had finished wrapping the corpse they laid it in the coffin and covered it with the lid. A rabbi was attending. I watched for a while and then asked for further information from Dr. Bock, the manager of this ghetto terminus. "The Zentralleichenkammer has been here since August 12, 1942, and by now 21,000 corpses have passed through its corridors: "How many of those died of infectious diseases?" I asked. "We don't keep records of that. I only know that 120 died of typhoid."
"What happens to the deceased? What's the procedure?" "They usually die in the infirmary. After the post-mortem examination by the doctor, the corpse is immediately brought here, where it is washed in keeping with religious observances, dressed in a shroud and placed in a coffin. Everything is done under the supervision of the rabbis. After cremation, the remains are placed in urns, for which a columbarium is being established in the casemates: "What about the feelings of the attendants who constantly work with corpses? Do they handle them like bricks or treat them like dead human beings?"
"It is the only job where there can be no thought of reward. They take their work seriously and carry out this final service to the dead conscientiously. That was clear last September, when they had to deal with 4,000 corpses at once. Even then they did not fail. It wasn't physical strength that kept them on their feet, it was something more: "Many thanks, Doctor Bock, for your information. I won't keep you any longer." After saying my farewells, I returned from the bowels of the earth into the brightness of a sunny September day.

- nz (Petr Ginz)