Deportations of Jews
# First Deportations 1939
»General Gouvernement«
Lodz ghetto
»Reichskommissariat Ostland«
»Operation Reinhard«
Flight, Emigration and Death
Demography 1938-1945

The outbreak of war on 1 September 1939 cut down the possibilities for further flight or expulsion of the Jews from the German Reich. As the Nazi leadership stuck to its demand that the Reich should be made »judenfrei«, Adolf Eichmann, head of the »Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung« (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) in Vienna, which since August 1938 had pushed ahead with the expulsion of the Jews, planned the creation of a »Judenreservat« (Jewish reservation) in the area east of Nisko on the river San along the frontier of the »General Gouvernement.« Although this plan was in the event not carried out, the head of the RSHA, Reinhard Heydrich, charged with organizing the forced migration by the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered to have deportation transports assembled to go from Vienna and Ostrava/Maehrisch-Ostrau to Nisko.

Within the framework of this program two transports from Vienna to Nisko were run, the first on 10 October 1939, with 912, and the second on 26 October 1939, with 672 men on board. The drawing up of the list of 1000–2000 »emigres« was left to the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde. Those who showed interest in this transport were however consciously deceived: the IKG was forced, in a message to the Jewish population, to guarantee the persons concerned a large measure of freedom in building a new life.

Reality in Nisko was different: only a small proportion of those deported from Vienna, about 200 men, ever reached this camp, whereas the majority was chased over the German-Soviet demarcation line while warning shots were fired. Most of these deportees asked the Soviets to help them return to Vienna, whereupon the NKWD, the Soviet Secret Service, categorised them as »unreliable« and sent them to forced labour camps. Only 67 men had returned to Vienna from these camps by 1957.

After the program was stopped 198 of the men kept back as cadres in Zarzecze near Nisko were sent back to Vienna in April 1940 – many of them again to be deported on later transports.


Leopold Sonnenfeld
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Leopold Sonnenfeld was deported on the first Nisko transport on 20 October 1939. He survived in Soviet work camps.

Notice of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien Appeal of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien
Letter about the »complete solution of the Jewish Question in Austria« Letter concerning the transport of Viennese Jews to the Nisko territory
Notice about the placement into a »resettlement transport to Poland« Memo

The First Deportations to Poland in 1939 (Nisko-Program)