By spring of 1942, approximately 60% - around 70,000 people, of all Jews in Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), had either been deported to ghettos, emigrated in the face of the increasing Nazi threat or had died. The persecution of the Jews had begun earlier - in autumn 1941, the Jewish community in Prague was instructed to establish a Treuhandstelle (trust) for seizing the furniture and belongings of those sent to ghettos. They also acted as trustees of such material.
When transported, a deportee had to surrender the key to their locked up property, which was then attached to a tag with their transport number - in sequence, these were kept in safe keeping. By spring 1942, over 4,000 keys remained in the trust's warehouse. Various offices controlled the property declarations that Jews had been forced to complete earlier - ensuring that they matched with the actual materials present. Around 10,000 folders were created from the Prague transports alone - each recording details such as name, address, transport details, number of rooms within the property and information regarding the furnishings.
Some notable dates and events concerning the Jews of Prague are listed below:
September 1939 - curfew - it was forbidden to be out of doors after 20:00. Later that month, the counting process began - initializing a card index record. Radios had to be surrendered (around 12,000 receivers) and Polish nationals were deported.
February 1940 - Jews prohibited from visiting theatre/cinema.
May 1940 - public parks and gardens closed to Jews.
August 1940 - shopping hours for Jews limited to 11:00-13:00 and 15:00-16:30. This was later reduced to 15:00-17:00, which also applied to chemists. By this time, the shops generally had limited stock available. Later, various restrictions on certain goods such as fruits, fish and poultry were also enforced.
September 1940 - registration of Jewish dwellings in Prague.
1940-1941 - various restrictions enforced regarding travel on public transport.
January 1941 - 500 Jews had to report daily for snow clearance duty at the airport.
September 1941 - Star of David insignia distributed to all Jews.
October 1941 - Jewish owners could no longer dispose of their own property. Typewriters and bicycles had to be surrendered.
December 1941 - January 1942 - skiing equipment, sewing machines, musical instruments, gramophones, cameras, all fur and the majority of woolen clothing had to be surrendered.
May 1942 - all mixed marriage statistics related to Jews were recorded.
July 1942 - pets owned by Jews had to be handed in. All forms of Jewish education ceased - schools were closed and all public or private tuition was forbidden.
HADEGA AND THE LOOTED GOLD
By the summer of 1939, all valuables such as gold, silver and precious stones had to be deposited - as described under the ruling "Taking possession of Jewish property." The HADEGA (Handelsgesellschaft in Prag) concern, an office established in central Prague to deal with the acquisition of Jewish property, obtained the valuables in the following manner:
From January 1940, owners of valuables such as those listed were permitted to only sell their goods to one entity, the Hadega concern.
Owners "voluntarily", or under pressure, offered their valuables to the Hadega company - for a discounted amount. Then, the owners applied to the Vermögensamt beim Reichsprotektor in Böhmen und Mäahren (property office of the Reich protector of Bohemia and Moravia) through Hadega, for the authorisation of the sale. Once the sale was permitted, the owner(s) were notified by the foreign exchange division of the Vermögensamt of the items and bank used for safekeeping. In most cases, the transfer of the goods to the Hadega was recorded. After the conclusion of the sale, the owner received the sale proceeds less the charges incurred - by all of the related institutions. The amount was not allowed to exceed 500,000 Protectorate crowns - in such cases, the accounts were frozen.
From autumn 1941, confiscated jewels and other valuables were handed over to the Vermögensamt. Under pressure from the Nazi occupiers, the National Bank was used as a sorting office for purchased gold from the Hadega company in Prague. Hadega focused on the purchase and resale of precious stones, metals etc from Jews and Jewish enterprises. During the mass deportations to the Konzentrationslagers, gold ingots from recast Jewish jewels confiscated by the Hadega concern were deposited at the National Bank.
Although it is now impossible to estimate the amount of gold confiscated by German authorities due to a lack of surviving records, some archive materials allowed investigators to prove that a minimum of well over 600 kilograms of gold was confiscated - this estimate represents the most conservative estimate, given that the records of the Hadega concern are no longer available. In addition to over 5,700 carats of mostly brilliant cut diamond, nearly 5.5 kilograms of platinum and 16,744 kilograms of silver were also illegally confiscated and used to supplement the German war effort.
These figures do not represent anywhere near the totals confiscated by the occupying authorities.
As recently as the 1990's, researcher Karel Sommer had to admit that the fate of the National Bank gold was unknown. An Expert Commission concluded unambiguously that vast amounts remained within the vaults of the bank, only to be taken as Soviet war booty. Some nominal assets of the Jewish victims remained in the vaults. These were set aside for future restitution to their original owners.
1) Czernin Palace, Prague - former seat of the Reichsprotektor.
2) The National Bank, Prague.
3-4) External and interior views of the former Hadega premises.
T.Kraus (The Issue of Restitution in the Czech Republic)
Holocaust Research Project
B.Kovářová, HEA conference, 2009