Terezin was built by Emperor Joseph II as a system of fortifications to defend the country in the late XVIII century against Prussia.
The former garrison town, which was rebuilt and turned into a Jewish ghetto (and was used as a transit camp for Jews by the Nazis, whose final destination was Auschwitz) during World War II. By the end of the war some 150,000 Jews were sending in Terezin, and another 35,000 died from disease and starvation.
The history of Terezin
Most Jewish communities have faced persecution throughout Europe for its history, but in the Czech Republic it was a much lesser degree. Jewish influence in the Czech Republic was very strong, and Jewish communities flourished in the country for centuries, the synagogue and new Jewish settlements appeared regularly in Prague, Pilsen, Bohemia and Moravia. They are well integrated with the Czech people.
Because of its proximity to the Czech Republic, Germany, it was impossible for the country to be dragged into the political situation of the 1930s. The influence of Hitler’s Germany quickly spread to the Germans living in the Sudetenland. They wanted to be part of the Third Reich, which, in turn, rapidly instilled anti-Semitism against the Jewish population, although they had previously lived peacefully side by side. In the Czech Republic there were no such mass murder and persecution that took place in other countries such as Poland, but the Jews from the regions of Bohemia and Moravia, were transported to Theresienstadt, which was turned into a ghetto.
Despite the fact that this camp was not used for the extermination of the Jews, the conditions was such that about 35,000 people died of starvation and disease.
In early 1942 camp Terezin began to be used as a transit camp through which passed 150,000 Jews from across Europe. They were placed here before being sent to other concentration camps, Auschwitz and Auschwitz.
The camp Theresienstadt the Nazis used to show that prisoners kept in good conditions. They even went so far as to make a film showing prisoners leading a happy and normal life, with all the amenities and entertainment.
In 1944, when delegates of the Red Cross visited the camp, they were shown well-kept area, home and school. But that’s squalid huts, where most of the prisoners were housed, managed to hide it. This deception, unfortunately, worked, and representatives of the Red Cross made a good account of the conditions in which prisoners were kept. The whole horror of imprisonment was discovered in 1945, when Russian troops liberated the remaining 17,500 prisoners, most of whom were suffering from malnutrition and many diseases. Two of these prisoners were Ivan Klima and arity Lustig, who later wrote a book about the conditions they endured. In a sense, they were part of the lucky ones. Most of the people included in Terezin, never saw the outside world again.
What to see in Terezin
Terezin Memorial. Today, visitors can check the barracks, workshops, individual cells, the morgue to see the mass graves. Terezin includes: main fortress, the Small Fortress, the Museum of the ghetto (life in the camp), a national cemetery, the main gate with the inscription Arbeit Macht Frei (Work makes you free), Magdeburg barracks and prison cells.
Terezín Memorial also organizes educational seminars for students and faculty who study the history of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance in society.
Getting there: Guided tours, or a direct bus from the bus station of Florence. By car: drive north of Prague in the direction of Dresden on the highway E55.
Distance to Terezin about 60 kilometers
The recommended time on the spot: 2.5 hours.
More on www.pamatnik-terezin.cz