The Ohre [Eger] river ran quietly through Terezin. The weir was pretty, so I took a photo! Looking at the River and remembering what I had read, it was hard to believe that even this River brought heartache to the Prisoners. You see, after the prisoners were cremated, their ashes were placed in paper urns and were stored in a building nearby. As the war neared its end, the Nazis made the prisoners dispose of 22,000 Jewish ashes from the urns into the Ohre River. In memory of this sad occasion stands a memorial where this event took place.
Terezin is quite a shock when you first see it! Most of the town is in disrepair, the buildings are old and neglected, many of them look empty! It looked like the town wanted to be left as it was years ago, to be remembered the way it was. It certainly set the scene for what else we saw in Terezin.
We did find a couple of parks, they were neglected too, no neatly mown grass here. Brunnen park was the best. I was quite surprised to find a beautiful painted and well looked after Pavilion in the park, and a statue and an old drinking fountain.
Where ever we went in this town, the feeling of sadness overwhelmed us!
A drive a little away from the town centre, brought us to the small fortress. We pulled into a parking lot so I could walk and take some photo's, only to be confronted with a person wanting money for parking. We moved on, and happened to find a wide area on the side of the road to park.
The small Fortress was built at the same time as the large fortress (1780-1790) as part of the Austro-Hungarian border defenses against Prussia. It was nearly always used as a prison, holding deserters and other military offenders, including prisoners from the armed uprisings of 1848.
The Serb nationalist, "Gavrilo Princip" who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and sparked WWI, was the most famous prisoner held here.
From June 1940 until the end of the war, this Fortress Prison was run by the Gestapo, and more than 32,000 prisoners including 5,000 women passed through its gates. How could people ever survive the treatment dished out by the SS Officers in the Small Fortress. One of the treatments given out to the prisoners, was to place 100 or so people in a space the size of a suburban living room, without food or water, left there until they died!
Sadly, if they managed to survive in the Small Fortress, they were taken to Auschwitz where they would have met their death, one way or another, they were not going to live.
Thousands died here from overwork, under nourishment, disease and brutality from the guards, many of whom were later convicted of war crimes. When the camp was liberated by the Soviet Army in May 1945, the fortress held almost 17000 prisoners.
With your brochure received with entrance fee, the walking tour takes you first through the prisoner’s area of the fortress, where you will see their barracks and cells in which they lived, the prison hospital, execution ground and mortuary, all contained behind a gate inscribed with the slogan Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes you free). In this section is Gavrilo Princip’s cell and a plaque describing him as a Serb national hero.
The Tunnels are described as a "silent, dim, eerie experience," if you happen to be in them alone, and not with a tour group. Heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel, is the execution ground and site of the mass graves which held the remains of around 10,000 people. Next, is the Gate of Death where the guards and commanders quarters were, now there is a cinema, exhibition space and museum that explains in detail prison life and history.
For those of you who still have an appetite after viewing all of this, the Restaurant is open!
Best to have bought the "all in one pass" for 200czk
Admission: adult 170 CZK or child 140 CZK; combined with Ghetto Museum, adult 210 or child 160 CZK.
Open summer 9 - 6pm winter 9 - 5.30pm
Infront of the entrance to the Small Fortress, is the National Cemetery. This is where the bodily remains exhumed from the mass graves were reburied after the war. In photo's I have seen, red Roses were flowering by each grave, perhaps I was here at the wrong time as there weren't any, only many, many graves, altogether, 2 386 individual graves, and the mass graves marked by five pylons, bringing the overall total to around 10 000 victims lying within the National Cemetery.
A memorial service was held at the National Cemetery to mark the first anniversary of liberation, on May 5th 1946. Victims exhumed from shared graves in Lovosice, the communal cemetery at Terezin, from mass graves at Litomerice, and the ashes of 52 prisoners executed in the Small Fortress on May 2nd 1945 were also added to the National Cemetery. The ashes of victims of the typhus epidemic were brought here from the Terezín Crematorium, as were ashes from large pits nearby.
NO PHOTO'S ALLOWED IN THIS MUSEUM
This is a heart wrenching Museum to visit. We walked out feeling sad that humans could treat other humans so awfully!
So, what did we see to make us feel like this?
Lots! This Museum covered every aspect of what happened here in the ghetto established by the Nazis in 1941.
BE WARNED, there is a lot of reading SO DON'T FORGET YOUR READING GLASSES.
We read about the horrific daily life of prisoners, their everyday turmoil and suffering because of lack of water and toilets, hunger, stress from slave labour, overcrowding, infectious diseases and torture. Exhibits showed the three-tiered bunks, each bed only 65 cm wide, stacked next to each other and the horrendous health situation.
It was hard to imagine these poor, thin, under nourished people aged from 16 and 60 working from 52 to 70 hours per week. Imagine what it would have been like building the crematorium, knowing later, it may be for you! A drawing of the railway line showed how the men suffered when building the railway lines during 1943.
I found it very interesting reading the recollections of the lucky survivors.
Others were not so lucky, like prisoner, Egon Redlich. He was a teacher who was deported to Terezin in 1941. He secretly gave school lessons for children in the ghetto. His diary, written in Czech and Hebrew, tells of his life in the ghetto, before he was deported along with his wife and six-month old son, to Auschwitz. The whole family perished there.
I found the pictures particulary haunting and chilling! One shows happy, smiling children during the visit of delegates of the International Red Cross on June 23, 1944. Several months later those children were deported East and murdered. When the Red Cross were known to be coming, the Ghetto was transformed into a beautiful place - worse luck, the Red Cross believed it was!
It was just a cover-up of the "real world in Terezin."
There is a lot more than I have mentioned, including a sculpture made out of suitcases that once held Jews’ belongings. I learnt about how the illegal radio transmitter was hidden in a suitcase to enable prisoners to get information about the war.
The foyer of the building includes a movie theatre for documentary films of which we watched a couple.
As there are no photo's allowed, the shop sells brochures, books, dvd's and souvenirs.
A café is on site.
ADMISSION: adult 170 CZK or child 140 CZK
combined with Lesser Fortress, adult 210 or child 160 CZK.
Open every day from 9am until 6pm (April to October) or 9am until 5:30pm (November to March).
Located in the Town Square is the Rathausgasse or Town Hall. When the town gained its independence from Litomerice in 1830, this led to the construction of the town hall between 1839 – 1841. There is a Latin inscription “Curia Iurum Arx MDCCCXXXIX” (Town hall fort rights 1839) and a town emblem given to Terezin in 1846 on the empire façade.
During the ghetto days, this building was used as the Jewish administration's bank, courthouse, post office and other offices. There were also concerts and plays in this building.
We came by car to Terezin from Litomerice, a short 5kms drive.
If you haven't read anything about this town, then you may be wondering at what your viewing when heading into town.
What we saw, were red brick walls and what looked to be a Moat. Sure enough, it was the Fortress of Terezin and the inner ramparts with a moat and outer wall. No water in the moat, only nicely mown green grass!
The River "old" Eger, was supposed to flood moats of the Small Fortress, while another waterway known as the "New" Eger, was to flood the Main Fortress. A sophisticated system of flooding and drainage facilities was built, through which either all moats and inundation basins, or just endangered sections could be flooded.
The more we drove around Terezin, the more Moats we found. Quite a few of them are being restored, others are old and tumbling.
The Town Square, also known as the Exezierplatz, is situated in the centre of Terezin, [formerly known as Theresienstadt] and in the location of the former Theresienstadt Ghetto, where Jews were imprisoned by the Nazis in 1941.
I noticed the square was criss-crossed with paths, these actually are in the form of an X. The square was intended to be the parade grounds for the soldiers. Between 1942 & 1943, you may have mistakenly thought this was a "happy" place, for located in the middle of the square, was a Circus Tent! No animal tricks or clowns in this Circus, only Jewish prisoners. In all 1,000 prisoners worked in theTent. It was here the Jew's assembled wooden boxes, then packed them with special equipment to protect military vehicle engines from freezing. Back then, the whole square was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
In 1944, the Red Cross was to pay a visit, so the fence and the Circus tent was removed and the square was turned into a park, including a music pavilion.
Impressive gardens were created, but that was not all – a band consisting of inmates played on the bandstand, children were dressed in clean clothes and were able to ride on a merry-go-round. The Ghetto Elder Dr. Paul Eppstein, was given a car and a chauffeur!
Well, the Red Cross came, they saw the chauffeur open the door, bow and let him in. The day before, this same chauffeur, who was an SS man, had beaten Eppstein without any feelings of guilt, then continued the beating after the Red Cross had left! The Red Cross visitors were not shown the barracks crowded with the old, the sick and the dying, nor the storerooms filled with the belongings taken from the Jews on their arrival.
How could they tell anything was wrong, they couldn't.
The Town square is surrounded by many historical buildings and is filled with many bad memories that will always be part of this town..
Before coming to Terezin, we had decided to visit the Museum, so this is what we set out to find first. What we found close by, were the excellent Information Boards in my photo's.
I suggest that you too peruse this as it is from these you can actually see the layout of the town, this is very interesting. Both of these maps show where to find the points of interest and information about them.
The fortified town and the fort (called "Little Fort") were in the 18th century built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and named after the Empress Maria Theresa. Both the River Elbe as the Eger flows near the fort. Construction started in 1780 and lasted until 1790, eventually occupied the fort an area of 3.89 km ². It is designed in the style of Le Prestre Sebastien de Vauban, and there were about 5600 soldiers stationed. Terezín was not used during wars. In the latter half of the 19th century, the fort served as a prison. During the First World War, the fort as a prisoner of war camp, where the assassin of Franz Ferdinand, Gavrilo Princip was imprisoned until 1916. He suffered from tuberculosis, where he finally in 1918 succumbed to a nearby hospital. In World War II the Nazis used Theresienstadt as a concentration camp while the Little Fort as a prison by the Gestapo came into use.
Read more: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/8d669/61086/#ixzz1ljNP07xn
Terezin lies on the old road from Berlin to Prague. During the 1780s the main fort was built by the Habsburgs to defend their northern border against the Prussians. At the same time the small fort which was used as a military prison was built on the other side of the River Ohre. The forts could accommodate nearly 15,000 troops and hundreds of prisoners. Up to the second world war the most famous prisoner had been the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip who shot Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo and this action sparked the first world war. In October 1941 Reinhard Heydrich and other top Nazis decided to turn Terezin into a Jewish Ghetto. The local population of 3,500 people were moved out and within a year 60,000 Jews were living in this small space. The overcrowding caused the death rate to dramatically rise especially amongst the elderly who found it difficult to cope with their new situation. Terezin was used as a deception by the Nazis to show their compassion towards the Jews. The number of inmates were lowered when an inspection was due by the Swiss Red Cross and the whole town was spruced up to appear normal and hide the true purpose of the Ghetto which was as a holding camp for the Jews before being shipped to Auschwitz. 140,000 Jews passed through the camp during the war but only 17,500 survived.
If you wish to visit all the museums as well as viewing the buildings around the town it will take a full day. There are various charges for admission. A single ticket will get you into either the main museum or the small fort as well as the Magdeburg Barracks and cost 160CZK for an adult. A combined ticket will get you into all three museums and costs 200CZK. It does cost anything to view the buildings and other sites around the town. If you intend to visit the crematorium and Jewish Cemetery (closed on Saturdays), the men should try to bring a hat or cap to cover their heads, though kippahs are available in the crematorium. The main museum has various exhibitions which tell the history of the Ghetto during its 4 year history. The Maddeburg Barracks concentrate on the artistic life of the Ghetto and the cramped living conditions. The small fort includes a guided tour if you wish to take it, of the forts history and its use as a prison during the war. There is a large cemetery laid out at the front of the small fort.
Between the main and small forts there is a memorial that receives few visitors. If you have visited the Columbarium and Mortuary you will know that the ashes of those that had died were stored for later interment. The Nazis did not keep their promises and at the location of this memorial, the ashes of 22,000 Jewish Victims were thrown into the River Ohre. If you walk from the large fort towards the small fort the road bends to the right. There is a small road to the left at the apex of the bend. The memorial is about 500 metres down the track by the river.
There is a railway siding at Terezin that was used to transport people from Terezin to the east. 63 transport trains left for the east carrying 87,000 people. Their real location was the death camp at Auschwitz and only 3,800 people survived. The railway siding was built by the prisoners as an extension into the Ghetto from the main railway line.
The square was always fenced off to prisoners during the second world war. During a visit by the Red Cross it was opened up and used as a park. As part of the deception a football match was staged and was filmed, with happy crowds looking on. Shops were suddenly full of goods for the day. The deception worked and the Red Cross concluded that life was acceptable. A further visit by the Red Cross went exactly the same. A place to sit and reflect.