Terezin Concentration Camp Ghetto and Memorial

Terezin concentration camp, Theresienstadt in German, portrays the horrifying story of a shameful past. So horrendous it must be told again and again to prevent it from reoccurring. In 1942, the old fort of Terezin was inaugurated as a transit camp for Jews. The prisoners were deported from here to death camps in other places.

Terezin is 60 km north of Prague. Although it is possible to go by public transport from Prague, it is much more convenient to book an excursion with pick-up service from your hotel. Your guide will take you on a journey through the wartime history of Europe. You will learn what life was like in Theresienstadt concentration camp while you visit the fortresses and the Ghetto Museum.

Terezin Concentration Camp Visit

When visiting Terezin concentration camp, the first thing that catches the eye is the entrance gate with above it the words: ARBEIT MACHT FREI (works sets free). The camp consists of a small fortress and a large fortress. You walk past barracks, isolation cells and the cemetery that was built after the war. The small fortress of Teresienstadt used to be a Gestapo prison, the large fortress the concentration camp.

When you walk around, you get the feeling of being in a city with streets, alleys and courtyards. The prisoners were received in the reception room, they then went to the waiting room for registration and handed in their civilian clothing and were given uniforms. Group cells and isolation cells surround the courtyard. The defensive wall around the fortress makes escape impossible.

The Make-believe Story of Terezin Concentration Camp

Theresienstadt / Terezin was not only a transit camp but also a propaganda camp. It was labeled a camp for ‘privileged people.’ It camp had comfortable homes, buildings and halls where the inhabitants could relax, where they could perform or watch theatre plays, play instruments, listen to concerts and practice sports. There was even a Jewish council to pretend self-government of the community.

The Nazis made a propaganda film about daily life in the camp, featuring the residents who were, in fact, forced to participate and to look cheerful. This film was to convince the International Red Cross of the good treatment the Jews received in Terezin. The platform where trains were waiting for the transports to extermination camps was not filmed. Scenes include happy people, working on the fields or in factories. Children at play, women gossiping. Everyone is well-dressed and well-fed. No SS guard is shown. The final scene is a happy family dinner. All those taking part in the film were sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was completed

The Real Story of Terezin

Terezin was small and could barely hold 20,000 people, yet the Nazis crammed in 70,000 Jews. They lived like rats in damp cellars and casemates. Many were not put on transport because they died before it was their turn. Not only Jews ended up here, also resistance fighters and allied soldiers were imprisoned in Theresienstadt. Only after the capitulation of Germany in 1945, did it become apparent what tragedy had taken place in Terezin.

Terezin Concentration Camp

By 1940, Nazi Germany had assigned the Gestapo to turn Theresienstadt into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp. Over 150,000 Jews from Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria were sent there, including 15,000 children. They were held in Terezin for months and often years before being sent on rail transport to the death camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Fewer than 150 children survived.

Photos Wikipedia and Pixabay

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