Around 50 kilometers north of Prague, the memorial on the site of the Theresienstadt concentration camp offers a grim reminder of Nazi occupation

Terezín isn't the place to go for beautiful snapshots but if you're interested in history, and don't only want to know the fairytales, it's a fascinating place to spend a day.

Built between 1780 and 1790 by Emperor Josef II, to protect Bohemia during the Austro-Prussian War, the fortress at Terezín fortress gained its current notoriety during World War II when it and the surrounding town were used to hold Jewish people awaiting transportation to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

If you visit Terezín, the first thing you'll see is the Small Fortress (Malá pevnost).

This served as a prison during the Habsburg era but the most tragic chapter in its history came during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.

The visit starts in the first courtyard, in which more than a thousand prisoners were held in just 37 cells.

There's also an infirmary and showers here, as well as a barber's, created in 1944 to try to convince the outside world that Terezín obeyed laws on sanitation. It was never used by the prisoners.

Then you take an underground passage to the scaffold, where more than 250 people were hanged, starting in 1943.

Next, you pass the communal grave and the "death door," through which prisoners passed on their way to being executed.

After that, you come to the swimming pool and cinema used by the guards' families.

The cinema now shows a propaganda film produced by the Nazi regime in which it's claimed Terezín was a gift to Jewish people and that its inmates were happy to be there.

From there, you continue to the fortress's fourth courtyard, which contains more cells and a display of handfuls of earth taken from other concentration camps.

Finally, the third courtyard is dedicated to the camp's women.

Next to the fortress stands a national cemetery (Národní hřbitov) containing the bodies of the victims of the Gestapo, the Terezín ghetto, the concentration camp in nearby Litoměřice and the transport from Lovosice.

The second section of the tour takes you down to the banks of the Ohře river, where the ashes of victims were dumped in November 1944 and the urns containing them burned.

From there, you continue to the Ghetto Museum (Muzeum ghetta), located in what used to be the municipal school, which, under Nazi occupation, was used as an informal meeting place for children and young adults.

The most impressive exhibit here is a collection of pictures made by the children who lived in the ghetto.

From there, you move on to the Magdeburg Barracks (Magdeburská kasárna), which housed the offices of the ghetto's self-governing Jewish administration and also provided accommodation for its officials.

Nowadays, it contains an exhibition on the painting, literature and theatre produced in the ghetto.

Next is the Columbarium (Kolumbárium), where the urns containing the ashes of victims cremated in the nearby cemetery were once kept. The display also includes a funeral cart and the tables where bodies were washed before they were taken to the crematorium.

The last stage of the visit is the Jewish Cemetery (Židovský hřbitov), which was built soon after the establishment of the Terezín ghetto in the autumn of 1941. At first, the deceased were buried in individual graves but as the death toll mounted, mass graves were used and a crematorium was opened in the autumn of 1942.

Památník Terezín (Terezín Memorial)
Principova alej 304

Tel.: (+420) 416 782 225
Fax: (+420) 416 782 245
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.pamatnik-terezin.cz/

By Car
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By Bus
Take a bus from Nádraží Holešovice to Terezín. See the IDOS site for times. (Search for "Terezín [LT]" not "Terezín [HO].")

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