About Theresienstadt Concentration Camp
Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Terezin in the Czech Republic was a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
History of Theresienstadt
Theresienstadt was originally a stronghold known as Terezin Fortress built in the eighteenth century to protect Prague from the possibility of invasion by Prussia. It then became a prison in the 1880s before being taken over during the Nazi occupation of the then Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.
Used as a hybrid ghetto-concentration camp, Theresienstadt was not used for extermination in the same way as other camps. It was predominantly used as a holding site for prisoners before further transportations and as a ghetto to house some of the more prominent members of the Jewish community whose disappearance would have been noticed internationally, as well as older Jews who it could not have gone to the so-called ‘labour camps’ or who had a distinguished military service record.
The majority of the 140,000 to 160,000 people interned at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp were of Jewish descent and over 30,000 of the prisoners died at the camp, despite Nazi attempts to portray it as a humane institution. Many others, around 80,000 of Theresienstadt’s inmates, were sent to death camps.
The camp was also used as a façade for Red Cross visits – the sick and elderly were deported, the town perked up, and prisoners encouraged to participate in cultural activities. The camp was liberated by the Red Cross in early May 1945: a typhus epidemic was raging and the camp was placed under a two weeks quarantine in order to prevent the further spread. Compared to other liberated camps and ghettos, Theresienstadt has a significant population of survivors.
Today, Theresienstadt Concentration Camp/Ghetto is open to the public in the form of a museum. The foreboding Lesser Fortress is included in the admission price, and is the site of mass graves, barracks, isolation cells and workshops. The museum includes several well put together exhibitions: the ones focusing on the rich cultural life of Theresienstadt are particularly interesting and make a stark change from the relentless bleakness of other aspects of life in the ghetto and camps.
Getting to Theresienstadt
Often also called Terezin, the site is about an hour north of Prague, just outside the town of Litomerice. It’s a straight forward drive via the E55 and 608. You can also catch the bus from Nadrazi Holesovice station (metro line C) direct to Terezin: they go hourly and take about an hour – it’s the same bus back again.
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