December 12, 2018
Prague, Czech Republic - Week 10 Part 1 Fr. James Donohue, C.R.
Our Prague study-abroad had quite the adventure on Friday as we took a bus together to Terezin and Lidice. Both of these places tell sobering tales of occupation under the Nazis. Terezin was a fort built under (and named for) the Empress Marie-Teresa (1780) to prevent Prussian attacks on the Bohemian lands. It was never actually attacked as a fort, but eventually the smaller fortress within the larger complex was used to house notorious prisoners, and then WWI and WWII prisoners. The barracks part of the complex was used by the Nazis to create a Jewish Ghetto, serving as a concentration camp. It was not an extermination camp…those who were murdered in this way were sent to Auschwitz. At one point the Nazis used the Jewish Ghetto in Terezin as “show-camp” to try to fool the Red Cross into thinking that, in fact, Jewish people were happy and thriving together. A movie was made of people living “happily,” but this was a façade used in the Nazi propaganda.
Terezin is a one-hour drive north of Prague.
A model of the outlay of the Jewish Ghetto.
In total, more than 150,000 Jews, including 15,000 children were sent to Terezin. About 30,000 Jews died in the Ghetto and about 88,000 Jews were killed at Auschwitz and other extermination camps. Another 90,000 people passed through the small fortress. The transport records were preserved and stories of many murdered people have been preserved.
Children’s art—made during time spent at Terezin—is also preserved. A teacher hid much of it in the attic of a building, and it was discovered after the war.
We were able to see the type of conditions that people endured in the small fortress—a place that was really a death sentence.
We found the conditions in the Jewish Ghetto part of Terezin equally appalling.
We were fortunate that we had such an informative guide to help us understand life at Terezin.