1:01 am

Getting Outside of Prague, Part 1

I’ve taken a couple of tours outside of Prague, one of which was to Terezín (the so-called "Garden Ghetto" of the Nazi era).

The tour started with the fortress at Terezín. I had actually never heard about the fortress before. Terezín had originally been built in the 18th century as a fortress by the Austrians. During WWI, it was used as a prisoner of war camp; Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Franz Ferdinand set off the war, was imprisoned and died (of tuberculosis) there.

During the Nazi occupation, the Small Fortress was used as the Gestapo prison for the Prague region. Roughly 90,000 prisoners passed through the Fortress; some 2600 died there. For the most part, the prisoners were not Jewish, unless they were also political prisoners. Terezín wasn’t used as an extermination camp: for the most part, those who died, died of disease brought on by overcrowding, malnutrition, and poor hygiene.

The cemetary at the entrance to the Fortress:

"Work shall make you free", over the doorway leading to the original cell blocks:

We also visited the town of Terezín, which is now a perfectly ordinary looking town. The phrase "the banality of evil" comes to mind. Although, according to the tour guide, you can buy an apartment in Terezín for just about 15,000€: it seems that few people are interested in making their homes in a town with such a history. Some of the buildings have been repurposed as museums and memorials. The permanent displays especially feature art, both official and secret, created by the prisoners.

Although Terezín was not an extermination camp, only a few thousand of those who passed through it survived the war: if disease didn’t get them in Terezín, they tended to end up in extermination camps elsewhere.

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