Prague Hotels Articles

August 13, 2010

A visitors guide to Terezin Concentration Camp, Prague

Situated 60km north west of Prague, the town of Terezin with its population of a few thousand inhabitants should have remained a sleepy little country town that few people could locate on a map.

All that changed in 1939 with the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Terezin was used as a ghetto by the Nazis for the period of the Second World War. While it was not specifically intended as an extermination camp, it was still the final home of tens and thousands of Jews who died here in the appalling conditions. Those that did survive were sent to other extermination camps in the region, including Auschwitz.

The Terezin Memorial actually consists of a number of exhibitions and memorials. The key memorial is the “Small Fortress” where most Jews were held. The Fortress was actually built in 1784 as part of the Terezin Fortification System and was intended for lodging. It remained an important garrison town and by the early 19th century it was being used as a prison for army offenders and political prisoners before it was seized by the Nazis. People who lived in the town who were not Jewish were eventually evacuated altogether as the entire town and the fortress was taken over by the Nazis.

Visitors to the city of Prague can visit Terezin by taking a tour bus from the city centre. Organised by Martin Tours, this costs 1100CZK per person, and lasts approximately 5 hours. The trip includes a guided tour of the Small Fortress, entrance to the Ghetto Museum and a trip to the Jewish Cemetery and Crematorium. During the drive to Terezin, which takes around one hour, the tour guide provides important background information to the ghetto.

It seems unbelievable that the “Jewish Question” ever arose in such recent history, and hearing the numbers of Jews that were sent to Terezin (and then onwards) is really quite shocking. Over 140000 people were sent to Terezin, including women and children, and the majority did not survive the experience.

The benefit of going to Terezin in a small group is that a guide will take you through the ghetto and our guide was exceptional in her knowledge and understanding of the conditions of the time, and the practicalities of daily living. The site itself is quite large and you need to allow at least 1.5 hours or more to gain the most from the visit.

The tour itself meanders through the various courtyards and into different rooms which either housed officers or prisoners. Clearly the rooms today are fairly empty places but it is only

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