Balkan overview |  9/7 Bucharest, Romania  |  9/8 Constanta  |  9/9 Danube  |  9/10 Rousse and Arbanassy, Bulgaria  |  9/11 Danube  | 
9/12 Veliko Gradiste and Belgrade  |  9/13 Novi Sad  |  9/14 Vukovar, Osijek  |  9/15 Budapest  |  9/16 Budapest  |  9/17 Bratislava, Slovakia  | 
9/18 Prague  |  9/19 Prague  |  9/20 Terezin 

This morning, with our local guides Leda and Lorin, and driver Alex, we took a very early bus to drive to Terezin, site of the WW II ghetto of Teresienstadt about 40 miles northwest of Prague. The entire town, bordered by an 18th century fortress, was turned into a concentration camp by the Nazis.

The countryside we are passing through is known as the garden of Bohemia because of the fruits and vegetables grown there. We are driving 65 km from Prague toward Berlin.

on our way to Terezin
Terezin, Czech Republic: National Cemetery at the lesser fortress
The first Nazi party was formed by Czech Germans. Adolf Hitler was Austrian, but gave up his citizenship because he was afraid he'd be shipped out of Germany. In fact, he only got German citizenship only one year before he became Chancellor on January 3, 1933! In the fall of 1935, Germany adopted new harsh immigration laws. Many people were trying to escape from Germany. Alma Mahler Werthold escaped to Czechoslovakia. Austria was annexed, and the Nazis started to control Interpol. At the Munich conference in the fall of 1938 the Czech premier signed what amounted to the annexation of Czechoslovakia by the Germans. He signed because the Germans said that if he didn't sign, Prague would be heavily bombed the next day. 250,000 people abandoned Czechoslovakia. In the spring of 1939 Czechoslovakia was completely occupied by the Germans. A person was considered of “German blood” only if all four of their grandparents were non-Jewish Germans. Everything was rationed. The highest allotments were for the Germans, the Czechs. The lowest amounts were for the Jews and Romas. In the fall of 1939 there were big student demonstrations against the occupation, and as a result, 1,200 students were sent to concentration camps. Also in 1939, Jews were forced to go to Prague to register themselves as Jews. There were 118,000 self-proclaimed Jews. Of those, only 26,000 managed to live to the end of the war. Jews were not allowed to work in most jobs. A new law declared that couples where one of the couple was Jewish, would both be treated as Jews, or they must separate.

I have always wondered why the Jews did not fight back, given that they were facing certain death anyway. Lorin gave us a clue as to how the Nazis were so successful in subjugating any dissent. At all points the people were given a choice, but those choices funneled them in only one way. The laws grew gradually more onerous, so at no point did people think they were shockingly unacceptable.

Click here for more about Terezin.

National Cemetery at the lesser fortress


Terezin: the Jewish Cemetery
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Heinrich, founder of the SS, was head of centralized service in Czechoslovakia, and had the concept of “the final solution.” His first task was to liquidate the elite Czechs who might supply rallying points for a counterinsurgency. After the first 2 weeks, he started on a campaign to kill all of the Czech Jews. They would first be transported to Terezin. In 1941 Heinrich sent 360 trained Jewish craftsmen to Terezin to make housing facilities for 140,000. They were told they would be returned to their homes after they were done, but of course, they were not. In December, 1941, 1000 Jewish musicians and artists set up a cabaret in Terezin, which was allowed by the authorities.

In 1942 Heinrich dealt with the problem of elderly Jewish men who had been decorated with the Iron Cross from WW I. He decided to call them “Prominent Jews” and put them and their family in Terezin, confiscating their other property. Middle class Jews were sold high priced ticket vouchers for the “Jewish Spa” Terezin. Their life insurance policies were given to the state. All their money was transferred to fictitious accounts in the Jewish Savings Bank in Terezin, accounts that were, of course, worthless. Again, the Nazis showed their cleverness in getting the Jews and other groups to go voluntarily to the concentration camp!

There was a 3-person Council of Elders in Terezin. The main elder, Jacob Edelstein, kept overstating Terezin deaths and hiding survivors from the Nazis.

Everyone between 16 and 60 years of age had to work 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. Children under 16, pregnant women, and people over 60 or the ill were considered “worthless eaters” and sent away to the death camps: mostly to Auschwitz and Treblinka.

plan of the fortress in 1869

The Nazi concentration camps, and the route from Terezin to the Auschwitz death camp

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February, 1944 A transport of Dutch Jews arrives in Theresienstadt. Dr. Paul Epstein, chairman of the Council of Elders, greets the new arrivals.
February, 1944 A transport of Dutch Jews arrives in Theresienstadt. Close-up of a man wearing a yellow star walking down a ghetto street. Behind him a man pulls a wagon of bread.
February, 1944 A woman receives a bowl of soup in Theresienstadt
February, 1944 A teenage girl arrives in Theresienstadt carrying two pots
In 1943 the Danish Red Cross started demanding access to the concentration camps because they had heard of atrocities. To soothe them and prevent ugly public perception, the Nazis invited the German and Danish Red Cross to visit Terezin. The visit was set for the summer of 1944, giving the Nazis enough time to prepare a false front.

The visit was filmed for a propaganda movie by the Nazis. The visitors started in the ghetto, but were never allowed access to any of the inhabitants without the SS being present. In the Terezin museum we saw the Nazi propaganda film interspersed with interviews with survivors about the reality.

In the fortress, 60 people lived in a very small room. 10 people lived in each of the tiny isolation rooms. There was a courtyard with a stage where troublemakers were executed while all the other inmates were forced to stand in rows to watch.

Most of the inmates of Terezin were transported to the death camps and killed. Most of the ones left in Terezin died of spotted fever towards the end of the war.

1944 The arrival of Jews at the Terezin (Theresienstadt) Ghetto, near Prague
scene from Nazi propaganda movie on Terezin showing some of the children in the musical Brundigar
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inside the fortress "Work Makes You Free" in German
one of our local guides
In the years 1940-1945 more than 1,500 Jews were imprisoned in the Small Fortress. Their destiny was worst of all the groups of prisoners. About 500 of them were tortured to death here, most of others perished after their deportation to the concentration camps.
mass cell in the first courtyard
solitary cells in the 5th courtyard of the small fortress. In each of these tiny one-person cells, 10 prisoners were kept. No latrines. No running water. No light. No room to lie down
"wash room" with no water, built to fool the Red Cross
phony wash room
Terezin cobblestones
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the place of executions. The last execution was held here a few days before the end of the war on May 2, 1945
Arthur Luehrmann in a "solitary" cell that housed 10 prisoners
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incinerators in the interior of the crematorium in Bohušovice
Thanks to Petr Ginz and his “magazine”, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and her art students, Viktor Ulmann composer of the opera “The Emperor of Atlantis”, the cabaret where Brundigar was performed, and the many musicians and artists interned in Terezin, the arts flourished as a way to escape the horror of their lives. Viktor Ulmann died in Auschwitz in October, 1944. Eva _ came to Terezin at age 14 and sang in Brundigar. She survived the camp and worked in the Czech National Theatre Opera.

In the museum we saw a beautiful poem written by a young boy who was interned in Terezin.

A little garden
Fragrant and full of roses.
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.

A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more.

Frantisek Bass
born September 4, 1930
sent to Terezin ~1042
sent to Auschwitz and killed October 28, 1944
Click here to see more about Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the art done by the children of Terezin

Terezin, Czech Republic: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, the art teacher for the children of Terezin


Click here to learn more about Petr Ginz and Kurt Ketouk and their underground magazine

Petr Ginz entered Terezin in 1942 at age 14, and died in Auschwitz in 1944 at age 16. He was the main editor of a clandestine Terezin magazine, Vedem.

Terezin Street by Petr Ginz

Terezin, Czech Republic: Jewish Prayer Room in the Ghetto built by the prisoners, with partly preserved original decorations
map of Terezin, Czech Republic during WW II
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Terezin, Czech Republic: tracks on which the death trains left for Auschwitz
Jewish Cemetery at the Crematorium in Terezin
Jewish Cemetery at the Crematorium
Jewish Cemetery of the children at the Crematorium. The lopped-off tree symbolizes lives too soon lopped
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the low fence lists the countries of origin of people who died in the fighting
leaving Terezin, Czech Republic:
leaving Terezin, Czech Republic:
Back in Prague from Terezin, we met up with Gwen Albert and walked across the Vtlava River to her apartment. There we met up with Vince Farnsworth. Gwen is working to help the Romas, and we discussed the discrimination against the Romas. One of our guides said that incorporating the Romas into general society was difficult, because they don't pay taxes and don't send their children to school. Gwen pointed out that when the Romas DID send their children to school the children were subject to harsh treatment and taunting by the other kids, so their parents would pull them out.
Prague, Czech Republic:
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Prague, Czech Republic: bridges
The pink building to the left of the green building is Gwen Albert and Vincent Farnsworth's apartment building
bridge over the Danube
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new Gherry building
Gwen Albert & Vincent Farnsworth neighborhood
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Gwen Albert & Arthur Luehrmann in front of Gwen's apartment building
kitchen in Gwen Albert & Vincent Farnsworth's apartment
Arthur Luehrmann & Vincent Farnsworth
posters in Gwen Albert & Vincent Farnsworth's apartment
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Gwen Albert
Arthur Luehrmann & Vincent Farnsworth
Gwen & Vincent's apartment building window
window detail
painted cow statue
The four of us went off to the Cafe Savoy (not to be confused with the Hotel Savoy) and met up with Marcos and Janet Maestre for an absolutely fabulous dinner.
Cafe Savoy ceiling
Cafe Savoy savories
Cafe Savoy savories
Cafe Savoy sweets
outside the Cafe Savoy: Marcos & Janet Maestre, Martha & Arthur Luehrmann, Gwen Albert, & Vincent Farnswort
We said goodbye to Prague, and the next morning flew home.
Prague at night
P1010510.JPG P1010511.JPG Below is information on some of the Balkan countries and ethnicities that we did not visit on the tour.
Nevena Robertova had her baby! Her princess, _ Robertova, was born on January 14, 2009 P1010511.JPG P1010511.JPG
BosniaHerzPie Bosniacs AlbaniaPie
Albanians Greeks Turks
Macedonians DaytonAccord KosovoIndep
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