Terezin was a bookend for our Danube trip as well as a reminder of some fifty years of traveling. In the summer of 1963 my wife and I traveled abroad for the first time. We spent the summer before taking up employment at Monmouth College in what earlier travelers would have called "The Grand Tour." We saw the full complement of western european cities and sights. We took in Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canal, and the Coliseum. We visited Copenhagen, Hamburg, Arles, Geneva, Florence, Pompei and many points in between. Many memories and kodachrome slides from that trip are now fading, but two experiences do remain bright. Both attach themselves to World War II and the Nazi legacy.
The first was a trip into Communist East Berlin where in 1963 WW II destruction was still evident and a monstrous wall had been constructed. It existed to keep people in rather than out, but suffered ultimately the fate of all walls. Whether China's, Hadrian's, or Trump's, walls are only temporary and generally seem to function mainly as a visible temptation to find a way around, under, or over.
The second still vivid memory was a visit to a small house in Amsterdam where the family of Anne Frank lived while hiding from the Nazis. (My 1963 photo)
Terezin is about an hour north of Prague and most of the journey is on a modern freeway with familiar advertising.
The Small Fortress was used occasionally as a prison in the 19th and early 20th century. It's most noteworthy early inmate was the man who assassinated the Arch Duke Ferdinand and managed to start WW I. And he actually died there. For the most part, however, the town just marked time for two hundred years while waiting for a more terrible future. This was underscored immediately by our first view upon walking out of the parking lot. It was the large National Cemetery honoring some of the 2500 who died within the walls of the Small Fortress between 1940 and 1945.
On one end of the cemetery a Jewish Star was embedded in a pile of symbolic stones.
On the opposite side was a Christian Cross, testifying to the fact that not all the victims were Jewish.
Somehow it doesn't seem quite the moment for photos like the one below, but we were impressed that school groups were clearly being ushered through and given the history.
The interior features several types of cells--some for groups and some for individual offenders.
Isolation cells were reserved for the worst inmates. There was little light, minimal heat, and no toilet facilities. Some had rings in the wall to chain a prisoner.
One of the bells that called people out for the morning count and work details was still visible in the yard.
Other washing and shower facilities were built only to show to the Red Cross inspectors and were never used.
Some light was supplied by occasional slits for firing arrows.
Shooting positions were laid out facing a wall of the old moat for firing squad killings and also for target practice for guards using, according to our guide, live prisoners to run across the area.
We passed out of this sad spot and into the area where the guards were housed. Tree shaded paths ran between pleasant houses.
Examine them closely by clicking to enlarge.