Terezín. The original name is Theresienstadt and much more famous. During the Habsburg reign, the place was dedicated to empress Maria Theresa.
The town lies only three kilometers south of →Litoměřice and about 50 km north of →Prague. It's within the flood-plain of Ohře (Eger) and Labe (Elbe) river, which is why the entire city was under water during the devastating flooding in 2002. The flooding caused heavy damages.
Around 37,000 inhabitants.
Terezín has less than 2,000 inhabitants. The whole city is dominated by the fortification systems of the old fortress. It straddles Ohře (Eger) river, which also supplies the moats of the fortress. The left (western) bank is characterised by the star-shaped, strictly geometrical designed city centre. The town didn't grow much beyond its old limits.
|The imposing moats and walls of Terezin|
On the right bank, between the Ohře river and its old river-bed, some more or less new buildings and only a few fortification structures can be seen. The small fortress and the adjoining national cemetary, together with the prison used as a museum today, dominate the right bank of the old river-bed.
During the 18th century, Prussian troops frequently invaded central Bohemia during the Prussian-Austrian wars. Naturally, the direction the Prussians were coming from was always the same - the north-west. Obviously, the fortress of near →Litoměřice was not good enough. And so it was decided to build another fortress amidst the fertile plain called Bohemian Garden in 1757. Construction work started in 1780 and was pushed forward quickly. Two villages needed to be flattened. Already six years later, the inner and outer fortress walls were completed. The rest inside the two fortresses followed only a few years later. Eversince, the small fortress was used as a prison. Among many others, the famous assassinator of →Sarajevo was imprisoned in Terezin in 1914.
|Typical entrance to a Habsburg fortress|
After the annexation of the Czech republic by Hitler in 1939, a German garrison was stationed in Terezín. The Gestapo ('German state police', i.e. the infamous secret police of Nazi Germany) continued to use the small fortress as a prison since 1940. Around 2,500 prisoners lost their life within the next five years. All citizens of the big fortress were expelled until 1941. The space was needed to set up a large Jewish Ghetto. Approximately 140,000 prisoners, almost all of them Jews from all over Europe, were brought to Terezín. 34,000 died inside the large fortress, but another 87,000 Jews (so to say almost all of them) were transferred to extermination camps, and so only very few managed to survive. Terezín was not liberated by the Soviet army before 8 May 1945 (the day of Germany's capitulation). After the war, the tide has turned - now, Sudeten Germans were interned in the small fortress before being expelled to Germany. The city itself remained a garrison town used by Czech army units.
Within the last decades, almost the whole town was turned into a memorial place and attracts many visitors today.
Getting there / transportation
The best way is to go via →Litoměřice. From there, hourly buses run to Terezín - it takes around 10 minutes only. Some of the buses running between →Prague and Litoměřice stop in Terezín as well. Most buses do not stop at the small fortress.
The construction of the fortress followed the rules of the French Meziéres School and created imposing dimensions. Partially, it reminds the visitor of other Habsburg fortresses such as Spilberk (Spielberg) in →Brno or →Petrovaradin in Novi Sad. Wide parts of the fortress have not been reconstructed yet and therefore offer a certain charme. However, it's not the fortress itself that attracts the visitor's attention. It's more about the more recent, tragic history of the place. Inside the main fortress, in which visitors can move around freely, the large Ghetto museum contains an excellent exhibition about life in the Ghetto.
|"Work is liberty" - misanthropic Nazi cynicism|
It's deeply moving to see how people in the ghetto, despite the extremely poor living conditions, managed to live together more or less harmonically and even maintained a certain cultural standard by organising concerts and stage plays. Education was very important, too, because many children were imprisoned in the Ghetto. On the one hand, seeing how far humanity can go, fills the visitor's heart with hope. On the other hand it's very depressing to understand that almost all of them were murdered shortly after.
Within the small fortress, the former military and later Gestapo prison can be visited. The area of the prison is rather big and contains dark prison cells, long tunnels and so on. The museum as it can be seen today is limited to the occupation time between 1939 and 1945. There are some large cemetaries in front of the small fortress and around.
|National cemetary and Magen David at the small fortress|
A combined ticket for both the Ghetto museum and the small fortress costs 80 Kč (reduced 40). It's quite a distance between the Ghetto and the small fortress - it takes around 15 to 20 minutes on foot. 5 to 6 hours should be planned to see all of Terezín.
It looks like there aren't many places to stay in Terezín. Therefore it's better to stay in →Litoměřice or at a camping site nearby. Only a few kilometers south of Terezín, camping site Brozany in the village with the same name is good value. It features a restaurant and all necessary facilities. Even without a tent or a sleeping bag it's possible to stay in one of the few huts (160 Kč per person). They even have their own website with all the necessary information and an online reservation form! URL: www.autokemp.com.
- www.pamatnik-terezin.cz Interesting website about the Terezin memorial - dedicated to the victims of Nazi Germany
Do you have or do you know a good website about Terezín? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. You can submit a link by using the →contact form. Note that commercial websites will be treated differently.
Marco Gammallieri wrote:
I have been in Therezin many times and I have always stayed in Parkhotel Terezin. It is big enough for maybe 50 people. very good restaurant. certainly good value. p.s. i love the beer there :)
you can check it out on www.hotelterezin.cz
Posted by Marco Gammallieri on April 18, 2010 03:07