Today was a tough day for everyone. We visited the concentration camp and ghetto of Terezin and the lost city of Lidice. Some of the stories and the sights were too horrible to even fully comprehend. The sheer number of people that lost their lives at these places or leaving these places is incomprehensible. I cannot understand what makes people treat each other in ways like this. I really can't.
We started the day at the small fortress of Terezin. The fortress and town were built in the 1700s by the Austrian queen as protection. It is shaped like a giant star with grassy hills surrounding it so no bullets could get through. During World War II, the small fortress was used as a prison and working camp mostly for political prisoners, but sometimes Jews and others.
The gate to the camp, "Work makes free"
The sleeping quarters. Our tour guide told us at the end of the war up to 60 people would have to share this room.
The main pathway when you walk in.
The showers which were allowed few and far between
One of the interesting things about Terezin is that it was used as a source of propaganda. During the war, the Red Cross announced they were going to visit the area to make sure that the people were being treated fairly. In order to pass inspection they fake beautified a lot of the areas in the town and the prison. Here is a room that was full of fake washing sinks. None of the pipes, however, were connected to anything it was just for show. They also had a fake hospital in the prison.
This is the spot where the only escapees left Terezin prison.
The fortress was covered with long tunnels like this one we walked through. These tunnels weren't used during World War II because they were closed to prevent escapes, but they were used during the Hapsburg times.
A picture of how a lot of the fortress looked
The Nazi's swimming pool they had right outside of the prison. They apparently made the prisoners make it with their bare hands.
A list of the other camps that prisoners and people from the ghetto were taken too. Many did not survive.
Hall of smaller prison rooms.
Memorial to those who died in the fortress
This is the town of Terezin. The actual town was evacuated and used as a Jewish ghetto. This was a way for the Germans to consolidate the Jews while the other camps were being finished. We learned the town originally held approximately 6,000 people I think we were told. However, towards the end of the war the population had swelled to nearly 60,000 (these are rough numbers). Over 150,000 people went through the ghetto total since there were constantly large groups being deported to Auschwitz and other camps. Many people also died in the ghetto because extreme crowding made the living conditions so poor.
The train tracks where they would take people from the ghetto to other camps.
Jewish cemetery where they first buried the dead from Terzin. However, it eventually became a health concern when so many people started dying so they began to cremate them.
Map of Terezin. On left is the walled in town and on the right is the small fortress that was used as a prison.
Sign for the ghetto museum. It was very well done and informative.
After Terezin, we went to a town called Lidice. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Germans in World War II, they put a man named Reinhard Heydrich in charge of this area which at that time was known as the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich killed many Czech people and was a horribly tough leader, which is why he was assassinated by two men from London working for the Czech government in exile. Hitler was outraged that this high ranking officer had been killed and decided to make the Czech people pay for it. He killed anyone that he thought might have been involved in this plan which was over 1,000 people. He also decided that this small town of Lidice was connected, even though it was not. Lidice was a town of approximately 500 people. They ordered the town be completely eliminated. Gestapo officers went to the town, sent all the women and children to concentration camps, and murdered every single one of the men. Most of the children were also murdered by gas vans a short while later.
The town was then completely destroyed along with its inhabitants. They not only set fire to it, but they also used explosives to completely level everything that was left. They also uprooted trees and dug up and removed their grave yard. They basically completely eliminated every aspect of the town.
Lidice before June 10th, 1942
What Lidice looks like now..
Memorial to those who died
Replication of the wall the men were murdered against
Only remnants of a house.
Statue to represent all the children that had died.
Lidice was very difficult to stomach. It was especially disgusting that the Germans had documented every step of this process very closely to use to scare the Czech people from messing with them. They have actual video footage of blowing up the town. Its so hard to understand because Lidice was literally chosen at random there was no point to this.
Today was very difficult and I can't even imagine how hard it is going to be traveling to Auschwitz next week. It is very hard to put into words how terrible it is, but I think it is important for people to visit these sights and try to understand and work to prevent the same from happening again.