Friday, April 3, 2009

Terezin- day three in Prague

I haven't yet talked about day three in Prague because it was a very emotional and hard day. We took a bus about a hour to the town of Terezin known also as the Jewish Ghetto. The fortress, built in the 1780's was designed to protect the access routes used by enemy troop to penetrate into Bohemia's hinterland during the Prussian-Austrian wars in the 18th century. In the early 19th century it's Small Fortress served as a prison not only for army offenders but also for political prisoners of the Habsburg monarchy. 
Terezin earned it's worldwide notoriety in recent times when the Czech lands were occupied by Nazi Germany. The fortress was at that time set up as a huge place for persecution of the Jews. The Prague Gestapo Police Prison was set up in the Small Fortress and the Main Fortress the town of Terezin it's self became a Ghetto, a concentration camp for Jews. This was originally intended to be a transit camp for Jews but became like all other camps an execution spot. The town and it's original population were forced out as Nazi Germany took of the entire town. The Nazi's used Terezin in a propaganda campaign and showed Terezin as a "self -administered Jewish settlement territory" Some 14,000 men, women and children from Czech lands, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Slovakia and Hungary were deported to Terezin. In the final days of the war another 15,000 prisoners, mostly seriously ill or on the verge of total exhaustion arrived in Terezin from the concentration camps in Poland and Germany that had been vacated before the advancing front could save them. Some were already dead and the mass majority of them were executed shortly after arriving there, either at Terezin or after being shipped again to other camps near by. 
Terezin was not only a place of untold hardship and suffering but also a witness of enormous courage, devotion and never-ending struggle to save those doomed as victims of the Nazi genocide. Less than 4,000 of the 87,000 inmates who left the camp in "Eastern" transports survived. The victims also included children who left behind drawing that have since epitomized to the whole world the heinous nature of the "final solution", constituting a lasting memento to the post war generations.
This is a summary of the pamphlet from the Terezin Memorial.
As we walked from the bus to the fortress, or concentration camp, we first came to this massive burial site. More that 10,000 people are buried here. Their bodies were transported here from other mass graves around Terezin and given the proper ceremony and burial they deserved.  

This is a "cell" that would hold up to around 30 people at one time. This is a picture of the entire room. It was bitter cold in the winters and blister hot in the summers. They had no heaters in these rooms, although we did see a few in bigger rooms. But even then it was a single, tiny wood burning heater for a 100ft by 100ft room. After leaving here I don't think I complained once more about being cold.
Here they would stuff as many Jews as would fit in this room. They would sleep on all four levels of this bunk bed. About 6-7 deep and lying head to toe. These "beds" lined all three walls with a single "bathroom" and a single tiny heater. A few of the rooms had table lined up down the middle of the room.  
The white structure above the doorway is the guard tower. On the right side of the courtyard are the small cells that are pictured above that held about 30 people and on the left are the solitary cells. The solitary cells had no windows and no toilet. 
This is the execution courtyard. After being led down a long tunnel they would end up here where they would line them up on the wooded platform and shoot them. They would then take them to the crematorium in mass numbers, assign them a number and one by one cremate them. The only good thing I can say is that they did put their remains in a urn which you can find at the memorial sights throughout the city and even at the fortress itself. 
Here we are in the tunnel that led to the execution sight.
This was the "hospital." In the final days of the war a typhoid epidemic broke out which led to the death of many of the inmates who hadn't been shipped off to Auschwitz or other near by camps. 
Here is where the Jews were told to hang their clothes for sterilization. Needless to say they never got them back. They were given a prison uniform at that time.
These are the train tracks the prisoners were forced to build. They lead to Auschwitz. 

Being there made me so grateful that I live in a free country and get to worship who, what and when I please. From the moment I stepped off the bus there was a feeling of reverence in Terezin. I was walking on what is now sacred ground for those who had loved ones who were murdered at the hands of the Nazi's. I count my blessings everyday that I have a testimony of the gospel. I would hate to be standing in front of God and Jesus Christ having done what was done to hundreds of thousands of His children. Of everything we saw and did on this trip this day will stay with me forever!


Thatcher family said...

Wow. What a day indeed. Your pictures reminded me of a movie I just saw, "The Boy in Striped Pajamas". Don't see this movie. You'll probably cry the enter film. It's so sad that this is part of our history. You're right though; what a difference the Gospel makes!!

Kirsten said...

That would be so interesting to be able to visit there as you did. I saw that movie that Melissa said and I agree you would cry. Thanks goodness we have the gospel in our lives.

The Pea said...

Thank you for sharing this day, even though it was hard I am happy you were bale to see it and remember al lof the inocent souls who were stolen there.

Trent and Lindz said...

What an incredible day. I am so facinated by this whole history. It seems almost impossible that something this horrible could actually happen, but unfortunatly it did. You can't help but be grateful for all that we have when you hear and see things like this!