Terezin Concentration Camp
Terezin was originally a military fortress when it was built in the 18th century, then a garrison town. They kept the town the same but used the buildings to house the Jewish prisoners during WWII. Today, some of the soldiers and those who worked in the area before, still live there and are raising their families there. Most of us found that very strange and you can tell that it is a very poor town. They were pretty dirty, unkept people walking around. I am not sure why people would want to stay there...
Terezin was used during the end of WWII (started bringing Jews in 1941). There was a lot of deceit used to get the Jews to come, they were often told that they were leaving the Jewish Quarter and other areas of Prague to go for a "Spa Week" or something similar. Those same stories were told when they moved people from Terezin to a killing/extermination camp such as Auschwitz. The Nazis, forced the camp prisoners to write letters and notes confirming how great it is and that more people should come.
It makes my heart so sad to hear those things. But it is also very interesting because this was in the 1940's, the war had been going on for years at this point....you'd think that the Jews would have been a little bit more aware of the situation. It shows how much was covered up and how much the Jews wanted to just turn their heads and not pay attention.
There are actually stories about a few people who were able to escape (Terezin and Auschwitz) and they tried to come back and rescue a few people/warn them about what was happening at Auschwitz but people wouldn't believe them. It shocks me that they wouldn't believe!The Red Cross was worried about the camp and the Nazi's ended up creating a "beautification campaign". They made the town look like a spa town, made movies to send out, and other "marketing" rouses to fool the Red Cross. They made some of the Jews play soccer and they were recorded playing and laughing. They also had children draw pictures and perform in a play. In the video, they showed that there were only two beds stacked for bunk beds when really there are three stacked on top of each other. Many things like this were done in order to show the outside world that people were being treated well inside the camp, even though it was clearly not the truth. But it worked and the Red Cross and others slowly left them alone.
Entering the Camp:
There is a graveyard and then the first building you encounter is the crematorium. These are located outside the actual walls of Terezin. When people died at Terezin in the beginning, they were buried, several people together but they soon learned that the water level was only 1-3 meters below. They didn't want to be contaminating their water supply so the crematorium was built. People were cremated and then kept in urns (pic further below).
There is an owl above the entrance of the crematorium. While in most cultures the owl symbolises wisdom, for the Jewish it symbolises evil. The owl's hoot is a groan and the Jews believe that it is mourning over devastation. In the Hebrew Bible it symbolises destruction and desolation.
|Crematorium and the Owl|
|Graveyard next to the Crematorium|
Next we saw the Columbarium, funeral rooms, and mortuary. The first picture is a stone where it lists where prisoners came from. There were a lot of places listed--people from all over Europe were brought to Terezin.
This next picture is a picture of the original caskets that people were buried in. Very skinny. But again as mentioned above, they weren't used for very long because of the high water level.
The picture below has five locations and dirt from those locations. On the ground you can see the star of David. The locations are sacred but I cannot recall all the details about the different places.
This railroad has some interesting consequences. People originally thought it was great and that people wouldn't have to walk as much to get to the camp. But what ended up happening is that prisoners by-passed the city outside of Terezin and went straight into the camp. This means that anybody who could have started to warn people no longer had the chance because they just rode the train straight into the camp.
This is how the town looks today. I was told it hasn't been changed much but it wasn't in quite as good of condition when the Jews were here. The same structures stand though. There were 49,000 Jews here at one time...and if you were to walk around here, there is not room for that many people, even with lots of bunk beds. Many people ended up sleeping in the streets and the town square as well. In the end over 140,000 Jews went through Terezin.
This composer Pavel Haas was writing music but also disguised Hebrew messages in his music. You can see below one of the messages. It says: "This is the souvenir of the Anniversary of the First Day and the last day of Tenezin."
The picture below is the town square. During WWII, they would have drills, roll call and such here in the town square as well as in enclosures between buildings.
This was one of the nicer rooms, sadly. There was a small kitchen and five people could sleep here. People thought it was a privilege to live here because you could live those you loved. If you weren't in this small room, you could get split up (men, women, children and elderly were all separated).
Below we have a secret prayer room. On the main wall (a little to the left) it says: "May our eyes behold your return to Zion in Compassion" and on the side wall (to the right) it says: "Know before whom you stand." Even though I am not Jewish, I think those are some powerful statements. There were some other statements on other walls as well. This room was kept secret because the man who built it was afraid the guards would destroy it or take it away if they found out about it.
After two very busy days, my body started to get sick, so I decided to just rest for the evening.
I got to tour the Prague Castle on a beautiful sunny day!! The first few pictures are awesome views of Prague from the Castle.
Here we have the Strahov Monastery and library. Apparently a lot of the locals like to come up here because there aren't tons of tourists that come up here. There is also a little pub where the monks have a micro-brewery and make their own beer. Obviously, I didn't drink any but some say it is amazing.
After the monastery we went to the Cathedral. We only went into the front part but there were a lot of stainless windows. It was very beautiful!
This is the entrance to the actual castle grounds. I thought it was interesting that the statues are very violent. But it is for protection. I also liked the gold on the arch. Then we watched the changing of the guards. They change every hour, so they don't have it too hard. Those pics are below.
|Changing of the Guard|
|Changing of the Guard|
This is another building on the Castle grounds it is called the Schwarzenberg Palace. It is a Renaissance building. I share this picture because of the design. If you make the picture below you can see the intricate details on the walls. This was all done by hand with a technique called sgraffito. They put a layer of brown plaster then they did the lighter layer. Once they both dried, they had artists come in and scratch/sculpt the design on this building. It is around the entire building. And if you look close, you can see where the roof comes out over the building, underneath is also carved out!! So much work!!
This is a big courtyard before the cathedral. Apparently Tom Cruise runs through this courtyard in Mission Impossible 4 (I haven't seen it) there is also a scene with him on the Charles Bridge. Again I haven't seen MI4, nor am I going to watch it just to confirm that fact but I did google it quickly and there appears to be truth to it. So I get to add another place I've walked were a celebrity has walked!
This is the other side of the Cathedral. It is very medieval and dark in general but then there are bits of gold in there. The gothic architecture is pretty interesting!
After the castle tour, I walked around some new streets and checked out the Easter Market again. There were some new booths up...but they had the same stuff. I did take a picture of the Astronomical Clock...it is in a war for the title of the most over-rated attraction in Europe/World (not sure which). I think the purpose of the clock is pretty dang amazing!! But the show it puts on, is yes, overrated. If you google "Prague Astronomical Clock Show" I am sure you'll find many videos of the little show it does each hour.
This clock was installed in 1410 and is the oldest astronomical clock still working. It is so interesting to learn about and wikipedia actually has most of it correct, so click here if you want to learn more about how the clock actually works.
I need to tell you about these wonderful treats called "chimneys" I had one last night and two today. During the Easter Market, I got one that had chocolate covered in the centre. I had whipped cream and mixed fruit. Soooo yummy!! See below for how they are made:
There are tons of shops where they make these chimneys. They make this sweet dough and wrap it around these sticks. The sticks rotate over the coals/flames and evenly cook the dough. As it cooks, they put butter on and cover the chimneys with cinnamon sugar. Then they are filled with different things. I've also had a chimney filled with ice cream!
In my first post, I mentioned that I fell in love with a few pieces of art. I did decide on one piece so I bought some art. I LOVE it :)
And that ends my trip! I woke up early on Sunday to fly home. Prague was amazing...I would have to say as of right now, it is my favourite non-costal city. If it isn't on your "to-do" list: ADD IT!
I am off to travel with my mother for a few weeks. I will have some fabulous blog posts once I return (and if I am on top of it, I may even get one out while we are travelling!!)
Enjoy the rest of your week!