Monday, July 17, 2017

Jarvis Family at Terezin

July 17, 2017 Terezin - eerie, duplicitous, uncomfortable, sadness

Terezin is the 3rd concentration camp I have visited. First Auschwitz/Birkenau, Dachau, and now Terezin.

Each brings to your attention different horrors of the holocaust. Visiting concentration camps always leaves me sobered, but Terezin was uncomfortable on so many levels.

Eerie - Terezin was a 18th century garison built for the army. It was made of two fortresses - small and large. The large fortress was basically a walled city the size of about 9 X 5 city blocks. The thick city walls are surrounded by a moat with just a few bridges in or out of the complex. Hitler took it over during WWII and turned it into the infamous Terezin ghetto. The small fortress about 1 km away was a walled prison. All other concentration camps I have visited are now memorial sites. They are trying to do the same in Terezin, yet the village was resettled after the war, so the town is functional again. The fact that people are living on this site is eerie. You know/feel like you are stepping on sacred ground, yet around you people are walking through the town square, flowers are planted, and the fountain is bubbling with life. Town life is going on around you, including the selling of ice cream, a few hotels/restaurants and antique shops. Thus the eerie feeling. At 6 p.m. everyone closes up and goes home so the town suddenly feels like a ghost town. We walked past the only children's park inside the walls on our way back to the bus stop. It was empty. A few teenagers were riding their bikes through the playground, but the absence of "life" in the park was striking. See photos of Hebe at the park. She like many others seems oblivious to the horrors perpetrated on this site.

Duplicitous - One of the horrors of Terezin is the fact that the Nazi's used it for propaganda and brought the Red Cross here to see how well the people were being treated. We watched some of that propaganda footage, interspersed with drawings of what life was really like for the residents. A great cover-up of terrible deeds against humanity.

Uncomfortable - It is always uncomfortable to see the living conditions and hear stories about the individuals - people brought to Terezin for no crime other than just being JEWISH. We also read stories of political prisoners, or Czech citizens that were aiding Jewish resistance efforts - doctors, police officers, and others that were giving assistance or passing information.

Sadness - it is impossible to see the museums, and hear the stories of those who died and survived without feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness. Our teenagers wondered if they would have survived. Would they have resisted? Difficult questions to answer. Visiting Terezin left me with a deep desire to honour those who passed through this camp, and respect their deep desire and efforts to maintain humanity in the midst of unfathomable deprivation and wickedness. They did this with their art, words, and actions of resistance. We also saw this inside a hidden synagogue only large enough to fit 10 people, where some would go to pray, and in the words of a Female Rabbi prisoner that were posted near the crematorium. Regina Jonas said - "To be blessed by God means to give wherever one steps in every life situation blessing, kindness, faithfulness..."

Sobering day.

Hebe at the children's park in the middle of the Large Fortress

Former Magdeburg Barracks - now a museum showing the living conditions of those in a typical barracks in the large fortress. (A bit sanitized) The museum houses the music, literature and art created by those in the camp. Since Terezin was the showcase camp, the prisoners were given liberty to perform music, theatre and poetry regularly for propaganda purposes and to entertain each other.  It is interesting to see how people resisted through these art forms, and used it as a way to document what was going on in the camp.  

Inside the Ghetto Museum which was a former children's barracks.  At this museum you can see children's artwork that was saved by one of the art teachers from the ghetto.  The teacher died at Auschwitz, but somehow she was able to hide several suitcases full of children's art which is now on display.  This museum also showcased journal entries from diaries kept in Terezin.

Photos 7, 8 and 9
from the Small fortress.  This was used as a prison and the conditions here were much more severe than in the Large Fortress.  Many prisons were tortured here, used as target practise or hung from the gallows.  There were only 3 known prisoners to have ever escapes these walls.  Photos show the doctor's office, a barracks and the famous phrase - Work makes you free.

Photo 10 is of the National Cemetery where bodies from a mass grave within the small fortress were re-interred.  Many of the headstones just provide a number, since there was no way to identify the names of the deceased.  

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