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A Virtual Tour. Of Theresienstadt. Information directly from : history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/aa012599a/ htm. The Virtual Tour Starts Here:.
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A Virtual Tour Of Theresienstadt Information directly from : history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/aa012599a/htm
The Virtual Tour Starts Here: • With the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 came repressive police actions. The Nazis needed somewhere to hold the growing numbers that they were arresting. Thus, in June 1940, the Small Fortress became a prison for the Prague Gestapo. • The Small Fortress is surrounded by tall brick walls which are covered with a green grass on top. To get to the entrance, you must walk across a bridge (over what used to be a moat) which leads you to an entrance surrounded by a black and white striped design. After walking through the small tunnel-like entrance, you bear left to begin the walking tour of the prison. • This is the administration court. To the left is the reception office (where the records of the prisoners were kept), the guards' office (where inmates were interrogated), and the prison commander's office. • During its tenure as a Nazi prison, the Small Fortress was run by only one prison commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Jöckel. He was greatly responsible for the terrible conditions within the prison. • The gate at the end of this courtyard states "ArbeitMachtFrei" ("Work Makes One Free"), the same phrase that was repeated often by the Nazis within their concentration camps. Going through the gate, leads you to "Courtyard I."
Courtyard I • Most of the prisoners of the Small Fortress were considered "political" prisoners - accused of resistance, violating anti-Jewish laws, labor offenses, or giving support to persecuted peoples.* The first prisoners that came to the Small Fortress arrived on June 14, 1940. • At that time, two courtyards (I and II) were used to house prisoners. Courtyard II consisted largely of prisoner workshops. Courtyard III was opened in June 1942 with the addition of female prisoners to the Small Fortress. • Courtyard I consists of Blocks A and B (the door with the white sign over it is the entrance to Block A) and holds 17 mass cells as well as twenty much smaller cells used for solitary confinement. • Roll call for the prisoners in Courtyard I would be held on this dirt area. At one time, there were up to 1,500 inmates held just in this Courtyard.
Mass Cell • This is one of the mass cells in Courtyard I. Approximately 60 to 100 prisoners were housed in each one of these mass cells, giving each prisoner only 30 cm of room on the bunks. The proximity of the prisoners made it easy for the lice and fleas to hop from one prisoner to another, aiding the spread of disease. • Within each of the mass cells were three-tiered bunks, one sink, a very small shelf, and one small toilet for all the prisoners to share.
Small Cells • These are two of the smaller cells which were used for solitary confinement. Prisoners were confined in these if their interrogations were not yet completed or if they were to be severely punished. • While some of these rooms had a single window, many did not. These rooms were bare of any furniture, thus the prisoners were forced to sleep on the hard, wooden floors.
The SS Pool • From the Spring of 1942, the guards of the Small Fortress were members of the SS. These SS guards were notorious for torturing the inmates, generally reserving the most brutal treatment for the Jewish prisoners. Additionally, several of the wives of these SS guards became the guards for the women's section of the prison. • The SS, living with their families within the Small Fortress, wanted a swimming pool built for their relaxation and entertainment. Thus, a swimming pool was constructed in 1942 by students of Roudnice (who were prisoners) and Jewish prisoners. The prisoners were beaten and tortured while working on the pool's construction, costing many their lives. • The pool is located outside the execution area and relatively near the mass graves.
Courtyard IV • Though the Nazis originally chose the Small Fortress because it was well suited for a prison, by 1943 it was running out of room for additional prisoners. • Between the period of 1940 to 1945, the number of prisoners housed in the Small Fortress increased substantially. In 1940, there were an average of 150 prisoners housed in the Small Fortress. By 1941, this had increased to 600; by 1942 to 1,200; by 1943 and 1944 to approximately 2,000; and by 1945 to 5,500 prisoners.* • To house the additional prisoners, the SS added a fourth Courtyard (Courtyard IV). Though construction was begun in 1943, the first prisoners were not moved here until the Fall of 1944.
The Guard Tower • Courtyard IV consists of several large mass cells which held between 400 and 600 prisoners each, as well as small cells for solitary confinement. But, with the extra increases of prisoners in 1945, the crowding was so extreme that even the solitary confinement cells were used as mass cells. At the end of the war, 3,000 inmates lived in just this Courtyard. • This guard tower directly overlooks courtyard IV.
National Cemetery • For many of the 32,000 people (27,000 men and 5,000 women) who entered the Small Fortress as prisoners, their stay within the prison was temporary and they were soon transferred to a concentration camp; most often to Flossenbürg, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, or Ravensbrück. Approximately 8,000 of those transferred died in the camps. • But many also met their death within in the Small Fortress. The malnutrition, hard labor, disease, torture, and executions all created an atmosphere of death. • Through October 1942, the company Bubak was responsible for burying those that had died within the Small Fortress. After October 1942, until February 1945, the dead from the Small Fortress were cremated in the crematorium built for the Theresienstadt Ghetto in the Large Fortress. • The cremations ended in February 1945, at which time, the dead were then buried in mass graves near the execution site. • When the SS guards fled the Small Fortress on May 5, 1945, there was already an epidemic of spotted typhoid fever. Many who had survived the Nazis did not survive the typhoid fever. • In total, 10,000 corpses are buried in this cemetery.
Crematorium • Though there were no gas chambers in Theresienstadt, the death toll was so great from starvation and disease that they were running out of room for graves. In September 1942, a crematorium was built. • Inside there is a small exhibit in the anteroom and then the ovens.
Crematorium Oven • This is one of the four crematorium ovens. At its top capacity the crematorium could cremate 190 bodies a day. The ashes were taken out of the back, searched for gold (from teeth), and then placed in cardboard boxes. • Near the end of the war, the Nazis tried to dispose of any incriminating evidence, so they dumped 8,000 of these cardboard boxes into a pit and 17,000 boxes into the nearby Ohre River.
The Tree • This tree stands behind the crematorium. There is a story that goes with this tree... • At the end of the war, a sapling was found within the Ghetto, planted by a group of children who were later taken on a transport. The finders of this sapling took it and replanted it here, on this spot, to remember all the children of Theresienstadt. The tree has grown, and as its seeds fall to the ground, visitors from around the world take these seeds back home with them and plant them in the memory of the children.