Terezín

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­I had a visceral reaction to Terezín. I’ve started this post several times over the last two weeks, and I can’t wrap my head around putting my reaction into words.

I found the town of Terezín (it is a town now) to be completely and utterly depressing. You might say to yourself – of course it was depressing, it was a concentration camp. Yes, that is part of it, but not all of it. There are people living in a town that was a concentration camp. The roads are the same. The buildings are the same. The windows are the same. People wake up and and shower and eat and work and live and make love and go about their lives in the same rooms where 140,000 suffered and 36,000 died and 88,000 were living just before being sent east for extermination. It is also depressing because of its current state of disrepair and economic stagnation. Both its past and its present are a sad scene. And I didn’t see much hope for its future either.

Maybe poetry and pictures are the only way to express myself this time.

Crumbling walls,
Broken glass,
Broken lives,
In Terezín.

Protective walls become the cage.
Banks with money
For empty stores
And a café without coffee.
Promises with no intention
But trickery.

 A spa on the way to Auschwitz.
For the Jews of Theresienstadt.

 Overcrowded and desolate.
Years of suffering then.
No hope now.

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Ramparts and train track entering Terezin

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Pile of rubble behind Dresden Barracks

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Theresienstadt’s streets were identified by letters and numbers

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I’m standing with our guide looking at the remains of the Hannover barracks

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Museum display in the Magdeburg Barracks showing a typical room in Theresienstadt. My mother thought the display was accurate, except that it looked too new and clean, and not crowded enough.

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Remains of the hospital where my mother worked as a messenger when she was nine.

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Remains of Dresden barracks which housed mothers and children. My mother, uncle and grandmother probably lived here.

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The memorial near the crematorium

5 thoughts on “Terezín

  1. AJ says:

    I too have visited Terezin. Visceral reaction to say the least. Viewing the grounds, the living conditions and the seemingly unending rows of headstones, caused me to ponder just how man can be so cruel to his own species. The biological sciences have traced our species back to a handful of common ancestors. Genetically, we are nearly identical, yet we constantly seek to separate between “us” and “them.” Such labeling only serves to dehumanize “them” and increases the accuracy of the beliefs of “us.” These beliefs perpetuate man’s cruelty to man and insures that places like Terezin will continue to survive. How sad….

  2. Myriam says:

    I know Terezin only from documentaries, among them The last of the Unjust by Claude Lanzmann, which is rather grim. But in Amsterdam I walk so many times in places which have “seen” terrible things. I try not to let those things weight me down and to enjoy being there. But looking at the deserted streets of Terezin, I can imagine enjoying the place and forgetting what happened behind those walls is quite a challenge.

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