Historic buildings in Terezin

Old Brewery which was converted into disinfection station

The photograph above shows the old brewery in Theresienstadt which was converted into a disinfection station to delouse the clothing of the prisoners in the ghetto.

Although typhus was virtually unknown in America during World War II, it was an ever present danger in eastern Europe. During the First World War, epidemics were rampant and millions of civilians and soldiers died of typhus on the eastern front in Poland. The Nazis had a systemic plan to kill all the Jews in Europe, but they didn't want to just let nature take its course because of the danger of typhus spreading to the German troops and civilians. For this reason, they tried to control the lice that causes typhus by disinfecting the clothing in the camps. To kill the lice they used hot steam or Zyklon B in disinfection chambers. Zyklon B is the same poison gas which was used by the Nazis to kill the Jews in the gas chambers in the death camps such as Auschwitz and Majdanek.

In the final chaotic days of World War II, when prisoners were evacuated from Buchenwald and other camps and brought to Theresienstadt, the Nazis were unable to stop the spread of typhus and an epidemic broke out in the ghetto. On May 10, 1945, two days after the war ended, Red Cross representative Paul Durant handed the ghetto over to the Soviet Army. Immediately, about 4,000 Czech Jews left the ghetto to return to their homes.

On May 14, 1945, the Soviet Army imposed a quarantine in the camp, so that the 25,301 people who were still there had to stay inside until the epidemic could be brought under control. The Soviet Army brought in a team of 53 doctors and 340 medical personnel; five hospitals were set up with a capacity of 5,000 beds. Mobile delousing stations were brought in. According to a booklet which I purchased at the Museum, "The battle against the epidemic was led by Dr. Aron Vedder, who was in charge of the Jewish team of doctors and other medical workers till the end of repatriation."

There was also an epidemic at the Small Fortress across the river from the ghetto. A team of volunteer doctors and medical workers from Prague was brought in to save the inmates, who were mainly Czech Communists. Patients from the Small Fortress prison were brought to the ghetto and put into quarantine hospitals set up in the Sudeten and Podmokly barracks.

The Museum booklet says that during the course of the war "In the Ghetto itself almost 35,000 people perished, including prisoners from the evacuation transports." The "evacuation transports" were prisoners brought to Theresienstadt after April 20, 1945 as the concentration camps were being liberated one by one. The booklet says that "another 84,000 people" from the Theresienstadt ghetto were murdered in the extermination camps in the East, including those who were sent to Auschwitz and housed in the privileged "family camp."

According to the Museum booklet, "This (family) camp was the site of the biggest mass execution of Czechoslovak citizens during World War II. On March 8, 1944, 3,792 former Terezin prisoners were exterminated in gas chambers No. 2 and 3."

One of the Jewish prisoners who managed to escape from Auschwitz, Vitezslav Lederer, brought this news to the ghetto, but the booklet says "This information remained confined to a small circle of friends, partly because its gruesome contents seemed impossible to conceive."

Old military riding school was converted to workshop by the Nazis

The photograph above was taken from the corner of Parkstrasse and Neuegasse, which is just south of the Kavalir barracks that are hidden behind a wall. The building on the left that looks like a barn is an old military riding school which the Nazis converted into a joiner's workshop.

The photograph below shows the rear of the old riding school, looking south down Parkstrasse. Behind the old riding school you can see the tower of the Baroque church which faces the market square. The rear of the church is on Parkstrasse.

Rear view of old riding school with an open courtyard in front of it

The photograph above shows a patch of green grass which was the only open space that I saw in the whole town except for the three parks and the town square. In the background of the photograph you can see a glimpse of the Dresden barracks at the end of Parkstrasse.

Old building with 1941 date on front

The Theresienstadt ghetto had its own police force, composed of prisoners. The barracks for the ghetto police was located across from Brunnen park, as shown in the photo below.

Barracks for ghetto police unit, located across from Brunnen park

Circle of stones in Brunnen park with police barracks in background

Art Museum

Map of Ghetto

Walls and Gate

Ghetto Museum

Town Square

Old Buildings

Restaurants and Hotel

Children's Barracks

Adult's Barracks