Art Museum in Terezin

Rear view of the Art Museum in the former Magdeburg barracks

The photograph above shows the rear view of the Magdeburg barracks, which is now the second Museum in Terezin; it is devoted to the artwork produced by the inmates in the ghetto. This same building was formerly used to house women prisoners when Theresienstadt was a ghetto and a transit camp for the Jews.

The building extends from one end of the block to the other and has a series of three interior courtyards, one of which is shown in the photograph below. The Dresden barracks for women has an identical courtyard, but the Dresden building is not open to tourists. The prisoners played soccer in the courtyard shown below.

Magdeburg barrack building has three inner courtyards

The Magdeburg building was also used to house the offices of the Jewish "self government" during the ghetto days.

The Art Museum at Terezin, which is located in the former Magdeburg barracks, is devoted to the artwork produced in the Theresienstadt ghetto. Before World War II, the German people were considered to be the most cultured in the world. Art and music had such importance for them that they allowed cultural events in even the worst of the concentration camps, and encouraged the prisoners to create art and music in what little free time they had.

Every concentration camp had its orchestra, made up of inmate musicians, and concerts were staged even in the worst camp of all, the one at Birkenau, the Auschwitz II camp. Typically, the camp orchestra would play classical music as the prisoners marched off to the factories to work and even as they marched to their deaths in the gas chamber. During the week of cultural events in June 1944, on the occassion of the Red Cross visit, there were performances of Brundibar in the Magdeburg building.

The prisoners were allowed to do art work in the concentration camps, although not what Hitler called "degenerate" art. Hitler favored classic art or beautiful pictures, as opposed to modern art or realistic drawings depicting the horrors of the camps. The prisoners had to hide their drawings and paintings that the Nazis didn't approve of, but they had the courage to produce this art, even with the threat of death if they were found out.

In 1944, the Nazis discovered some of the "degenerate" artwork illicitly done in the camp, and sent the artists and their families to the Gestapo prison in the Small Fortress across the river from the ghetto. Only one of them survived the harsh conditions in the Small Fortress.

Although several of the Nazi concentration camps, such as Majdanek, Buchenwald and Auschwitz, had artists who sketched, painted or sculpted, leaving works of art which are now displayed in the museums there, the Theresienstadt ghetto was unique for the sheer volume of artwork that the prisoners produced during the war. Taking advantage of the many famous artists who were incarcerated in Theresienstadt, the Nazis set up a drafting workshop in the ghetto where the Jews had to use their talents to produce blueprints for the Germans. The Jewish artists in the Theresienstadt ghetto were also commissioned to do paintings for the SS headquarters.

The photograph below shows the intersection of Hauptstrasse and Jägergasse with the front entrance to the Magdeburg barracks on Hauptstrasse and the former Hannover Barracks on Jägergasse. All the barracks buildings were named after cities. The Hannover barracks, which was allowed to fall into ruin since the end of the Nazi era, was used during World War II to house male Jewish prisoners.

Front entrance to Magdeburg Museum on left, Hannover barracks on the right

After the war, some of the perpetrators of the genocide of the Jews eluded justice, but most of them were caught, brought to trial and swiftly executed. Two of the Commandants of Theresienstadt, Karl Rahm and Siegfried Seidl, were executed after being convicted in courts in Litomerice and Vienna.

Karl Rahm was the last Commandant, serving from February 8, 1944 to May 5, 1945 when he handed the camp over to the Red Cross before he escaped. He was captured in Austria and charged with crimes against humanity for his part in sending the Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz.

The third Commandant, Anton Burger, and the camp inspector, Karl Bergel, managed to escape from justice, although they were both tried in absentia and condemned to death. From 1945 to 1948, the Small Fortress was used as a prison where German war criminals awaited trial and subsequent execution for their crimes against humanity.

Map of Ghetto

Walls and Gate

Ghetto Museum

Town Square

Old Buildings

Restaurants and Hotel

Children's Barracks

Adult's Barracks

Historic Buildings

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