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11 March 2015

Prague: Part 2

I really, really did a lot while I was in Prague, about as much as there is to be done. In reality I probably could have planned my trip a bit differently done one less day in Prague and gone to another city for a few days.

On Tuesday I left the city and took a day trip to Terezin. Terezin is a small military fortress about an hour north of Prague that was a Concentration Camp during World War II. This camp is where a majority of the Jewish citizens of Prague and the surrounding towns were sent to during the war. It also had a very large population of children. While this was not a death camp, in the sense of Auschwitz and others that were purposed for,Terezin was stopping place for those camps. About 140,000 Jews were held over its years, approx 30,000 died at Terezin from malnutrition,stress, hunger and living conditions and 87,000 were sent to Auschwitz where they met their end, over 8,500 of that number were children.

Terezin itself was special place though because of the lifestyle it provided to the children present. The adults living in the camp did their very best to create the best sense of normalcy they could for the children there. Despite the level of guards they had secret schools, taught the kids to express themselves with songs, diaries, pictures, paintings, and plays. The adults wrote and performed music, shows, and did their own artwork. The children's houses made newsletters and stories to share. The adults took great care to save and hide these things and to this day over 6,000 pieces some of which is the only thing left behind of these wonderful people.

When I was in middle school I performed in a play called I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which is based off the book put together of the same name, which is filled with the drawings and poems of the children of Terezin. Besides my heritage, this is one of the reasons I wanted to visit the location. Until I had looked into what to do in and around Prague, I hadn't known that show I was in many years ago was built upon the works of this nearby place.

The place is, as expected, quite depressing. They have small museum in one of the buildings that was a boys home,  filled with the names of lives lost, as well as many pieces of artwork and drawings. There you learn the names of the adults who were the most influential to the children.

In an old barrack you see a recreation of what a room in the ghetto would have looked like. Stacked tall with 3 beds to a bunk and filled with pieces of peoples lives. Lots more artwork, music, and plays. As well as a recreation of the small theater they used to perform.

My one happier sight of the day, a woman feeding a family of nutria (similar to beavers and groundhogs.) They climbed right out of the water. Creepy and cool.

The town still has one of the hidden synagogues used during the time. You can also walk out and see the old train tracks were everyone was brought in and then deported.

remains of the hidden synagouge

Besides this larger fortress the town and memorial is also made up of a smaller fortress, which is about 1/2 mile away. The smaller fortress was used as a prison during WWII for Czech patriots, prisoners of war, and those who fought in the resistance. It can be toured, they have another small art museum as wall as barracks that showed rows of non-working sinks for Red Cross inspections and the size and spacing of the living conditions. It also houses a National Cemetery.

Overall I am very glad I visited. While emotions ran high and heavy during my tour, it is an experience I am grateful for and allowed me to pay my respects for so many of the lives lost. I would fully recommend taking the trip for the day if you are in the area or visiting Prague. WWII and the Holocaust are parts of our history that must be remembered for all generations to come. 

And yes, tomorrow's Prague post will be less depressing. 

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  1. I am always glad to see that people (even while on vacation) take a moment to appreciate the haunting sadness of our history. It may not be the most joyful experience, but you learn so much from them that I wish more people didn't skip over them.

  2. I completely agree- unless I'm at the beach, and even then if there is someplace cool to see nearby I opt to go. That is part of the lure of going on trips and seeing new places for me, getting to learn and see parts of history- good or bad.