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 Early history

In the late 18th century the Habsburg Monarchy erected the fortress, as well as a large walled town directly across the Ohře River, near its confluence with the Labe River, and named it after Empress Maria Theresa.

Construction started in 1780 and lasted ten years. The total area of the fortress was 3.89 km². The fortification was designed in the tradition of Sébastian le Prestre de Vauban. In peacetime it held 5,655 soldiers, and in wartime around 11,000 soldiers could be placed here, and neighbouring areas could be inundated. Fortress Josefov in eastern Bohemia was built at the same time and had a similar purpose.

The fortress was never under direct siege. During the Austro-Prussian War, on 28 July 1866, part of the garrison attacked and destroyed an important railway bridge near Neratovice (rail line Turnov - Kralupy nad Vltavou) that was shortly before repaired by the Prussians. This attack occurred two days after Austria and Prussia had agreed to make peace, but the Terezin garrison was ignorant of the news.

During the second half of the 19th century, the fortress was also used as a prison.

During World War I, the fortress was used as a political prison camp. Many thousand supporters of Russia (Russophiles from Galicia and Bukovina) were placed by Austro-Hungarian authorities in the fortress. Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and his wife, starting the war, died there of tuberculosis in 1918.

Terezín during World War II

During WWII, the Gestapo used Terezín, better known by the German name Theresienstadt, as a ghetto, concentrating Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as many from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark. More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, and although it was not an extermination camp about 33,000 died in the ghetto itself,mostly because of the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density. About 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. At the end of the war there were 17,247 survivors. Theresienstadt was the home of Hana Brady and her brother George Brady from 1942-1944.

The Small Fortress in Terezin was also used as a punishment prison for Allied POWs who persisted in escape attempts. POWs from Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain were imprisoned Keeping POWs from signatory countries in such camp conditions was against the Geneva Convention. Terezin was the punishment prison for Walter Wise (Australia), Charles Croall (NZ), Roy Lomas (NZ), Ray Reid (NZ), Gerry Mills (NZ), Sid Davison (NZ), Tom McLeod (NZ), Alf Booker (NZ), Jock Bone (UK), Herb Cullen (Australia), Tama Tamaki (NZ), Wal Riley (Australia), Tom Mottram (NZ), Jim Ilott and Alexander McClelland (Australia). All survived but suffered chronic physical and mental health problems for most of their lives.

For many years the Australian and New Zealand governments denied that any of their servicemen had been sent to Terezin, but after several years of campaigns the Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke established a committee of investigation in 1987 which eventually ordered $10,000 compensation payments to the surviving veterans. Australian journalist Paul Rea produced the 1985 film Where Death Wears a Smile which made sensational allegations about the supposed murder of dozens of Allied prisoners at Terezin. These claims have been refuted by one of the veterans, Alexander McClelland, in his book The Answer - Justice.

Part of the fortification (Small Fortress) served as the largest Gestapo prison in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, separated from the ghetto. Around 90,000 people went through it, and 2,600 of those died there.

It was liberated on 9 May 1945 by the Soviet Army.

Terezín after World War II

After the German surrender the small fortress was used as an internment camp for ethnic Germans. The first prisoners arrived on the May 10, 1944. On February 29, 1945 the last German prisoners were released and the camp was officially closed. Among the interned Germans were former Nazis like Heinrich Jöckel, the former commander of Terezín and other SS members. A great group of internees was arrested simply because of their German nationality, among them young boys or elderly people.

In the first phase of the camp lasting until July 1945 mortality was high due to diseases, malnutrition and incidents of simple outright murder. Commander of the camp in that period was Stanislav Franc. He was guided by a spirit of revenge and tolerated whimsical mistreatment of the prisoners by the guards.

In July 1945 the camp shifted under the control of the Czech ministry for domestic affairs. The new commander appointed was Otakar Kálal. From on the inmates were gradually transferred to Germany and Terezín was increasingly used as a hub for the forced migration of Germans from the Czech lands into Germany proper.

Terezín today

After the war, Theresienstadt was resurrected as Terezín, dropping the German "stadt" from its name but still retaining a military garrison. The army left the city in 1996, which had a negative effect on the local economy. Terezín is still trying to decouple from its military past and become a modern, vibrant town. In 2002, the fortress, which was in a deteriorated condition, was listed in the 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization called for a comprehensive conservation plan, while providing funding from emergency repairs from American Express. In 2002 the city was also struck by floods during which the crematorium was damaged. A plan was eventually developed in cooperation with national authorities. According to the Fund, a long-term conservation plan was conceived, which includes further repairs, documentation, and archaeological research.

 

The original of this article can be found on this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terez%C3%ADn

Dnes: 23.6.2017   Svátek má: Zdeňka


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