June 01, 2008

What is Theresienstadt?

Theresienstadt was a nazi holding pen in Czechoslovakia. It served as a transit camp for Czech Jews whom the Germans deported to killing centers, concentration camps, and forced-labor camps in German-occupied Poland, Belorussia, and the Baltic States. It was a ghetto-labor camp to which the SS deported and then incarcerated certain categories of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews, based on their age, disability as a result of past military service, or domestic celebrity in the arts and other cultural life. Third, Theresienstadt served as a holding pen for Jews in the above-mentioned groups.

Today, on 27 Iyar in 1945, the Theresienstadt concentration camp was liberated. From Aish.com:

Theresienstadt was not a death camp by the usual definition. It was the center of a Nazi PR ploy -- a mythic, idyllic city that was supposedly built to protect Jews from the vagaries and stresses of the war. The Red Cross was once allowed to visit Theresienstadt, which was spruced up for the occasion; inmates were dressed up and baked goods suddenly filled the shelves. (The Red Cross concluded that the Jews were being well-treated.)

In reality, starvation and disease proved rampant. Of the 200,000 people (mostly Czech Jews) who passed through its gates, thousands died of malnutrition and exposure, and others were sent to Auschwitz.