The Ghetto Museum in Terezin

Sign over Museum door says Yizkor, the Hebrew word for Remember

The bus from Prague stops in Terezin at the corner of Rathausgasse (Town Hall Alley) and Langestrasse (Long Street). To start my tour of Theresienstadt, after stepping off the bus, I turned right and walked along Rathausgasse, past the current Town Hall, to the corner of Hauptstrasse (Main Street) where I saw a sign directing me to the entrance to the Ghetto Museum.

Sign directs visitors to the Ghetto Museum in Theresienstadt

The photo below shows Hauptstrasse with Stadtpark (city park) in the background. The Museum is across the street from the park.

Stadtpark near the entrance to the town of Terezin

Statue of Jan Hus in the Stadtpark (city park)

Tour buses from Prague enter the town on Hauptstrasse and the first thing that tourists see is the city park; the western end of the park is shown in the photo below. The Museum is across the street on the right and behind the camera.

First view of Theresienstadt from tour bus

There is a tiny store in the lobby of the Museum building where one may purchase books or videos without buying an admission ticket to the museum. (The book store did not take credit cards or American money when I was there in 2000, but there is a bank in Terezin which will change money.) I stopped in at the museum and bought an excellent guide book which includes a map of the town. The guidebook is entitled "The Terezin Ghetto." It was written in 1991 by Ludmila Chladkova. The important sites are numbered on the map in the book and a short description of each historical building is included.

The previous day I had gone on a guided tour of The Small Fortress which had also included a brief visit to the two museums in Theresienstadt, but I had seen very little of the town.

The largest of the two museums, shown in the photograph at the top of this page, was the first building that I had seen when the tour bus entered the town at the northwest end of Hauptstrasse. Called Ghetto Museum, it was dedicated on October 17, 1991, the 50ieth anniversary of Nazi's decision to the deport Jews from the Greater German Reich to the Theresienstadt ghetto. Former prisoners of Theresienstadt, who survived the ghetto or the death camps, came from all over the world to participate in the opening ceremonies.

Before the Nazis decided in October 1941 to turn the old military garrison town of Theresienstadt into a Jewish ghetto, the museum building was used for a school. During the period when Theresienstadt was a Jewish ghetto, the museum building was originally known as L417; it was used to house boys between 10 and 15 years old. After the war, when the former residents of Theresienstadt were allowed to return to their town in 1946, the building again became a school.

After the Allied victory in World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist country under the domination of the Soviet Union. In all the post-war Communist countries, there were monuments and museums erected in honor of the anti-Fascist resistance fighters, but not much was said about the suffering of the Jews, and few memorials were built in their memory during that period. During the Communist regime, the "Museum of Czechoslovak Police and Revolutionary Traditions of the Northern Bohemian Region" was established in this building in honor of those who fought the Fascists in the ideological war that ended with most of Eastern Europe becoming Communist.

With the fall of Communism in 1989, the museum had to be completely revamped to throw out the Communist propaganda and replace it with the historical account of the Nazi's Final Solution to the Jewish Question. According to the museum guidebook, "its interiors had first to be freed from its pretentious tastelessness and garishness. Today's solemn and austere interiors are part of the overall image that the planners intended to create."

The Communist propaganda in the old museum was replaced with new exhibits depicting the daily life of the Theresienstadt ghetto and its role as a transit center from which Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, and the city formerly known as Danzig were deported to the death camp at Auschwitz and other concentration camps in the East.

At the museum store, I purchased another book entitled "Ghetto Museum Terezin" written by PhDr. Vojtech, CSc, Ludmila Chladkova, and PhDr. Erik Polak, CSc. According to this book, the boys' barracks in L417, which is now the Ghetto Museum, had its own self-administration, which was the so-called SKID. This barracks was under the supervision of Professor Valtr Eisinge, who was transported in September 1944 to Auschwitz where he died. His barracks also had an emblem and an anthem; the boys published their own newsletter, called Vedem, for almost two years.

The Ghetto Museum has a courtyard which was the former playground of the school; it is now a Memorial to the Children of Theresienstadt. The photograph below shows a statue by Italian artist Emilio Greco and a Star of David which have been placed there. On the walls in the background are memorial plaques; the statue of a naked woman is shown in close-up in the second photograph below.

Memorials in the courtyard of the Ghetto Museum

Statue of naked lady by Emilio Greco

Plaque on wall of Ghetto Museum

Town Square

Old Buildings

Restaurants and Hotel

Children's Barracks

Adult's Barracks

Historic Buildings

Art Museum

Map of Ghetto

Walls and Gate