The Fortress of Terezín
The Fortress of Terezín is part of the Tentative list of Czechia in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Fortress of Terezín comprises a fortress town. It was built between 1780-90 to defend the route from Dresden to Prague. Terezin remained primarily a garrison town. Between 1941-1945, the inner town served as a centre for the assembly of Jews prior to their deportation to the concentration and extermination camps across Europe.
Map of The Fortress of TerezínLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
The Fortress of Terezin is a site most of us will have heard about. At least, if you are just a tiny little bit informed about 20th century history, you will know the place, but not by its Czech name. To give the site a neutral evaluation, I will resolve this later.
Historically, Austria and Prussia were bitter rivals. The border regions (Saxony, Erzgebirge, Bohemia, Silesia) between the Habsburg Empire and Prussia were industrious and prosperous and the growing power of Prussia was constantly searching to expand its influence. In the War of Austrian Succession, Austria had already lost the province of Silesia. To protect the province of Bohemia, a fortress and garrison town was built by Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresia.
The town is strategically placed at the confluence of the rivers Elbe/Labem and Eger. It sits along the main road running from Prague to Dresden. Effectively, any army crossing the Erzgebirge along the Elbe/Labem would be greeted by cannon shots from Terezin.
Terezin at its core is a fine example of a planned, late 18th century enlightened monarch town and fortress. The city is as you would expect laid out in a grid pattern. There are parks and statues interwoven across the uniform buildings. And the fornications are built as a star fortress with a second minor fort on the other side of the river. Overall, this is a very consistent period piece. The state of preservation could be improved upon, some paint here and there, but e.g. compared to Alessandria in Italy, I enjoyed my visit more.
But, as stated before, the Czech name obfuscates what Terezin actually is. The German name is Theresienstadt, in honor of the great Austrian queen Maria Theresia and now forever brandished as one of the infamous concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
Originally conceived as a ghetto for the Jews of Prague, it eventually became a logistical hub for sending Jews to the death camps further East, e.g. Auschwitz. The Jews in the ghetto had limited self government and tried to keep a civil life up. But it's heartbreaking to see drawings from kids growing up in the ghetto and then seeing their time and place of death.
While you may think that the setting, a planned town by an enlightened monarch representing European values, and the Nazi use may be at odds, they weren't. On a practical level, the fortress walls acted as prison walls; instead of keeping the Germans out, the Germans kept the Jews in. But the Nazis actually used the picturesque setting of Theresienstadt for propaganda purposes: Life in the ghetto is great, just look at the statues! There are several Nazi propaganda movies using Theresienstadt as a backdrop.
I don't think Terezin should be inscribed as Theresienstadt, the former concentration camp. Terezin the fortress wouldn't be the best addition, but I could see a case being made. However, I find it very hard to disentangle the Theresienstadt from Terezin and would mark not favor inscription.
There are trains from Usti Nad Labem. Get off at Bohušovice nad Ohří and then it's a 2-3km walk.
July 2005 - We have been to Terezian fort, on a classtrip to Prague. The fortress architecture is fascinating, but unfortunately it is overshaded by the Nazi history, being used as an concentration camp. We learned a lot about the "Vorzeigelager" and the stories of people who had lived here. I recommend visiting it, when you are on your way to Prague.
2001 Added to Tentative List
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