A Sobering Trip to Terezin Concentration Camp

On my third day in Europe, I had a sobering trip to Terezin, a sleepy countryside one hour from Prague. This place holds one of the darkest chapter of the history where tens of thousands people died there as a result of hunger, disease, and inhuman treatment in the prison during the World War II in the 1940s. Terezin was initially founded in 1780 to protect Prague from attacks, and it was turned into a Jewish Ghetto or a concentration camp when NAZI occupied the location in World War II. It’s even more devastating when you looked around and found that this place was looking all pretty on the outside, concealing the darkest truth behind the walls, the propaganda done by the NAZI to conceal the Holocaust.

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I always love history. And I love to experience it. This is one of the reason I took this trip. It might not be for everyone indeed, as many people sent me messages when I was posting Instagram Story about this trip like, “Seriously? A prison? Cemetery? Concentration Camp? Why on earth you went to that place over all the happy and beautiful places over Czech Republic?” Well, I had a choice indeed. I have one free-day in between my business meetings in Prague. I had options between to visit Kunta Hora or Terezin, which both is located a bit outside of Prague. And I chose this trip. Even my AirBNB host who is a true Czechs said that she will never go there because it feels terrible. She went to a concentration camp once in Auswitz, Poland, and it was devastating. But for me, travel is not always all pretty, happy, and fun. Sometimes you just need to experience something different. A journey that might changes you, gives you new perspective, and leaves mark in your consciousness.

The Small Fortress

The Terezin Concentration Camp area was divided into several areas. The first stop was the Small Fortress area. After going down from the bus, you will see a noticeable huge cemetery with a huge Christian cross in the middle of it, and a smaller Star of David at the back of it. It is the cemetery of people who died during the Holocaust in the Small Fortress. Passing through the cemetery, you will be guided to talk a walk around the prisons which have several small-sized rooms which used to be holding over-capacity prisoners. It gives you a chilling experience, imagining how inhuman the prisoners were treated during the time.

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The gate to the Small Fortress prisons

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The “rooms” where the prisoners used to live.

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That tiny-spaced room used to hold more than 200 prisoners at once at night.

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Even the bigger rooms had even bigger number of prisoners.
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A rows of sinks to make the prisoners looks ‘good’, but the reality was, there was no water coming out from the sink at all during that time.

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The Big Fortress

Several minutes away from the Small Fortress, there is a bigger area of the Big Fortress which is divided into several blocks. It was the center of the operations of the Concentration Camp consisting of several office buildings, which are now becoming museums and galleries of the art pieces made by the prisoners at that time.

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It used to be the ‘secret praying room’ for Jewish prisoners.
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There was a small room for living just above the chapel.
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The Central Office
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The neighborhood, now museums.

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The Jewish Cemetery & Crematorium

Walked a bit further from the Big Fortress area lies another Jewish cemetery for the prisoners who died during the World War 2. There was also a crematorium which used to operate to burn the bodies. Due to the high death rate at that time, the machine was boosted up with gas in order to make it burn the bodies faster. I wasn’t able to take pictures of the crematorium because it was too spooky. There was a small forensic room inside the crematorium which was used to perform an autopsy of the body. I was too devastated being in that building.

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If you are interested to join this trip, there are a bunch of tour-service which offers this Terezin Concentration Camp tour. You have to allocate one-day to go to this place, as this tour would take around 7 hours starting from Prague. I went with Sandemans New Europe Tours just like before and it was satisfying. The guide, Sarah, was really expert in guiding and telling the stories of Terezin.

What’s Included in the Tour?

  • Transportation by air-conditioned bus from the meeting point (very comfortable!)
  • Entrance fee
  • Professional tour-guide

What’s Not Included in the Tour?

  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off (we depart and drop off the bus from the same meeting point)
  • Food and drinks (lesson learned! You better fill your bag with some snacks or lunch, and water. I forgot to prepare this and I was starving since there wasn’t much restaurant or food-stalls around the Terezin area)
  • Gratitude for the guide

Overall, it was a meaningful experience for me. Experiencing directly the venue where the world’s darkest history occurred.

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"Perhaps, then, this was what travelling was, an exploration of the deserts of my mind rather than of those surrounding me?" - Claude Levi-Strauss

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