Terezin has a history that predates Hitler. The fortress was built in the 18th century by the Hapsburgs and named after Empress Maria Theresa. Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was imprisoned in Cell #1 until he died in 1918.
When the Nazis arrived, they found a fortress/prison already built for them, with few construction costs. Theresienstadt was primarily a prison/labor camp. We were told that they were in the process of creating a gas chamber there, but it was never completed.
Arbeit Macht Frei - German for "Work Makes you Free"
- Pavel Friedman, who wrote the poem, "The Butterfly."
- Hana Brady, the subject of the book, Hana's Suitcase.
- Peter Ginz and the Boys of Terezin
The Nazi propaganda film, The Gift of the Town, was created at Theresienstadt.
Here's a photograph of the bunks that were slept in:
The story of the seeds began on Tu B'Shevat, 1943, when a guard at Theresienstadt smuggled a tiny oak seedling into the children's barrack. With help from their teacher Irma Lauscher (one of the few Jewish instructors the Nazis allowed to hold classes), the children planted the seed in their courtyard. Miraculously, thanks to meager water rations the children were able to spare, the tree sprouted.
By the time of liberation, the red maple had grown to become 5 feet tall. The children gave it one last drink before digging it up and replanting it near the crematorium where the ashes of 38,000 fellow Jews lay scattered. Declaring it their etz chaim (tree of life), they left a sign at its base which translates: "As the branches of this tree, so the branches of our people! (source)The Maple Tree was lost in a flood a few years ago, but communities around the world, including: San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Orange, CA; Cincinnati, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Israel; Surrey, UK; and Hampshire, UK have received seedlings from the tree, so the tree of life lives on.
Photo Credits: Jenifer Newmark - June 2012