Theresienstadt (Terezin in Czech), north of Prague, is a fortified town, built in 1780 as a garrison for 7,000 people, half of them soldiers. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939, a ghetto was established in Theresienstadt on November 24, 1941 (at its peak – Sep 1942, 58,491 prisoners were imprisoned there), allegedly for Czech Jews, but in fact it was a concentration and transit camp to the death camps in the east, which functioned until May 8, 1945.
Approximately 158,000 Jews, initially from Bohemia and Moravia and later from Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary and the Death Marches were transferred there. Approximately 90,000 of these people were sent on to other death camps, while some 35,000 died in Theresienstadt itself from hunger or diseases. About 30,000 were still there on liberation day. Of the 12,171 Jewish children (born 1928-1945) sent to Ghetto Theresienstadt, 9,001 were deported to extermination camps in the East, and only 325 survived.
In October 1941, the leadership of Czech Jewry headed by Jacob Edelstein supported the establishment of a ghetto in Theresienstadt, as other immigration opportunities were eliminated. Edelstein, who was appointed as the Elder of the Jews in the ghetto, believed in "rescue through labor" and hoped that concentrating the Jews within the Protectorate would prevent the transfer of Jews to the 'East' and help put off the end until the Allied victory.
The harsh reality of the ghetto proved to be the total opposite to all German promises. The illusion that the ghetto would provide a kind of shelter for Jews was shattered with the start of transports to the East in January 1942.
This ghetto had a special character, as the Germans intended to turn it into a ghetto for elderly and privileged Reich Jews, and to use it as a "Model Ghetto" for propaganda. The Jewish leadership in the ghetto succeeded, in the face of enormous difficulties and hardships, to organize life – taking care of education, welfare of children and youth, health, food distribution, housing, work and more.
Under threats and immense pressure, the Jewish leadership and the Jews in the ghetto, chose to cooperate with the German deception to "beautify" the ghetto (in order to hide the reality in the ghetto- hunger, overcrowding, illness, high mortality and transports) before and during the International Red Cross visit, on June 1944 and during the filming of the "documentary" film "Theresienstadt" in July-August 1944, in order not to endanger their and their families lives in anticipation of the end of the war.
Theresienstadt (Beit Terezin) was established on Givat Haim Ihud, Israel in
1975 as a non-profit organization in memory of the Jewish Martyrs of Ghetto
Theresienstadt. The campus includes a museum, art exhibition halls, library,
educational center, and archives holding thousands of original artifacts from
the Ghetto. The archive also holds an index of the 162,000 Jews from the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and other European
countries, who were imprisoned in the Ghetto.
acts as a bridge connecting the victims, survivors and future generations and
houses a unique collection of art work created in the Ghetto, where cultural
activity was the key to keeping one's dignity in spite of the inhuman
conditions. The Museum was accredited by the government of Israel in 2011