World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Terezín during World War II

By 1940 Germany assigned the Gestapo to adapt Terezín, better known by the German name Theresienstadt, as a ghetto and concentration camp. Considerable work was done in the next two years to adapt the complex for the dense overcrowding the inmates were subjected to. It held primarily Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as tens of thousands of Jews deported chiefly from Germany and Austria, as well as hundreds from the Netherlands and Denmark. More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, including 15,000 children.

Although it was not an extermination camp, about 33,000 died in the ghetto. This was mostly due to the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density, malnutrition and disease. About 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. As late as the end of 1944, the Germans were deporting Jews to the death camps. At the end of the war, there were 17,247 survivors of Theresienstadt (including some who had survived the death camps).
Part of the fortification (Small Fortress) served as the largest Gestapo prison in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. It was on the other side of the river from the ghetto and operated separately. Around 90,000 people went through it, and 2,600 died there.

The complex was taken over for operation by the International Red Cross on May 2, 1945, with the Commandant and SS forces fleeing within the next two days. Some were later captured. The camp and prison were liberated on 9 May 1945 by the Soviet Army.

Terezín after World War II

After the German surrender the small fortress was used as an internment camp for ethnic Germans. The first prisoners arrived on May 10, 1945. On February 29, 1948 the last German prisoners were released and the camp was officially closed.

Among the interned Germans were former Nazis like Heinrich Jöckel, the former commander of Terezín and other SS members. A great group of internees was arrested simply because of their German nationality, among them young boys or elderly people.

In the first phase of the camp lasting until July 1945 mortality was high due to diseases, malnutrition and incidents of simple outright murder. Commander of the camp in that period was Stanislav Franc. He was guided by a spirit of revenge and tolerated whimsical mistreatment of the prisoners by the guards.

In July 1945 the camp shifted under the control of the Czech ministry for domestic affairs. The new commander appointed was Otakar Kálal. From then on the inmates were gradually transferred to Germany and Terezín was increasingly used as a hub for the forced migration of Germans from the Czech lands into Germany proper.
Terezín today
Gate with the slogan "Work makes (one) free" in the Small Fortress
After the war

 Theresienstadt was renamed as Terezín. After the related war uses, such as for holding ethnic Germans to be expelled, the government retained a military garrison until 1996. The troops' departure and closing down of related operations had a negative effect on the local economy of the small town.

Terezín is still trying to develop a more diverse economy; some people think its history can attract heritage tourism. In 2002, the fortress, which was in a deteriorated condition, was listed in the 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund.[5] The organization called for a comprehensive conservation plan, while providing funding from emergency repairs from American Express. In 2002 the city was struck by floods during which the crematorium was damaged. A conservation plan was eventually developed in cooperation with national authorities. According to the Fund, a long-term conservation plan was conceived, which includes further repairs, documentation, and archaeological research.

In mid-April 2008, 327 bronze grave markers were stolen from the Jewish cemetery; another 700 were stolen the following week. The high price of metal encouraged the vandalizing thieves. Some grave markers were recovered.
Terezín is noted for its production of furniture and knitwear, as well as for manufacturing.