Trip Start May 21, 2008
Trip End Jul 01, 2008

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Saturday 7th June
I will cheat from my guide for the information.  Today on the bus again, for a tour to Terezin Concentration Camp, this place was built as fortress in the 18th century.  Built in 1780 and takes up 398 hectares.  It was named in honour of the empress Maria Theresa.  In times of war it was made to house an army of 60,000 men and 6,500 horses.  We were taken through the labyrinth where they protected the fortification; there are moats and little slits to shoot at their enemy.  Almost like the tunnels in Vietnam. But solid and higher, I was able to stand upright.
When Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis saw the advantages of this fortification, and built a concentration camp for the Jews and a Gestapo Police Prison. More than 140,000 prisoners were held here and 35,000 died here, another 87,000 were deported to other concentration camps. 
At the end of the war only 3,800 survivors walked away.  In fact the last 53 young men aged from 19 - 30 were executed, shot only 3 days before the liberation , we saw this execution place where they were lined up to be shot, the gallows and the morgue.  The Gas chamber has been blown up, the crematorium was not open today, it is the Jewish Sabbath. You can imagine that I was not that worried about seeing this, not a holiday tour, but important to remember what our history shows about us "humans".
A settlement of 5,000 became 50,000; it is also called the Ghetto in the township area.  The cells, how could you describe the absolute disgust of the inhumane treatment?  Cells that were designed for 50 had 200, with 2 toilets, the beds if they were lucky enough to have them, were 3 levels high. No running water, one small fire heater, cement walls, and wet.
One cell held 50, with no room to lie down, a bucket to use and nothing else. They usually died in this cell. The isolation cells were even worse, some did not even have a window to let in light, and once the door was shut they were in total darkness.  We saw the cell of the young man who started the 1st World War by assassinating the Crown Prince; he was only young and was demonstrating. His cell was in this area of isolation, he was buried in the cemetery, but in later years the Yugoslavs had his remains exhumed and returned to his homeland as a hero.
The cemetery is a mix of Jewish and Christian, but many graves have only numbers as they are unable to identify the souls. There are large mass graves; unfortunately just recently the gypsies have stolen the copper from over 1000 grave markings, how horrid.
We did have one moment of lightness on this sombre day, I saw a creature sitting in the clover having a feed, he is much like a beaver, swims but does not have the flat tail.  In the past he was farmed for his fur, but they escaped and now are wild.
Well enough of this history lesson, tonight we have a Welcome Dinner party to attend, so bye for now. And tomorrow we will be travelling to Budapest...
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