Don’t let the stories fool you: make no doubt, this was a concentration camp.
Theresienstadt was known to be one of the less barbaric camps; many affluent Jewish people were there, along with non-Jewish prisoners (members of the Clergy; politicians; etc.) The camp, located in Terezin in occupied Czechoslovakia, is infamous for its use as a “model city for Jews” when the Red Cross inspected them in 1944.
That is the true hoax of the Holocaust. That Theresienstadt was a final destination for Jews to live humanely? No. The whole thing was completely calculated – the Nazis screened the prisoners and ranked them (as they always do when it comes to people) based on prominence. The more affluent, healthy Jews were plumped up and pushed to the front, whereas the unhealthy prisoners were sent off to Treblinka to be gassed. They didn’t want anything out of place for the Red Cross visit because the Nazis had become well aware of Germany’s impending defeat and it finally occurred that they may have to be held accountable for their crimes.
The whole thing that triggered this inspection was the deportation of 476 Danish Jews who did not escape to Sweden. Denmark’s officials (including the King) demanded that they gather first hand accounts from the Danes imprisoned there. Elaborate measures were taken to con the world and evade responsibility. The SS guards used the Jewish Council of Theresienstadt to facilitate the beautification of the camp. Flowers were planted, people were cleaned, a children’s choir even prepared a show: Brundibar. It all seemed really innocent to the Red Cross because they gave it their stamp of approval and remarked that it was “just like a normal provincial town. Where the elegantly dressed women had silk stockings, scarves and stylish handbags.” What they didn’t see was the frenzied hurry to deport everyone that didn’t look well – over 7,500 people were deported to Auschwitz in May as to avoid a bad impression when the Red Cross came in June. Soon after the Red Cross left, things resumed and many of the people who complied with the big show ended up dying anyway.
Among the notable residents at Theresienstadt were Leon Blum, former Prime Minister of France; Sigmund Freud’s elderly sisters; and many other famous musicians. Today, some of the children’s choir goes back to the camp and performs their little show with local kids… It was a very touching video. I can’t help but think about humanity’s capacity to forgive and how it seems to outweigh the capacity for human evil. Unfortunately the collaborators can never be forgiven by those who didn’t make it. Further Reading selections I’ve found informative below.