Ustecky (Usti nad Labem) Czech Republic
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Theresienstadt existed for three and a half years, between November 24, 1941 and May 9, 1945. Unlike other Nazi camps, Theresienstadt was not set up as an extermination camp but as a transit camp for Czech Jews whom the Germans deported to killing centers, concentration camps, and forced-labor camps in German-occupied Poland, Belorussia, and the Baltic States.
It also acted as a ghetto labor camp for deported German, Austrian, and Czech Jews. Neither a ghetto or strictly a concentration camp, Theresienstadt served as an assembly camp, and a concentration camp, and had recognizable features of both ghettos and concentration camps. In its function as a tool of deception, Theresienstadt was a unique facility.
In an elaborate hoax prior to the visit of the International Red Cross in June of 1944, deportation was intensified , and the ghetto itself was beautified. Gardens were planted, houses painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. Once the visit was over, the Germans resumed deportations from Theresienstadt, which did not end until October 1944.
Deportation from Theresienstadt began in 1942 with Jews being sent to other ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe. Transports also left Theresienstadt directly for the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka. Due to camp conditions, disease and starvation, many people died and in time a crematorium capable of handling almost 200 bodies a day was built in September of 1942. No death chamber was built.
Approximately 140,000 Jews were transferred to the camp with nearly 90,000 being deported to further destinations. Death toll in Theresienstadt itself was 33,000. Of the 15,000 children that passed through the camp, approximately 90% perished in death camps after transfer.
Life in the ghetto was a developed culture. Writers, professors, musicians, and actors gave lectures, concerts, and theater performances. The ghetto maintained a lending library of 60,000 volumes. Artists created drawings and paintings some of which still exist and depiction dome of the ghetto's harsh reality.
On May 3, 1945, the Ghetto Theresienstadt was placed under the protection of the International Red Cross.
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