There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work
Showing posts with label Czech Jews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czech Jews. Show all posts

26 September 2013

the cemetery (final thoughts at Terezin)

As we drove a short distance from the city of Terezin to the cemetery where the holocaust victims were laid to rest, the van was silent except for muffled sobs and sniffling.

Slowly walking down the tree lined gravel path, we all held hands as the grave markers came into our view.
Thousands of Czech Jews lost their lives here from the Nazi regime. Most grave markers only have numbers, as names were lost among the multitude of bodies.
The crematorium used during World War Two still stands, although locked down and secured from public view of the interior out of respect for those that lost their lives inside. An owl, a Nazi symbol of Death, still hangs from the exterior.
One really can't put into words the feeling you have in a place such as this. Although it was hard to even take photographs, I treasure these pictures more than any others I have taken.
Each one is a stark reminder of my day in the Terezin Nazi Propaganda Camp, witness to the tragedy and triumph of the human condition.

16 May 2013

the life of Helga Weissova

Helga was a mere eleven years old when she and her family were taken to Terezin in 1941 by the Nazi's. She was a young prodigy, drawing being her gift, and in the Muzeum Ghetta her artwork is on display for all to see. Drawings that she completed while in Terezin and later Auschwitz.
While there, I must have slowly walked up and down the staircase at least ten times, focused on Helga's drawings of her time in the concentration camps. As the time came near to leave, I went into the bookstore, and motioned to the elderly woman for a copy of  "Draw What You See", the story of Helga Weissova.

The book is a valuable treasure, and one I open often as I reminisce about my time at Terezin, the atrocities of World War Two, and the struggles of people such as Helga. Her words describing her drawings are just as powerful.....

The L 410 Dormitory
"L 410 was the girls' dormitory where I lived. We slept on three-tier bunks, always about 35 girls in one room."
-drawn with crayons 1943
The Last Farewell
"Many people died every day. After a short ceremony the coffins were loaded onto carts and taken to the crematorium beyond the Ghetto. the ashes of the deceased were placed in paper urns. Shortly before the end of the War all the ashes were emptied into the nearby river Ohre..."
-Pen and ink drawing and water colours 1944

Suicide in Barbed Wire
"The wires were live. There were times when the prisoners ended their suffering on these wires."
-Pen and washed Indian ink drawing 1945/46
How Helga survived is a miracle, although she denies it. Her story and artwork motivate to never give up on your dream, your circumstance, your lot in life.

20 April 2013

living in the Propaganda camp of Terezin

Sylvie wanted to show us the typical living conditions of Jewish families in Terezin caught in the promotional propaganda Nazi campaign. A campaign where the Jewish people showed that Terezin would be a suitable living space for Germans once the Jewish population was eradicated.

Up the staircase we climb, and duck our heads as we enter the tiny entrance. Inside, I still see my breath in the air. Sylvie mentions that the cold of today is nothing to the winters of the past, and none of the Jewish housings had heat. The small living space housed people wall to wall, people slept on every empty space, covering the bare floor. Pictures of the past haunt your mind, articles are all that remain from those that stayed here.

You run your fingers along the sacred words painted on the walls and feel their meaning, the prays to God that for many were unanswered. Lonely images stay with me, keys forever hanging on a hook, an empty chair, tattered blankets, a child's shoe.....

Constant reminders of the past, never to be forgotten.

24 March 2013

what the world could have been...

      Slowly one enters the former Town Hall encampment that housed the Jewish prisoners of Terezin during World War Two. The building now holds only memories; clothing, artwork, pictures...all that remains from those lost to the Holocaust.

A replicate of a room that would have housed close to one hundred people is shown in exquisite, painful detail. The words ring over and over in your head "all one's possessions are in a single suitcase".

As you move past the stories of those that were here, paintings from the artists at Terezin showcase the horrible living conditions. I can not imagine painting my own demise, writing my final chapter.

A Jewish family, two children and their parents, solemnly pass by the artwork of the lost. I hear the wife utter these words to her husband,

"We will never know what the world could have been, what contributions have been forever lost...."

16 January 2013

walking the grounds of the Paradise Ghetto

The Nazi's called Terezin the "Paradise Ghetto" because this place was an experiment for the SS. Eventually Hitler wanted to turn this peaceful little town into a German city were people in his party could feel comfortable living outside Germany.

That is, once all the current inhabitants were exterminated. The German forces built a high fortress wall around the entire town, and used the local river to create a deep moat, with a high barbed wired fence on top of the wall.
what remains of the moat and fortress wall around Terezin today.

As I walked the town, I was chilled to the bone to see people still living where such horrible atrocities occurred. I couldn't imagine being constantly reminded of what happened, especially when many of the people that perished were direct ancestors of those living in Terezin today.
Terezin today ( Dec 2012)

We were shown where the SS lived, more of the dormitories where hundreds of Jewish families were forced to stay, all while walking past people on the street going about their business, children heading to the city park to play on this December day.  The strength and resiliency of the Jewish people was suddenly so apparent. Their will to survive against all odds, all enemies.

We then came to a gate. I looked down and saw the beginnings of railroad tracks. As I looked up, the rest of my group was slowly walking along the tracks, some of the women sobbing. It was the rail to Auschwitz....

The stark contrast of a town during World War Two to the modern day. 

06 January 2013

entering Theresienstadt & the Muzeum Ghetta

A chill settles upon us as we enter the town of Terezin and approach the first buildings of the Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp. Our guide Sylvie is reading off the statistics of the horrors here as the wheels of our tour van slowly grind forward on the frozen gravel outside.

Approximately 150,000 people went through Terezin, with estimations around 10% of those survived.
15,000 children were in the Nazi transit camp, 8,000 killed.
At any one time, around 60,000 people were in the Terezin fortress that was about a square mile in total area.

We pass a dormitory, the old facade slowly crumbling. Behind the large wooden doors vast numbers of the elderly were herded into the attic to live, and ultimately freeze to death.

In the city centre of today, we stop and exit the van. Before us is the former dormitory for both the boys and girls of Terezin. Today it is the Muzeum Ghetta, and our first stop of the day.

We start by watching a thirty minute film about the history of this place, including some Nazi propaganda footage meant to entice Jewish people about the benefits of living in Terezin, what they referred to as the Paradise Ghetto.

After the film, we explore the museum, walking into rooms where the children were housed between 1941-1945. Memorabilia from old photos, passports, and luggage are haunting reminders of the sacred nature of this place.

The artwork by one special little girl on display is heartbreakingly beautiful, but I will speak more of that in a later writing....
I need fresh air, and leave the museum to the bitter December air outside. I walk the solemn streets with salty tears slowly freezing on red cheeks....

30 December 2012

the road to Terezin

I need to write this while the thoughts are fresh, haunting.....
I showered this morning to try and stave off the cold of yesterday, scrubbing my skin red raw.
I can not get Terezin off my mind. It's barbed wired fence traps my thoughts, yet better than the horrors that were enslaved behind these walls between 1941 to 1945.

As the bus rumbles down the beautiful Prague countryside in the early morning light, our guide Sylvie (native Czech Jew born and raised under Communism and survivor of the post-Holocaust trauma), shares pictures of relatives and survivors of Terezin. My fingers tremble as I hold each photo and stare into their eyes. The oldest survivor is 108 years old, living in Praha today.

So many emotions and stories to tell, far too many for one post. I need time to come to grips with the experience. Terezin can be no more than a square mile wide...I look down it's longest road and can see the fortress walls.

The colorful facade of the buildings is a stark contrast to the chill in the air....

as I enter the Paradise Ghetto of the Terezin Nazi transit camp.