Visiting Terezin Memorial on a One-Day Trip from Prague
Terezin or Theresienstadt concentration camp lies only an hour from Prague, so visiting the place is an easy one-day trip from the capital of the Czech Republic. Our guide on how to travel to Terezin Ghetto will provide you with all the information you need to know before visiting this gloomy town reminding us of the dark side of Central European history.
Sometimes, traveling is not only about visiting beautiful and catchy places, hiking in the mountains, and sharing our positive and happy stories on social media.
Sometimes, traveling is (and should be more often) about learning, about understanding our history and about our awareness of what happened in the past. When traveling, we should try to soak in as much information as we can and do whatever we can to make sure some events from our history won't ever repeat again.
We are now talking about grim moments, for example about times which has put Terezin, a small town in the Czech Republic on the dark tourism map.
When we decided to visit Terezin, a place which during WWII turned into a mixture of the concentration camp and Jewish Ghetto, the sun was shining from the very morning. I remember vividly that on this one-day trip from Prague, the weather did not correspond at all with the atmosphere inside the Terezin Memorial. Because Terezin is exactly the place, where you'll get the moody feel from the moment you arrive. One would have expected a shadow rainy day when imagining all the terrible things which have happened here. But no. The sun shines in Terezin too! It is quite interesting that we had sunny weather also when we visited our first concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. But despite the blue skies, we were leaving both places shaken, saddened, and with only one question in mind.
How is it possible that something so horrifying and inhuman could have happened?
Terezin or Theresienstadt in the German language is not that known among concentration camps in Europe, which is quite shocking when you realize the fact that almost 35 000 people died here within a span of a couple of years, in a place which has never been intended to be a ghetto.
TEREZIN BEFORE WWII
Construction of Terezin Fortress began in 1780 and was finished ten years later in 1790.
The fortress and later the attached town was named Theresienstadt after mother of the Habsburg emperor Joseph II, Empress Maria Theresa. The fortress was intended to protect Bohemia against Prussian troops during Austria-Prussia war, but it was never attacked and remained untouched.
One would say it is a shame the fortress hasn't been destroyed when we now know what evil things happened within its walls, but we think that Nazis would have created the camp elsewhere anyway, and no human lives would have been spared.
Later the fortress served as a prison and during WWI as a political prison camp.
As a result of being so close to German borders, Terezin was a home to many Germans who lived there, and during those difficult times before WWII this part of Czech lands known as Sudetenland was annexed to Germany, and that's how Nazis later in 1940 came with an idea to transform Terezin to a ghetto and concentration camp.
TEREZIN CONCENTRATION CAMP
Although Terezin was not an extermination camp (it served as a way-station for other concentration camps) such as those in Poland, the camp was so overcrowded, and conditions for living were so poor that thousands of people died here anyway because of diseases, infections, hard work in combination with starving and overall because of terrible hygiene situation.
At first, Terezin was a ghetto for Jewish people who could, at the very beginning live in the town 'relatively' freely.
They lived in private houses, could work, but it did not take long, and rules were more strict, and the primary function changed. Some people stayed in the camp only for a couple of days and were shortly sent to other camps some people lived here (when lucky or unlucky, depends on the point of view) for years.
Terezin also played an important role in Nazi propaganda.
When the international Red Cross institution was concerned about how people were treated in concentration camps, Nazis invited them to Terezin, to show them around. It took the whole year before the visit to make the ghetto look pretty enough that the delegation could arrive - Nazis built new playgrounds for kids, shops and coffee houses, and better-looking prisoners played a theater for visitors who were extremely satisfied and later wrote a praiseful report about great conditions in Terezin.
How outrageous and arrogant!
WHAT CAN YOU SEE IN TEREZIN
We parked our car near Terezin's square, walked across the bridge, and soon after emerged in front of the entrance gate. You will know you are getting nearer because the first thing you will spot in front of the Small Fortress is a large cemetery.
The official name is National Cemetery Terezin, it has a triangular shape, and you can find here 2386 urns with remains of victims of Nazi regime from Terezin Concentration Camp (but more than 10 000 people is buried here in mass graves). You also cannot overlook two religious symbols towering above the cemetery: Christian Cross and the Jewish Star of David.
When we paid the admission to get to the Small Fortress, we walked under the arch with a supercilious sign written on it saying in German ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ which means Work Will Make You Free.
From now on, because we decided to explore Terezin on own, we could walk around the grounds freely. We saw many blocks served for different purposes, sometimes accompanied by real photos, which took our breath away, but not in the positive way photos usually do.
The Small Fortress is the main part of Terezin Memorial, and you can witness here the terrible conditions people had to suffer. We walked through the reception room where people handed in their documents and valuables and received prison clothes. We could see rooms with a large number of bunk beds where, for sure, was not enough space for that many persons, disinfection chambers, hospital (with almost no equipment), morgue or bathrooms which prisoners couldn't use often if ever, and toilets which for sure were not sufficient for such a large number of people.
The place looks unwelcoming even now, decades after the last prisoner has left, and we cannot imagine how it must have looked like when the Nazi regime was in its most powerful stage.
Then we continued through 500 meters long and dimly-lit tunnel and soon emerged on the execution yard where also hundreds of prisoners died, usually by shooting - you still can see bullet marks on the wall behind the yard. On the way back to the exit gate, you must pass around the swimming pool, but don't be fooled. It was, of course, built for guardians and their families. Later, you can see the houses where they lived. We can tell you one thing. They did not have to struggle here in Terezin, their living was quite luxurious, and it is almost unimaginable how those completely different lives could have been lived only meters, or we can say only a couple of wires away.
When we walked out the Small Fortress, we continued for less than a kilometer to another building, The Ghetto Museum. The museum is located in a former school and shows a permanent exhibition about the Terezin Ghetto, and about everyday life. We thought that we saw quite a lot of sad photos which made us feel uneasy already in Small Fortress but seeing pictures drawn by kids brought that feeling to an even deeper level.
If you bought the full ticket as we did, you could also continue to Magdeburg Barracks only a short walking distance from The Ghetto Museum. On the way, you can stop by in Prayer Room. Magdeburg Barracks is a quite attractive place as well because the exhibition shows art prisoners made during the years spent in Terezin. All pictures are disturbing, plus there is a reconstruction of dormitories in the ghetto, so you can get a better idea of how difficult the conditions in the camp were.
After we visited both museums, we carried on to another two places which are still within the Great Fortress.
The first building we went to was Crematorium, which was quite cruelly built personally by prisoners in 1942.
The usual claimed cause of death was illness, although any person from the outside would notice immediately that people in most cases did not die naturally. Bodies were burnt one by one not to attract attention - remember that Terezin was not an extermination camp. The ash was then put into an urn and transferred to a nearby building Columbarium where the remains of Jewish dead were left.
When the war was coming to an end, and it was obvious that Nazis cannot hide their crimes anymore, guardians in Terezin emptied the urns to river Ohre flowing through the town of Terezin to camouflage how many people died here.
One of the most disturbing things we saw in Terezin were railway tracks which ended here behind the walls, so no one could see what exactly was going on.
No one could see who was coming, who was leaving, and how pitiful the people looked like. Those who arrived by train to Terezin had a very little chance to survive, and for many, it was their last station in life.
We should pay respect to all of them when in Terezin.
It is hard to find a word which would describe this one-day trip from Prague to Terezin.
For sure, this day was illuminating.
We learned a lot about the tragic history of Terezin, we gained a lot of knowledge and can recommend the visit to everyone arriving in the Czech Republic to learn more about what was happening in Europe not that long time ago.
ENTRANCE FEE TO TEREZIN & GUIDED TOURS
The full entrance fee to Terezin cost 220 CZK.
For this price, you can visit Small Fortress, Ghetto Museum, and Magdeburg Barracks. You can also opt for a cheaper rate and pay only 180 CZK, but you can visit only the Small Fortress or the Ghetto Museum and Magdeburg Barracks.
If you are family or a large group, you are allowed to ask for a favored rate.
It is not compulsory to see Terezin with a guide, but a guided tour is included in the ticket price, so if you want to know more about history and purpose of Terezin, we think you should take advantage of it. It is recommended to make a reservation through official website in advance to make sure the guided tour is available on the time and date of your visit and in your preferred language as well.
In case when you travel with an organized day-tour from Prague, you don't need to reserve a guided tour as it should be already included.
There is free entry to the Terezin Memorial every third Sunday in May and on January 27. The memorial is open every day in a year except for 24.12. - 26.12. including and on 1.1.
Opening hours vary between summer and winter season. In summer season from April to the end of October the site is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, in the winter season, Terezin closes a bit earlier at 4:30 PM.
HOW TO GET TO TEREZIN
Terezin is very close to Prague, only an hour or so drive, and it makes it for a perfect one day trip from the capital of the Czech Republic.
If you don't have a car, do not despair, as there are other ways of transport available to get easily from Prague to Terezin.
Car | Because we live in Prague, getting to Terezin was an easy task for us. From the city center, we only had to get on road E55, and in Nove Dvory turn to the right to drive 608. When planning your one-day trip to Terezin or anywhere else as there are many worthwhile trips from Prague, you can rent a car. You can choose from a large number of companies and cars, and because the competition is fierce, the price for comfort and independence is surprisingly low.
Tour | If you do not have own car, taking a tour to Terezin is an excellent choice. It is more expensive than when traveling by public transport, but also more comfortable, and you don't need to worry about anything as the tour includes transfer, tickets and English speaking guide.
Public Transport | Traveling by bus from Prague to Terezin is straightforward, and you don't need to be afraid you won't make it even when in the city for the first time. First, you need to get to station Nadrazi Holesovice (on metro line C), here you must take a direct bus to Terezin. The bus leaves approximately every hour, takes one hour and cost 90 CZK (less than 4 Euros). The same goes when you want to get back from Terezin to Prague. There are two Terezin towns in the Czech Republic. You want the one near Litomerice!
Our Tip: Use application 'Jizdni Rady IDOS' to look for bus timetables. You can switch to English for better orientation on the site. You can look here not only for connections within Prague but also outside Prague. When you want to search for bus schedule to Terezin, in window Timetables switch to Bus.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ONE-DAY TRIP TO TEREZIN
When planning on what to pack for a one-day trip from Prague to Terezin, it is good to know, that depending on how much time you want to spend on the site, the visit can take anything between 5 to 7 hours.
It is always better to pack lightly we recommend you to bring the following five essential things.
Camera | No matter where we travel, we take a camera with us. Visiting Terezin is a huge eye-opener, and we think you should show pictures from this place to as many people as possible altogether with telling the stories to ensure the history won't ever repeat again.
Water Bottle | You cannot buy water past the entrance, so pack own water bottle. Tap water is drinkable in the Czech Republic, so you can travel only with your re-usable bottle to lower your plastic footprint.
Umbrella | It can rain in the Czech Republic any time of the year, bring along an umbrella just in case.
WHERE TO STAY IN PRAGUE
Prague has uncountable options on where to stay, and you should book your room way ahead when traveling around summer (from May to September) or during top dates such as weekends in December or on New Year's Eve. However, Prague has many hotels and hostels for every budget, and we've handpicked three best places for every budget.
Budget | Hostel Boudnik - This hostel offers both dormitories and private rooms, and features free wifi- clean common areas and great location close to the city center.
Mid-range | Nyx Hotel Prague - It is quite hard to pick only one hotel in the mid-range category as there is simply too many of them, but this hotel lies in the center and beats the others with the unique design.
Luxury | Augustine Prague - A luxury hotel located close to Prague Castle set in an old monastery offers beautifully appointed rooms and apartments with stunning views over Prague.
If you decide to stay overnight in Terezin, you can search for your hotel room here.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
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