A Thousand Words: Terezín Artists

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A picture is worth a thousand words. I’ve always been familiar with this saying, but I never realized the true complexity of a picture until I visited Terezin. Terezin is a town that was turned into a concentration and transit camp that housed thousands of Jewish prisoners. Within Terezin we visited a museum that held artwork from artists living within the concentration camp. When I entered the museum, I learned that the Nazi’s had a drawing room in which imprisoned artists would create propaganda. Unfortunately, the Nazi’s forced the artists to draw the concentration camp in a positive light. The SS wanted outsiders to believe that Terezin was a nice spa-like working camp. While gritting their teeth, the artists had to lie and pretend the horrible place where they lived was a lot better off than reality. First picture below is an example of the forced propaganda artwork.

SONY DSCPropaganda Artwork
“Gardening” by L. Haas

SONY DSCDepiction of ghetto surroundings
“Yard in Hohenelbe Barracks” by L. Haas

While the SS believed that the artists were always busy drawing beautiful pictures of Terezin, the imprisoned artists were creating secret masterpieces. In the draft room, the artists would draw the actual depiction of their concentration camp and ghetto surroundings. Photographed above is one of the art pieces that shows Terezin as it truly was, a dark place filled with sickness and death. Often the artists would try to smuggle out these real art pieces to show the public what terrible conditions they actually lived in. However, the artists were caught and accused of spreading “propaganda of horror”. They were sent to a Gestapo prison and did not survive. Since hundreds of their art pieces are displayed within the museum, their artwork luckily lives on and still sends a powerful message. The pictures that the daring artists risked their lives for are worth a thousand words by showing all the wrong that was behind the concentration camp gates.

155,000 people passed through the Terezin concentration camp. However, 35,000 died within the camp and over 80,000 died after being sent to extermination camps. Our class was lucky enough to meet with a survivor of Terezin, photographed below. We also went on a tour of Terezin. As one can imagine, this was the saddest place that I have ever visited.

SONY DSCDoris Groszdenovicova
A Terezin concentration camp survivor

SONY DSCA memorial to those who lost their lives
within the concentration camp

SONY DSCThe Terezin cemetery 

A Thousand Words: Český Krumlov

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Český Krumlov was probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been too. Pictures can’t even do a justice. You have to be there to experience it’s magical atmosphere. It was like walking through a fairy tale. To me, the city often appeared to be fake because it was unrealistically beautiful. A view over the quaint town of Český Krumlov from the castle is worth a thousand words in itself.

There’s too much to describe about the three days we got to spend in the city, so I will have to narrow it down to a few of my favorite activities. On Thursday, our class got to experience a tour of the Český Krumlov castle, a structure that dates back to 1240. The castle was left with its original furniture remaining from its last inhabitants. This allowed us to view the castle in a way that showed us what life was like during that time period. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the beautiful interior of the castle. At the end of the tour, we even got to see the Český Krumlov Baroque Theatre, one of the best-preserved theatres from its time period. I was surprised to hear that the elaborate theatre was used less than hand-full of times. However, this is fortunate for us to be able to view it in its flawless state.

Another memory from the city that I will never forget was our medieval family-style dinner on our first night. Everyone in the class gathered around long tables at a restaurant sitting next to the river. Our meal consisted of huge portions of meat that we easily finished after a long day of walking. To end the dinner, we all drank delicious hot chocolate while singing and listening to our favorite songs on the guitar.

Most of our time in Český Krumlov consisted of wandering the beautiful cobblestone streets and taking pictures of everything around us. I think I enjoyed relaxing in this city so much because of how quaint it is. Český Krumlov is most well preserved renaissance town in central Europe and I was glad we got walk the streets of a town with so much history surrounding us.

A Thousand Words: Lidice

SONY DSCAfter the visit to the church, we took a trip to Lidice, the village destroyed by Hitler’s command. Today the area where the town once stood is now a beautiful memorial-like park which also houses a museum commemorating Lidice. There were almost no artifacts leftover from the village after the bombing, so the museum had to be very creative in communicating the story of Lidice. The museum mainly used restored photos and videos of the history surrounding the event. However, it was put together in a very sophisticated way by drawing your eyes toward the photographs and text around you. The lighting and shadows together had a mournful and serious feel. I know we were all in awe when walking around.

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SONY DSCThe park where Lidice once stood was also an amazing sight to see. The greenery made the area so peaceful and calm. The feeling given off in the park made you want to walk around and reflect on the event.

I was in disbelief of what a mortifying command Hitler carried out against the village. One of the museum’s plaques read:

“Adolf Hitler gave the following orders for Lidice:
All adult men to be shot.
All women to be sent to a concentration camp.
Children suitable for Germanization to be place in SS families”

SONY DSCAs the command stated, most people of Lidice did not survive. Most children and women were sent to the gas chambers. However, we got to meet a survivor of Lidice named Jaroslava Sklenickoba. She told us stories about being placed in a concentration camp. She was an amazing woman and I will never forget her presence and her stories. Overall this day was worth a thousand words in reflection of this significant and devastating event of our past.