An hour north of Prague stands the Terezín Memorial, used by the Nazis in World War II as a transit point for Jews being transported to Auschwitz and other death camps in Eastern Europe. It was built a garrison town in 1780 by Emperor Franz Josef and, two centuries later, was transformed into a fortified work camp and ghetto by the Gestapo. From 1940 onwards, more than 30,000 inmates died of disease and starvation in the Magdeburg Barracks, whose gates bear the infamous slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ — ‘work makes you free’.
The memorial is open for guided tours encompassing the Gestapo prison, the barracks, the Jewish cemetery overlooked by a massive Star of David, the crematorium, morgue and the Ghetto Museum, which opened in 1991 in the camp’s Baroque former school. Among the thought-provoking exhibits are paintings by children who were imprisoned in Terezín and two highly emotional documentaries with eyewitness accounts by survivors plus temporary exhibitions highlighting the tragedy of life in the ghetto and Terezín’s role as a Nazi transit center for Jews from across Europe. There is a star-shaped memorial to the children who died at the camp in the courtyard behind the school.