Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Today, we visited Terezin as our main activity. We arrived around 10am and were given a walking tour by Peter. First, we visited the jail area and museum, which both included a lot of information about the conditions of the holding areas and the motives of the nazis who created them.
The jail cells included prisoners of war, Czech resisters and some Jews. The conditions were slightly better than some of the other camps because this one was often used as a model camp to hide the nazis' ulterior motives. Each room housed 100 people, often closely spaced together on a long series of bunks. They were given a single sheet of cloth to use as bedding, and only a single tank of hot water was available to around 1500 prisoners. Another accommodation available were solitary confinement cells for prisoners who mistreated the guards or committed another crime within the camp. Still a third possible accommodation was a small 12x12 foot room in which 60 people or less were kept.
The most shocking part of the horrible accommodations at Terezin was the fact that it was the best situation a prisoner could be in. Because the camp was used to make propaganda films, the conditions were more favorable than those at other camps. The first reason was to appeal to those on the outside who believed the camp to be a pleasant place. The second and most interesting reason is because the nazis feared for their own health and cleanliness. Once a week, the prisoners would shower and debug their uniforms. This was done not for their potential health, but for the sake of those overseeing them. This was a perfect plan to keep the nazis' image positive, their personal health good and still succeed in their mission to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the prisoners. According to Bauer, these people dehumanized themselves by being "demonic force[s] of evil." Therefore, the nazis decided they were justified in treating them so poorly. By giving them minimal human necessities, they stripped the Jews of any remaining humanity and sense of self, while successfully retaining their positive image in the public (Bauer, p. 100).
After leaving Terezin, our group ate dinner and went to "Ruskala," an opera similar to the children's story, "The Little Mermaid." I found the story to be beautiful, and the dancers and singers and dancers to be extremely talented. I enjoyed how different this opera was from the Disney film, in that it ended in a light tragedy. After the show, many of us went to a cafe, where we ate the most delicious crepes of all time. Overall, it was a entertaining and informative day.