Newsletter 1/2017

Correspondence Between the Protectorate and the Ghetto

Charlotta Burešová: Inside the post-office, 1944, Památník Terezín, PT 5544, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.

Charlotta Burešová: Inside the post-office, 1944, Památník Terezín, PT 5544, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.

For the Ghetto Command, correspondence through postal services, as a tool of communication between inmates and the outside world, was the most closely monitored sector subjected to special regulations. Following various restrictions imposed in the first months of the Ghetto’s existence, regular postal service began to develop in September 1942. When corresponding with the outside world, prisoners had to adhere to a number of continuously adjusted conditions, but essentially it was vital to meet the following rules: easily legible messages had to be written exclusively in German and were not allowed to exceed thirty words or a single page of a small postal card. The field of prohibited topics was also strictly defined – texts with political content were inadmissible, writers were not allowed to use abusive language about the Reich and its leading representatives, the ban also covered any negative information on the living conditions in the Ghetto etc. Generally speaking, these restrictions inevitably resulted in more or less uniform messages claiming that the writers were well off.
Charlotta Burešová: At the post-office – parcel counter, 1942 - 1945, Památník Terezín, PT 12468, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.

Charlotta Burešová: At the post-office – parcel counter, 1942 – 1945, Památník Terezín, PT 12468, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.


Special attention was accorded to censorship. The inmates used special postal cards for writing letters, getting them through Terezín´s Jewish Self-Administration. A written letter then went into the hands of a censor in the camp’s Jewish Self-administration. The censor checked the content of the letter and stamped it with letter “Z“ (referring to the German word Zensur = censorship) and with its own censor’s number. In this way, the censor assumed responsibility for the harmless content of the letter, which could then be passed on to another round of censorship, this time at the SS Command. Only after being checked by SS officers could letters be sent off from Terezín. If the addressee was an inhabitant of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia the letter was sent from Terezín by courier service to Prague’s Center for Jewish Emigration, where employees of the Jewish Community collected the letters, sorted them out, and only then sent them by mail to addressees.

Charlotta Burešová: Post-office in Terezín, 1944, Památník Terezín, PT 5540, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.

Charlotta Burešová: Post-office in Terezín, 1944, Památník Terezín, PT 5540, © MUDr. Radim Bureš.


Owing to the Ghetto’s enormous captive population and also due to the limited capacities of the prison office staff, who censored the mail, registered it etc., the inmates were allowed to send letters only within well-defined cycles. The length of such cycles was continuously changed and ranged approximately from two to three months. If a writer violated the regulations given for postal correspondence, for instance due to his letter’s content or layout, it was returned to the writer by the prison censor with the possibility of promptly writing a new letter. If a second letter also failed to meet the stipulated rules, the writer had to wait for his turn in the next cycle. In spite of the given cycles, introduced due to time-consuming administration of the prison correspondence, its overall volume reached enormous dimensions.

In addition to inmates´ official correspondence in the Ghetto, there also existed an illegal channel through which prisoners dispatched and received mail from their relatives and friends. Some of the local gendarmes and other individuals were engaged in this clandestine system of letter delivery.

Postal card from the Terezín Ghetto from Margarete Zemanek to Ida Svobodová, dated 24. 5. 1942, with the sign of the sensor, 1. page, APT A 7859/K43/Gh.

Postal card from the Terezín Ghetto from Margarete Zemanek to Ida Svobodová, dated 24. 5. 1942, with the sign of the sensor, 1. page, APT A 7859/K43/Gh.


One of the persons selflessly helping inmates was, for instance, Josef Bleha from Terezín who had a small tobacconist’s shop in the town. The early days of his contacts with the inmates dated to the very beginnings of the Ghetto and continued even after the abolition of the town of Terezín in February 1942 and after Bleha´s subsequent moving to neighboring Bohušovice. In the spring of 1943, the Gestapo had ferreted out his illegal contacts and Josef Bleha was arrested and jailed in the Gestapo Police Prison in the Small Fortress. He was later deported to a German concentration camp. He had returned to Bohušovice after the liberation but he kept silent about his wartime support of the Terezín inmates. In recognition of his acts of humanity Josef Bleha received postmortem the title “Just Among the Nations”, awarded by the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem.
Postal card from the Terezín Ghetto from Margarete Zemanek to Ida Svobodová, 2. page, APT A 7859/K43/Gh.

Postal card from the Terezín Ghetto from Margarete Zemanek to Ida Svobodová, 2. page, APT A 7859/K43/Gh.


The prison postal services handled, apart from private letters also the camp’s official mail, parcels etc. Parcels addressed to inmates sometimes came to Terezín opened or their contents were partly stolen; moreover, the local SS Command occasionally seized some deliveries and never gave them to the inmates. This applied especially to parcels sent to the Ghetto by various foreign organizations without the designation of a specific addressee. The situation was better with parcels addressed to specific inmates; acknowledgements of receipt, introduced in mid-1943, contributed to greater probability that the addressee would get his delivery. The same period also saw the introduction of the so-called “allowance stamps” used by the SS Command for regulating but, in actual fact, for reducing the number of parcels sent to the Ghetto.
Allowance stamp, ATP A 12769/K45/Gh.

Allowance stamp, ATP A 12769/K45/Gh.


Many inmates were not at all affected by the above measures since they had nobody outside the Ghetto to send them any parcels. Those lucky ones, who had happened to receive parcels before the introduction of allowance stamps more frequently, were suddenly deprived of them since the acquisition of an allowance stamp had, once again, been subordinated to the stipulated cycles, outside of which parcels could not be sent to Terezín. But these allowance stamps had yet another function – thanks to the accurate system of record-keeping listing the actual senders of parcels, the Nazi Police in the Protectorate had a good knowledge of those inhabitants in Bohemia and Moravia who sympathized with the Jews jailed in Terezín in this way.

Each sender was obliged to insert into his parcel a precise list of contents to be checked out during the delivery in Terezín in the presence of the addressee. Parcels were not allowed to contain prohibited goods, such as cigarettes, tobacco, watches etc. In spite of all those restrictions, parcels meant a considerable improvement of recipients´ living standards. For their part, fellow prisoners often felt envy because parcels not only improved addressees’ material wellbeing but also gave them so urgently needed food. Food parcels in particular were a special temptation for the inmates employed in the Terezín post-office. Some of them, tormented by hunger, could not resist the temptation even though captured thieves were given severe punishment.

The central post-office in the Ghetto changed its location several times during the war. For instance, the building of the former armory, the ground premises of object L 414 in the town square (today’s house No. 612) and other buildings were used for that purpose.

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International Seminar for Teachers

Christina Chavarria (USA) presents her workshop Approaches to Learning about Holocaust Denial, November 2016, photo: Pavel Straka, Památník Terezín.

Christina Chavarria (USA) presents her workshop Approaches to Learning about Holocaust Denial, November 2016, photo: Pavel Straka, Památník Terezín.

The 16th annual seminar ”Holocaust in Education“, attended by 53 Czech schoolteachers, took place in the Terezín Memorial between November 24 and 27, 2016. While only Czech lecturers teach at the first level of the whole educational cycle called ”How To Teach About the Holocaust“, lecturers from foreign institutions (Israeli Memorial Yad Vashem, Poland’s State Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Oświęcim, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Germany´s Wannsee Conference House, the Anna Frank House in the Netherlands) are invited to its October program. The purpose of these seminars is to introduce Czech schoolteachers to the methodology and perspectives used in teaching about the Holocaust in the above institutions. Still, in keeping with traditions, there were also some domestic lecturers involved; officials of the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Terezín Initiative Institute or the organization People in Need participated, too; Mr. Petr Lhotka spoke about the Roma Holocaust, while lectures were also given by historians from the organizing institution – the Terezín Memorial, namely Jan Roubínek and Vojtěch Blodig.
Participants attending Marie Smutná ´s workshop, Novebmer 2016, photo: Pavel Straka, Památník Terezín.

Participants attending Marie Smutná ´s workshop, Novebmer 2016, photo: Pavel Straka, Památník Terezín.


An inspiring section of the whole program was an exhibition from the works of pupils of the Trmice elementary school near Ústí nad Labem, who worked, under the guidance of their teachers Jindřiška Waňková and Jitka Löblová, on the research within the project “Neighbors Who Disappeared” (The Langweills Who Disappeared). In addition to the presentation of research results, two short cartoon films ensuing from the work on this topic were also screened.

Evenings were devoted to art connected with the Holocaust, and not only works created locally. Apart from the screening of Alfréd Radok´s classical movie Daleká cesta (Long Journey) (1948), mention should be made of Thursday’s performance of the Disman Radio Children’s Ensemble, with Michal Macourek´s piano accompaniment, presenting the children’s opera Brundibár by Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister. On Saturday, Czech actor Jaroslav Achab Haidler from the Činoherák Theater in Ústí nad Labem appeared in a one-man performance entitled Mr. Theodor Mundstock, based on the book of the same name written by Ladislav Fuks.

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The Terezín Memorial’s Events, Exhibitions and Seminars in 2017

Just as last year, 2016, proved to be rich in various events held by the Terezín Memorial, during this year, too, one can look forward to a number of Memorial-sponsored events.

On January 27, we commemorated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, this time at a joint commemorative event staged by the House of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, the Bavarian Diet, and the Foundation of Bavarian Memorials.

Commemorating the Holocaust victims in the former Crematorium in Litoměřice on January 27, 2017, January 2017, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.

An annual act of remembrance Yom Ha´Shoah in honor of the Holocaust victims will be held in the spring, on April 24 to be precise. During the rally, more names of the deceased inmates jailed in the Terezín Ghetto will be read out again.

The third Sunday in May (this year it is May 21) is inseparably linked with the Terezín Commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi persecution. This particular act of remembrance takes place in the National Cemetery, in the foreground of the Small Fortress. During the first days of May, this event will be preceded by a rally commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Memorial’s establishment on May 6, 1947.

On June 27, we will recall the anniversary of the execution of Dr. Milada Horáková, jailed in the Gestapo Police Prison in the Small Fortress during the Nazi occupation.

The Commemoration Kever Avot will be held on September 17, honoring the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide in the Czech lands.

In addition to the above acts of remembrance, the Terezín Memorial will also stage a number of art exhibitions. For instance, drawings made in the Mauthausen concentration camp by its former inmate Zbyněka Sekal, or works of art by contemporary artists Václav Špale, Patrik Hábl and Francine Mayran will be also presented. The Terezín Memorial is also planning a number of its own exhibitions, whether a display of posters from the years 1947-2017, new acquisitions of the Terezín Memorial’s collections, or an exhibition of works by pupils and students who took part in an art competition, annually held by the Terezín Memorial’s Department of Education.

This year will see the 23rd literary contest and the 21st art competition, this time under the motto Is the Past Still Alive? Pupils and students can send in their entries by April 18 at the latest. The ceremonial presentation of the winning entries will be held in the cinema in the Ghetto Museum on June 7.

When looking ahead to the events to be staged by the Memorial, or rather by its Department of Education, this year we should not omit seminars for schoolteachers, either. Once again, seminars of all four levels of the project “How To Teach About the Holocaust” will be staged in 2017. These will be held on two occasions: between March 17 and 19, and from March 31 to April 2, both in Terezín. The second, follow-up seminar called “Holocaust in Education” will also take place in Terezín in the autumn; the third-tier workshop will be hosted by the State Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, while the fourth-tier event will be held in the Israeli Memorial Yad Vashem. Furthermore, those schoolteachers, who attended all four levels of the project, may also take part in the fifth-tier seminar in Poland and in Terezín. We are happy to note that schoolteachers from Denmark, Britain and Poland again showed their interest in the issues of the Holocaust and the Terezín Ghetto, and we will gladly welcome them again to the Memorial, one year later, for our educational seminars.

More detailed information on most of these events will be found in each new issue of the Terezín Memorial’s Newsletter.

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New publication Jews in Dobříš

Cover page of the book Jews in Dobříš.

Cover page of the book Jews in Dobříš.

Last November, author Jindřiška Rosenbaumová (born in 1983, née Telenská) published a book called Židé v Dobříši (Jews in Dobříš). On seventy pages, the writer seeks to trace the history of the local Jewish community. She succeeds in portraying the life of the Jews in the town of Dobříš during the past four centuries, complete with their rich cultural and social life, or their unforgettable business projects that made the name of the town famous in the garment industry.

What is all the more gratifying is the fact that the author, during her previous studies at the Secondary Teacher Training School in Beroun, attended, back in 2002, a longer educational program prepared by the Terezín Memorial’s Department of Education. It was partly thanks to this particular experience that the writer later decided to study Judaism and Hussite theology at the Hussite Theological Faculty of the Charles University. At present, she leads specialized workshops in the Dobříš Museum; moreover, she is the author of the local permanent Jewish exhibition.

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