Newsletter 3/2013

They were here before us…

Joseph Eduard Adolf Spier (1900 – 1978)

„Jewish administration communacition

„Jewish administration communacition” with a poetic picture of Terezin by Jo Spier, A 3469

Jo Spier was a famous Dutch artist, author of humorous illustrations and caricatures depicting everyday life before the WWII. He worked for the De Telegraaf newspapers.

At the time when Jews were already persecuted in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, the Spier’s family was helped through the acquaintance with Anton Mussert, head of the local National Socialist Movement and an admirer of Jo´s drawings at once. Jews were excluded of the party in 1938 and Mussert tried to take care of at least some of them. Among those was the family of Jo Spier, who himself had not been in the party though. Mussert failed to protect this group permanently. Its members were put on the list of the first transport from Westerbork to the Terezin ghetto.

In this way Jo Spier, his wife and their three children were deported to the Terezin ghetto by transport labelled XXIV/1 at the end of April 1943. In Terezin Jo became involved in the work of Werkstätte für Kunstgewerbe und Gebrauchsmalerei (arts and crafts workshop and utility painting). His name is associated with delicately coloured drawings depicting the Terezin ghetto as it was not in reality. His poetic image was also to be found in the header of any official communication of the Jewish administration. He also took part in the beautifying activity when he created the artwork for the commemorative album Bilder aus Theresienstadt (Terezin postcards), which was handed out as a souvenir to members of the delegations and other Nazi leaders. During a visit of ICRC delegates in June 1944, Spier was passed off as a representative of the Dutch Jews in the Terezin ghetto. A few months later, when shooting a propaganda film, he created, most likely following a command from the SS police station (as the Terezin SS Kommandantur was renamed at the time of beautification), the drawing documentation for the screenplay of this film.
Joseph Spier and his family lived in the ghetto to see the liberation. Afterwards they returned to the native Netherlands. Due to unproven accusations of collaboration the family emigrated to the United States in 1951.


Fate of Friedrich and Louisa Gutmanns

At the end of May 1943 two more people increased the ghetto population numbers; the Gutmann spouses. They arrived in Terezin from Bohusovice in a personal car loaded up with luggage, which produced a great response among the Terezin prisoners. They were a German-Jewish couple, citizens of the Netherlands. Additionally, they were assigned to the first Dutch transport (XXIV/I).

Invitation to an evening party hosted in honour of the

Invitation to an evening party hosted in honour of the “Hausälteste” (house captains), author: Jo Spier, PT 4235

Why did they receive so much attention though? The Gutmann family was well known in the banking world since Baron Friedrich Gutmann’s father was the founder of Dresdner Bank. The family also had ties to the high Italian nobility. Friedrich Gutmann’s sister was married to Baron Orsini, a former Italian ambassador in Berlin. Gutmann himself had friends among the prominent Italian personalities.

At the time when Jews began to be interned in the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands, the Gutmanns were receiving certain protection and privileges thanks to their relations with Italian diplomacy and their property. However, they did not succeed in obtaining a permission to leave the occupied country. The Italian relatives tried to exert influence in diplomatic circles. Italian ambassador in Berlin lobbied for them at Himmler. He allegedly promised, after an agreement with Mussolini, not to do any harm to the spouses. SS stations in Hague were reportedly given instructions to leave the Gutmanns in their apartment and exclude them from security police measures of general nature. Nevertheless, that did not guarantee them any protection against “special nature” measures (so-called Sonderbehandlung), i.e. against the despotism of other leading Nazis. In fact, power struggles appeared among them in such cases and many rescue operations were so caused to fail.

Reich Commissioner for the occupied Netherlands Seyss-Inquart did not want to let the Gutmanns leave the country until part of their property would be transferred to the Third Reich, namely a collection of German gold and silver objects from the 16th and 17 centuries set up by Gutmann’s father, as well as the paintings of old masters and impressionists: Göring was interested in those collections.

Later, after the second intervention, the Gutmanns were allowed to leave. They went to the border in a first class train car, there they changed for the second class and continued via Berlin to Bohusovice, where they got into a car, but instead of finding freedom, were taken to the ghetto.

Both spouses Louise and Friedrich were assigned work in Terezin. Friedrich Gutmann helped to distribute coal; Louise distributed bread and taught English. They were allowed to write to Rome and Florence. During their internment in the ghetto Friedrich Gutmann was summoned to headquarters, where he was put under pressure to sign a document and give up his property, which he refused. At that time also other negotiations were on regarding their departure or at least a permission to have visitors in Terezin.

Out of the album Bilder aus Theresienstadt, author Jo Spier, PT 2696-3

Out of the album Bilder aus Theresienstadt, author Jo Spier, PT 2696-3

Although the Nazis in the ghetto did not make the Gutmanns transfer their property to the German Reich, the couple was finally told that they had been allowed to leave for Italy. They were taken together with their luggage by car from the ghetto, but only to the police prison in the Small Fortress Terezin, where their detention continued. It was in mid-April 1944. Ghetto inmates were long convinced of the fact that the prominent couple had been set free. It was after a few months that some information about their detention in the Small Fortress trickled out into the ghetto.
Friedrich Gutmann died in the Small Fortress in April 1944. After his death, Louise lost any protection from deportation to the East. She was put on a transport to Auschwitz in August 1944, where she died in the gas chamber.


Activities at Terezin Memorial

Terezin commemoration 2013 and memorial of the last execution in the Small Fortress

The President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman and director of the Terezin Memorial Jan Munk, Terezin Commemoration 2013

The President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman and director of the Terezin Memorial Jan Munk, Terezin Commemoration 2013

On Sunday 19th May 2013 two commemorative acts took place in the Memorial. The first one at the former place of execution in the Small Fortress to honour more than 50 victims of the last execution carried out in the Terezin police prison on 2nd May 1945, i.e. shortly before the liberation.
Memorial ceremony, execution place in the Small Fortress, Terezin 19th May 2013, photo: Radim Nytl, PT

Memorial ceremony, execution place in the Small Fortress, Terezin 19th May 2013, photo: Radim Nytl, PT

At 10 o’clock laying of wreaths in front of the Small Fortress at the NationalCemetery in Terezin opened the traditional commemorative event to honour the victims of Nazi persecution, the “Terezin Commemoration”. The event was organized by the Central Committee of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters along with the Terezin Memorial and the following co-organizers: Usti nad Labem region, town of Terezin, Federation of Jewish Communities in the CzechRepublic and Terezin Initiative.
After the guard of honour march and ceremony music, the commemoration event was started by placing wreaths and bouquets. Terezin Memorial director Jan Munk welcomed the participants at the NationalCemetery and the mourning event was opened by the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters Jaroslav Vodicka. The key speech was delivered by the President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman. This was followed by Christian and Jewish prayers, and the ceremony program was completed with compositions Lachrymose and Agnus Dei from Verdi’s Requiem performed by the Decin choir.

According to the press report of TM

Floods – June 2013

When a flood wave began to pick up in strength in Southern Bohemia at the end of May 2013, it was becoming more and more certain that water would come again into the Terezin town after years as well as into the Terezin Memorial. On Monday 3rd June low-placed expositions, depositories, archives and offices were evacuated. Where possible, flood defences were placed. The Memorial like the whole Terezin town was closed and no more was to be done than to wait and see what would be happening further on. Water was slowly going up. In the end, Courtyard IV in the Small Fortress, execution place and so-called underground corridor were flooded with leachate. Water also appeared in the basement of the “Manor House”. Completely flooded were the Jewish Cemetery with the crematorium, Columbarium and the Central Morgue.

Thanks to flood barriers around Terezin water did not get into the town itself. Without harmful consequences therefore remained the GhettoMuseum, Magdeburg Barracks, former chapel in Dlouha St. and the attic replica. Although water ceased rising on 6th June, we had to wait until the river calmed down and returned in its riverbed. Terezin still remained cut off from the outside world. After a week, the situation began to improve and on Monday 10th we could finally start returning the evacuated collection items back into their exposition places, and documents and collections back to the depositories. On 12th June 2013 we were able to welcome visitors at the Memorial gates again.

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However, the operation is limited due to the extensive damage in some places of the Memorial. Gradually, the most affected objects are being opened to the public, for example the crematorium at the Jewish Cemetery, which was the most affected place as the flood water reached a height of nearly three meters there. Similarly flooded was also the building of the former Central Ghetto Morgue. Information on the current situation of the above-mentioned places is published on the Memorial websites and Facebook.


Why did the muses not keep silent in the ghetto?

David Šulík (aged 13, Liberec): Why did the muses not keep silent in the ghetto

David Šulík (aged 13, Liberec): Why did the muses not keep silent in the ghetto

XIX year of the literary and XVII year of the art competitions organized by the Memorial should commemorate the 70th anniversary of a number of first-night cultural events in the Terezin ghetto ahead with Brundibar. Therefore, we had chosen for the main topic the question: “Why did the muses not keep silent in the ghetto?”
Ivana Domesová (aged 18, Olomouc): no name

Ivana Domesová (aged 18, Olomouc): no name

The fact that the topic attracted the pupils and students of Czech schools is evident from the number of participants – we have received 501 works within the art competition and 181 works within the literary competition, altogether out of 135 schools across the country. Like in previous years, prices were sponsored by the former Terezin prisoner Ms. Hana Greenfield and the Terezin Initiative.
Prizes were distributed among the contestants, however, this year they unfortunately could not be handed over at a ceremony in Terezin as it used to be the rule in previous years. The organization of the ceremonial event was interrupted by the floodwater which reached the Terezin town in early June. The awards ceremony had to be cancelled due to operational reasons and prizes were sent to the winners by post.

Scorecards as well as winning artwork can be found on the Terezin Memorial websites.


Medals and Comenius-EduMedia 2013 seal for the project of the Terezin Memorial “Being a Pupil or a Student in the Protectorate“

Comenius EduMedia Medal for the project Schoolchild in the Protectorate

Comenius EduMedia Medal for the project Schoolchild in the Protectorate

German Scientific Society for Pedagogy and Information (Die Gesellschaft für Pädagogik und Information e.V., dealing in multimedia, educational technology and possibilities of using media in didactics, has been since 1995 awarding prizes to the best achievements in education based on the use of information and communication technologies. Awards are granted in several categories. Among the awarded projects are for example educational CD-ROMs, educational websites, multimedia encyclopaedias, dictionaries, audio-books, projects for radio, television and theatre, computer games focusing on the development of sensorimotor skills and others.

Comenius-EduMedia Award Ceremony, Berlin, 20th June 2013

Comenius-EduMedia Award Ceremony, Berlin, 20th June 2013

In 2013, the Comenius-EduMedia award ceremony took place in the Berlin European House for the eighteenth time already. The jury had assessed more than 170 educational products from all over Europe and the USA. The Comenius-EduMedia-Siegel award was granted to 129 projects according to various criteria. Out of these, the jury selected the very best projects, which then received one more award of a higher standard, a Comenius-EduMedia-Medaille. In 2013, the medal has been awarded to 16 European projects.

Among the projects awarded with Comenius-EduMedia medal was this year also the new educational Memorial website “Being a Pupil or a Student in the Protectorate“ (see Newsletter 1/2013). This award is very gratifying for us and we hope that the website of “Schoolchild” will become a useful tool in teaching at schools or will serve those interested in the school time history at the time of the Protectorate.


Terezin Memorial Activities

10th October 2013 – 31st December 2013: Mr. and Mrs. Turek – Ceramic Objects, cinema foyer in the Small Fortress, Terezin 

16th October 2013 – 21st December 2013: Executors of Crime. Repressive apparatus of the SS in Terezin and Litomerice, 1940 – 1945, cinema foyer of the Ghetto Museum, Terezin  

20th December 2013: Ceremony to mark the birth of Milada Horakova, at 9:30 in the Memorial Hall of the former Krankenrevier, Small Fortress Terezin

Seminars for Teachers

3rd – 6th October 2013: 3rd degree seminar for teachers in the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland

27th October – 3rd November 2013: 4th degree seminar for teachers in the Yad Vashem Memorial, Israel

21st – 24th November 2013: 2nd degree seminar for teachers “Holocaust in Education“, Terezin Memorial

Newsletter Archive

Literární a výtvarná soutěž Památníku Terezín

Projects of Czech schools




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