Prison Laundry Room (Wäscherei) – a new permanent exposition in the former Gestapo Police Prison in Terezín

The building of the former laundry in the Small Fortress, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

The building of the former laundry in the Small Fortress, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

The exhibition of the former prison laundry of the former Gestapo Police Prison in the Small Fortress, Terezín, expanded in autumn 2015 after the reconstruction of the prison laundry room in courtyard III. Visitors so get a unique opportunity to get acquainted with one of the many job descriptions of so-called Interior Commandos, responsible for the normal operation of the prison in the Small Fortress.

This steam laundry, set in operation in 1944, was equipped with a large boiler, sliding carts, a high-capacity washing machine and a powerful spin-dryer. Yet, the prisoners’ clothes continued to be exchanged only once or twice a month. To work in the laundry brought certain advantages for prisoners: They had enough hot water for their own use, a roof protecting them from weather ailments, and relative peace from guards.

Exposition of  the former laundry in the Small Fortress, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

Exposition of the former laundry in the Small Fortress, photo: Jana Havlínová, Památník Terezín.

A women’s washroom, built near the laundry room, together with women’s prison cells enabled women prisoners to maintain contact with the men working in the laundry room.
The authenticity and atmosphere of this environment is at first glance enhanced by the displayed collection items, as well as excerpts from the memoirs of former prisoners commenting on their daily hard work. Panels with contemporary documents reveal the fact that the laundry room did not serve only to prisoners, but was used to do the laundry of guards and their families.

This exposition, the scenario of which was prepared by Miroslava Langhamerová from the History Department of the Terezín Memorial, is open to visitors all year round.

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S příchodem nacistů se mé dětské mysli otevřely podivné obzory. Uvědomil jsem si, že nelze spontánně ctít starosty, radní, duchovní, soudce, učitele, různé přednosty, ale že si naši úctu musí zasloužit. Vždyť někteří z těch, které jsem míval v oblibě, zvedali pravici k poctě vůdce a později pilně vstupovali do komunistické strany. Začal jsem brzy lidi třídit. — Tom Luke, Kolektiv autorů: Pokoj 127, Domov mládeže Q708, Terezín, Gymnázium Plzeň a o.s. HUMR, 2007, s. 89.