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May 24, 2013

The Small Fortress (Malá Pevnost) in the Czech Republic, part 2

The Commandant's house at the Small Fortress

The Commandant’s house at the Small Fortress

In Part 1 of my blog post about the Small Fortress, I left off with the “Gate of Death” which is shown on the far right in the photo above. On the left in the photo above is the “Lord’s House” where the Commandant and his family lived, along with some of the guards and their families.

The front of the Commandant's house

The front of the Commandant’s house

Directly across from the Commandant’s house is the building which was used during World War II as the barracks for the SS guards when the Small Fortress was a Gestapo prison.  The building is shown in the photo below; it is now a Museum.

After the war, from the Summer of 1945 until 1948, the Small Fortress was used as a prison camp for German war criminals, and during that period, the Commandant’s house was used as the barracks for the police unit guarding the prisoners.

On May 6, 1947 the Czech government designated the building shown below as the “Memorial of National Suffering.” Two years later, after the last of the German war criminals had been executed, the first historical exhibition was set up in this building.

Museum at the Small Fortress

Museum at the Small Fortress is in building formerly used as a barracks for the SS guards

The Museum has a large fenced courtyard in front of it, part of which is shown in the photo above. The path up to the front door of the Museum is lined with birch trees, some of which you can see in the photograph above. Several statues of emaciated prisoners, such as the one you see in the photograph above, stand in the courtyard.

In October 2000, when I visited, there was an exhibition in this building entitled “The Small Fortress Terezin 1940 – 1945.” During that period the name of the town where the prison is located had been changed by the Nazis back to the original German name of Theresienstadt. The exhibit opened, after two years of preparation, on May 16, 1994. What I saw was the seventh permanent exhibit to occupy the same space in the Museum.

Statue of woman with hands tied behind her back

Statue of woman with hands tied behind her back

The photograph above shows a statue of a woman prisoner with her hands tied behind her back. This statue is located in front of the gate into the fenced courtyard of the museum building. On the left hand side, you can see a corner of the fence around the Commandant’s house. In the background is the Fourth Courtyard administration building where the Holocaust Memorial is located. The Museum and the Commandant’s quarters are both long narrow buildings. In this photograph, the Museum building is behind the camera, and to the right.

The photos below were taken in the Fourth Courtyard of the Small Fortress.

Entrance into the Fourth Courtyard in the Small Fortress

Entrance into the Fourth Courtyard in the Small Fortress

The photograph above shows the guard tower above the entrance into the Fourth Courtyard. (I have protected the identity of the two tourists with a blue dot.)

The photograph below shows the prison yard in the Fourth Courtyard. On the left is a building with group cells for prisoners; on the right are the solitary confinement cells.  After World War II ended, these prison cells were used to house ethic Germans in what is now the Czech Republic.

The execution state in the Fourth Courtyard

Prison cells and execution site in the Fourth Courtyard in the Small Fortress

The group cells on the left in the photograph above could hold 400 to 600 prisoners. Cell No. 44 was for prisoners who were condemned to die.

On May 2, 1945, there were 49 men and 3 women who were executed, just before the army of the Soviet Union arrived on May 8th to liberate the Small Fortress and the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

In the center of the photograph above, you can see that there is a raised section of the courtyard, which looks like an outdoor stage. After three prisoners from cell No. 38 attempted an escape in March 1945 and were caught, one of the escapees and two other men and a woman were selected at random to be executed here as a warning to the other prisoners. The other two escapees were captured and stoned to death in the First Courtyard, according to the pamphlet handed out to visitors at the Small Fortress.

Two of the group cells on the left side are open to visitors. One of them is shown in the photograph below.

One of the group prison cells in the Fourth Courtyard of the Small Fortress

One of the group prison cells in the Fourth Courtyard of the Small Fortress

Memorial inside one of the buildings in Small Fortress

Memorial to victims is inside the administration building in the Fourth Courtyard of the Small Fortress

When I visited the Small Fortress in October 2000, there was a small restaurant in the Third Courtyard. The restaurant is No. 32 on the tour, located on your left as you walk toward the main entrance to leave at the end of your tour.

Former SS Canteen in the Third Courtyard in the Small Fortress

Former SS Canteen in the Third Courtyard in the Small Fortress

The building where the restaurant is located was formerly the Canteen for the SS guards in the prison. It is a long building which separates the Second Courtyard from the Third Courtyard. The photograph above shows the door into the restaurant which is at the end of the building.

The photograph below shows the view of the main entrance that you see on your way out. Note the grass growing on the roof.  On the right is the doorway into the Administration Courtyard and on the left is the doorway into the Second Courtyard. Just beyond the restaurant, on the left side is the Third Courtyard, which was the women’s section of the prison.

Exit from the Third Courtyard in the Small Fortress

Exit from the Third Courtyard in the Small Fortress

On the right in the photograph above, you can see the square archway which is the entrance to the Administration Courtyard, shown in the photo below. Note the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the end of the courtyard.

The Administration Courtyard with the Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the end

The Administration Courtyard with the Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the end

To the left of the gate into the Administration Courtyard, but not visible in the photograph above, is the entrance to the Third Courtyard which was used for the women prisoners after June 1942.  The Canteen, which was a restaurant in 2000, is to the left of the Women’s camp, but not shown in the photo below.

Entrance into Women's Camp inside the Small Fortress

Entrance into Women’s Camp inside the Small Fortress

The Women's camp in the Small Fortress had factories where the women worked

The Women’s camp in the Small Fortress had factories where the women worked

The Women’s Camp is Number 33 on the tour. In this courtyard, according to the pamphlet that I was given, “the first working transport for the Litomerice concentration camp was lodged here temporarily” in 1944.

Before our tour bus got to the Small Fortress, we went through the ancient town of Litomerice where I saw a spectacular white Baroque Christian church. Near an old and very elaborate gateway on the road through the town, I caught a glimpse of some old concrete posts of the type used for the barbed wire fences around the concentration camps. I learned that in the spring of 1944, a sub camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp was set up in Litomerice.

Around 18,000 prisoners were brought to this sub-camp in Litomerice and given the job of building an underground factory, which was code named “Richard.” A large kommando (work group) from the Small Fortress was sent to this underground factory every day to work. The Nazis had started building all their munitions factories underground because every city in Germany was being bombed by the Allies. Working conditions at the “Richard” factory were horrible and when the typhus epidemic in the eastern concentration camps spread to the Litomerice camp, it resulted in the deaths of 4,500 prisoners in less than a year, including some of the prisoners from the Small Fortress.

After seeing the women’s camp, our tour group went out the main gate, which is shown in the photo below. This photo was taken as our group entered the Small Fortress.

Entrance to the Small Fortress is also the exit

Entrance to the Small Fortress is also the exit