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Theresienstadt
Vera Schiff
   
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Vera Schiff, a teenager in Prague before the war, survived Theresienstadt but lost her only sister, her parents and her grandmother there. She wrote her 1996 memoir in part to remember them and to record for her own family what had happened.

Theresienstadt, a concentration camp about 90 miles north of Prague, was established in the walled 18th century town that Emperor Joseph II had named Terezin, after his mother Maria Teresia. The Nazis used the fortified walls that had been designed to protect its residents to confine them instead, eventually forcing a space meant for 5,000 to house more than ten times that number. They sent many prominent artists, musicians and other intellectuals to Theresienstadt, claiming they were isolating them for their own protection. Disease and starvation killed many of the inmates who were not transported to death camps, contradicting the Nazis' claim that it was a "model ghetto."

Under pressure from the outside, particularly from Denmark, to reveal what was happening there and in other camps, the Nazis allowed a Red Cross inspection in June 1944 after designing a cruel "Embellishment," a facade of normal existence. They constructed bogus stores and schools where internees were forced to act like they were living in contentment and required to parrot scripts their Nazi keepers had written for them in advance. As soon as the inspection was over, the charade ended and life at the camp reverted to its typical state.

Schiff wanted her book to dispel any lingering doubt that Theresienstadt was anything but a cruel and degrading concentration camp.

Excerpt from Theresienstadt: The Town the Nazis Gave to the Jews

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