On our stay vacation in Israel, we discover (with my YouTube pictures below)
Beit Terezin or Beit Theresienstadt (German: Haus Theresienstadt) is a research and educational institution that opened in 1975 in Kibbutz Givat Haim (Ihud), a museum and a place of remembrance of the victims of Nazi Germany persecution at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
In May 1955, a first informal meeting of survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp took place in Israel, the participants of which decided to found an educational institution. In 1966 the Association was formed to commemorate the martyrs of Theresienstadt, whose members were former prisoners of the Theresienstadt concentration camp now living in Israel, including former members of Zionist youth organizations. The association did not only aim at meetings of the survivors, but also at the founding of an educational institution. This institution was to keep the memory of the murdered alive, especially that of the victims of the HeHalutz and their leading member Jacob Edelstein, the first Judenrat of the Theresienstadt ghetto.
One motivation for setting up Beit Terezin was that the communist government of Czechoslovakia avoided commemorating the Holocaust. Therefore the Theresienstadt Small Fortress became a national memorial for the victims of fascism, but neither here nor on the commemorative plaque in the city were the murdered Jews explicitly mentioned. The Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, which served as the national memorial site for the murdered Jews of Czechoslovakia from 1960 to 1968, had not been open since the Prague Spring of 1968.
In the mid-1960s many survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp lived in Kibbutz Givat Haim (Ihud). In addition, many Jews from Germany and Austria and members of the Zionist youth organizations, who had often lost relatives in Theresienstadt, were among the founders of the Kibbutz. This group of people was benevolent towards the establishment of a memorial or educational institution on the land of the kibbutz. In addition, it was the wish of the Association that Beit Terezin is established in the midst of a living community and not far from civilization. The choice of the Kibbutz Givat Haim (Ihud) was additionally favored by its central location – at that time only a few of the members of the association scattered all over Israel had a motor vehicle, most of them relying on public transportation. After all, Jakob Edelstein, who was generally revered and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp, wanted to settle in the then undivided Kibbutz Givat Haim after emigrating to Palestine. Because the kibbutz was to use rooms in Beit Terezin for its own cultural events from the very beginning, the association was assigned a building site in the middle of the kibbutz.
Founding members of the association were the Israeli journalist and translator Ruth Bondy, a survivor of the Holocaust and former prisoner of the Theresienstadt concentration camp and several other concentration camps, and the diplomat Zeev Shek, also a survivor of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and the Kaufering remote camp of the Dachau concentration camp. Shek later became an Israeli ambassador to Austria.
The foundation stone was laid in 1969 and the buildings were constructed with the support of Zionist youth organizations. Beit Terezin was opened at the beginning of May 1975 on the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the Theresienstadt concentration camp by the Red Army. At this time the facility was far from complete. Therefore the memorial hall consisted only of a floor mosaic and a Torah, the walls were bare. There were proposals for a modern audiovisual presentation of the ghetto’s history, but the available financial means ruled it out. Following a suggestion by Albin Glaser, backlit transparencies with accompanying texts were attached to the walls to illustrate the development of the ghetto. It took until 1974 to bring the exhibition to its desired Display.
Beit Terezin’s planning had to take into account the limited financial means of the association in memory of the martyrs of Theresienstadt. The design of the complex was developed by the architect Albin Glaser, himself a survivor of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. His design is an interior in simple architecture, the rooms of which can be used for a variety of purposes. The central element is the twelve-sided rotunda made of reddish-brown bricks, whose ground plan and material are intended to remind us of the Theresienstadt fortress, which originally served as a memorial hall and place of remembrance. Today it is the main room of the Beit Theresienstadt Museum and the core of Beit Terezin with its permanent exhibition.
For use by the Kibbutz, a library with a reading room and a small hall for lectures and cultural events were built. For Beit Terezin itself, the complex includes an archive, a reading room, and a lecture hall.
The theme of the permanent exhibition is the occupation of the Czech Republic by National Socialist Germany from 1939 to 1945, in particular, the history of the Jews in the Theresienstadt Ghetto from November 1941 to May 1945. Other exhibitions include works by artists from the ghetto.
Beit Terezin has created two exhibitions that are particularly aimed at children and young people. The first exhibition, entitled “They called him a friend”, deals with the children’s magazine “Kamarád” of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in which contributions are written or drawn by children about their everyday experiences with hunger, death, illness, dirt, and overcrowding of the camp were published. In addition to the description of the magazine with exhibits, the fates of the authors up to their murder in the Auschwitz concentration camp are presented. A second exhibition is entitled “Sport and Youth in Theresienstadt”. The exhibition is dedicated to the many sporting activities of children and young people in the concentration camp and refers in particular to the importance of sport for the education and value education of young prisoners.
In 2011 Beit Terezin was accredited as the 54th Museum and Third Holocaust Museum of the State of Israel.
The Beit Terezin archive is one of the four most important archives with material on the Theresienstadt concentration camp, along with the archives of Yad Vashem, the Jewish Museum in Prague, and the archive of the Theresienstadt Memorial. Numerous archival materials come from the private collections of survivors, including diaries, photographs, materials for school lessons in the concentration camp, pictures, and other works of art.
Numerous documents were donated to the Beit Terezin archive. Thanks to his good contacts, Zeev Shek was able to obtain a copy of an index containing the data of more than 162,000 Jewish prisoners of the Theresienstadt concentration camp from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, and other European countries. The index was produced in Prague immediately after the Second World War. This index was invaluable during the Cold War, especially since the Czechoslovak government had broken off diplomatic relations and severely restricted the exchange of information after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, as had all the Eastern bloc states. This index forms the core of Beit Terezin’s archive and information about the fate of missing persons is still provided to their relatives upon request.
In addition to the aforementioned index, Shek succeeded in taking the archives of Hechalutz Theresienstadt to Palestine. He initially handed the material over to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, most of which was handed over to Yad Vashem in 1976. Extensive photographic material from this collection is in the Beit Terezin archive.
Moishe ran a text book store on campus called Moishe’s Texts that was famous for doling out a little advice along with the semester’s new course materials.
One morning a student named Catherine entered the store, asking for the text book for her finance class in business school. Moishe pulled it off the shelf and gave it to her.
“How much do I owe you?” asked Catherine.
“One hundred and ninety five dollars,” replied Moishe.
“One hundred and ninety five dollars?!” Catherine exclaimed. “That’s insane! Can I at least make some of that back at the end of the semester if I sell the book back to you?”
“Sure,” said Moishe. “You get forty five dollars if you sell it back.”
Catherine sighed and gave Moishe her credit card.
“I didn’t take any fancy business school courses or anything, but if you ask me, someone who buys a text book for $195 and sells it back for $45 should automatically fail a course called ‘Finance’”.