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Terezin memories

Text and pictures by Salwa Ghaly


I very much want to share with you some moving photographs I took in Terezin
and in the Jewish ghetto in Prague almost a year ago.  How time flies!!!
Memories of the sad and cloudy day I spent in Terezin still haunt me, my own
memories of a place marked by the tragic end or passage of a great many
people.  Some died there, while others transited through  only to be
exterminated somewhere else.  Terezin was presented in Nazi propaganda films
as the Fuhrer's "gift to the Jewish people"!  On the basis of those widely
disseminated films, where you see well-dressed jovial children running
around eating cookies and drinking milk, Red Cross officials wrote their
reports belying early rumors that had begun circulating about "what was
really happening in the camps."  So, though not designed as an extermination
camp per se, Terezin was that big lie that enabled other extermination camps
to pass themselves off as "mere ghettos where Jewish populations were
concentrated for their own good."

How anyone can live there today in the shadow of such painful history and
memories is beyond me, the memories of 15,000 or so Jewish children who
passed through there on their way to other extermination camps elsewhere in
Europe.  Those children left behind paintings and drawings, many of which
are now preserved in the Jewish Museum in Prague. I cannot even begin to
describe to you how one feels looking at those paintings full of, at once,
anguish and serenity, childish dreams and a sense of doom; they were
children torn between a nagging foreknowledge of what lay ahead and the
desire to survive and triumph over all that was obscene and rotten in their
lives and surroundings.  They were little heroes and heroines struggling to
represent the unrepresentable, to conceive of the inconceivable, to convey
the unconveyable....

I leave it to the photographs to tell part of the story.  In a way, I am
glad it was a dull and morose day.  Quite fittingly so. 

Salwa 
    sghaly@sharjah.ac.ae


From Terezin: Eight pictures          From the Jewish cemetery in Prague: Two pictures


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