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Of those who came to Theresienstadt, fewer than 6,000 were still alive when the Soviet Army liberated the camp on May 9, 1945. Those who survived soon realized that most of their families and friends had perished in the Holocaust. The survivors returned to their home cities, only to migrate further shortly after. Some of them did not want to stay in places that reminded them of the tragedy. Others hoped to find family members in other countries. Survivors of Theresienstadt were exhausted, and many carried the weight of the past for the rest of their lives. Some studies suggest that the trauma was passed on to their children’s generation.

Eighty years have passed since these events. Most Holocaust survivors are no longer living. For younger generations, German death and concentration camp sites have become places of commemoration of a distant history. But the liberation of the camps was not the end of unjust imprisonment on a mass scale, ethnic cleansing, or state brutality. The story of Theresienstadt and other camps and ghettos remains a warning of what a lack of respect for human rights, a cult of personality, prejudice, discrimination, and hate can do to individuals and a society. The story of the International Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt shows the power of propaganda to deceive, especially when it presents a narrative that is convenient for its intended audience.

Theresienstadt, AR 25449.

Do you see examples of injustice in the world that remind you of the experiences of prisoners of Theresienstadt? If so, what similarities can you observe, and what are the unique elements of each? Can a better understanding of the Holocaust help us prevent other atrocities and ensure peace and dignity for all people?

About the image:
Those who survived soon realized that the majority of their families and friends had perished in the Holocaust. These telegrams reflect the dramatic search for family members and attempts to leave Europe. All telegrams come from LBI Archives. Theresienstadt, AR 25449.