First transport of Czech Jews to Terezin left 59 years ago

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Nine trees were planted in Prague on Thursday as part of the Nine Gates festival of Jewish culture currently held in Prague. The mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, was one of the dignitaries that took part in the ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the first transport of Czech Jews to the Terezin concentration camp during the Second World War. The trees were planted in front of the Trade Fair Palace, from where the first transport departed. Olga Szantova reports:

That first transport left Prague exactly 59 years ago, on November 24, 1941. Jana Smejkalova of Prague's Jewish Museum explains:

"That first transport consisted of 342 young Jewish men chosen for their health and skills as craftsmen. The Nazis sent them to Terezin to prepare the old military barracks and the area surrounding them so it could accommodate all the Czech Jews the Nazis planned to concentrate there."

Other transports soon followed. In all, nearly 80,000 Czech Jews were dragged off to Terezin. Most were eventually sent to Nazi death camps in occupied Poland. Less than one in ten survived, says Jana Smejkalova:

"Less than 7,000 Terezin inmates survived to be liberated at the end of the Second World War. Many of them had been taken from Terezin to other concentration camps and 3,000 Czech Jews were liberated from those camps."

That process, which started with the first transport from Prague to Terezin just 59 years ago ended with the death of nearly 80,000 Czech Jews in concentration camps throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. The names of 77,297 of them are to be found on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague. Mrs Zuzana Podmelova goes there often to stand before the names of relatives who never came back. None of them have graves, the names on the walls of the Pynkas Synagogue are the only place where Mrs Podmelova and other relatives can come to remember:

Author: Olga Szantová
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