Funding for Terezín barracks overhaul under threat

Dresden Barracks in Terezín

The Dresden Barracks, one of the largest buildings in the former Terezín ghetto, are currently in a desolate state. Experts say that the complex needs to be repaired quickly if it is to survive. However, the necessary funds may be harder to secure than was initially thought.

“They once served as the living quarters of women housed in the Jewish ghetto during World War II. Football matches of the local league were played here,” says Šimon Krbec, the director of the Theresienstadt Centre for Genocide Studies as he walks through the remains of the Terezín Barracks building. Large holes can be seen in the roof and all but a few windows have been broken.

“According to experts there still is a chance to save the building, but it has to be renovated soon. Unfortunately, everything is dragging on and nothing specific is being done.”

The building complex dates back to the 18th century, when it was established as a military barracks during the rule of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. After the end of the Second World War, it remained in use for this purpose, housing Czechoslovak soldiers during the Cold War.

Terezín memorial | Photo: Jaroslava Mannová,  Czech Radio

The town has been calling for a reconstruction of the old barracks since 2015, says Róbert Czetmayer, the head of Terezín’s Department of Development, Construction and Property Management.

“According to one engineer we have between two to three years to save this complex. We conduct emergency renovations annually. These cost in the range of one to two million crowns. Now we have a chance to get funding from the National Recovery Plan.”

The National Recovery Plan is a CZK 191 billion state investment plan developed to make use of the funding from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience package, which was passed by the previous government of Andrej Babiš last year.

Some of that money had been promised to Terezín by the then Regional Development Minister Klára Dostálová. However, her successor Ivan Bartoš says that the situation is more complicated.

“It is a risk. In part, because you may not be able to complete the reconstruction with those funds, meaning in turn that you do not fulfil the target. And not fulfilling targets in the plan can mean that you do not actually get any funding in the end. I would rather be rational and focus on using national resources on partial repairs through standard EU programmes.”

If the crumbling complex does end up getting saved, the town of Terezín’s reconstruction plans count on transforming the barracks into a multifunctional unit numbering dozens of flats as well as spaces for commercial use. Meanwhile, the courtyard of the building is to serve as a commemorative spot, where local football league matches could take place again.

Authors: Thomas McEnchroe , Lucie Korcová
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