Govt. pledges funds for renewal of Terezín, second fortress town
The government has earmarked major investment for Terezín, site of the Czech lands’ biggest WWII Jewish ghetto, and Josefov, another 18th century garrison town. The project is based on two aims – preservation and development.
Terezín, known as Theresienstadt in German, was established in the 18th century as a military fortress town by Emperor Joseph II. He named it after his mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, and it was intended to serve as a defence against invasions from Prussia.
During World War II the Germans turned the town north of Prague into a Jewish ghetto. Over 30,000 Jews died at the transit camp itself, while nearly 90,000 prisoners were later murdered at Nazi extermination camps.
Though today home to a Holocaust memorial, Terezín has fallen into increasing disrepair in recent times, a state that has been highlighted by international media reports.
But now the Czech government is taking action to rectify the situation, pledging to invest around CZK 3 billion in Terezín and another 18th century fortress town, Josefov in East Bohemia.
The latter was used as a POW camp in WWI, by the Nazis in WWII and later by the Soviets.
Speaking to Czech Radio on Wednesday evening, the minister of regional development, Ivan Bartoš, gave one explanation as to why Terezín and Josefov find themselves in need of state help: the departure of their most recent “tenants”, and major employers, the Czech Army.
“When the towns took over these buildings from the Army they never had the funding in their own budgets to maintain, never mind renovate, them.”
Mr. Bartoš points out that roofs in the towns are in danger of collapsing and plaster is falling off the walls, while their distinctive underground passageways are caving in.
The government’s freshly announced plan has two main planks: preservation and development.
Up to CZK 1.7 billion from the Ministry of Culture’s emergency fund and the budgets of the regions and towns concerned will be used to save the most derelict buildings over the next five years.
And then as much as CZK 1.2 billion will go toward the further development of these buildings between next year and 2033. In that case the funding will come from a new programme being readied by the Ministry of Regional Development.
Minister Bartoš says it is key that the renovated structures be put to worthwhile use once the project is completed.
“Each building in those complexes, in the interiors of those fortress towns, will need investment to secure a future life. So it’s not only about preserving them. I’ve already seen some actual projects from investors that will bring new life.”
Specifically the minister referred to the construction of new apartments, kindergartens, medical facilities and shops in Terezín and Josefov.
Project documentation is already being prepared in both towns. The first work, to renovate four buildings in Terezín and two in Josefov, should begin around the middle of 2024, Mr. Bartoš told journalists.