Unique Terezín photos to accompany close of Czech presidency in Brussels

Album G.T. exhibition

Unique photographs from the WWII Terezín ghetto are set to be shown at the European Parliament in Brussels as the six-month Czech presidency of the EU comes to a close. The photos had been lost for decades and only recently came to light.  

Journalist Milan Weiner, who survived the Terezín ghetto and Auschwitz death camp, passed away in 1969.

However it was only recently that an album of 41 photographs from Terezín (Theresienstadt in German) among his possessions received attention.

Taken between 1942 and 1944, they are the only known photos capturing life in the ghetto other than stills from Nazi propaganda films.

Jana Šmídová | Photo: iROZHLAS.cz

Weiner’s daughter Jana Šmídová takes up the story.

“Our dad didn’t want to talk about his war experiences. He spent several months in Terezín with his family, with his grandparents and his brother. He also died quite early, when he way only 45, so we did not really get the chance to talk about it.

“What we do know is indirect information from people such as Arnošt Lustig, who was his friend and was on the death march with him in the final days of the war.

“Also, with the onset of the normalization period, the subject wasn’t at the forefront of attention. We simply had an album at home which moved from one apartment to another with all the other things and documents.

“So we knew that these were pictures from Terezín, but we had no idea what a treasure we had.”

Album G.T. exhibition | Photo: Karel Cudlín,  Památník ticha

Last year Milan Weiner’s daughter-in-law Věra Weinerová decided to present the images to the public.

She works at Prague’s Holocaust-themed Memorial of Silence and it joined forces with other institutions of memory to examine them, identifying both the subjects of the photos and those who took them.

Jana Šmídová continues:

“It is something like a mysterious detective story. We know that whoever took the photos must have taken them illegally and if they were discovered they would have been shot dead. So it was very risky to smuggle the camera into the ghetto and get the camera and the films out again.

“There are various theories, but the most realistic one is that it could have been one of the Czech gendarmes. One of them also helped our family, for instance by sending letters between Prague and Terezín. But that will be the subject of further research.”

Collection of photographs depicting everyday life in the Terezín ghetto at the Memorial of Silence | Photo: Karel Cudlín,  Památník ticha

In October the uniquely valuable photographs went on display under the title Album G.T. (for Ghetto Terezín) at the Bubny train station in Prague, from which the Nazis sent tens of thousands of Czech Jews to ghettos and death camps.

Now the exhibition is set to accompany the close of the six-month Czech presidency of the council of the European Union.

It will open at the European Parliament building in Brussels next Friday.

The exhibition will later travel around the Czech Centres network.

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