|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|The fortress of Terezín was constructed between the years 1780 and 1790. Formerly in the 19th century it was used to accommodate military and political prisoners.|
On June 10, 1940, the Gestapo took control of Terezín and set up prison in the Small Fortress (Kleine Festung). By 24 November 1941, the Main Fortress (grosse Festung, ie the town Theresienstadt) was turned into a walled ghetto. The function of Theresienstadt was to provide a front for the extermination operation of Jews. To the outside it was presented by the Nazis as a model Jewish settlement, but in reality it was a concentration camp. Theresienstadt was also used as a transit camp for European Jews en route to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.
On June 23, 1944, the Nazis permitted the visit by the Red Cross in order to dispel rumours about the exterminations camps. The commission included E. Juel-Henningsen, the head physician at the Danish Ministry of Health, and Franz Hvass, the top civil servant at the Danish Foreign Ministry. Dr. Paul Eppstein was instructed by the SS to appear in the role of the mayor of Theresienstadt.
To minimize the appearance of overcrowding in Theresienstadt, the Nazi deported many Jews to Auschwitz. Also deported in the some 7,500 were most of the Czechoslovakian workers assigned to 'Operation Embellishment.' They also erected fake shops and cafés to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort. The Danes whom the Red Cross visited lived in freshly painted rooms, not more than three in a room. The guests enjoyed the performance of a children's opera, Brundibar, which was written by inmate Hans Krása.
The hoax against the Red Cross was so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film at Theresienstadt. Shooting of the film began on February 26, 1944. Directed by Jewish prisoner Kurt Gerron (a director, cabaret performer, and actor who appeared with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), it was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the "benevolent" protection of the Third Reich. After the shooting most of the cast, and even the filmmaker himself, were deported to Auschwitz. Gerron and his wife were executed in the gas chambers on October 28, 1944. The film was not released at the time, but was edited into pieces that served their purpose, and only segments of it have remained.
Often called The Führer Gives a Village to the Jews, the correct name of the film is: Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet (Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement). (Cf. Hans Sode-Madsen: The Perfect Deception. The Danish Jews and Theresienstadt 1940–1945. Leo Baeck Yearbook, 1993)
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