Internment Camp for German Population, Small Fortress in Terezín 1945-1948

Author: Marek Poloncarz

One of the repercussions of the resettlement of Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after World War II was discrimination, repression and even isolation of the members of both ethnic minorities in the country. The entire system of camps was built to serve this purpose. The Small Fortress in Terezín became one of those places.

Almost immediately after the SS officers had fled from the premises of the former Gestapo Police Prison in Terezín´s Small Fortress the place was turned into an assembly point for detained Germans. First the process was quite spontaneous, with former prisoners guarding the German internees. On May 29, 1945 the whole area was officially taken over by the Czechoslovak Ministry of the Interior.

Probably some 3,800 men, women and children of German origin went through the Terezín camp. More than 60 % of them had Czechoslovak citizenship before the war. The rest were mostly Germans, who had fled the Reich to escape the approaching front, but there were also people from other European countries.

The camp was originally intended for the internment of people guilty of serious offences against the Czech nation. Later on its main task was to ensure resettlement of Germans from Czechoslovakia. As a matter of fact, genuine war criminals were really temporarily imprisoned in Terezín, but they formed only a very small part of the internees.

There were harsh living conditions and a strict regime in the camp. The German internees were guarded by warders and a large guard unit. Especially in 1945 accommodation and scarcity of food were particularly disastrous. Most internees had to work as labourers both in the camp and in the town of Terezín as well as in many surrounding plants, farmsteads and businesses.

The fate of the internees in the camp was different. An absolute majority of them were sent to other camps, reception centres, prisons or courts, which ultimately meant resettlement to Germany or criminal prosecution. More than half of the Germans concentrated in Terezín were deported to Germany during the years 1946-1947.

At least 548 people died in the camp mainly due to poor living conditions, malnutrition and infectious diseases. The fate of several dozens of other people cannot be satisfactorily explained. Some of them probably fell victims of violence committed by the guards.

The camp was officially closed on January 1, 1948, but the last internees were still leaving Terezín during February of that year.

The database was based primarily on archival sources of the State District Archives in Litoměřice and contains data on 3,725 people who undoubtedly passed through the Terezín Internment Camp. The total does not include the 40 men sent to Terezín in a transport from the Pankrác Prison whose names are not found in other sources, another 98 persons whose stay in Terezín is indicated by one not very reliable or just a fragmentary source and finally 65 convicts who came to Terezín between 1947 and 1948.