(A click on the route enlarges the picture!)
I started early and first went to the Ghetto museum to learn the facts about Theresienstadt. The small fortress and later the so called “main fortress” (= the city of Theresienstadt) were transformed into a Concentration Camp. Although thousands died in captivity there it wasn’t built with extermination in mind, but rather was maintained to concentrate Jewish people from different areas, before sending them to their deaths in Auschwitz, Treblinka and other camps. The Nazis upheld Theresienstadt as a “model Jewish settlement”, showing it off to the international Red Cross and using it for propaganda. How false this information was, is displayed by the 33.000+ inmates that died in Theresienstadt from health issues, malnutrition or the brutal treatment by the german SS-captors. During its highest occupation more than 58.000 prisoners lived in area, that had been designed to support 7.000 combat troops.
The museum was well set up and very informative. With new and refreshed knowledge I afterwards visited the small fortress, which has in many parts been kept in original appearance and displays life in the Concentration Camp. A harrowing experience, where the feeling to be walking those forsaken grounds left me truly and utterly shocked.
Taking a look into the visitor registry proved even more frightful. It was filled with German school classes making Nazi jokes in their texts, other comments contained references to German right-wing Nazi parties and there were more “fuck Israel”-texts in there then I could count. How all these opinions can be voiced so shortly after standing in the buildings of such great human sacrifice, sorrow and pain amazes me and lets me despair if humanity has only the slightest bit of empathy left.
After this memorable visit I returned to my bike tour with mixed feelings and tried to bring some distance between me and this location of human suffering. I re-joined the Elbe River path again in the early afternoon and kept on cycling along it until I reached the city of Tetschen-Bodenbach. From there it was only a short trip until reaching the German boarder the next day, and Czech campsites are way cheaper than their equivalents on the German side.
After 57km of cycling I arrived at the campsite located right under a bridge that leads the main traffic over the Elbe, which made for quite a loud surrounding. This campsite even had bike boxes, so I securely locked my bike away for the night.