Terezin was founded in 1780 by Emperor Joseph II of Austria. It was originally a star-shaped military fort, which was built to defend against the Prussian danger. The fort was named Terezin in honor of emperor’s mother – Marie Terezie. By Imperial decree in 1782 Terezin was granted the status of free royal city. Military administration settled there mainly the civilian craftsmen who were necessary to maintain the fort and life of the crew.
The fort has never fulfilled its original mission. The outbreak of the French Revolution gave way to disputes between Austria and Prussia in the background. Nevertheless, the fort was with a view to the possible threat of French invasion, maintained in tenable condition.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the fort was abandoned by the army, and the “Small Fortress” was turned into a prison and held this function until the sunset of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Terezin was also imprisoned (and later here died) Gavrilo Princip who was sentenced for the attack in Sarajevo against Franz Ferdinand d’Este.
On June 10th 1940 the Terezin Small Fortress was taken over by Gestapo and a police prison was established here. Already on the second day came here first prisoners, who started working on the construction of prisons. Proportional to the rising number of prisoners during the occupation the construction of new buildings and facilities continued. In October 1941, Terezin was selected as a suitable place to set up an assembly camp – a Jewish ghetto. In the summer of 1942 has ceased to be sufficient capacity of barracks buildings and Czech civilians had to leave. Terezin became a transfer station on the way to extermination camps and until the end of the occupation passed through here almost 160,000 people (33,000 through Small Fortress), from which about 35,000 people, including many children, mainly Jews, died here.
The city was liberated on the night of 8 to 9 May 1945 by the tank army of General Rybalko, which passed through Terezin to Prague.
On May 6th 1947 the government of the Czechoslovak Republic decided to create the Terezin Memorial, with the aim of conserving and preserving the site as it was during the period of the Nazi occupation. Today, the Terezin Memorial comprises a collection of individual monuments. The visit includes the Museum of the Ghetto where are exposed the historical documents and photographs; the Magdeburg barracks, built along the lines of the original prison; the cemetery with the crematorium; and the Small Fortress, which is dedicated to the memory of political prisoners.
If you are interested in this part of history than Terezin is definitely worth a visit. The city of Terezin is located some 60km north of Prague. If you decide to visit this place you have basically two options. The first one is to go there by your own, for example by bus from Florenc bus station. The second one, which I recommend, is to take some organized tour. During this tour you don’t need to walk between the locations and what is most important you will get a guide who can answer your questions and will tell you more than book can say.