First Courtyard in the Small Fortress

Solitary confinement cells were rooms inside the ramparts surrounding the fortress

The First Courtyard of the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt, which is shown in the photograph above, was divided into Blocks A and B. There were 17 group cells and 20 small cells for solitary confinement. Up to 1,500 prisoners used this small courtyard as their exercise yard. According to the visitor's pamphlet that we were given, the group cells held up to 100 prisoners at one time. Cell number 1 was reserved for prisoners from the Soviet Union. Cells number 2 and number 3 were used to imprison Jews who were "arrested for political activities and violating anti-Jewish regulations."

Notice that the photograph above shows grass growing on the roof. The prison cells were rooms between the double walls around the fort, and the roof was covered with dirt. The whole town of Terezin and the Small Fortress both have overhead power lines, as you can see in the photograph above. At the west end of the First Courtyard is where the "shaving room" was located. This room was remodeled for the Red Cross inspection in the spring of 1944 when the Nazis went all out to impress the inspectors for propaganda purposes.

The photograph below shows the door to one of the group cells in the First Courtyard. This location is number 9 on the map of the fortress and the photograph above is number 12 on the map. The Plaque, which is written in Czech, English and Hebrew, reads as follows:

In the years 1940 to 1945 more than 1500 Jews were imprisoned in the Small Fortress. Their destiny was worst of all the groups of prisoners. About 800 from them were tortured to death here, most of others perished after the deportation to concentration camps. Dedicated to the memory of the victims by the Embassy of the State of Israel.

Plaque erected by Israeli Embassy in honor of 1,500 Jewish prisoners

One of the most famous prisoners to occupy a cell in the Small Fortress was Gavrilo Princip who was imprisoned in the First Courtyard after he assassinated Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914. It was this act that led to World War I. Our tour guide told us that Princip was only 17 years old and could not be executed because he was underage. We were also told that Princip is regarded as a hero in the Czech Republic since it was because of World War I that the Czech people finally gained independence from the Austrians, which they had been trying to achieve since 1620. That was the year that the Austrians defeated the Czechs in the Battle of White Mountain and then executed 27 noblemen of the Czech aristocracy.

Gavrilo Princip was chained to the wall of his cell

At the end of the First Courtyard is the entrance to the shower room. The guide told us that this shower was real, but he said that it was just like the fake shower rooms which were used as gas chambers. The room has three rows of pipes suspended from the ceiling but the shower heads are gone. We were also told that the shower room was used for cleaning the clothing with hot steam, which killed the lice. This was done to prevent typhus, a disease which is caused by lice. There was an undressing room next to the shower room, just like at Dachau where the shower room was really a gas chamber.

Escape Route

The Long Tunnel

Execution Spot

Gate of Death

Commandant's House


Fourth Courtyard

Third Courtyard

Main Gate

Arbeit Macht Frei gate

Administration Courtyard