A Promise to Salomon – Terezin Prisoner No. 2171

Terezin GraveViking, the river cruise line which sponsors Downton Abbey on TV, provides beautiful video showing its ships on Rhine Cruises and also shows film of the many side-trips possible to cultural sites when the ships dock. They don’t mention one of the least popular trips, the bus ride from Prague to the nearby Terezin concentration camp. We took that trip five years ago and you can see from my long shadow over the grave of a prisoner named Salomon that it was late afternoon when I took the picture.

I said to myself as I stood there, “I wish I could do something for Salomon to mark his time in life.” His is one of many graves in a huge cemetery outside the concentration camp where the multitudes who died there are buried. It’s the camp the Nazis used to fool the International Red Cross, which sent a delegation to see if rumors of Nazi death camps were true.

The Red Cross concluded Terezin passed muster as what the Nazis said it was – a facility to protect Jews, especially musicians and artists. On the day of the Red Cross visit, there were candy shops set up displaying bon-bons and only neat, well dressed residents out on its streets. One survivor remembers a Red Cross delegate asking her how life was going at Terezin and the prisoner, having been warned by the SS guards, feared making an explicit statement. She tried to give away the scam to her questioner by saying it would be a good idea if the inspectors made sure to look carefully at the camp and she said she rolled her eyes as she spoke. Didn’t help. Continue reading