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Theresienstadt erlangte als das größte Konzentrationslager im 2. Weltkrieg auf tschechischem Gebiet traurige Berühmtheit. Heute befindet sich hier eine Gedenkstätte, die an das tragische Schicksal zehntausender Juden erinnern soll, die in dieses Lager deportiert wurden.

Theresienstadt wurde ursprünglich im 18. Jahrhundert als strategisch wichtige Festung erbaut, um das Land vor den preußischen Armeen zu schützen. Im 2. Weltkrieg errichteten hier die Nationalsozialisten in der sog. Kleinen Festung ein Gefängnis und machten aus der Stadt ein Ghetto für die jüdische Bevölkerung. Theresienstadt zählt zu den historisch sehr interessanten Orten und ein Besuch kann zu einem besseren Verständnis der Zusammenhänge der europäischen Militärgeschichte beitragen.

In today's consciousness, Terezín is primarily associated with the Nazi persecution during the occupation of our lands by Hitler's Germany during the Second World War. At that time there was a concentration camp for deported Jews and also a prison where mainly participants of the anti-Nazi resistance were placed. Our programme also focuses on this period, which lasted only a few years but was extremely serious and tragic in the history of the last century.

However, Terezín was established as a military fortress as early as the end of the 18th century. The then Bohemian Kingdom was part of the Habsburg Monarchy and after the wars fought by the Habsburg Empire around the middle of the 18th century, especially with German Prussia, the Terezín fortress was built to defend against attack from the north. As armies often marched along rivers, the fortress was built in the Elbe valley, on both sides of its tributary, the Ohře River. In the event of a siege of Terezín, it was planned to release water from the Ohře into the fortress ditches and artificial flood basins. The system of fortifications and military buildings was designed by military engineers of the Habsburg army, who drew particularly on the concepts of French fortress construction.

The fortress was founded in 1780 during the reign of Maria Theresa, after whose death in the same year it was named Theresienstadt in her honour. The construction of this fortress system on a total area of 400 hectares continued throughout the reign of Emperor Joseph II until 1790. Sometimes as many as 15,000 soldiers, masons and other craftsmen worked on it at the same time, and an estimated 400 million bricks were used. Terezín is one of the largest bastion fortresses in the world. All of the building structures have been well preserved, mainly because the Terezin fortress was never besieged and directly involved in war clashes. However, it may have helped prevent them for a long time with its deterrent might.

The two parts of the fortress differed greatly in size and function from the beginning. Inside the Main Fortress on the left, western bank of the river was the headquarters and the greater part of the military garrison, but the royal town was also established there as early as 1782. The civilian settlement was initially subordinated to the army, and was mainly responsible for its economic needs. From the end of 1941, the Nazi occupiers turned this main part of Terezín, with its barracks and town houses, into a kind of modern ghetto, but essentially a concentration camp. If the term ghetto is used to refer to the town of Terezín during the Nazi occupation, it should be borne in mind that it was a guarded area where imprisoned Jews were completely subordinated to the Nazi command and performed forced labour. Gradually, the Jewish population was deported there in larger and smaller numbers, and mass transports to the extermination camps left from there.

On the other hand, the so-called Small Fortress east of the river never had civilian inhabitants and served as a state prison in addition to its defensive purposes since the time of the Habsburg Monarchy. At that time, participants in the Hungarian and Polish movements for national sovereignty in the multinational Habsburg monarchy were imprisoned there. During the First World War, three young Bosnian Serbs, who were involved in the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand d'Este, on 28 June 1918 in Sarajevo, were imprisoned in the Small Fortress and died there as a result of their hardships. The resulting crisis plunged Europe and then other continents into the unprecedented inferno of the Great War. The Terezín Small Fortress was taken over by the Nazi Gestapo political police as early as June 1940 and mainly held arrested members of various resistance organisations there. Most of the prisoners in the Small Fortress were not of Jewish origin.






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