Figuring out how to get to Terezin was the first challenge. I’m not the most experienced traveler, but luckily for me my boyfriend Robert has visited about 30 countries, some of which he has explored solo. Robert and I navigated our way through the Prague metro and arrived at the largely deserted bus depot on a chilly gray January morning. The next order of business was to find out the correct bus, and we made our way to the battered trailer that served as the ticket office. Inside was a small desk, and two elderly men sat around the desk. Robert immediately took charge, and armed with his Czech phrasebook, asked the men in their native language if they spoke English. They did not, and so Robert asked in Czech for two tickets to Terezin. After buying our tickets, we went to search for our bus. There weren’t very many passengers other than us and another group of tourists, and the bus was only about half full. That came as a surprise to me. I had expected that there would be many people visiting Terezin, but that wasn’t the case.
On the hour long bus ride, we drove out of the busy city and passed through lush farmland, and sparsely populated areas. It wasn’t long before the bus arrived at the town of Terezin, and dropped us off in the center of town in front of a large tan and cream colored building. Steps led up to a dark brown door, and above the door was the Hebrew word yizchor (remember). Square memorial plaques were fixed on either side of the door, one with a Star of David engraved on it. A white sign out front read Terezin Memorial Ghetto Museum in several languages. Robert and I climbed the steps and went inside. There were very few people inside, and we were accompanied by quiet and emptiness as we paid our admission and went into a large, expansive room which exhibited photographs and poetry of the children who were imprisoned there. The wooden floorboards creaked as we entered, and I stopped short when I saw the name beneath the photograph of a dark-haired young boy. Franta Bass. I remembered his name from several poems, remembered that he had been murdered as a young teen at Auschwitz, but had no idea that any photograph of him remained. I stared at the serious face for the first time, and I felt emotion well up inside me, tightening my throat as I recalled his poem, “I Am a Jew”:
When I first read that poem, I was deeply moved. No matter how horribly Jews were treated, Franta was determined to always be proud of his people. He swore that he would always be faithful to the Jewish people no matter what happened, that despite the brutality he endured, he would live on. I stared at the image of the young boy who wrote those powerful words, the boy who was murdered by the Nazis, and I silently mourned the unspeakable loss of him and of millions of other children. After a time, I exited the room, knowing he would live on in my memory.