The Terezín Memorial specialises in preserving evidence of history of the Nazi repression apparatus in the Czech Republic, and particularly in Terezín and Litoměřice. To a lesser extent it also considers the history of Terezín prior to the Second World War. The Memorial’s collections may be divided into four groups: written documents, pictorial material, three-dimensional items and works of art created by prisoners, and anti-war art by post-war and contemporary artists.
The drawing together of these collections benefits historical studies of the Memorial, the preparation of expositions and exhibitions, and the activities of the education department, as well as being useful to historical researchers from other institutions and others with related interests.
The foundations of the collections were laid by those items obtained from various institutions and former prisoners in connection with the creation of the first museum exhibition, which was opened in May 1949. The comprised primarily documents and objects brought from the Military Historical Institute in Prague. Care for the collections gained a firmer footing, however, only in 1960, when a professional member of staff was taken on and the first inventory book drawn up. Initially the three-dimensional pieces and written material were looked after at the same site, which later became the foundation of the collections department. In 1965 the archive was separated off, and three years later the photographic was separated from this. The archive and photographic archive are now part of the documentation department.
The archive collections are not large, because by the time the Memorial had started to make acquisitions much evidence that would have been of interest had already been gathered in other archives, both in this country and abroad (e.g. at the Jewish Museum in Prague, the State Central Archive in Prague and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem).
The collections of the Terezín Memorial were built up primarily from items obtained as gifts or purchased from former prisoners (or their relatives), and to a lesser extent articles transferred from other institutions.
In recent years the growth in terms of new acquisitions has not been great. In addition to gifts, the collections have absorbed items (mainly artworks) offered for sale to the Terezín Memorial, and purchased at auction. Every item, whether a photograph, a drawing, a poem, a transport permit, a clandestine message or a memoir, enriches the collection immeasurably; they allow scientific staff and other researchers to reveal the fates, recollections or names of individuals associated with the history of Terezín and the Second World War, thereby allowing a more coherent picture of the given period. We would like to take this opportunity to ask all those who have the opportunity and desire to offer items linked to the history of Terezín and the Second World War for the collections to advise us of their availability by letter, telephone or e-mail: every offer is welcome.
Collections in the Department of Documentation of the Terezín Memorial
The Department of Documentation brings together both written source material (prison documentation, correspondence, manuscripts, private writings, the recollections of former prisoners) and pictorial material (photographs and postcards) relating mainly to the history of Terezín from its foundation to the year 1945. The greater part comprises material from the Second World War period coming from the concentration camp for Jews – the Terezín Ghetto, the Gestapo police prison in the Small Fortress at Terezín and the concentration camp at Litoměřice. A smaller part relates to the persecution of Czechoslovak citizens in other parts of the Nazi repression apparatus, e.g. at the Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Auschwitz Flossenbürg and Dachau concentration camps and their branches.
The earlier history of Terezín (to 1939) is represented in the collections mainly by pictorial material (period postcards). At the end of January 2011 it contained 12,830 indexed items.
A library is also available to researchers, where it is possible to study relevant professional literature. The department is based in the Small Fortress, in the “Mansion” building.
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Collections of the Department of Collections of the Terezín Memorial
The Department of Collections amasses primarily 3D objects and works of art. These include items relating to the persecution of the inmates (instruments of torture, weapons), their labor duty assignments (products made in the Ghetto workshops), their personal objects (prison clothes, dishes and cutlery), as well as objects created by the inmates during their free time activities (souvenirs, drawings, poems, sheet music). Covering items from all walks of the Ghetto’s cultural life – fine arts, music, arts and crafts, theater, literature including works by self-taught writers – the collection comprises paintings, drawings, musical scores, poems and illustrations. An important part of the collection is formed by documents on the cultural life in the Terezín Ghetto, primarily a representative set of memorial posters tracing the history of cultural activities in the Ghetto in the years 1941 – 1945. The periods of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as well as World War I and World War II are represented in the collection by the militaria, army uniforms, medals, insignia and badges. As for the postwar era, this is illustrated predominantly by paintings, drawings and sculptures, works of art with anti-war and anti-fascist themes and artworks devoted to the Holocaust.
By December 31, 2010, the fund of the Department of Collections had as many as 12,316 inventory numbers. Most collection items are kept in the Small Fortress in the building of the Small Fortress Museum, while works of art and sheet music written by composers imprisoned in the Terezín Ghetto are deposited in the former Magdeburg Barracks in Terezín.
The collections of the Terezín Memorial consist primarily of objects acquired by gift or purchase from the former inmates, eventually their relatives; to a smaller extent by transfer from other institutions.
In the past few years, the number of new arrivals of collection items has not been that high. In addition to gifts, new acquisitions (mostly works of art) are offered to the Terezín Memorial for purchase by their owners or are bought in auction halls. Each object, whether a photograph, drawing, poem, call-up to transport, secret message or souvenir, is perceived as a great enrichment of the collections. Each new arrival discloses to our staff experts and other researchers a previously unknown fate, a memory or name of a person associated with the history of Terezín and the Second World War, thus helping to make a more comprehensive picture of the given era. Seen in this light, we would like to address all of you, who are able and willing to offer objects connected with the history of Terezín and World War II to our collections, to let us know of your intention by letter, phone call or e-mail message. Each offer will be welcome.
We are preparing for you a new, modern and simple serching engine for Databases of the Collections in the Department of Collections of the Terezín Memorial.
Before it is ready, use the older version by clicking here, please.