The National Cemetery was created artificially after liberation in 1945. The stimulus for its creation came from among former prisoners and the heirs of those who died, at whose request physical remains were exhumed from six mass graves in the ramparts of the Small Fortress which had been in use from March 1st to May 7th 1945. Among those who were exhumed were prisoners from the death march that in May 1945 arrived at the Small Fortress.
On September 16th 1945, in the presence of former prisoners, the descendants of some of the deceased, honourable leaders of political and public life in post-war Czechoslovakia and members of the general public, a ceremonial funeral was held for 601 exhumed victims (among those attending were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Masaryk, and JUDr. Milada Horáková, who spoke for the women prisoners).
From the end of the War, Terezín became a site of reverence for the Czechoslovak people. A memorial service was held at the National Cemetery to mark the first anniversary of liberation, on May 5th 1946. The programme included the burial of victims exhumed from shared graves in Lovosice, from mass graves found in the forced labour camp at Litoměřice, and from the communal cemetery in Terezín.
The ashes of 52 prisoners executed in the Small Fortress on May 2nd 1945 were also added to the National Cemetery. Furthermore, the urns containing the ashes of victims of the typhus epidemic were brought here from the Terezín Crematorium, as were ashes from large pits nearby – in the main, the remains of the dead from the Terezín Ghetto.
As late as 1958, building work close to the Richard former underground factories exposed a grave containing human ashes; it was found that these were the mortal remains of a Jewish prisoner from the Terezín Ghetto. They were immediately reinterred in the National Cemetery.
The National Cemetery presently contains 2 386 individual graves (both urns and inhumations). Thousands more of the dead of the Small Fortress, Terezín Ghetto and Litoměřice forced labour camp, as well as of those who came to Terezín at the end of the War in the death march and death transports, are interred in the mass graves marked by five pylons. In all, the remains of some 10 000 victims lie within the National Cemetery.