I honor of today being Veteran’s Day, I thought I would include a truly bizarre and intricate piece of Nazi propaganda. There are several stories that emerged from World War II about decoy neighborhoods and townships, but these were intended to fool the enemy about important military bases or plans. Theresienstadt, however, was entirely different, as the reality of its existence was far more horrific than its facade.
Theresienstadt you see, was one of the many Nazi concentrations camps scattered over Easter Europe used to corral, catalog and execute millions of Jews during the Second World War. However, towards the end of the war, when the world could no longer ignore the countless rumors and stories leaking out of Europe about the condition of the Jews, both the Danish and the International Red Cross were selected to do a tour of one of the “settlements” to make a report that would be circulated internationally.
Virtually overnight, Theresienstadt was transformed. Thousands of the inmates were taken to Auschwitz to make the camp appear less cramped, and the buildings were given fresh coats of paint. Those who remained in the camp were fed properly for the first time in months, and fake store fronts were created to give the appearance of a settlement over a camp.
The most peculiar part of the whole charade was how willingly the Red Cross played along. They followed a set tour path outlined by the SS, and did not press the residents to speak to them when their questions remained unanswered. After the visit the Nazis decided to use the Theresienstadt facade to do a propaganda film about the Jewish “resettlement”. I find these two facts very unsettling for very specific reasons:
1. Even the International Red Cross was not fully prepared to (or had no interest in) ascertaining the real condition of the concentration camps, either through fear or lack of sympathy.
2. The Nazis Propaganda machine, on some deep molecular level, must have understood that their experiment in eugenics was not entirely righteous, otherwise they would not have troubled to set up the whole charade to appease the International Community. Or they believed the Jewish people had larger international support than they actually did (See 1.)
My thoughts go out to those veterans who have risked their lives for their country, and with those brave souls in uniform who will be veterans soon enough.