Events in Czech Republic, Poland to Mark Wwii Jewish Deportations

A series of commemorative events will be held in October marking the 60th anniversary of the start of the deportation of Czech Jews to concentration camps and ghettos during World War II.

The occasion is being organized by the Terezin Initiative, an international association composed of former prisoners of the Czech ghetto also known by its German name, Theresienstadt.

Leading Czech politicians and President Vaclav Havel have been invited to take part in the commemoration, which will remember the 150,000 prisoners who passed through Terezin on their way to camps in Poland and elsewhere beginning in October 1941.

Proceedings will start with a concert in Prague’s famous Rudolfinum Hall of works by Czech Jewish composer Pavel Haas, who was held in Terezin before being sent to his death at Auschwitz in October 1944.

Czech victims of the former Lodz Ghetto also will be remembered at a special ceremony at the Polish town’s Jewish Cemetery, with a plaque unveiled in the presence of Terezin Initiative representatives.

To mark the anniversary, children will be allowed to tour a number of previously restricted sites at Terezin, including the area where the ashes were kept of those who died.

Dagmar Lieblova, chairwoman of the Terezin Initiative, which has about 1,000 members worldwide, said she is surprised at the level of interest generated by the anniversary.

“In the beginning we didn’t think this would be such a big event, but it has somehow grown over time,” she told JTA.

This year may be the last official chance for survivors to meet old friends and remember those who did not make it through the war years.

“We suppose that this will be the last occasion we will hold such an event, because the youngest survivors are about 70 years old,” Lieblova said.

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