Theresienstadt was a 1944 Nazi propaganda film depicting Theresienstadt concentration camp as a sort of idyllic rest stop, in an attempt to convince world opinion that there was no such thing as Nazi death camps. The film intended to be viewed in “neutral” nations showing how “humane” conditions were at Theresienstadt.
Nor only was it enough to have a false depiction of Theresienstadt, the Nazi also coerced German-Jewish Actor, Director Kurt Gerron into directing it. Gerron had escaped Germany after the Nazis got to power, and ended up in the Netherlands. Once filming was finished, Gerron and members of the Jazz pianist Martin Roman’s Ghetto Swingers were deported on the camp’s final train transport to Auschwitz. Gerron and his wife were gassed immediately upon arrival, along with the film’s entire performing entourage (except for Roman and guitarist Coco Schumann).The next day, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the closure of the gas chambers.
After the Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands, Gerron was first interned in the transit camp at Westerbork before being sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
The Nazis allowed representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax. The Germans intensified deportations from the ghetto shortly before the visit, and the ghetto itself was “beautified.” Gardens were planted, houses painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. Once the visit was over, the Germans resumed deportations from Theresienstadt, which did not end until October 1944.
As a result of preparations for the Red Cross visit, the summer of 1944 was, as one survivor later wrote, “the best time we had in Terezín. Nobody thought of new transports.”
The gimmick was so successful that SS commander Hans Günther tried and decided to expand on it by having Kurt Gerron, make a short documentary about the camp to assure audiences that the inmates kept there were not being abused. In return, the Nazis promised that he would live. Shooting took 11 days, starting September 1, 1944.
The idea behind the film was to be shown in neutral countries,including Vatican City to convince them that the Jews were treated fairly, to counter Allied news reports about the persecution of Jews.
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