Small Fortress (Terezín)

The Small Fortress (Czech: Malá pevnost, German: Kleine Festung) is a fortress forming a significant part of the town of Terezín in the Czech Republic. This former military fortress was established at the end of the 18th century together with the whole town of Terezín on the right bank of the Ohře river. It served as a prison in the 19th century.

Entrance to the Small Fortress

World War IEdit

During World War I, the fortress served as a prison for the opponents of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. During the war, Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, was imprisoned here. Princip died after nearly four years in the prison on 28 April 1918 of tuberculosis.[1]

World War IIEdit

Place of executions in the Small Fortress

During World War II, the fortress served as a prison for the Prague Gestapo from 10 June 1940 until May 1945. It was the largest prison in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Unlike the Terezín Ghetto, where the Jews were imprisoned, the Small Fortress served as a prison for the political opponents of the Nazi German regime, Czech resistance members, some British POWs, and other people from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, France, Italy etc. Throughout the operation of the Gestapo prison, around 32,000 people (including 5,000 women) were incarcerated here.[2]

Executions in the fortress were carried out from 1943, based on the Sonderbehandlung treatment. In total more than 250 prisoners were executed here, with the last execution of 51 people taking place on 2 May 1945.[2]

Living conditions in the prison were deteriorating every year, with the prisoners being used as slave labor mainly outside the fortress with various companies in the area. Nazi authorities used forced slave labor for military production for the Reich until the very last days of the war.

The Small Fortress had the character of a transitional prison, where the prisoners were being gradually sent to concentration camps. Around 2,600 prisoners died directly in the fortress as a result of hunger, torture and poor hygiene. Thousands died after being transported from Terezín to concentration camps and elsewhere.

Commanding officer of the Small Fortress was SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Jöckel [cs; de], executed after the war in October 1946.

Notable prisoners of the Small Fortress include Vladimír Krajina [cs], Ludvík Krejčí, Hugo Vojta [cs], František Kravák [cs], Siegfried Lederer Josef Bílý, Otakar Wünsch [cs], Milada Horáková, Kamil Krofta, Eduard Urx [cs] and others.[2]

After World War IIEdit

At the end of World War II, epidemic typhus erupted in the fortress and the nearby ghetto. Czech epidemiologists Karel Raška and František Patočka arrived from Prague, and were leading measures to stop the spread of the epidemic in the fortress and the ghetto.[3] Together they wrote a report describing the appalling conditions and mistreatment of German civilians incarcerated in the Small Fortress after the war ended.

In 1945-1948 the fortress served as an internment camp initially for the German POWs, and later for the German civilian population from Czechoslovakia, destined to be expelled from the country in line with the Beneš decrees. The expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia was a taboo topic in communist Czechoslovakia. The first research into this area was possible only after the fall of communism in 1989. Results of the historical research were published in 1997, and are available on the premises of the Terezín Memorial.[4]


  1. ^ Hamouzová, Iveta (28 April 2008). "Zemřel Gavrilo Princip, pachatel atentátu na Františka Ferdinanda d'Este". Česká televize (in Czech). Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  2. ^ a b c "Policejní věznice v Malé pevnosti". Památník Terezín (in Czech). Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  3. ^ "Čech, který porazil neštovice. Komunisté ale epidemiologa Rašku o zásluhy připravili". Česká televize (in Czech). 21 November 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Internační tábor". Památník Terezín (in Czech). Retrieved 2021-01-29.

Coordinates: 50°30′45″N 14°9′26″E / 50.51250°N 14.15722°E / 50.51250; 14.15722