“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
It’s our second day in Prague and today we decided to venture off the beat and path to visit Terezin, a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Up until now, this trip has been very relaxing and easy going. This day trip was a sobering reflection of how quickly lives can be taken at the hands of one person. We rented a car and drove 45 minutes to Terezin. Upon arriving, I felt a dark energy from this town. Maybe I made it up in my head, but there was something different. First, we toured the concentration camp where 100,000+ Jews where housed. Terezin was an internment camp where most Jews were held before being sent to extermination camps to die. Despite this, many people died at Terezin from disease. The camp and its conditions were surreal and it pretty much what’d you expect if you could imagine what a concentration camp would look like. The crazy thing about Terezin is that the Red Cross visited the camp and were convinced that this was “spa” with a barbershop and other “amenities”. Don’t ask… The experience was heavy for me and it’s difficult to express everything in words. After the tour of the concentration camp, we went to the crematorium, where the bodies were cremated, saw the graves of many who died, and then went to the Terezin ghetto museum.
This trip definitely put things in perspective and led me to think about a theme that me and my travel buddy, J had a debate about when she first arrived. The debate was about happiness being a choice. I was reading a magazine with a quote about happiness being a choice, to which J responded, “I don’t agree with that!”. By day three, J changed her initial opinion and agreed with me, and started using small situations as examples of how to “choose” happiness. So I thought about this in the context of the concentration camp. It’s easy for me to say happiness is a choice because my life is pretty good in the grand scheme of things, but if I were in the shoes of the victims of the Holocaust, would it be as easy for me to choose happiness? Does “choosing happiness” mean adopting a sense of complacency? If you’re fighting for your life, does happiness even fit into the equation. So after giving J a hard time for her response, I think I have changed my point of view. Happiness is a choice, but only when basic freedoms are in place.