The Greatest Show on Earth: A Study of the Red Cross' Front Row Seat at the Stage of Theresienstadt

  • Leslie C Esbrook College of Arts and Science


During World War II, the concentration camp Theresienstadt in the northern section of Czecholslovakia played an integral role in the Nazis' schemes of international propaganda. The camp became a model city for the period of six hours while International Red Cross delegates visited on June 23, 1944 in order to prepare reports to be disseminated to the public addressing concerns at the inner workings of the camps behind Nazi front lines. To date, no overwhelming synthesis of the events precluding and proceeding the day period of deception labeled the Embellishment has been construed. I attempt to collect all details of the Embellishment, even its inception, in order to produce a more total understanding of life within the camp during this period and to create a setting conducive to visualization of the play itself. The paper in many ways also seeks to understand reasons for the Red Cross' positive outlook on the concentration camp despite worldwide concern and site-specific evidence to the contrary. In the second half of the paper, I examine why the Red Cross accepted the Embellishment to such a high degree, citing Red Cross justifications as well as the single report printed on the visit written by the Swiss representative Maurice Rossel. In sum, the Embellishment created a moment of suspended time that vastly impacted members of the concentration camp and the outside world, so that even today one may be shocked at the colossal undertaking of playacting which occurred in Czechoslovakia's rural plains.

Author Biography

Leslie C Esbrook, College of Arts and Science
Leslie Esbrook is a freshmen in the College of Arts and Science. She is currently undecided as to a major.
How to Cite
ESBROOK, Leslie C. The Greatest Show on Earth: A Study of the Red Cross' Front Row Seat at the Stage of Theresienstadt. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, [S.l.], v. 3, sep. 2007. ISSN 1555-788X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 aug. 2019. doi:
Humanities and Social Sciences