The fortress-town of Terezin (Theresienstadt) was built in the late 1700s to secure the Habsburg border with the German Empire. During World War II, the Nazis used it as a deportation camp, eventually using it for propaganda purposes, passing it off as a model ghetto where Jews were being happily resettled. In reality, the vast majority of those sent to Terezin were sent, in turn, to the death camps.

In Terezin's Small Fortress is a museum about the history of the fortress. One of the display cases shows a photograph of a vaguely familiar sad sack face. It's Gavrilo Princip, assasin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and -- the caption explains -- he died in prison in Terezin in 1916.

This is the moment at which the entire trip converges for me. Everything we've seen has pointed ahead to Terezin, and the full horror of the Habsburgs' inadvertent legacy dawns on me as I look at that photo.

The Habsburgs built this town; it was part of the machine of military might that was their empire. And they died here, too, along with the man whose bullet touched off the war that brought down that empire. And then, out of the fragmentary patchwork landscape their collapse left behind, as though on some deadly inverted pilgrimage, the idea of ethnic nationality came back to Terezin with blood in its eyes.

Everything the Habsburgs prided themselves on came here on the trains with the Jews of Prague and Budapest. Centuries of culture and art disembarked with their baggage and filed into the ghetto. And there they were starved, and beaten, and murdered, done in by everything else the Habsburgs left behind.