Children`s Drawings from Terezin, 1942 - 1944
Victims of the Holocaust are also commemorated in a permanent exhibition of children's drawings from Terezín, which, since May 1997, is housed in the upper floor of the synagogue. The story of Jewish children deported to Terezín during the Second World War is outlined in 19 sections in the room adjoining the upper-floor gallery. Terezín functioned as a transit camp between 1941 and 1945 where Jewish inmates were held before shipment east to extermination camps. The story begins with reflections on the events immediately following 15 March 1939, when the remaining territory of Bohemia and Moravia was occupied and incorporated into the Nazi Protectorate.
This is followed by depictions of transports to the Terezín ghetto (the first arriving on 24 November 1941) and of everyday ghetto life and conditions in the children's “homes”. There are also depictions of festival celebrations and dreams which the incarcerated children had of returning home, or of going to Palestine. This part forms a kind of poetic intermezzo between the brutal uprooting from home and deportation to Auschwitz, which is the final and most tragic chapter of the whole story.
The story is depicted through children’s drawings which were made at Terezín between 1942 and 1944. These took shape in the course of art classes organized by Mrs. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898 - 1944), a painter, interior and stage designer, graduate of the Bauhaus, and pupil of Franz Čížek , Johann Itten, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer and Paul Klee.
As part of what was essentially a clandestine education programme for children at Terezín, the art classes were very specific in nature, reflecting the progressive pedagogical ideas that Friedl Dicker had adopted during her studies at the Bauhaus (especially in the beginning course developed by Johannes Itten). Drawing was seen as a key to understanding and a way of developing basic principles of communication, as well as a means of self-expression and a way of channelling the imagination and emotions. From this perspective, art classes also functioned as a kind of therapy, in some way helping the children to endure the harsh reality of ghetto life.
Before being deported to Auschwitz, Friedl Dicker filled two suitcases with about 4,500 children's drawings and put them in a secret place; immediately after the war, they were recovered and handed over to the Jewish Museum in Prague. These drawings are a poignant reminder of the tragic fate of Bohemian and Moravian Jews during the Second World War. Only a few of the Terezín children survived; the vast majority were deported to Auschwitz where they were exterminated. In many cases, these pictures are all that is left to commemorate their lives. Without them their names would be remain forgotten.
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