Jewish Museum in Prague


Terezin's Childern Drawings Collection

curator: Michaela Hajkova

The collection of children's drawings from the Terezín ghetto is quite unique and is probably the most extensive collection of children's drawings in the world. It comprises some 4,500 artworks by Jewish children who were incarcerated during the second world war in the Terezín ghetto. All the drawings in the collection were made in just less then two years (1942-44) in drawing lessons organized by the former Bauhaus student Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

Drawing lessons, like children's theatre, enjoyed a priviled position within the clandestine system of schooling at Terezín. It was primarily thanks to the work of Dicker-Brandeis, who was deported to Terezín in late 1942, that a fully comprehensive concept emerged from drawing lessons in which drawing was seen as a key to understanding and adopting the basic principles of communication. Although lessons were stricly goal-directed, Dicker-Brandeis nevertheless fully respected the individual personality of each child and gave them room to express themselves and to open up their imagination and emotions. In this sense the drawing lessons significantly helped children to endure the depressing realities of everyday life and thus had an invaluable therapeutic effect.

For children at Terezín, drawing opened up the path to memories of the world from which they had been uprooted, as well as enabling them to see and depict the sad and horrifying realties of life. Above all, drawing transported them to a world of fantasy and pure imagination where good prevailed over evil, free will and well-being reigned supreme and there was paradise on earth. Their drawings expressed the constant hope for a safe return home, often featuring highways and cross-roads with sign-posts to Prague. Only a small proportion of the Terezín children, however, were to see their hopes fulfilled. The vast majority were transported eastward and later perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The Terezín children drawings, which have formed part of the Jewish Museum in Prague's collections since the end of the war, are therefore not only an authentic testimony to the brutal perseuction of Jews of all ages, but also a unique collection of what in many cases are the only surviving records of people whose names would otherwise have remained completely forgotten.


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