A New Perspective

Hello everyone! My name is Michaela Lindemann and I am a Biology major from Maple Grove, MN.

Welcome to Prague! This morning we visited the Pinkas Synagogue memorial, which included an exhibition of children's drawings from the concentration camp/ghetto in Terezin known as Theresienstadt.

Artist Frieda Dicker-Brandeis designed the project of the children's drawings and poems while living in the ghetto with the hope that it would enable them [the children] to express what they were going through, and, in this way, transform their negative experiences into positive feelings. Of 15,000 children deported from the ghetto in Terezin to Auschwitz, most in 1944, only 100 came back.

In class, we have been discussing the various perspectives in which the Holocaust is viewed in the places we have visited. In the United States, specifically at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we noticed that the Holocaust is often portrayed from the perspective of the liberators because that was the major role the U.S played in the Holocaust. In Germany, the perspective changed to a focus on the perpetrators which we examined at the Wannsee Conference Center and Topographice of Terror museum. Now, in the Czech Republic, we are viewing the Holocaust through the eyes of the children of Terezin.

Upon entering the synagogue I was struck by a verse in the wall Lamentations 1:12, "Let it not come onto all ye that pass by! Behold, and see if there be any pain like unto my pain..." I found it interesting that the scripture chosen here focused on pain. In contrast, at the U.S.H.M.M., there is a large quote of Isaiah 43:10 which states, "You are my witness." To me, this difference speaks to the distinction of who the memorial or museum is for and the message they want to display. The U.S. was a witness to the Holocaust, while the people living in the Czech Republic were the ones to actually experience the pain that resulted from the Holocaust.

The article, "...I Never Saw Another Butterfly..." which discusses the drawings and poems of the children from Terezin asks some important questions about childrens; experiences of the Holocaust. It inquires, Did they know that death lay waiting for them, too?...What did it do to those children, that ghetto, the sunlight of the day and the terrors of the night, their dreamy remembrances of the past and their desolate encounters with the present? Although not as often talked about, the children's perspective of the Holocaust is an important one. The Holocaust stole from them their childhood and their innocence at a young age. The things the children of Terezin saw and the things they felt, can be seen through the colors and words of their artwork.

Some of the art work is bright and colorful, depicting memories of home and family. Others are much darker and less happy. One particular piece of art work stood out to me. Like much of the artwork it was unsigned. Its title: "Fear." The drawing was done in pencil and showed a girl in a dark room with only a door. This drawing immediately transported me back to my experience in the Holocaust Tower at the Jewish Museum of Berlin a few days ago. The dark, the cold, the fear, the glimmer of hope...just out of reach. While we can never really comprehend what the artist was feeling, and although it is truly incomparable, upon recalling my feelings in the Holocaust Tower, I think I am able to understand a little better what she might have been feeling.

-Michaela

Michaela Lindemann
The door of the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic.
Children’s drawings of ‘memories from home’ from Terezin.