Scrapbookpages Blog

September 28, 2015

What was it like for children in Theresienstadt?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:46 am

One of the regulars, who read my blog and frequently comment, is Dr.Wolf Murmelson, who was a prisoner in Theresienstadt when he was a child.  Dr. Murmelson was the son of Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein, who has been criticized for allegedly co-operating with the Nazis, although he has now been exonerated.

I previously blogged about another child at Theresienstat at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/inge-auerbacher/

Dr. Wolf Murmelson always refers to his stay in Theresienstadt as “that Time of Darkness.”  I did not get that impression when I went to Theresienstadt in the year 2000 and toured the town.  After my visit, I created a website about Theresienstadt, including a page about the children doing artwork.

The following information is from my website:

Building L410 was a girls barracks and school where art lessons were taught

Building L410 was a girls barracks and school where art lessons were taught

Shown in the photo above is Building L410, located next to the Catholic Church on Hauptstrasse, the main street of the ghetto. This was the home for Jewish girls from 8 to 16 years of age. The older girls, aged 14 to 16, had to work during the day, but still took classes at night.

The building also had a basement where concert practice took place. It was here that Mrs. Friedl Dicker-Brandejsova gave art lessons.

Theresienstadt was the designated site for the deportation of Jewish children from the orphanages in the Greater German Reich. Children were also sent to the ghetto with their parents or other relatives.

Approximately 10,000 children passed through the Theresienstadt ghetto. The drawings and paintings produced by these children in their art classes is known the world over. Some of their artwork hangs at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Many other Holocaust museums display their work also. The Jewish Museum in Prague has a collection of 4,000 pieces of children’s art from Theresienstadt.

Under expert adult supervision, the children were encouraged to express their feelings in their artwork. Some of the drawings that have been preserved show practice sheets where the children were obviously being taught the various elements of drawing.

The children depicted their surroundings in the ghetto in their drawings and watercolors, but they also painted what they remembered from their world before they were deported to the camp.

The drawings of the children were not censored by the Nazis, who allowed them free reign to express themselves on paper. Remarkably, the Nazis carefully preserved the children’s artwork after the children were deported to the death camp at Auschwitz.

Of the approximately 8,000 children who were deported out of Theresienstadt, only a fraction of them ever returned. Their paintings, which now hang all over the world, are a unique memorial to these innocent victims of the Holocaust.

 Post office building which was formerly the children's nursery


Post office building which was formerly the children’s nursery

At the corner of Rathausgasse and Langestrasse, where the bus from Prague stopped, [when I visited the town in 2000] I photographed the building, shown above, that [was being used as the post office] in Terezin in 2000, but in the former ghetto, it was a home for infants. It also housed a pre-school and a kindergarten.

Some books [that I have read] say there were 207 babies born in the Theresienstadt ghetto, but others say it was 275.

All adults up to age 60, and young people over the age of 14, had to work in the Theresienstadt ghetto, so the infants and small children were taken care of in the building shown in the photo above, and returned to their mothers in the evening.

The building for the babies also had space for theater performances in the evening. In addition, there was a bakery and kitchen which supplied the meager food for the Jews who lived in the ghetto. To the right of the post office is the current town hall, which is barely visible in the photo above.

Across Langestrasse, to the west of the bus stop at the Post Office shown in the photograph above, is a block of buildings which were used as homes for Jewish children in the former ghetto. Some of the buildings in this block were also used for theater and cultural performances and building L216 in this block was the children’s library.

Buildings which were used as homes for children in the Theresienstadt ghetto

Buildings which were used as homes for children in the Theresienstadt ghetto (Click on photo to enlarge)

Theresienstadt building where live theater performances were held

Theresienstadt building where live theater performances were held

Another building on Langestrasse, which faces the market square on the west side of the square, is today [in the year 2000] the Culture House of Terezin, shown in the photograph above. During the ghetto days, there was a theater here where live performances were given.

The rear of the Magdeburg building (Click on photo to enlarge)

The rear of the Magdeburg building (Click on photo to enlarge)

The photograph above shows the rear view of the Magdeburg barracks, which is now the second Museum in Terezin; it is devoted to the artwork produced by the inmates in the ghetto. This same building was formerly used to house women prisoners when Theresienstadt was a ghetto and a transit camp.

The Magdeburg building extends from one end of the block to the other and has a series of three interior courtyards, one of which is shown in the photograph below. The Dresden barracks for women has an identical courtyard, but the Dresden building was not open to tourists when I visited.

The prisoners played soccer in the courtyard shown in the photo below.

Magdeburg courtyard

Magdeburg courtyard (click on photo to enlarge)

The Magdeburg building was also used to house the offices of the Jewish “self government” during the ghetto days. [Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein was part of the “self government]”

The Art Museum at Terezin, which is located in the former Magdeburg barracks, shown in the photo above, is devoted to the artwork produced in the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Before World War II, the German people were considered to be the most cultured in the world. Art and music had such importance for them that they allowed cultural events in even the worst of the concentration camps, and encouraged the prisoners to create art and music in what little free time they had.

Every concentration camp had its orchestra, made up of inmate musicians, and concerts were staged even in the worst camp of all, the one at Birkenau, the Auschwitz II camp.

Typically, the camp orchestra would play classical music as the prisoners marched off to the factories to work and even as they [allegedly] marched to their deaths in the gas chamber.

During the week of cultural events in June 1944, on the occasion of the Red Cross visit, there were performances of Brundibar in the Magdeburg building.

The prisoners were allowed to do art work in the concentration camps, although not what Hitler called “degenerate” art. Hitler favored classic art or beautiful pictures, as opposed to modern art or realistic drawings depicting the horrors of the camps.

The prisoners had to hide their drawings and paintings that the Nazis didn’t approve of, but they had the courage to produce this art, even with the threat of death if they were found out.

In 1944, the Nazis discovered some of the “degenerate” artwork illicitly done in the camp, and sent the artists and their families to the Gestapo prison in the Small Fortress across the river from the ghetto. Only one of them survived the harsh conditions in the Small Fortress.

Although several of the Nazi concentration camps, such as Majdanek, Buchenwald and Auschwitz, had artists who sketched, painted or sculpted, leaving works of art which are now displayed in the museums there, the Theresienstadt ghetto was unique for the sheer volume of artwork that the prisoners produced during the war.

Taking advantage of the many famous artists who were incarcerated in Theresienstadt, the Nazis set up a drafting workshop in the ghetto where the Jews had to use their talents to produce blueprints for the Germans.

The Jewish artists in the Theresienstadt ghetto were also commissioned to do paintings for the SS headquarters.

=======

Meanwhile, what was I doing during the years that the Jews were living in luxury in Theresienstadt?  Was I doing artwork, under the supervision of expert teachers?  Was I playing music?  Was I playing soccer in a courtyard?

NO, NO, NO, a thousand times NO.  I  was living in a wood frame house with no central heat and no indoor plumbing.  I was sleeping on a mattress made of corn husks. I did not have an art teacher.  I barely had a box of crayons. In spite of this, I do not refer to my childhood as “that time of Darkness.”

37 Comments »

  1. FURTHERGLORY! i have just now made my comment on the articles about Theresienstadt on the webside of the USHMM quoting that my essays are available for downloading on Your Website.
    Noteworthy that I found cumbersome to contact that Temple of Shoah business and too difficult – at least for me – to search subject ob their site.

    Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — October 1, 2015 @ 10:20 am

    • I just went to the website of the USHMM and I did not see any place for comments. I don’t think that the USHMM would make a link to my website. You should ask the USHMM to publish your essays, not link to my website.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 1, 2015 @ 11:07 am

      • Furtherglory! i noted that that Temple of SHOAH business is still at 2013 with comments on the article concerning RED CROSS VISIT at Theresienstadt. You should already understand that I am not well acepted there so I can only state the links of articles on website as they certainly would not accept the sort of my usual contributions. I am angry indeed.

        Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — October 1, 2015 @ 1:33 pm

  2. It’s important to acknowledge that many children during WW II also suffered, not just Jewish children. Soviet and Chinese children also suffered because their countries were occupied. German children suffered through the allied bombings, their deportation from Eastern Europe during and after the war and the occupation of their country after the war. Polish children suffered under the dual occupation of the Soviets and the Germans.
    I wanted to make this comment to forestall any, “You only care about Jewish children” comments coming my way.

    Comment by HCW — September 29, 2015 @ 10:56 am

    • HCW: I am studying history aiming to know the reasons of the event I passed through since I was a little boy. In my opinion the intellectual class – from philopher and theologians to teachers and priests/pastors etc. – had had great responsbility in spraying of hatred by slanderous statements in books, artciles, speeches, poems, sermons, etc. So David Ben Gurion as Angela Merkel ask that history ought to studied with the aim that certain events could not occure again. Certain ideas appear very noble but result in causing great disasters.
      At Versailles President Wilson and the other “statesmen” pretended very noble ideas but, actually, they laid the poison which led to the rise on power of dictators – from Mussolini to Hitler – and to WWII with all tragedies connected. I believe that even without Hitler WWII would have broken out and, anyway, causing great sufferences to East European Jews.
      Unfortunately I could not work out and submit my doctor dissertation on SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CAUSES OF WWII as Professor for Economic History at Rome had been the antisemite Amintore Fanfani, in 1961 prime minister and leader of the Chatholic Party.
      I wrote – but could not publish – a SUMMARY OF SHOAH HISTORY in Italian; a politically right wing friend said: At least a reasonable sumary.
      Could we cooperate in our studies?
      Best.

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 30, 2015 @ 12:20 am

      • I would like that, what do you have in mind?

        Comment by HCW — September 30, 2015 @ 5:04 am

        • HCW: For the beginning You will find on the WEBSITE of the present Site fine essays of mine pubblished some years ago where You can get my personale e-mail adress for contacts. About the same subjects I wrote also in German pubblished by the site shoa.de
          My effort is to connect the Holocaust events with the general history of Europe from 1870 until the State of Israel. There are so social as economic causes of the rise of social unrest in the last three decades of century XIX and before WWI. Problems in no way mastered and rather worsened with WWI and Versailles Treaty. So I explain the rise on power of Mussolini, Ataturk, Horthy, Hitler and other right wing dictators. The Western Countries – UK and France – failed to see the problems and so Austria, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria became more o less fascist ruled. Compelling the Weimar Germany Democracy to pay by cash great reparations burden on people became very heavy and so nationalist antisemite populist propaganda had more and more acceptance. Having people in Germany, Austria, Hungary heavy economic problems to face in order to make end’s meet the new East European States established at Versailles had difficulties for the sale of their agricoltural products on their usual consumer market. Viceversa, German Industry had more difficulties to market its products on the usual East European Market. With the 1929 crisis due to the uncontrolled Wall Street Stock Exchange in Germany and Austria a big problem of unemployment arose leading in 1933 to the rise on power of Hitler and of the austro-fascist regime in Austria. Germany, the greatest loser of WWI, got allied with the unsatisfied winners Italy and Japan and with the other loser Hungary. Furthermore the autoritarian regime of Poland believed to have in Nazi Germany the best ally against URSS ignoring that the racist doctrine wanted no only the destruction of Jewish people but also the enslavering ot Polish people. So the second part of the suicide of Europe could start. Results well known.
          Needless to say that for Versailles Treaty I blame mainly President Wilson who, entering WWI, made impossible the efforts of Pope Benedict XV to get European States to agree on a Reasonìble Peace and then imposed the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy which even UK considered as an “Order Power” in Central Europe.
          These are the ideas I have in mind. Your opinion – so as the opinion of any other reader of this site – will be highly apreciated.
          Best.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 30, 2015 @ 6:58 am

          • Sure, I’m at work right now, I may not have time to look over the things you’ve written until this weekend. I come here to look over what is posted when I get tired of reading cases.

            Comment by HCW — September 30, 2015 @ 7:08 am

          • Excellent article. I agree with everything that you wrote. I am glad to see that you must be feeling much better.

            Comment by furtherglory — September 30, 2015 @ 7:09 am

            • Furtherglory! Would You pubblish on the WEB SITE an essay that would be the summary of the SHORT STORY OF THE SHOAH FROM EARLY ROOTS TO THE STATE OF ISRAEL I wrote in Italian where this thesis is expressed? Instead of many arguments a study of the historical background of events discussed here.

              Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 30, 2015 @ 11:04 am

          • I have a few minutes so I’d like to say I agree with what you’ve said and add a few things.
            First, Wilson was very much an idealist and I think his intentions were good. The problem that Wilson, and frankly the British, faced was the obstinate French desire for revenge against Germany. The French saw the German defeat as an opportunity to rid themselves of the German threat once and for all. Accordingly they pushed for the harshest terms they could get, including either the annexation of the Rhineland or the creation of a buffer state in the Rhineland under French control. The US and British refused to allow this but otherwise the French basically got what they wanted, including the enormous reparations levied against Germany.
            The biggest issues for Germany regarding Versailles were the reparations, the loss of their territory and the limitations placed upon their military. Also, most unreasonably and in violation of long standing European tradition where the defeated power is allowed their voice in any treaty negotiations, the allies refused to allow Germany to participate in creating the treaty. Other issues included the allies refusal to allow Austria to cede with Germany. Naturally, German anger was fueled by their feelings of betrayal at Wilson and his rhetoric. The Germans believed that by getting rid of the Kaiser and forming a Republic this would help get them more favorable terms. They were sadly disabused of this notion when they were given the Versailles Treaty and told to sign. Adding to all of this was the continued allied blockade which caused millions of Germans, including children, to suffer (I find this to be a disgraceful act on the part of the allies).
            The upshot of all of this was that 1919 you have a Europe divided into a multitude of states with significant minorities wanting to go home (the Sudetenland Germans, the Ukrainians and Belorussians in Poland, the Hungarians, etc.), an angry Germany, temporarily weakened but still with great power potential, the aggrieved Italians and Japanese, feeling cheated and a newly burgeoning Soviet Empire, weakened by civil war but with its own great power potential. You also have nascent Communists rebellions that you mentioned. These are quickly crushed but leave their own scars ready to be torn open at a moments notice. By 1920 the Soviets and the Polish have completed their own war, Poland wins but this only fuels Soviet desires for revenge.
            Have to get back to work, look forward to your reply.

            Comment by HCW — September 30, 2015 @ 9:58 am

            • HCW! I feel You do not need my cooperation what European history concerns as the above is a very good summary to introduce that study of historical background of the Holocaust that is really needed. Best.

              Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 30, 2015 @ 2:36 pm

      • You must be feeling better. Your writing has improved and I am very impressed.

        Comment by furtherglory — September 30, 2015 @ 6:50 am

  3. Furtherglory, Jett Rucker. At Theresienstadt any form of teaching – and especially art lessons – had been strictly forbidden so as already in the Reich for Jews. Yes, a form for theaching had been worked out as the Commander accepted that children had to be occupied and this made some educational work possible. Art lessons had been impossible and, anyway, forbidden. The painters that tried to show real conditions had been taken to the LITLE FORTRESS; only one survived. There had been musical performances but the Ghetto certainly was not a center of musical culture. The same applies to Buchenwald, Majdanek, Auschwitz and other Death and Concentration Camps. I am not in the SHOAH BUSINESS and do not enjoy any sympathy or awe. As a true Holocaust survivor I have mainly to cope with related health problems. The above post is, at least, not at the usual level of this site and should be cancelled. I am really angry.

    Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 28, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

  4. One of the great tragedies of my life was when I left my precious box of crayons out in the sun, and they melted.

    At that time, Wolf was having art lessons and playing soccer at Theresienstadt. But the only thing he remembers is “that time of darkness.” This is essentially why the Germans kicked the Jews to the curb. One could never bow low enough to the Jews. Finally, the Germans just gave up and Holocausted them. Now they are coming back to Germany….

    Comment by furtherglory — September 28, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

    • Furtherglory! At Theresienstadt I never had art lesson nor played soccer. Yes those had been times of darkness for Europe. The Nazis followed the old German program to destruct the Jews and keep other peoples – mainly the slavonic – in slavery. You in USA do not study European history and so do not understand events occured. And You, unfortunately, are not ecception. In the event You cannot stand my writngs I will unsubscribe.

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 28, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

        • Furtherglory! Thaks for the quotation of these websites which I will carefully watch and then point out errors found.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 12:50 am

          • Furtherglory! I already read some of the articles on ushmm.org site refering to Theresienstadt. I will read again and think about the right form for comment them. Will inform You accordingly. At any rate I noted that they do not mention that only the embellishment action started by Benjamin Murmelstein in November 1944 obtained that Eichmann at his inspection visit of March 5 1945 agred on the important visit of the International Red Cross of April 6 1945. At the end of that visit Murmelstein took a sudden opportunity to launch – at heavy personal risk – an appeal for help suddely caught by the Delegates. Furthermore the first commander Seidl had been put on trial in Austria where he commanded the camps of the Hungarian Jews. Best.

            Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 10:24 am

      • When I went to visit the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I saw hundreds of examples of children’s artwork in the basement of the Museum. Are you saying that these paintings, which were mostly water colors, are fake?

        Comment by furtherglory — September 28, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

      • Are you saying that the artwork shown on this website is fake? http://kurioso.es/english-2/the-kids-who-lived-and-drew-the-holocaust/

        Comment by furtherglory — September 28, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

        • Obviously this is a personal subject for you so I want to tread lightly here.
          First, none of the adults and children were there by choice. While this was considered a “privileged ghetto” the people interned there still experienced hardship.
          Second, I don’t blame the people interned there, especially the artists, doing what they could to alleviate their fear. Other ghetto inhabitants did the same. I read that doctors in the Warsaw Ghetto actually documented the effects of starvation on themselves.
          Third, I don’t know if you looked at the pictures you linked to but they are horrible. I’ve seen the same types of pictures drawn by sexually abused children. There is no joy in them, the children that experienced what was in those pictures had their innocence stripped away from them.
          Fourth, who, and what, are you angry at?
          Fifth, you said “the Germans gave up and holocausted them.” Are you saying that innocent men, women and children deserved to die because of some grievance over their status? I’m assuming a lot of this has to do with German Jews, does all of this apply to Polish, French, Czech, Belgian, etc. Jews that had nothing to do with how German Jews (allegedly) behaved?

          Comment by HCW — September 28, 2015 @ 6:02 pm

          • You are correct that the pictures in the link are horrible. I searched and searched and could not find a website which shows the paintings, done by the children, that I have seen in several museums. The paintings in the link prove that the children were painting at Theresienstadt, although they were probably doing these paintings in secret at the camp, or these paintings could have been done later, after the children were no longer prisoners in Theresienstadt.

            Comment by furtherglory — September 29, 2015 @ 6:28 am

          • I wrote a blog post about the difference between German art and Jewish art, two styles that were vastly different: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/entartete-kunst-degenerate-art/

            Comment by furtherglory — September 29, 2015 @ 6:48 am

        • Furtherglory. These drawings had been a secret work, certainly not result of art lessons. The SS looked for such art work in order to send the authors to ….

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 12:38 am

          • I agree that these drawings were done in secret, but now you are admitting that the children had paint and paper with which to do drawings or paintings. You admit that the SS knew that the children were painting and that they looked at the paintings. You admit that the children who did horrible paintings were punished by being sent to some other place, which you do not name.

            I blogged about the artwork done at Buchenwald and other camps at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/artwork-done-by-the-prisoners-in-the-concentration-camps/

            Comment by furtherglory — September 29, 2015 @ 6:37 am

            • Furtherglory! Had You been a police men? Indeed this form of evaluating my answers is police manner. I never admitted that we had proper paint and drawing paper. Drawing of children had been done using any kind of piece of paper available, clearly the SS did not know about this. The children whose drawings are shown or pubblished had been sent away because their parents had not been considered “necessary workers”. Any version about children punished by the SS for their drawings is a tipical SHOAH BUSINESS product usefull only for the negationist propaganda.
              At this moment I cannot answer the remark about the work done by the professional painters. Furthermore I strongly doubt that in other Camps any artwork could be done.

              Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 8:27 am

        • Furtherglory. I will watch them again and then answer question.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 1:00 am

        • Those of Helga Weissowa show real scenes of Theresienstadt. Abouth the others I cannot express opinion; at any rate those pictures show the real condition of those times of darkness.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 10:10 am

          • What struck me about the pictures was the look on these children’s faces, they were utterly desolate.
            It’s sad that any child should have to go through that. To be young and not be allowed to be a child……
            And these are the lucky ones, the ones not sent to Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec and Chelmno. Not to mention those shot on the Eastern Front or sent to other labor or concentration camps.

            Comment by HCW — September 29, 2015 @ 10:38 am

  5. Maybe Dr. Murmelstein enjoys the sympathy and awe he commands as a “survivor of the Holocaust.”

    I’m sure I would. But then, I’m not among the Chosen. Maybe they’re above such things.

    Comment by Jett Rucker — September 28, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

    • Jett Rucker! You certainly have not the related health problems I have to cope with. Comments like Yours here are like poison for a true Holocaust survivor who is not in the Shoah business. You lack of any respect for human feelings of pain and sorrow.

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 12:58 am

      • You don’t know what health problems Jett Rucker might have. He is younger than you, but that doesn’t mean that he has no health problems. As for respect for human feelings, the writing done by Jett shows that he is a very sensitive person.

        Comment by furtherglory — September 29, 2015 @ 7:03 am

        • Furtherglory! Here I do not agree at all. Indeed my health problems are strongly connected with events I passed through. This ironical comment here show little respect for human feeling and sorrow of a true Hollocaust survivor.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 29, 2015 @ 8:31 am


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