Children and the Arts During the Holocaust

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search

Front Page

May Bar and Barbara Botner
Nellie Deutsch
April 23, 2009


When we were told about the topic of our English Project – the holocaust, we immediately thought about Jewish children that lived on those terrible years and who tried to express themselves using their artistic talents. In addition, the fact that influenced our decision was Ellie Wiesel's book "Night" which had a strong impression on us. We based our research on two kinds of artistic expression; writing and paintings. Both describe life in ghettos through the eyes of innocent children. We wish to mention that we shared our ideas with children from Colorado, U.S.A and, surprisingly, they knew a lot about our topic. Their interest and cooperation was wonderful and made us wanting to learn more about the children living during the Holocaust and their artistic ways of expression.

Research Question

How did children during the holocaust express their feelings through different forms of art?

Chapter One

Holocaust children and their writing

Chapter Two

Children expressing their world through painting

Chapter One

Holocaust Children and Their Writing:

The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank's diary

A quote from Anne's diary: "I see the eight of us with our 'Secret Annexe' as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. Now we are so surrounded by danger and darkness that we bump against each other, as we search desperately for a means of escape. We all look down below, where people are fighting each other, we look above, where it is quiet and beautiful, and meanwhile we are cut off by the great dark mass, which will not let us go upwards, but which stands before us as an impenetrable wall; it tries to crush us, but cannot do so yet. I can only cry and implore: 'Oh, if only the black circle could recede and open the way for us!'"

Anne Frank's diary began as a private expression of her thoughts and she wrote several times that she would never allow anyone to read it. She described her life, her family and companions, and their situation, while beginning to recognize her ambition to write fiction for publication. In her diary she described her life during the Holocaust as 'a little piece of blue heaven' which may be destroyed in a moment without any early warning. She used a lot of comparisons to express her strong feelings and complicated situations.

A Dream by Abraham Koplowicz

When I grow up and reach the age of 20, I'll set out to see the enchanting world. I'll take a seat in a bird with a motor; I'll rise and soar high into space. I'll fly, sail, hover over the lovely faraway world. I'll soar over rivers and ocean Skyward shall I ascend and blossom, A cloud my sister, the wind my brother.

This wonderful poem reflects the poet's dream to be free, to escape the sad reality, 'to fly, to sail' without any worry and to wonder at the beauty of this world in contrast to the ugliness of his existence.

Each of Us Has a Name By: Zelda

Each of us has a name given by God and given by our parents.

Each of us has a name given by our stature and our smile and given by what we wear.

Each of us has a name given by our sins and given by our longing.

Each of us has a name given by our enemies and given by our love.

Each of us has a name given by the sea and given by our death.

Zelda tried to emphasize the fact that any one has an identity that characterizes him, and no one can take it away. In her poem she described the different meanings of names that were given uniquely to every person in the world without racism.

The Diary of Petr Ginz

A quote from Petr's diary 'They do this for only one purpose-to destroy! Not us physically, but spiritually and morally. Will they succeed? Never! Deprived of our former sources of culture, we shall create new ones.'

Before his transport (1941-1942) Petr wrote a about his life. This diary was lost for a long time but was found and published by his sister Eva; she decided to call it: "Diary of my brother". The surviving diary was written in Theresienstat, where he spent the last two years of his life. According to his sister, in addition to the diaries, he had written eight novels and countless short stories by the age of 14. With limited access to the camp's library of books confiscated from the prisoners, he read everything he could. He made up a secret alphabet to record sensitive information, such as the place in his coat lining where his parents had hidden extra money, or how his aunt warned him to avoid "bad" girls. In this little quote of Pert's diary, we can se how much faith he had and how he believed that nothing can take away the Jews life. He insisted that no matter where they will be, no matter how much pain they will have to go threw, the Germans would not take away nothing that forms part of their lives, culture and beliefs. Those are the little things that Petr shows us in his diary, simple words with huge meanings and intentions.

Chapter Two

Children expressing their world through painting

Petr Ginz

Petr Ginz was a 14 years old boy in the Theresienstat ghetto. During his incarceration in the ghetto, he drew a picture of the earth's view from the moon. This picture was called "Moon Landscape" and a copy of it was taken by the astronaut Ilan Ramon to the space. He took it with him in purpose to commemorate his family members who were killed in Auschwitz. Petr expressed in the "Moon Landscape" his will to reach a new place, a far place from earth because of the impossible reality he passed. In fact, the famous picture is a symbol of the connection between dreams of a Jewish boy in the Holocaust that never came true to the journey of a Jewish astronaut who is a symbol of our revival.

Beri Oberlander

"Death of my Mother" drew by four year-old Beri (Bobbi) Oberlander. Beri explained to his nanny at the Theresienstat ghetto: "When the Gestapo came to our house, Mommy got scared and jumped out the window". Beri died in Auschwitz. The fact that a four years old child understood the horrible situation show us that children at the holocaust were mentally older than their real age. Usually, a four years old child doesn't understand everything and even if he does, he's not available to express this.

Yeuda Bacon

Yeuda Bacon, born in Moravia, was deported with his family to Theresienstat and later sent to Auschwitz, were he worked as an assistant counselor in the children's block. As an artist from children hood he became well-known as a painter after he came to Israel. In many cases, children became breadwinners and gave their parents the encouragement and hope to continue their daily struggle for survival, and that's something that wasn't regular for those children before. However, whenever they could be children like they were before the war, they played, laughed, were creative and expressed their fears and hopes through just like Yeuda Bacon who painted a lot of paintings that expressed his fears at the concentration camps. In these pictures he described the hard survival in the ghetto and the temptation to give up about the precious life.


Through this project we acquired a lot of important skills such as understanding difficult texts in English. As a result our vocabulary improved. In addition, we learned how to type quicker in English. We hope that all these skills will be useful in the future. We also learned more about the difficult childhood of the children who lived during the Holocaust. We widened our knowledge with regard to the horrible reality of those children and their deep feelings. We were amazed about the way that those children could express their feelings through incredible paintings and songs. We were especially amazed about the straight that they had. We realized that those children were forced to grow up mentally faster then a regular childe because of the situation, and sometimes even they took care of their parents. It was a wonderful project, very interesting and deep. We enjoyed doing it and we hope that you enjoyed it too.


  4. Yad vashem museum (Jerusalem) / Yad LaYeled.




Children Art

Research question

  • How did children express themselves using art during the Holocaust?


How to do the Bagrut Project