UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Art from within : an encounter with holocaust art from the Terezin ghetto Meli, Sarah


Terezin, located in what is now called Prague, Czechoslovakia, functioned as a Holocaust ghetto for the incarceration of Jews during the Second World War. Creating an image of a ‘model camp’ for its detained elite Europeans of economic and intellectual wealth, certain leeway was given to mask the reality of the situation. Being allowed to teach art to children, having a Drawing Office, and providing an Art Workshop, resulted in Terezin being one of the ghettos/camps in which thousands of art pieces were produced by children, youths, and adults. With a focus on the artwork made between the period of 1942 and 1944, a number of images were studied in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, USA, as well as artifacts accessed through the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Canada. As a non-Jewish, Mediterranean art educator trained in Western institutions with no known ties to those deported to Terezin, personal responses to the experience of the encounter were recorded while asking the Deleuzian instructive question of “how does it work?” rather than “what does it mean?.” The a/r/tographical practice was informed by and through, the journey that was taken to access the archives. In selecting seven works, notions of witnessing, intrusion, victimization, clash of religious values, and the unspoken aspects of the ‘typical’ are discussed. The process of understanding what the art became to the self through the encounter with original Terezin artwork, led to the production of an art piece that translates the connections found when sifting through the moments of being with camp art. Recommendations for further research include studies on art from and about the Holocaust camps and ghettos, on the education system that was designed and practiced in Terezin, as well as a recommendation of studying the music, literary, and theatre arts that were also practiced in the spaces of the researched Holocaust ghetto. Through an exploration of the variety of art forms and silent curricula of Terezin, such studies could convey the type, appreciation, and significance of cultural presence that secretly thrived and, furthermore, support connections with the voices of Holocaust deportees.

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