Newsletter 1/2018 | Newsletter

Newsletter 1/2018

Beit Terezin – A Unique Memorial in Israel

Beit Terezin Museum with a floor mosaic depicting the Terezín Ghetto.

Beit Terezin Museum with a floor mosaic depicting the Terezín Ghetto.

Even though the foundation stone to Beit Terezin (also known as Beit Theresienstadt) had been laid already in the late 1960s, the State of Israel officially recognized it as a Holocaust museum (only the third in the country!) as late as in 2011. The reasons are evident. In a way, Beit Terezin had to carve up its own niche in a country where the Holocaust figures as one of the central themes of social life; it had to prove that it was a full-fledged museological institution whose significance would not diminish in the company of the country´s main state Holocaust museum – Yad Vashem. It was a long journey indeed, driven by modest but persistent efforts. The people who stood and still stand behind this remarkable story deserve profound respect.

There were several reasons for the establishment of a memorial institution commemorating the Terezín Ghetto victims in the 1960s; first and foremost, it was a sense of reverence and responsibility towards the wartime victims from Central Europe. This special purpose was wonderfully served by the kibbutz Giv’at Haim Ihud where quite a number of Czechoslovak, German and Austrian Holocaust survivors found their shelter after the war (interestingly enough, the first Jewish Elder of the Terezín Ghetto Jakob Edelstein with his family1 had planned to travel to and settle in that particular kibbutz after the war – but destiny reigned otherwise – since the family was murdered in the Auschwitz I concentration camp). The second cogent argument for the foundation of the memorial at such a great distance from “the crime scene” was the prevailing way of presenting the Ghetto history in the then Czechoslovakia – in actual fact, its communist regime had systematically suppressed any mention or knowledge of the Ghetto and of its Jewish victims. Indeed, any Ghetto Museum at that time existed solely in the “drawers” of the employees of the Terezín Memorial (school groups were then shown only around the Small Fortress, the Ghetto seemed to be out of bounds to visitors). At the end of the 1960s, Prague´s Pinkas Synagogue containing the names of all the victims was again closed down and it was to be expected that this situation would hardly change after August 1968.

It should be noted that similar memorials gradually appeared in Israel – in this case, Beit Terezin ranks among the broader mainstream of attempts on the part of the Holocaust survivors to commemorate their “lost” community, municipality, ghetto or place of their suffering.

However, Beit Terezin has been exceptional in a way since its foundation: it was not designed solely as a memorial to recall the tragic past; the Theresienstadt Martyrs Remembrance Association (founded in 1966) agreed on building a joint center – a kind of multifunctional venue suitable not only for meetings of the Holocaust survivors but also for memorial ceremonies, research and education. Therefore, an archive, library or a classroom were also planned. A unique quality of the project was its location in the centre of a kibbutz – so that it could also serve its inhabitants for their own cultural pursuits.

Exhibition in Beit Terezin devoted to the children in the Terezín Ghetto.

Exhibition in Beit Terezin devoted to the children in the Terezín Ghetto.

The foundation stone to the memorial was ceremonially laid in 1969 but many years had to elapse before its opening – the key issue was to find financial resources, and there was not much money around (members of the Association agreed, for instance, to chip in one tenth of their monthly salaries). But if you happen to visit Beit Terezin today you will be astounded. The architectural design of the site is truly unique (its author is a former Terezín Ghetto inmate, architect Albin Glaser). The whole memorial stands on a hillock surrounded by tall trees, blossoming shrubs and flowers. Having ascended the hillock you will find yourself in a sun-lit space from which you can easily get to one of the buildings lining the central square. The heart of the memorial is the museum building designed by Glaser as a brick dodecagon structure resembling the Terezín fortification. As you open the big gate you find yourself in a smallish round room and you immediately notice that you are standing in the Terezín Ghetto, which stretches out directly under your feet on the museum´s floor in the shape of a mosaic. The wooden opening panels on the walls (another allusion to the Ghetto where all the furniture was hand-made from wooden planks) contain an exhibition devoted to several main subjects, such as, for instance, everyday life in the Ghetto, its Jewish Self-Administration or transports. When visiting the Beit Terezin compound, you can view, in addition to its central building, other specialized displays dedicated to the life of children in the Ghetto (effectively utilizing various artifacts from the Beit Terezin archives: for example, the children´s magazine Kamarád or game of Monopoly made in the ghetto), Terezín´s music and sport, soccer in particular.

The complex comprises the above-mentioned archives whose key asset is a card index listing more than 150,000 Ghetto inmates; it also features other graphic or musical artifacts, documents, photographs etc. The archives library contains some 5,000 books, periodicals, documentaries, photocopies of sheet music etc.

Since 1993 the Education Center, offering educational programs not only to Israeli schoolchildren of various age groups but also to their teachers, university students, servicemen or senior citizens, has been a major part of the memorial. The aspirations of the founders of Beit Terezin, as expressed in its deed of foundation, namely the words: “…we do not want to erect a statue just to commemorate them (our deceased friends), an object symbolizing past suffering that would not be a bridge to the future… “, have come true to the full. The dedicated and patient work pursued by many generations has come to fruition – Beit Terezin is a modern institution that has found its own path into the 21st century.

Kl

From the Terezín Memorial´s Depository

Cinerary Urn of Hermine Mayer as a Recollection of One of the Fates of Austrian and German Jews in the Terezín Ghetto

Cinerary urn of Hermine Mayer today, Terezín Memorial, PT 377.

Cinerary urn of Hermine Mayer today, Terezín Memorial, PT 377.

One of the few 3D collection items, recalling the fate of more than 47,000 German and Austrian Jews deported to Terezín in 1942, is the cinerary urn of Hermine Mayer. The urn was found in 1958 near the former Richard underground factory where the Nazis had ordered one part of the ashes of the deceased Ghetto inmates to be buried in November 1944.

Hermine was born on November 21, 1864 at Hostomice pod Brdy as the first child of Wilhelm and Julie Kauders. The family moved from Hostomice to Spálené Poříčí where Wilhelm taught at a German Jewish school, at least between 1867 and 1876, and where Hermine´s six siblings were born. In later years, the family moved to Höchst (now a quarter of Frankfurt am Mainz) where sisters Hermine and Mathilde Kauders set up a shop selling textiles in 1894. In the fall of 1896, Hermine married Max Mayer and three children were born to the couple – Gertrude (1898), Erich (1900) and Curt (1905). Max died in 1910 and after his death Hermine managed to run the shop herself for another two years. In 1916 she moved with her children in Höchst to a new house on Konrad-Glatt-Straße. Gertrude attended a local secondary school and thanks to her further studies she attained qualification of a certified accountant, and then worked as a secretary in a Jewish company. This business was forced to wind up at the end of the 1930s. Gertrude figured among the founding members of the Jüdischen-Jugend-Bund Höchst, mostly co-organizing its youth evenings. After finishing their studies at a high school, her brothers Erich and Curt worked as tradesmen.

Cinerary urn of Hermine Mayer – after its find in 1958, Terezín Memorial, Documentary Dept. – Photoarchive.

Cinerary urn of Hermine Mayer – after its find in 1958, Terezín Memorial, Documentary Dept. – Photoarchive.

After the Nazis came to power in Germany the regime gradually introduced measures aimed at forcing the Jews out of the country´s economic and social life. First, in September 1939, Hermine and Gertrude Mayer had to move into one of the houses in which the Jews from Frankfurt were concentrated, and then, on September 16, 1942, they were deported by transport XII/3 to Terezín. By that time, Hermine already suffered from severe gout and was committed to a wheelchair. Living in the Kavalír barracks, where old Terezín Ghetto inmates languished, she rapidly lost her will to live and died on October 3, 1942. On October 16, 1944, Gertrude was deported by transport Er to Auschwitz where she probably perished in its gas chamber immediately after arrival.

Stolperstein devoted to Hermine Mayer, source: Internet.

Stolperstein devoted to Hermine Mayer, source: Internet.

The sons of Hermine Mayer managed to emigrate from Germany in time. Erich with his family moved to France and after that country was occupied by Nazi Germany he joined the French underground resistance movement. Later on, he succeeded in leaving Europe and joined de Gaulle´s Free French Forces. He fought in Africa and after the invasion of Normandy he took part in the liberation of the country that had given him shelter before the war. He died in Dijon in October 1979. Curt had immigrated to Palestine and in the early 1980s he was still living in Jerusalem.

The so-called Stolpersteine, cobblestone-size concrete cubes bearing brass plates with the names of the victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime, set in the pavement in front of the relevant houses, have also been placed since 2009 in front of the building in Konrad-Glatt-Straße No. 3 in Höchst where Hermine and Gertrude Mayer had spent 23 years of their lives.

Ra

Meeting of the European Members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience in the Terezín Memorial

Working groups during workshop, the attic theatre of the Magdeburg Barracks, photo: Linda Norris.

Working groups during workshop, the attic theatre of the Magdeburg Barracks, photo: Linda Norris.

Between November 17 and 19, 2017 the Terezín Memorial hosted representatives of the European members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) at a gathering held under the motto: Inspiration for a New Generation. One of the major goals of the Coalition is to involve young people in taking an active part in discussions on various historical events, frequently from the recent past, events that might seem to be complex and controversial but that should not be forgotten.

A varied program was prepared for the participants who came to Terezín from all corners of Europe. Its key section opened with presentations of the current projects carried out by the participating institutions. For its part, the Terezín Memorial, as one of the founding members of the Coalition, unveiled its projects launched in co-operation with the ICSC; the latest of these, Being at School in the War Years (1938 – 1945) is still ongoing. Presentations were followed by debates focused on the potential direction of the ISCS´s work and collaboration with its member institutions.

The meeting was also designed to facilitate closer acquaintance with the Terezín Memorial itself, its history and the objects it administers. Its offer of activities came complete with a fact-finding visit to the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, with the attendees learning about the Institute´s agenda, its archives and programs for school-age youth.

Se

Autumn Seminars for Schoolteachers

Seminar attendees during their visit to Beit Terezin, November 2017.

Seminar attendees during their visit to Beit Terezin, November 2017.

The 13th educational seminar was held at the turn of October and November 2017 in the Jerusalem memorial Yad Vashem. Co-organized by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth of the Czech Republic and the Terezín Memorial, the seminar was attended by 18 Czech schoolteachers.

Its program, aimed at broadening the participants´ knowledge of the various aspects of Holocaust history, and at introducing them to the current teaching methods on the Holocaust, consisted of a number of lectures and hands-on workshops. The specialized section of the program was opened by Professor Yehuda Bauer who delivered a lecture headlined The Holocaust and Genocide in the 21st Century, followed by lectures given by other experts, primarily from Yad Vashem. During presentations of the results of their own teaching methods on the topic under discussion, some of the seminar participants set forth their educational projects, sharing with other schoolteachers the educational models applicable at Czech schools.

An integral part of the annual program is a series of activities taking place outside Yad Vashem. This time these included guided sightseeing visits to the Masada Fortress, Jerusalem´s Old City, a short visit to Sabbath celebrations in a synagogue etc. A truly unforgettable experience of the seminar was a visit to the Beit Terezin Memorial. Its participants had an opportunity to view there, among other items, some of the museum´s collections, and attended a debate with Mr. Peter Lang, survivor of the Terezín Ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps.

Scene from the pupil´s film Klíč (The Key).

Scene from the pupil´s film Klíč (The Key).

Between November 23 and 26, 2017, the Terezín Memorial played host to the 17th International Seminar Holocaust in Education, held jointly by the Memorial and the Czech Republic´s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. It was attended by 52 Czech schoolteacher who, as compared with the first-level seminar, had a chance to attend lectures and model workshops led by lecturers not only from Czech institutions (charity organization People in Need, the Jewish Museum in Prague), but also by lecturers from abroad (the Israeli memorial Yad Vashem, Poland´s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education, the Heroic Imagination Project, the German House of the Wannsee Conference, the Anna Frank House in the Netherlands, and the Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences).

The program also featured presentations of the participants´ own projects or examples of the works made by pupils from the Trmice elementary school who, under the guidance of their teachers Jindřiška Waňková and Jitka Löblová, succeeded, for instance, in shooting animated films on the topics in hand. During an evening cultural program the seminar attendees could watch the full-length film Daleká cesta (Long Journey, 1948), performance of the Disman Radio Children´s Ensemble with the opera Brundibár and Jaroslav Achab Hailder´s theater performance Mr. Theodor Mundstock.

Su+Ka

The Holocaust Remembrance Day in Terezín – Joint Czech-German Act of Commemoration

Debate with Holocaust survivors – Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová (right) and Mr. Felix Kolmer (left) during a commemorative act on the Day of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims, Small Fortress, Terezín Memorial, photo: Radim Nytl

Debate with Holocaust survivors – Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová (right) and Mr. Felix Kolmer (left) during a commemorative act on the Day of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims, Small Fortress, Terezín Memorial, photo: Radim Nytl

Attended by officials representing the Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, an act of remembrance was held in Terezín on January 24, 2018 to mark the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. The purpose of the Terezín gathering was to hand over the legacy passed on by the victims of Nazism to the current young generation, represented, in this case, by several dozen students from the Friedrich Schiller Czech-German Bilingual High School in the Saxon town of Pirna.

Studenti z gymnázia Friedricha Schillera v Pirně, připomínka Dne památky obětí holokaustu, Národní hřbitov, Památník Terezín, foto: Radim Nytl.

Studenti z gymnázia Friedricha Schillera v Pirně, připomínka Dne památky obětí holokaustu, Národní hřbitov, Památník Terezín, foto: Radim Nytl.

In his opening speech, Mr. Jan Roubínek, Director of the Terezín Memorial, welcomed the attending officials and guests. Then Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová, a former Terezín Ghetto inmate, recollected her wartime imprisonment in Terezín. Her address was followed by speeches delivered by young high school students from Pirna. In conclusion, the Dresden Rabbi Andreas Nachama offered a prayer, and flowers were laid in the National Cemetery to honor the memory of the Holocaust victims For the students and official guests, the program continued with a visit to Terezín´s Small Fortress, the site of the Terezín Police Prison in the years 1940-1945, and a debate with Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová and Mr. Felix Kolmer, also a former Terezín Ghetto inmate.

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