Over the last few issues of the Terezín Memorial Newsletter, we have introduced three children’s magazines that originated in the ghetto, namely Vedem, Domov and Kamarád. Before we go on to bring you more detailed information on several others (Bonaco, Hlas půdy Q 306, Noviny, Rim Rim Rim) in the future, we would like to take some time to contemplate the meaning of children’s magazines the ghetto and the role they played in the lives of the ghetto’s children.
The main feature all of the magazines share is that they were part of organization of daily schedule in heims (homes) for children. The magazines were usually dealing with conditions in the heims, there was some praise as well as criticism of problems such as hygiene, preservation of order and discipline. They pointed out activities in the heims by publishing the results and outcomes of various contests, performances, sport matches. They also played a role in bringing more in-depth education to the ghetto, as they formed a supplement to secret lessons. There were columns on curiosities from the field of technology, vignettes of prominent scientists, artists and athletes. Some of the magazines also had analyses of works of literature by Czech or international authors, etc.
The important thing was that production of magazines stimulated the children to come up with their own literary works. There was poetry, retelling of stories that happened to groups of friends, marine, war and spy adventures, short stories and pictures by boys and girls alike. There were of course also reminiscences of home, family and various stories that had taken place before deportation to the ghetto. They were usually optimistic in spirit, expressing hope and belief that the war would be over soon.
A large area covered by the magazines was life in the ghetto itself. They included a variety of curiosities from all corners of life; Vedem in particular dedicated space to reports from various workplaces in Terezín. And so, as the children and young people came to know the reality of Terezín, the absurdity of life in the confined town, as they learned about how various things in the ghetto work differently from the way they do in normal life, criticism of the conditions began to appear in the magazines – often expressed by means of humour or satire, or in verse. Aphorisms and epigrams began to appear as well. Frequently, tutors and supervisors helped the children create the magazines. They contributed their own opinions on the topics of the day as well as some more general questions – of culture, ethics, politics. It was them who presented reality of everyday life in the ghetto to their young readers in a humorous, witty way. One of them was Josef Taussig whose epigrams were introduced on the pages of the Vedem magazine:
“The “Vedem” editorial board has received a small collection of satiric verse reminiscent of the witty epigrams of Karel Havlíček. Today we publish some of them in hope that the censors will not black out the whole page.”
Here is a small sample:
“Oh my, those transports
are getting to be quite a pain!
Lucky thing the boy went down
with an inflamed brain.”
Love in Šlojska
“My dear, I’d like to kiss you
from you head down to your toes –
except that you have five pants on
and two full sets of clothes.“
The “show” put on for the International Red Cross visit in June 1944 was criticized as well. In the Bonaco magazine, a girl identified as Sojka (jaybird), wrote the following characteristic: “Verschönerungsaktion (Beautification Action) translates to Czech as an old, rotten table full of rancid, stale food leftovers, covered with a lace cloth.”
Critical texts, aphorisms and epigrams helped the children to better adapt to and bear the difficult situation wherein they found themselves along with their parents and relatives.
A significant feature of the magazines was solidarity they expressed with each other, especially in relation with transports to the East. Fortunately, the young authors had no idea of the transports’ true horror. A good illustration is the fact that editors of the Rim Rim Rim magazine published a special issue in May 1944 for the deported, wherein endings of all adventure stories serialized at that time were briefly summed up… Another form of solidarity by the Bonaco magazine was establishment of a fund for ill girls in heim XI. These girls had to live on extremely lean portions. Contributors to the fund were those happier girls who had been sent some rations from the outside. In the first half of 1944, for instance, this fund prepared 17 such aid packages.
The magazines also often discussed the topic of the aged people whose desperate living conditions, illnesses and hunger could not be ignored by young writers.
The magazines contributed towards honing of the boys’ and girls’ spirit, increased their culture level, sharpened their criticism of their environment and themselves. Children’s magazines worked as an inseparable element of spiritual resistance in the ghetto and formed an integral part of the Terezín culture.
Thanks to the fact that the magazines stayed behind in the ghetto after their creators left, they were not destroyed and continue to provide this testimony. They are themselves a unique memorial.
 “Šlojska” (shloy-ska) was a place where people were gathered before they were transported to the East.