A Thousand Words: Terezín Artists


A picture is worth a thousand words. I’ve always been familiar with this saying, but I never realized the true complexity of a picture until I visited Terezin. Terezin is a town that was turned into a concentration and transit camp that housed thousands of Jewish prisoners. Within Terezin we visited a museum that held artwork from artists living within the concentration camp. When I entered the museum, I learned that the Nazi’s had a drawing room in which imprisoned artists would create propaganda. Unfortunately, the Nazi’s forced the artists to draw the concentration camp in a positive light. The SS wanted outsiders to believe that Terezin was a nice spa-like working camp. While gritting their teeth, the artists had to lie and pretend the horrible place where they lived was a lot better off than reality. First picture below is an example of the forced propaganda artwork.

SONY DSCPropaganda Artwork
“Gardening” by L. Haas

SONY DSCDepiction of ghetto surroundings
“Yard in Hohenelbe Barracks” by L. Haas

While the SS believed that the artists were always busy drawing beautiful pictures of Terezin, the imprisoned artists were creating secret masterpieces. In the draft room, the artists would draw the actual depiction of their concentration camp and ghetto surroundings. Photographed above is one of the art pieces that shows Terezin as it truly was, a dark place filled with sickness and death. Often the artists would try to smuggle out these real art pieces to show the public what terrible conditions they actually lived in. However, the artists were caught and accused of spreading “propaganda of horror”. They were sent to a Gestapo prison and did not survive. Since hundreds of their art pieces are displayed within the museum, their artwork luckily lives on and still sends a powerful message. The pictures that the daring artists risked their lives for are worth a thousand words by showing all the wrong that was behind the concentration camp gates.

155,000 people passed through the Terezin concentration camp. However, 35,000 died within the camp and over 80,000 died after being sent to extermination camps. Our class was lucky enough to meet with a survivor of Terezin, photographed below. We also went on a tour of Terezin. As one can imagine, this was the saddest place that I have ever visited.

SONY DSCDoris Groszdenovicova
A Terezin concentration camp survivor

SONY DSCA memorial to those who lost their lives
within the concentration camp

SONY DSCThe Terezin cemetery