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A Child Artist in Terezín: Witness to the Holocaust
(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)— In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Week, Moravian College will exhibit drawings and watercolors by Helga Weissová-Hosková, the internationally renowned Czech artist, and child survivor of Theresienstadt (Terezín in Czech) interment camp, and the Holocaust death camps. A reception will be held to celebrate the exhibit in Moravian’s Haupert Union Building, beginning on Tuesday, April 22, at 4:00 p.m. The exhibit was made possible by Peter Rafaeli, the Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic-Philadelphia, who generously has made this collection available to the College for display.
The exhibit contains a unique series of drawings and watercolors that chronicles life during the Holocaust seen through the eyes of a young artist, facing uncertain and extreme conditions as everyday facts of life. Helga Weissová-Hosková was taken from Prague to Terezín in December of 1941, with her brushes and paints packed among her limited luggage, the 12-year-old created a personal dairy of her conditions of life in Terezín. Both she and her mother survived despite deportation to other Nazi camps, including Auschwitz and Mauthausen.
In March 1939 after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Terezín was renamed Theresienstadt, and became the Prague Gestapo’s first police station. Later it was designated as a transit center for Jewish citizens. By the end of World War II 140,000 people, including 15,000 children had passed through the gates of Terezín. The concentration camp was especially deadly for the children, and 14,000 of them perished, most of them in the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers. Only a small number of the children remain today as primary witnesses of the conflicted legacy of Terezín.
Hosková-Weissová’s drawings and diary document the everyday life experience in the ghetto. News that the family was to be deported to Auschwitz, prompted her to leave the drawings and diary with an uncle who hid them and so saved them. These drawings are the only visual documentation of those times. The drawings report the fear and misery of the children, conveying to the viewer an intense impression of this particular hell created by the Nazis.
Following her father’s advice to “draw what you see,” Hosková-Weissová remarks that, “I hope that I have created a graphic, convincing, and permanent testimony of those times, one that ensures that the past should not be forgotten, so that something similar will not happen again.”
Dr. Ann Dutlinger, assistant professor of art, and chair of the Moravian College Department of Art, arranged for the exhibit. Books from her extensive Holocaust collection are also on loan for the exhibit. In 2001, Dutlinger authored the volume, Art, Music and Education as Strategies for Survival that explores ghetto life and coping mechanisms utilized in Theresienstadt. Her book features the work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a talented Bauhaus artist who endured the Theresienstadt ghetto and perished at Auschwitz with the children. It contains a collection of essays spanning a variety of disciplines, as well as memoirs related to the history and the arts of Theresienstadt. Dutlinger designed the book and it was assembled with the cooperation of the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the Leo Baeck Institute in New York and others.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. For more information call (610) 861-1491 or visit the web site at www.moravian.edu.