Hitler planned to make the medieval Jewish ghetto in Prague into a museum. A testimony to the influence of Jewish culture in central Europe. In years to come he believed future Europeans would visit the museum thankful that they would no longer exposed to such malign, as he saw it, influences.
The Jewish quarter of Prague has existed since the 15th century and lies close to the Vlatava. It is a community, which even before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 were used to the hardship and suffering of the many religious and dynastic wars fought in and around Prague. It is a community, which has helped to enrich the cultural traditions of Europe. Kafka, Rabbi Low the 16th century scientist and Hebraic scholar and the ancestors of Freud were all connected with the quarter. In the complex of building lies the Museum of Children’s Art from Terezin concentration camp some miles from Prague.
It is a testimony, a threnody to the dead and a warning to the living to the living of the full scope of Nazi barbarism.
Terezin camp served as a model resettlement camp. It had schools even a symphony orchestra. It was frequently visited by the Red Cross but it served to hide the truth of the real nature of the death camps further east. Primo Levi himself a survivor of the camps, describes in his book "Is this a Man" to describe its effects on himself and his fellow internees.
It is an exceptional human statement.
"Thousands of the individuals differing in age, condition, origin, language, customs and culture are enclosed within barbed wire; there they live, a regular controlled life which is identical for all and inadequate to all needs, and which is more rigorous than any experiment could have been set up to establish. What is essential and what is adventitious to the conduct of the human animal in the struggle for life…We believe that the only conclusion to be drawn is that in the face of driving necessity and physical disabilities many social habits and instinct are reduced to silence"
The Children’s Art Exhibition from Terezin demonstrates that silence and it shouts it. From Terezin over 15,000 children were taken to Auschwitz, Solibidor and the other camps to die in the gas chambers. The Children’s Art serves as a memorial. A naïve drawing here and there shows signs of a burgeoning talent. All the drawings and paintings have a common theme; they show signs of domestic happiness, father smoking a pipe, taking the family dog for a walk, a picnic in the countryside, a wedding. These representations suggest a collective desire to shut out the image of horror and to substitute in its place recollections of home, family and peace.
No one could fail to be deeply moved by these paintings, this memory of the unbearable. On my way out I paused to read the comments in the visitors book. Remarks were made in Czech, German, French, Russian and in English. I wrote my name and a recalled quote from the poetry of Wilfred Owen " and the old man would not so, and slew his son, and half the seed of Europe, one by one"