Poignant and disturbing drawings from children at one of Hitler’s concentration camps are being displayed at Bootham School Arts Centre.
The touching and often scary scenes have been lent to exhibition organiser Brian Devlin by the Jewish Museum in Prague, which collected the work from the Terezin concentration camp 60 miles north east of Prague. The camp was a transit camp used to gather Jews from across Bohemia-Moravia before they were sent to their doom at Auschwitz.
Brian, from Galashiels, an amateur student of children in wartime who eventually wants to establish a children’s wartime museum somewhere in Britain, said,
It is truly haunting.
Families in Terezin tried to shield their children from the horror of their situation by occupying their free time with games, education and painting. It is terribly touching art. One picture is an almost entirely black page – but you can make out the outline of a black train which, I suppose, is surrounded by the blackness of the doom that awaited. Even the sun is surrounded by black. Another picture shows a mother and father and their children being shepherded through fields towards Terezin. They are surrounded by angry farmers who are threatening them with pitchforks. It is very thought-provoking. There are many happier pictures: paintings of children playing just like children anywhere and also of a Passover feast. The Nazis were very keen to use Terezin as a ‘show camp’ to the rest of the world to demonstrate their alleged humanity.
Nevertheless, the children’s painting and drawings shows clearly saddened victims. Only a few are smiling. Some children produced pictures of people carrying suitcases – all were told they were merely being taken to work camps not death camps. It is always valuable to see the world through the eyes of a child and I see this art as voices from across the decades. Very few survived and the Nazis tried to eradicate their memory entirely: this art and the accompanying film still gives a voice to those victims
Bootham School itself was a haven for a number of Jewish refugees fleeing the horror of Nazi Germany. Sarah Allen, Assistant Head at Bootham, explained
Our Quaker heritage draws us to the condition of those suffering through global conflict, be it those of the Holocaust or the victims of todays’ unsettled world. The fact that these exhibits are the work of children brings it all the closer.
The exhibition also features written stories from children in the camp. The exhibition is open to the public on Saturday, 17 May from 1pm until 4pm and on Tuesday 20 May from 6pm until 9pm. Entry to the Bootham School Arts Centre is via the pedestrian footpath off Bootham, between 39 Bootham and Wandsford House.