New Exhibition at Beit Theresienstadt:
Drawing on Pages of Time 1942 - 1945
The exhibition displays creations by Gertrude (Trude) and Emanuel (Emo) Groag and their son Wilhelm (Willi).
All three were brought in July 1942 to ghetto Theresienstadt and liberated there in May 1945. The family was
deported to Theresienstadt from Olomouc (Olmuetz) in Moravia; together with them was also Willi's wife Miriam
(Madla), nee Stein, whom he had married shortly before their deportation. The exhibition shows a small part of the
creations of the "Ida and Heinz Fleischmann" Groag collection, which contains hundreds of items: drawings, writings
and objects. The family donated the collection to Beit Theresienstadt.
All ghetto prisoners had to work; the Groag's - like other artists in ghetto Theresienstadt
- created art, after hours.
During all their time in the ghetto - hungry and sick, depressed and despairing
- they continued to write and to rhyme,
to draw and to illustrate.
The letters and poems are a rich and many-faceted source of information about ghetto life. The reader learns about
the hardships of day-to-day life, about hunger and the continuous search for additional food, about physical suffering,
about mental pain and depression. The letters describe the serious diseases, the ongoing separation and the isolation the
patients had to bear for fear of epidemics. And all this - in the shadow of the fear of transports
"to the East". But in spite
of the gloomy atmosphere, there is humor and irony, there is also the strength to go on and hope.
Both the colorful and the monochrome drawings are full of optimism; all are aesthetically pleasing and very detailed.
There are many and different topics: portraits, places in Theresienstadt, events, nature
- flowers, landscapes, trees... , and
rarely death. Emo, the leading artist of the exhibition, painted in August 1944, a short time before the huge wave of transports, a picture
rich in miniature details, illustrating ghetto reality - a ghetto prisoner�s life from birth to death. In the painting, on
brown paper 20 x 30 centimeters, warm colors predominate. Small flowers, forming a kind of wreath, frame each scene.. Beside
liveliness and humor the work expresses life�s hardships and sadness. The designer David Gal reconstructed and disassembled the
picture, which is shown in the exhibition on 28 separate panels. This way the visitor gains insight to the richness of details,
their power and meaning. On the same wall is a hand-made birthday wish from Emo to his daughter-in-law Madla. The drawing
depicts her holding her daughter Chava - born in the ghetto in February 1945 - in her arms. The top of the card shows a colored
photograph of Theresienstadt; Madla is looking at the town and Emo puts in her mouth:
"Grandpa Emo draws so beautifully, but
what is this peculiar town?" This card was made in September 1945, a few months after the ghetto was liberated.
The exhibition also displays creations made by Trude with children in the ghetto and her handwritten notes for lectures on
the subject of handicraft materials. These give us a rare look at the special world of children imprisoned in the ghetto.
To get the full meaning of the exhibited works the visitor has to be aware of the tragic circumstances of the epoch they were
created in. To achieve this, the curator Sima Shahar interspersed between the exhibits a chronology of the historical events
and of the ghetto, from the Nazi rise to power until liberation. The exhibits include also excerpts from
"Orders of the Day"
regulating the ghetto prisoner's behavior, his daily schedule, defining the allowed and the forbidden and the punishments for
every violation of the rigid restrictions ordered by the Nazis.
The art created by Emo, Trude and Willi is a mosaic documenting the many faces of ghetto Theresienstadt, its landscapes, people
and their work and also the cultural and social life there. In addition - the letters, drawings, booklets and greeting cards
illustrate the personalities and human traits of the creators, their warm and rich relations and the support and encouragement
they gave to the ghetto prisoners - their fellow sufferers.
Curator: Sima Shahar,
Designer: David Gal