Holocaust art website launches on Yom Hashoah

These works provide important documentary evidence, as well as an insight into camp life, the harsh treatment and the impact on victims.

“Courtyard Terezin” by Malva Schaleck. Credit: Courtesy of World ORT.
“Courtyard Terezin” by Malva Schaleck. Credit: Courtesy of World ORT.

World ORT launched a new educational resource on May 6—Yom Hashoah—born from the ashes of history: “Art and the Holocaust.” Developed in collaboration with the Ghetto Fighters House Museum in Israel, this resource stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who suffered unimaginable horrors during one of humanity’s darkest chapters.

The site explores art created by 30 individuals who were imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II and the Holocaust. Content is available in English, Spanish, Russian and Hebrew.

These works provide important documentary evidence, as well as an insight into camp life, the harsh treatment and the impact on victims. It delves into the personal stories of these artists, revealing their artistic expression in unimaginable circumstances.

For most of the artists featured, only a few paintings or drawings of theirs survived. In some cases, work was recovered after the war, hidden in walls or jars until liberation. The experience of the Holocaust so profoundly affected the surviving artists that it continued to dominate their craft long after the war. For those who perished, their works are an enduring legacy of their lives and experiences.

Charlotte Buresova
Charlotte Buresova. Credit: Courtesy of World ORT.

Due to limited resources in the camps and ghettos, the works are mainly paintings or drawings on paper or cardboard but cover a wide range of subjects: the treatment of internees, the constant longing for food and shelter, the boredom, the horror. Many works show a longing for the past, a future and peace through depictions of nature and landscapes. Still others are portraits preserving the memory of those who lost their lives to the Nazi onslaught.

Charlotte Buresova, a talented Jewish artist who endured the horrors of the Terezin concentration camp, is among those featured on the site. Despite the brutality, Buresova used her art as a weapon against despair.

Buresova had a happy life developing her artistic skills before the Nazi occupation. Forced into Terezin, she found herself working for the German Nazis, first painting roof tiles then later ordered to copy famous works in the camp’s artist workshop.

She created her own art in secret, capturing the artistic spirit of the camp through portraits, dancers and flowers. In stark contrast to the suffering around them, these pieces offered a glimpse of beauty and hope.

Along with a few others, Buresova managed to escape from Terezin a few days before the liberation. She returned to Prague and continued to create art, some of it inspired by her harrowing experiences.

This online resource is designed for educators, students and the public. It aims to:

• Empower educators with new ways to teach about the Holocaust, sparking critical thinking and discussion

• Engage students with a personal and often overlooked aspect of the Holocaust, fostering empathy, and understanding

• Combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial by providing irrefutable evidence of the vibrant lives lost during this dark period

• Promote tolerance and respect through the power of art and individual stories.

Designed with educators and students in mind, the portal provides a wealth of resources for teaching and learning about the Holocaust. Through interactive exhibits, lesson plans and multimedia content, it strives to ensure that future generations never forget the lessons of the past. A teacher’s guide and student activities will give educators a start to creating a window into the Holocaust through art.

Kovno Ghetto Watercolor and Ink on Paper
The Kovno Ghetto (watercolor and ink on paper). Credit: Courtesy of World ORT.

With the commemoration of Yom Hashoah, honor the memory of the millions who perished by bearing witness to their stories. Learn about these courageous artists and use their stories to inspire future generations to fight against prejudice and hatred. Together, pledge to uphold the values of tolerance, compassion and remembrance, ensuring that the horrors of the Holocaust are never repeated.

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