in Ghetto Theresienstadt
"It is great here, so many interesting people.
One could live here quite decently, if not for the constant
fear of being sent to the East" -- Friedl Dicker-Brandeis,
artist, designer, art teacher, and Holocaust martyr, wrote
in a postcard sent from Ghetto Theresienstadt, in 1943.
Theresienstadt (Terezin), an 18th century fortress near Prague,
was converted by the Nazis into a transit point, where deported
Jews were interned, sometimes as long as two years, and then
sent to the extermination camps.
The prisoners were mainly professional Jews from Czechoslovakia,
Germany, Austria, Holland and Denmark, many of them a part
of the European cultural elite.
But the cliched image of a 'pyitiful Jew', crushed by a 'demonic
force', didnt hold in Terezin.
In spite of miserable conditions and numerous deaths from
starvation and diseases, the prisoners never gave in.
In this surrealistic world on the edge of life and death,
they stubbornly clung to their cultural values - books, art,
music, intellectual debate, humor and irony.Volumes have
been written about the culture in Theresienstadt.
The inspired operas and musical pieces that originated there
are widely performed.
Drawings by children and adult artists, camp magazines and
poems have been published.
The children in Terezin were trained and cared for by excellent
teachers and social workers.
They regained their will to live and hope for the future,
but, with few exceptions, most were ruthlessly exterminated.
In addition to that, hundreds of professionals and academics
gave thousands of lectures on all imaginable cultural and
In the documents that survived the war, many of them explain
the main motivation for this work - first, to prepare and
educate the youth for the post-war life; and second - to
revive their own professional self-esteem and replace the
misery of physical existence with the richness of spiritual
Lectures replaced teaching, which was forbidden by the Nazis.
Delivered in scattered miserable attics and cellars, however
cold or hot the weather, the lectures formed full courses
in history, philosophy, art, literature, medicine, science,
Judaism and other fields.
They attracted tens of thousands of young people and adults,
hungry and exhausted after their days work - the triumph
of human dignity in the face of death.
Ironically, the inmates had to inform the Nazis of all cultural
activities that took place in the camp.
That is why the documentation of so many lectures - including
their titles, time and locations - have survived.Some of
the Terezin lecturers were well-known before the war in their
own right, for example, Dr. Leo Baeck, Chief Rabbi of Germany,
Alfred Meissner, Minister of Masaryk Government in Czechoslovakia,
and composer Viktor Ullmann.
Others survived the Holocaust and found wider recognition
afterwards, like psychologist Viktor Frankl, historian Miroslav
Karny, writer Josef Bor (Bondy), and writer Norbert Fried.
But the majority perished.
Their careers stopped short, they were simply forgotten.
They were such fascinating people as the Jewish philosopher
Yehuda Palache, the psychologist Max Brahn, the art historian
Max Bohm, the historian Maximillian Adler, the psychologist
Gertrude Boeml, the art collector Hugo Friedmann, the journalist
Philipp Manes, and the semitologist Moizis Woskin.
Among the lecturers
in Theresienstadt, was
|Otto Porges Ing. , b. 02.06.1899,
deported from Prague to Terezin on 24.02.42 then to
Auschwitz on 29.09.44