Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin: An Exhibition of Art and Hope

"Rave" weekend supplement of Daily Breeze (12/13/02)
San Diego Jewish Times (11/28/02):

The Friedl Dicker-Brandeis Exhibition, showing the life and works of the Vienna-born Bauhaus graduate artist and art teacher who taught children at the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp, opened on November 12, 2002 at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The first full-scale exhibition of this early founder of art therapy is on display, along with the works by her students who perished at Auschwitz. Attending the event were Austria’s Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg as well as more than 400 invited guests, among them leading representatives of the City of L.A., the Jewish Community and survivors of Terezin.

The exhibition, which has previously travelled to Austria, the Czech Republic, Japan, France, Sweden and Germany, and been viewed by over 300,000 people, will be on display until September 1, 2003. Organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and co-sponsored by Austria, the Museum will organize art classes and tours for pupils as well as educational workshops for teachers based on Friedl’s teaching principles. These will be held by world-renowned art therapists, some of them survivors of Terezin, from Austria, Switzerland and the United States. In addition, various documentary films about the concentration camp will be shown at the Museum of Tolerance Theater.

The exhibition reveals the life and work of one woman who used art to help children deal with despair of the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, some 15,000 children were deported to Terezin. Ten years after the concentration camp was liberated, two suitcases filled with 5,000 poems and drawings by these children were discovered. When the survivors were interviewed, they all talked about one woman--Friedl Dicker-Brandeis who helped them to cope with the horrors they had to face on a daily basis. From the grimmest possible surroundings, she helped her students reveal a story behind each work of art--stories of ingenuity, courage, defiance, hope and rage. Through her guidance, these child artists managed to express and affirm their own existence.

Dicker-Brandeis is considered by many art critics to be the equal of her early 20th century contemporaries. The Bauhaus’s famed architect, Walter Gropius, said that had she lived, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis would have been the most important female artist of the twentieth century. The museum’s project director, Regina Seldman Miller, claimed "When we had the show at the Bauhaus Museum in Berlin, her work was next to the permanent collection. People kept walking back and forth from Kandinsky and Klee to her, and you could see how well her work stood up to theirs. She had come into her own by the time she was in Terezin."

The Austrian Consulate General of Los Angeles contributed $5,000 from their cultural budget to finance the exhibition. An additional $5,000 will be provided by the initiative "Art Against Violence" from Austria’s Federal Chancellery.