Drawings from Child Victims of the Holocaust Unearthed
‘One million five hundred thousand children were murdered in the Shoah. Man will never be able to face this fact with full comprehension’., so writes Israeli author David Grossman in his introduction to a unique and harrowing exhibition.
This new exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum attempts to bring us one step closer to an understanding of some of its youngest victims. The installation, ‘Traces of Life: The World of Children’ is comprised of drawings from children whilst they were in camps during the Holocaust.
Images depict families with mothers pushing prams alongside children drawing string toys behind them. Others contain gun men with aeroplanes circling over head. Each one has been edited from fragments of about 3,000 pictures drawn by Jewish children before they were executed.
The drawings were unearthed by Michal Rovner, an Israeli artist, from sources throughout the world including Yad Vashem and the Shoah History Archive of the Jewish Museum in Prague. She then copied the original images by hand. She explains she sought to replicate them with painstaking accuracy as, ‘no artist could produce any better work on the topic of children during the Holocaust than what the children themselves had already created’.
The images are deeply moving, evocative and striking. As Grossman suggests, the horror of the Holocaust may never be comprehended, however these images go some way in localising the overwhelming loss down to individual pencil strokes, visions and lives.
Rovner explains, ‘those children’s families, homes, friends, belongings, landscapes and freedom had been taken away from them. Tragically, the vast majority of them left no sign behind them. Only very few were able to document the essential thing they were able to hold on to: their viewpoint. That is what is expressed in their drawings. Within a situation in which they had no choice, in front of a piece of paper they had a certain freedom to express themselves, and the way they saw reality’.