Art of the Week: The Holocaust as Seen Through the Eyes of a Child

In Memory of the Czech Transport to the Gas Chambers (1945), a drawing of Yehuda Bacon's father emerging from the crematorium chimney. Credit: Yehuda Bacon

By Alliance Communications Coordinator Amy Durr

We are celebrating the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust with the eerie, poignant drawing by then 14-year-old Holocaust survivor Yehuda Bacon of his father rising from the Auschwitz crematorium. This is one of the powerful children’s artworks shared with young people today by the Wagner College Holocaust Center in their school programs. Their goal “is to educate local students about the Holocaust, providing them with the opportunity to question and reflect upon this tragedy,” writes Deyrn Susman.

“We often end our classroom series by asking the students: Why remember the Holocaust?” Susman continued. Susman was “haunted” by the words one sixth grade boy wrote after his class was visited by an Auschwitz survivor through Wagner programming.

How can we forget all of the long lasting torcher [torture] of the main cause of the horrible memories. All these people were killed. U must not let it happen again, such pain and suffering. To this Day tell the story off how Hitler hurt so many people. And make sure the Holocaust never ever happen again.

Susman concluded, “Our children can understand. Our children can relate. Our children must be educated so that such a tragedy will never have to happen again.”

About the Artist

Czech-born Yehuda Bacon was just 14 years old when he arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in December 1943. Six months later his father was killed in the gas chambers. His mother and sister Hanna were sent to another camp in Austria where they died two weeks before the war ended.

Bacon is now 94 years old and lives in Israel. Sixty years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, he told the story of his survival to his daughter Hanna White, a BBC journalist On This Day:

After the war, I dedicated my life to being an artist – at first to describe what I saw, in a childish way.

Later I realised people were not interested in these stories – neither in Europe, nor in Israel. I guess our stories were too strong, too unbelievable, too hard to understand or they just couldn’t bear it.

They would go quiet when I started to tell them something. I thought I would tell them and people would learn and behave better.

I think I am somehow obliged because I survived to tell the story of the people who didn’t survive but what happens to the story is beyond my control. I hope that maybe someone, some time, somewhere will learn something from it.

My drawings were used in trials and books about the Holocaust. I thought I had to draw, I had to say what I experienced in the hope that someone would learn from it.

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