Magnes Pop Up Exhibition: Holocaust Memory, Walls, and Ephemerality

Thank you to the Magnes Museum for inviting me to speak at one of their weekly Pop Up Exhibitions. It was an honor to think about the ephemerality of Holocaust memory and the need to balance memory with activism. The slides from my talk are below. And, if you’re interested, you can join 11 other people (probably more like 9 because I checked out the video 2x) and watch the presentation here.

Deblinger_Magnes Pop Up



Memories of Violence and Dreams of the Future

DRAWING BY Ehsan, 10, from Afghanistan. His drawing “is in the future. My father works. The car is yellow since it’s a cab. That’s the cab my father will drive in Austria,” he says.

fromMigrant Children’s Drawings From Hungary Train Station” By Margit Feher via @wallstreetjournal

Children among the hundreds of asylum seekers crammed into a bleak passageway under Budapest’s Keleti train station, the scene of migrant protests, draw to pass the time before their families travel on­—if the Hungarian authorities allow it—to the richer countries of Northern and Western Europe to settle. With markers, crayons and colored pencils donated by volunteers, they work quietly in small groups, squatting or sitting on the ground.


Their pictures show homes left behind, the often horrible experiences they endured and some of their dreams of a better, peaceful future.

These images so naturally evoke another set of children’s drawings made at a time of violence, uncertainty, and desperation. The children’s drawings from Terezin, now housed at the Jewish Museum of Prague, and collected in, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, similarly reflect memories of violence with dreams of peace.

From:  Vaclav Havel, Chaim Potok, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, ed. Hana Volavkova, 2nd edition (New York: Schocken, 1994).


These images have served as documents of life in the Terezin Ghetto and symbols of innocence lost over the last 70 years. They have also acted as hopeful reminders that even in the darkest of times, our dreams and imagination can help us escape the horror and sustain our sense of humanity.

Hopefully the children’s drawings from the Budapest Train station, shared around the world by the Wall Street Journal, will inspire individuals and governments around the world to alleviate the ongoing refugee crisis across Europe and the Middle East. Hopefully these images will mark a moment of changing policy rather than one of lost hope.


Originally posted on >

Holocaust History & LEGOs: Learning Achieved (from Memories/Motifs)

In response to a school assignment to illustrate events of the Holocaust, John Denno, a 16-year-old student in Liverpool, UK, built a timeline of key historical events out of LEGOs.

The association of LEGOs as toy meant for play seems to challenge our assumptions about how we should think about, learn, and understand the Holocaust – evidenced by the title of the clickbait article on “The Most Controversial LEGO Creation Ever: Holocaust Timeline Scenes.”

Despite the past 2 decades of scholarly debate about the Limits of Holocaust Representation – it seems that the popular version of this conversation continues. And, the ubiquity and playfulness of LEGOs seems to evoke the limits of this concern.

Yet, Denno’s comments, quoted in Pixable and picked up by Haaretz suggest that the pedagogy was successful. Denno said of building 15 historical scenes from 1933 – 1945:

The biggest thing I realized about the Holocaust through making this project is just how long the persecution went on. From 1933 Jews slowly lost all their rights until they were being murdered in their thousands. – John Denno

Read the rest at