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.
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 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.
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