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Poetry and Commemoration - April 2012

Welcome to the 27th issue of Teaching the Legacy. This edition is part of a newsletter series that focuses on the subject of Commemoration and Art. This e-newsletter will focus on Poetry and Commemoration.

When dealing with such a complex and painful topic as the Holocaust, it is important to include as many tools as possible and to combine different approaches to enable a better understanding and knowledge of the Holocaust as a human story. Poetry, as one of these tools, belongs to a special category of expression that provides the reader with an understanding of a personal experience of the poet and of human behavior and social issues related to an historical event. It enables us to come closer to these events because we are dealing with the feelings of individuals who experienced them. 
The poet’s own personal experience provides an important access route into the Holocaust. As such, poems are unarguably part and parcel of the commemoration of the period. Unlike historical writing or even memoirs, the beauty and sadness that the poet can harness makes poetry a form of emotional expression, and as such, makes poetry, like art, an excellent medium for describing the horrors of the Holocaust.

Poetry can therefore be an excellent educational resource, which can translate the Holocaust from a massive historical process into a series of events, which directly affected the life of the individual.

Holocaust poetry provides a variety of perspectives and themes from and about every facet of the event, including the perspective of victims, oppressors, bystanders, and rescuers. The main article discusses a number of poems by renowned poets and writers that point up the emotional expression poetry accomplishes so well. It is accompanied by a teacher’s guide which decribes the use of poetry and its value in the classroom. A second article discusses Friedl Dicker Brandeis. We have also included an interview with the Holocaust survivor Ester Golan, whose poetry acts like testimony about her Holocaust experiences, and the poet Dr. Simon Lichman.

The theme “The Individual and the Community – My Brother’s Keeper” is Yad Vashem’s theme for this year’s Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (also known as Yom HaShoah), which falls out on April 19, 2012 (the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). The article about Ester Golan and her experiences in the Kindertransport, the article about Friedl Dicker Brandeis, as well as the book reviews found in this edition of the newsletter, provide materials that can be used to teach about this theme.

As always, the newsletter features new publications and updates on recent and upcoming activities at the International School for Holocaust Studies and across Yad Vashem. We hope you find this issue interesting and resourceful and we look forward to your feedback.

Germany, photographs of mass rallies of Nazis, 30s

Commemoration and Poetry

IntroductionThe memory of the Holocaust has been invaluably enriched by poets who have provided us with a window into a period that is very difficult to comprehend. Numerous Holocaust-related anthologies have been published in many languages in recent years, and these are an excellent educational resource.It has been said that what the historian achieves in a book, the poet presents in ten or twenty lines. Poetry can say more in less, and certainly can say it more succinctly. When a poem works, a truth has been stated. That truth is the poet’s own experience and the well-springs of personal...
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Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, A painting entitled "It's Not in the Ghetto", by Dority Weiser

“Coping through Art - Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the children of Theresienstadt”

WHEN the Jews were deported to Theresienstadt ghetto from Prague and environs in 1942, they were instructed to bring with them only 50 kilos. The dilemma of how to pack into a suitcase one’s entire past life for an unknown future life must have been a daunting one. What to bring? Most deportees packed clothing, household articles, valuables, photo albums and the like. However, artist and teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis used her weight allowance in a different way. After packing a few necessary items of clothing, she chose to fill the rest of her weight quota with art supplies. Her...
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Interview with Holocaust Survivor Ester Golan, Survivor and Kindertransport Child

Interview with Holocaust Survivor Ester Golan, Survivor and Kindertransport Child

The KindertransportWhilst dealing with the individual and the collective in this e-newsletter, we can understand how difficult it became to find a way to save children, as the rise of the Nazis to power made life in Germany more and more restrictive, and it was harder and harder to leave Germany.If the community as a whole could not be saved, a way had to be found to save some of the children, even if it meant they had to leave their families behind.As late as 1939, Recha Freier, founder of Youth Aliya, realized that it was essential to at least save as many children as possible. Although...
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Interview with Dr. Simon Lichman, Poet

Interview with Dr. Simon Lichman, Poet

IntroductionWhen we decided to write this current edition of the newsletter on the topic of poetry and commemoration, I suddenly remembered three poems I had recently read in a book about Judaism in Europe today.Jonathan, Magonet (editor): European Judaism. A Journal for the New Europe. Volume 44, Issue 2, 2011. These poems, which dealt with the return to places of former Jewish life and atrocities during the Holocaust, affected me strongly and I decided to interview the writer.The poet Dr. Simon Lichman, born in London in 1951, has lived in Israel since 1971. He is the Director of the Centre...
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Stanislaw Grocholski is Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations

Stanislaw Grocholski is Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations

When I was growing up in America, my mother never spoke to me about the Holocaust. Now and then, when my father watched TV movies about World War II, and the extermination of millions of Jews was mentioned, my mother would sit in the kitchen watching with him, tears running down her face. But she never spoke. I didn’t understand why the events that took place in faraway Europe seemed so close to her, but I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I was about 12 when my parents took me to see the movie, “The Sound of Music”. The bad guys in the movie wore armbands that were...
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The Shofar from Skarzysko-Kamienna

The Shofar from Skarzysko-Kamienna

This Shofar was made in anticipation of Rosh Hashana 5704 (1943) by Moshe (Ben-Dov) Winterter from the city of Piotrkow, Poland. Winterter was an inmate in the Skarzysko-Kamienna camp, a brutal forced labor camp for Jews located in the Poland town of the same name. He worked in the metal workshop of the armaments factory at the camp....
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Written in Pencil in the Sealed Freightcar – A Poem by Dan Pagis (1930-1986)

Written in Pencil in the Sealed Freightcar – A Poem by Dan Pagis (1930-1986)

Grades: Middle and High School
Duration: Varies; about 20 minutes to discuss a single theme

This Teacher’s Guide opens up new avenues of approaching one of Pagis’s most well known poems. The themes suggested in the accompanying slideshow presentation (PDF) are based on an intimate linking of the four verses in Genesis that deal with Cain and Abel, and the poem itself. The teacher can choose to deal with as many or as few themes as suit the pupils and the teacher’s own objectives....
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