Emotion And Intellect In The Works From Terezin

1630 words - 7 pages

Emotion and Intellect in the Works from Terezin

In the quote opening Art Speigelman’s Maus: A Survivor s Tale. I: My Father

Bleeds History, Adolf Hitler expresses his urge to rob the Jewish people of their

humanity: The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human (9D). Hitler’s

quote begs for a response What makes one human? Many scholars and scient ist would

argue that it is t he ability to think and reason t hat defines the human species. I would

argue that it is a combination of the ability to reason with the ability to feel. In Elie

Wiesel s Night, it is his passionate anger at his spirituality alongside his intellectual

struggle with that spirituality that screams out his humanity: What are You, my God, I

thought angrily, compared to this afflicted crowd proclaiming to You their faith [. . .]

(63). In the range of Holocaust literature, there is a range of emotion mixed with

intellect, and this combination creates a picture of human beauty. One can witness this

range in Wiesel s anger and disillusionment (62, 63) and in Speigelman s father s love

and frugality (157). It is the ability to think about and feel something towards one s

situation that makes one human. In the painting Sailboat (56-57) and the poem

Birdsong (80-81) fro m the collection I Never Saw Another Butt erfly: Children s

Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, one can see how a

range o f emotions combined with reason creat e an undeniable portrait of humanity.

In Sailboat an anonymous child artist expresses both emotion and intellect

through color choice and subject matter (56-57). The artist portrays night as a black

abyss followed by a teal-gray sky dotted with bright yellow stars (Sailboat 56-57). In the

darkness that the sailboat is escaping from, the artist s audience can sense the fear of both

the kno wn and unknown situation (Sailboat 56-57). In Nicholas Stargar s Children s

Art of the Holocaust, he writes that the children of Terezin were without the benefit of

seeing where the railway tracks led next. The children knew neither their own fates nor

what conditions were like in the other ghettos and camps of Eastern Europe (17).

However, Jiri Weil notes in his epilogue to I Never Saw Another Butt erfly: Children s

Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 that the children had

a bett er sense of the terror to come than the adults did (103). In the black night fading

into teal with specks of yellow stars, the artist defies the fear of known and unknown

(Sailboat 56-57). He or she pushes the sailboat ahead out of the darkness just as he or

she pushes creativity out of fear and buoys that creativity up with hopeful emotion

(Sailboat 56-57).

The richness of the painting s color is supported by the subject matter (Sailboat

56-57). While children within Terezin certainly did not go sailing, Stargar ponders

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