Nazi camp's resistance newspaper exhibited in Portland
The hand-drawn illustrations curl around corners of the yellowing broadsheet newspaper: A family carrying luggage, a boy in striped pajamas, a pistol, a crematorium.
The masthead is inscribed above — printed in bold, black ink — Vedem.
"Vedem means in the lead. We are the leaders, we are winning, actually," wrote George Brady, one of 92 boys who helped publish the underground newspaper from inside a Nazi ghetto.
This incredible story of the power of the pen will be exhibited in Portland through Sunday, May 27 at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, located at 724 N.W. Davis Street along the North Park Blocks.
Told with words, artifacts, pictures and video, the public display neatly encapsulates the 800 pages and 83 issues published on Fridays by 13 to 15-year-old boys during the World War II years of 1942 to 1944.
The paper chronicles the inner thoughts and daily struggles of the young prisoners of Terezin, a "model" concentration camp used to fool international observers. Many Jewish intellectuals also lived in the camp, where they were allowed some measure of artistic freedom.
Despite its purpose as propaganda, an estimated 35,000 people died at the camp located 40 miles north of Prague. Another 88,000 were shipped from Terezin to other death camps.
About 50 local student groups have already toured the exhibit, with many joining together afterward to create a class 'zine to express what they've learned.
"It's not hard for students to relate to the idea of coordinated, creative resistance," notes museum manager April Slabosheski.
"(The exhibit) is not about armed resistance. It's about spiritual and emotional resistance, and the amount of resistance that just telling the truth can take," she continued.
Vedem, which premiered at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, shines light on the paper's student writers, most of whom are known only by their anonymous pen names in Czech.
Writers like "Baked glasses," "Critic with Pink Eye" and "Mowgli" wrote fanciful westerns, poems and reviewed the camp's staged productions. Others described picking up dead bodies as part of their assigned labor.
One of the best known writers was the paper's editor-in-chief, Petr Ginz. A child prodigy, Petr wrote several books and plays before he was deported to the camps for having a Jewish father. At Terezin, he hounded students to contribute to the paper, paying them for their words with scraps of food.
The first 30 issues of Vedem were created using a purloined typewriter. After the ribbon ran dry, Petr printed and illustrated the paper by hand. Only one copy of each paper was produced, and the editions were later buried to escape detection.
"It educated a whole legion of writers who grasped something we call 'the courage to write,'" Petr said of the underground effort. "Because to express yourself is the ultimate goal."
The 16-year-old was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp on Sept. 28, 1944, according to a Nazi manifest. He did not survive.
Vedem can be visited at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, 724 N.W. Davis Street, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Call 503-226-3600 for more information.