An autograph book from the Nazi ghetto Theresienstadt/ Terezin
“It is fitting to remember ghetto Theresienstadt as it was: a place of spiritual elevation and of hardness, of pettiness and also generosity, of mutual help and of ignoring your neighbor’s suffering, a kaleidoscope of trapped and distressed people, most of whom kept their humanity, who did not act cruelly towards each other, who hoped to survive until the dreamed-of end of the war – but for most of them it came too late.” Ruth Bondy (Czech-Israeli journalist and translator and Theresienstadt survivor ), Ghetto Terezin and its part in the Holocaust.
“Theresienstadt was not a garden of Eden… German officers liked the music and needed the musicians, and that was why they let the musicians have it easier…” Henny Waas (Theresienstadt survivor liberated as 12-year old, writing in August 2020)
Maenni Ruben was a Danish graphic artist, musician and violinist, born in 1922, who was, unluckily, one of the 476 Danish Jews captured and deported by the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Virtually all of these Danish prisoners were sent to the concentration camp/ghetto in the Czech fortified town of Terezin (the German occupiers called it Theresienstadt) and most of the Danes incarcerated there survived the war.
In the period just before and then after the liberation of the camp on May 8th 1945, an autograph book was created for Maenni, who by that time had already been able to leave the camp on the White Buses. While Maenni died in 1976 in Copenhagen, his book was kept by his wife Susi, and only came to light in Victoria BC Canada in 2018, just before the death of Susi, who entrusted the book to Rabbi Harry Brechner of Congregation Emanu-El.
This website features the book, the poster exhibit spearheaded by Janna Ginsberg Bleviss, and some additional resources related to the content and context of the autograph book.
The Victoria Shoah Project has been a sponsor of the project and will maintain the content of this website.
|The poster exhibit||The autograph book|
Recording of the Program launch, 20 August 2020, updated on 27 August with additional information from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra
August 20, 2020 at 11:09 am
As an insufficiently ‘savvy’ computer VERY senior please keep me posted as to how and when I can view the book again.
August 20, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Joan, everything that you might want to see about this project is to be found on this website! Look around and you’ll see it all!
August 20, 2020 at 11:23 am
The illustrations in the book speak more than a thousand words
August 20, 2020 at 12:28 pm
I just watched the presentation – it was great. My interest is now piqued and I would love to purchase a book with the pages of the autograph book as well as the panels and translations. Is this in the works? Perhaps if could be published and used as a fundraiser. Please advise.
August 20, 2020 at 2:13 pm
Judi, thanks for your interest! You can download both the posters, and the complete autograph book, at this website!
August 21, 2020 at 9:55 am
Thanks to Janna and everyone who helped give life to this wonderful project.
August 21, 2020 at 2:00 pm
My profound thanks to Janna Ginsberg Bleviss for creating this remarkable, beautiful and very moving art project, helping all of us to never forget.
August 23, 2020 at 10:26 am
Yasher Koach to all of you. I hope that Maenni’s Talmud can be documented and form part of the story. May Maenni’s memory and the memories of the deceased whose lives he touched be a blessing.
August 23, 2020 at 12:03 pm
Lived through the war in the Netherlands. Was 12 when it ended but the memories are still very fresh
August 23, 2020 at 12:45 pm
As a co author of two books on Theresienstadt with a camp survivor I am excited to see this important work and will pass the link on to her.
August 23, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Thanks for this note, Jeff.. if you see anything in this website that is in need of fixing, please let me know!
August 23, 2020 at 4:51 pm
Thank you Janna, Rick, Rabbi Harry, my dear friend Ruth, and everyone else who had a hand in mounting this excellent exhibit. It is truly a treasure to be cherished.
I met Susie at the French (yet another language she spoke) lunches I used to attend, and felt her to be such a warm woman and someone I would have liked to know better.
I never knew that people in these camps kept autograph books. I did, however, know about the musicians in Tereizenstat, as many years ago, Kolot Mayim Reform Temple produced a children’s opera that had been performed there, here in Victoria.
I didn’t know that so many had survived in this particular camp because they were allowed to receive food packages from Scandinavia, and I most certainly didn’t know about the white busses.
Thank you all again fpr the inspiration and initiative and hard work to turn this one small book into a beautiful and lasting memorial to Maenny and Susie and all those in the book, and to this terrible chapter in our collective Jewish history.
August 28, 2020 at 11:11 am
I add my thanks to Janna and the other good folk acknowledged here for her devoted stewardship of this irreplaceable treasure .
A gift to humanity is such a first hand account.
If I may also share a somewhat parallel tale of keeping stories alive and safe. Some few years ago as the curator of Emily Carr House, we had a visitor from New York, a gentleman who by profession was a trauma psychologist. He was very interested in Emily Carr because of her writings primarily and as we chatted more, he told me that he had been trying to write a book for a number of years based upon his parents experience as having survived a Nazi concentration camp and how he believed that his birth was their declaration of hope for humanity. But he had writer’s block and was not able to proceed. Before he left I gave him a copy of Emily’s book of journals wherein she described the struggles she had at times with her art and her writings. A couple of years later he returned for a visit with the wonderful news that after reading her journals he became renewed and went on to complete his book and was in the process of getting a publisher in place. It is in these moments that I believe we come to reaffirm the value that documentary works can bring. The importance of bearing witness through survivors’ stories. And the stories, too, of those who did not survive. Thank you all again for sharing this.Most especially long time friend, Janna.
Warmest regards, Jan Ross