For those of us that worked on this project, we shared the hard work and intense excitement that is part of the work of a historian. Sorting out the puzzles inside Maenni’s autograph book brought real satisfaction while at the same time left us with questions, with things we could not make sense of. Research is, in part, solving puzzles and making educated inferences that have to be ‘dumped’ as soon as better inferences can be constructed based on new information and insight.
One of the Manni’s autograph book pages that really tested our ability was the one featuring a cartoon of the “white buses”. We weren’t able to sort out the name of the artist, and then translated/interpreted the text as saying something that really didn’t make sense to any of us: “What is it?” “Rubens should not forget to Graags”.
This morning, just days before we have our virtual launch, I received an email from Paris-based Dr. Silvia Goldbaum Tarabini Fracapane, who in 2017 completed her doctoral dissertation about the Danish Jews in Theresienstadt, and just handed in a book manuscript based on her dissertation, which will be published in early 2021 (congratulations, Silvia!).
Amongst the many important pieces of information that relate to Maenni’s autograph book, she helped to clear up the meaning of the writings about the “white buses”. She wrote:
The most important is, that the text for the drawing showing the White bus … is actually referring to the artist. It was drawn by Emo Groag (1886-1961). And the text of the lower part therefore says “Rubens should not forget about the Groags” – it is referring to the Groag family, who were friends with the Rubens in the ghetto. I have actually been searching for the original of this drawing all spring, as I wanted to use it as illustration. I knew it from a photocopy of it that I received from Beit Terezin. So I am very glad to have located the original!
We anticipate that more information will surface to help us draw a more complete picture of the people who contributed to this wonderful piece of history, and to the times they lived through.
We are grateful to Dr. Fracapane for her collaboration and engagement with our project!
Dr. Richard Kool