“After the death of the last witnesses, the remembrance of the Holocaust must not be entrusted to the historians alone. Now comes the hour of artistic creation.” –Aharon Appelfeld

It is never easy to find compelling material for teaching about the Holocaust that is also appropriate for a young audience. For many years Holocaust education relied on historic facts and detailed personal stories. These days, the only survivors who are still with us were children during the war and theirs are the last eyewitness accounts. Aharon Appelfeld’s declaration rings especially true nowadays and could inform Holocaust education for future generations.

The impact of the Holocaust on individual artists, whether first, second, or third generation survivors, or those who rely on the collective memory, is still powerful and results in creative output. Artistic responses to this dark period continue to be exhibited, performed and published. But perhaps the most compelling argument for using art is its capacity to kindle compassion and healing.

Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car

Poem by Dan Pagis

Here in this carload

I am Eve

with Abel my son

If you see my other son

Cain son of man (Adam)

tell him that I

>> Poem In Hebrew

Dan Pagis, an Israeli writer, was born in Romania in 1930. He spent his early years in a Nazi concentration camp in the Ukraine. He immigrated to pre-state Israel in 1946 and taught medieval Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He became one of the most vibrant voices in modern Israeli poetry. His references to the Holocaust are sometimes oblique, filtered through his use of biblical or mystical images. He died in 1986.

>> Five poems by Dan Pagis with a teacher’s guide from Yad Vashem

The poem at Konzentrationslager Belzec victims memorial in Eastern Poland

Le’chol Ish Yesh Shem (לכל איש יש שם, "Everyone Has a Name")

Poem by Zelda

The poet Zelda (1914-1984), a devout Hasidic Jew, was well-versed in ancient sacred and traditional Jewish texts. In 1926 she emigrated to Israel from her native Ukraine. Israelis have embraced her poem “Everyone Has a Name” as an expression of their own collective and personal experiences with trauma and loss.

>> Poem in English

>> Poem in Hebrew

>> Teaching “Le’chol Ish Yesh Shem” – A literary commentary by Rabbi Susan Laemmle, PhD

Music by Hanan Yovel, Performed by Chava Alberstein  

Creative Use of Holocaust Imagery in the Classroom

Creating the Underground Library

Micha Ullman (b. 1939), sculptor and professor of art, was born in Tel Aviv to German Jews who immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1933. 

Ullman created the underground “Bibliotek” (library) memorial on Bebelplatz square in Berlin, where the Nazi book burnings began in 1933. The memorial consists of a window on the surface of the plaza, under which vacant bookshelves are lit and visible. A bronze plaque bears a quote by Heinrich Heine: “Where books are burned in the end people will burn.” This memorial was inaugurated in May 1995.

Ullman explains: "It begins with the void that exists in every pit and will not disappear. You could say that emptiness is a state, a situation formed by the sides of the pit: The deeper it is, the more sky there will be and the greater the void. In the library containing the missing books, that void is more palpable. We expect [the books] but they are not there."


Aide Memoire (Help Memory)

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Choreography by Rami Be’er

"Aide Memoire is not only about the Holocaust. It deals with matters relating to present life and reality. It deals with violence, wars, and their impact on our lives. I created this dance in order to scream: Stop the violence! Stop the holocausts!"

An article about Aide Memoire by Michal Morris Kamil (Yad Vashem Magazine, Vol 3, September 1996)