Painting through the pain

Painting Through the Pain

by Leora Alhadeff

When the Nazis forced artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis into Terezin, she smuggled in art supplies and taught the concentration camp’s children to express themselves through art.

“Everyone put us in boxes — the Nazis — and she took us out of them,” her student, Edna Amit, later said of Dicker-Brandeis, who died in Auschwitz at age 47.

The Museum of Tolerance is remembering Dicker-Brandies, one of the founders of art therapy, with a display of her art and that of her students, as well as a modern-day art therapy project inspired by her techniques.

A downstairs gallery displays art by children of Terezin, which depict harsh camp conditions and life before the war.

Upstairs, 10 life-size puppets — each created by one of 10 students from inner-city Orville Wright Middle School — sit at a mosaiced table, with decorated cigar boxes archiving the lives of each child. The school’s 13- to 15-year-olds face modern-day challenges such as pressure to use drugs and join gangs.

This is the first time that Virginia Marroquin, a 13-year-old Latina, learned about the Holocaust, and it made her see her own challenging life in a different way: “[The Holocaust] opened my eyes a lot … it helped me look at life in a better way. It made me realize how much I have,” she told The Journal.

Art therapist Dr. Debra Linesch created the project with Regina Miller, the museum’s project director. This past summer they led a five-day workshop, using Dicker-Brandeis to inspire the inner-city children.

“No matter how bad things are, give voice to it and you are re-humanizing a dehumanizing experience,” said Linesch, director of the graduate department of marital and family therapy at Loyola Marymount University. “That’s what I learned from Friedl.”

The dual exhibit runs through Jan. 15, at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For information, call (310) 553-8403 or visit


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