HOUSTON, TX (Nov. 28, 2006) – A rare, hand-carved artifact made by a prisoner at the Nazi’s infamous Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia has been added to Holocaust Museum Houston’s permanent collection – thanks to a surprise gift by two Washington, D.C., residents.
Mark Talisman, president of the Judaica Foundation, Inc., in Washington, presented a small, hand-carved wooden box made by a camp artisan to the Museum on behalf of himself and his wife, Jill, during the Museum’s annual Guardian of the Human Spirit Award luncheon in November.
The box, approximately 6 inches long and 3.75 inches wide, is intricately carved on all sides and was created by Henrich Wurm, who etched it by hand during the 1940s using a shard of glass while he was imprisoned at the camp, which was referred to as Theresienstadt by the Germans. Wurm later burnished the box with hot coals in a kitchen where he worked to make hot food for the local Nazi soldiers and camp staff.
"When I look closely at this small box… I remember it was made from scraps of wood in the harshest of conditions, not the warmth of a home. The care and love Mr. Wurm used is remarkable testimony to his inner strength – that he could devote such care in the midst of death and destruction in the small world of a camp in a larger world gone totally mad," said Talisman.
The top of the box shows a detailed etching of the main gate at Terezin’s "Little Fortress," a reference to its previous use to protect Prague from armies of the north. The camp was located about 35 miles northwest of Prague.
Wurm gave the box to Irma Lauscher, who taught children at the camp and served as a secretary to Rabbi Leo Baeck. Baeck also was incarcerated there during World War II. Lauscher gave the box to Talisman for safe-keeping after Wurm’s death.
Beginning in 1941, Jews from 152 communities in various countries were sent to Terezin. The camp was liberated on June 8, 1945, but not before more than 33,000 people had died there, Talisman said.
Talisman said he was moved to donate the box to the Museum in honor of Sandra Weiner, who – along with Martin Fein – was honored at the Museum’s luncheon for her foresight and dedication as a founder of the Museum.
"It is most fitting that Mr. Wurm’s precious box now rests at this premier Museum, which teaches so many thousands of students every week about the Holocaust and its consequences," he said.
Museum Executive Director Susan Myers said the box would be placed on public view as soon as an appropriate exhibit space can be created.
"This is an incredible gift of indescribable value," Myers said. "You cannot help but see the pain and the tribulations that Mr. Wurm must have endured, but you also cannot help but see the triumph of his spirit. To think that anyone could create such a beautiful object – by hand, using only a shard of glass while locked in a camp and being treated like an animal under the worst of conditions – is truly a testament to the human will not just to survive, but to thrive."
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.
For more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.