Books

Rescued from the death camp, a father’s book for his son in a bookstore

Rescued from the death camp, a father’s book for his son in a bookstore

For Tommy, on his third birthday in Theresienstadt, January 22, 1944 made by Czechoslovak Jewish graphic designer and artist Bedrich Fritta for his son, who was also deported with his father. John MACDOUGALL / AFP

After an edition in Dutch in 1980, then in German, Czech, English and Hebrew, Rocher editions publish a French translation For Tommy, January 22, 1944Wednesday.

For Tommy, on his third birthday in Theresienstadt, January 22, 1944, was translated into French. This children’s book by Czechoslovak and Jewish cartoonist Bedrich Fritta, first published in the 1980s in Dutch and then in German, English, Czech and Hebrew, was published in France on January 18. In this book, he tells about the daily life of the Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration camp. Original from For Tommy, January 22, 1944 (Tomick in Czech) was shown in 2013 during the exhibition in Berlin Jewish Museum.

In the eighties of the last century, the book was discovered by the Dutch children’s writer Mies Bouhuys and presented to the general public. Today, while working on death camp music, composer and musician Hélios Azoulay is affected by this drawn work. “From music to drawing there was only one step. When I came across this story, I found it as precious as the nursery rhymes sung in these camps“, he explains. Fascinated by the book, he decided to publish it in French.

Like Mies Bouhuys before him, he recounts in a long afterword the tragic fate of Bedrich Fritta, imprisoned in Theresienstadt with his wife Johanna (known as Hensi) and their son Tomás (known as Tommy). Born in the bohemian village of Visnova, trained in ParisFritta is a cartoonist at Praguefor the very serious Prager Tagblatt and the satirical anti-fascist magazine Easywhen’Nazi Germany falls into Czechoslovakia. In November 1941, he was arrested as a Jew and deported to Terezin, a fortified town that was turned into a ghetto by the SS.

Officially, it is about working, as a draftsman, on the construction of a transit camp. Theresienstadt is actually a concentration camp where the poet Robert Desnos, the director Marceline Loridan-Ivens or the sister of Franz Kafka, Ottla, will pass through, among others. Tommy’s drawings, designed in secret between two technical drawing sessions, are the bright side of Bedrich Fritta’s deported work. They are overflowing with color and humor, and show a little boy who doesn’t quite act like that.

Buried on the farm

«If the book was intended for this famous Thomas, then all children can read it today. But the story of its author is a story that is not told to children“, explains Helios Azoulay. The dark side of Bedrich Fritta’s drawings consists of sketches of life in the ghetto that make promiscuity and scarcity terrifying. When the SS discovered these black-and-white drawings in July 1944, the five designers were tortured and then sent to a concentration camp.Auschwitzin Poland.

This arrest is known as “the job of a painter“. Bedrich Fritta died in November 1944. One of his companions, Leo Haas, not only survived, but also raised Tommy Fritta, after he went to Terezin, which had been liberated by the Red Army, to find drawings intended for a small to the boy They were hidden in a metal crate buried in the farm yard.

Tommy Fritta died at the age of 74 in 2015. And his four children just left an inheritance “Tomickin the Jewish Museum in Berlin. “It is a work that the director of the museum did not expect. I was in Berlin and was invited there with David, one of Tommy’s sons, on the occasion of this publication in French. It was very touching” says Hélios Azoulay.


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