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Drawing of Jewish Council member as circus ringmaster drawn by camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2003.361.4

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    Drawing of Jewish Council member as circus ringmaster drawn by camp inmate

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    Brief Narrative
    Caricature drawn by Peter Kien for Moritz Henschel while both were imprisoned in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. It depicts Moritz as a circus ringmaster. Moritz was a member of the Jewish Council in the camp and Kien was an influential artist and playwright who also designed the camp currency. Kien was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944 and died soon after arrival. Moritz was an influential lawyer in Berlin when Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933. As the government persecution of Jews intensified, Moritz and Hildegard sent their daughters Marianne, 15, to Palestine and Lilly, 13, to England in 1939. Moritz was on the board of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, created by the Nazi government in February 1939 to organize Jewish affairs. The Association was eventually forced to assist with deportations. Moritz also became president of the Berlin Jewish Community. In January 1943, Moritz became president of the Reich Association, when Leo Baeck was deported. On June 10, 1943, the Reich Association was shut down and Moritz and Hildegard were deported to Theresienstadt on June 16. Moritz was elected to the Jewish Council and put in charge of the Freizeitgestaltung, which produced cultural materials and events. On May 9, 1945, the camp was liberated by Soviet forces. Moritz and Hildegard went to Deggendorf displaced persons camp, then emigrated to Palestine in 1946.
    Artwork Title
    Moritz as Circus Ringmaster, Theresienstadt
    received:  after 1943 June-before 1944 October
    received: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    creation: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Yoel Givol and Michal Lilli Kahani, in memory of their grandparents, Hildegard and Moritz Henschel
    Subject: Moritz Henschel
    Artist: Peter Kien
    Moritz Henschel was born on February 17, 1879, in Breslau, Germany (Wroclaw, Poland), to Karl and Emma Deutsch Henschel. In January 1910, he graduated from the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary and began working as a lawyer. Moritz served in the German Army in World War I (1914-1918), and was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class, for bravery. After the war, he worked at the Landgericht, the regional court in Berlin. On June 28, 1922, Moritz married Hildegard Alexander, who was born on April 29, 1897, in Berlin. She served as a nurse in World War I and worked as a lab technician at a pharmacy company from 1919 to 1923. They had two daughters: Marianne, born on September 6, 1923, and Lilly, born on April 5, 1926.

    In January 1933, Hitler came to power and, by summer, Germany was ruled by a Nazi dictatorship. Moritz was a member of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Reich Representation of German Jews), which was established in September 1933 to oversee Jewish education, vocational training, welfare and economic assistance, and emigration and was an influential member of the Berlin Kehillah (Jewish Community). On March 5, 1938, the Jewish Community was no longer recognized by the Nazi government as a public corporate body, so Moritz, along with Heinrich Stahl and Herbert Selinger, ran it as an emergency committee. As conditions worsened, Moritz and Hildegard decided to get their daughters of Germany. In November 1938, they sent Marianne, 14, to a Zionist preparatory camp in Rudnitz. On January 31, 1939, Marianne left for Palestine with a Youth Aliyah group and settled in a kibbutz. In 1939, Lilly, 13, was sent to England on a Kindertransport. In February 1939, the Reichsvertretung was restructured into the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (Reich Association of Jews in Germany), which oversaw Jewish emigration, education, labor, and welfare. Moritz was on the board. Hildegard worked for its Office of Emigration from 1939 to 1940. In August 1939, the Berlin Jewish Community was reorganized as a society under the Reichsvereinigung, with Heinrich Stahl as president. In March 1940, Moritz became president of the Jewish Community when Heinrich Stahl was removed by the government. Hildegard was a secretary for the Community’s health administration. On September 19, 1941, Jews in Berlin were forced to wear Star of David badges. The government began large scale confiscations of Jewish property, starting with an old age home. Hospitals and schools were also confiscated.

    Living conditions for Jews worsened as the government pursued the policy of making Berlin Judenfrei (free of Jews). In October 1941, the government began large scale deportations of Jews from Berlin. The Reichsvereinigung was forced to assist with the deportations. On Yom Kippur on October 1, Moritz and two of his employees were taken from the synagogue to meet with the Gestapo. They were told that a large number of people were being deported to Łódź. The Jewish community had to submit an updated list of all Jews in Berlin and turn one of the synagogues into a transit camp for 1,000 people. After 4,000 people had been deported, Moritz was told the next transports would be sent to a kibbutz near Riga and Minsk. He believed that cooperation was necessary because they would carry out the deportations more humanely than the German SS. Moritz had secret contacts in the railroad and they soon realized that they were being lied to about the destination of the transports. They received news that people were being moved from Łódź and Riga to Stutthof concentration camp, where they were killed. They never heard about the transport to Minsk again. The government eventually established more assembly camps in Jewish cemeteries, hospitals and synagogues, from which Jews were deported to eastern Europe. The deportations increased, but Moritz and Hildegard were protected from being deported because they were employees of the Jewish Community and had special identification. They wore their Star of David badges on the left and had a stamped armband. After the president of the Reichsvereinigung, Leo Baeck, was deported to Theresienstadt in January 1943, Moritz became president.

    On June 10, 1943, German SS went to Moritz’s office and arrested him, telling him that the Reichsvereinigung no longer existed. Moritz, Hildegard, and the remaining leaders of the Reichsvereinigung were taken to an assembly camp in Berlin. On June 16, Moritz and Hildegard were deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. Moritz was elected to the Judenrat (Jewish Council). The chairman of the Judenrat reported to the German camp commandant and administered the camps for the Germans. He was advised by the members of the council. Moritz was put in charge of the Freizeitgestaltung (Leisure Time Department), which produced cultural materials and events, such as music, poetry, and plays. Moritz was also made head of the post office. The camp was overcrowded, with severe food shortages, and disease and starvation were widespread. Moritz and Hildegard survived by receiving food parcels from Sweden and keeping a low profile. They were liberated on May 9, 1945, by Soviet forces.

    In fall 1945, Moritz and Hildegard went to Deggendorf displaced persons camp in Germany. In 1946, they were given permission to immigrate to Palestine and settled in Tel Aviv. On September 13, 1946, Moritz gave a lecture about the last years of the Berlin Jewish Community. Moritz, age 68, died on April 22, 1947, in Tel Aviv.
    Franz Peter Kien was born January 1, 1919, in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), to Leonard and Olga Frankl Kien. His father Leonard was born in 1886, in Varnsdorf, and was a member of the German-speaking Jewish population in the, the Sudetenalnd, which bordered Germany. Leonard was a textile manufacturer with his own factory. Peter’s mother Olga was born in 1898, in Bzenec, Austro-Hungary (Czech Republic), to Jewish parents. After 1929, the Kien family moved to Brno. Peter enrolled at the German Gymnasium, where he excelled at drawing, painting, and writing. In 1936, he graduated and moved to Prague to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He also attended the Officina Pragensis, a private graphic design school run by a well-known Jewish artist, Hugo Steiner-Prag.

    On September 29, 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland. On March 15, 1939, Germany invaded Prague and annexed the Bohemia and Moravia provinces of Czechoslovakia, ruled by a Reich Protector. Jews were banned from participation in government, businesses, and organization, including schools. Peter had to leave the Academy, but continued to study at the Officina Pragensis. He also taught at Vinohrady Synagogue. In September 1940, Peter married Ilse Stranska, who was born on May 9, 1915, in Pilsen, to Jewish parents.

    In late September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, the SS head of RSHA, Reich Main Security Office, became Reich Protector. Soon there were regular deportations of Jews to concentration camps. At the end of November, Theresienstadt concentration and transit camp near Prague got its first shipment of Jewish prisoners. On December 14, Peter was transported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. He was assigned to the technical department where he worked as a draftsman and designer alongside other artists, including Bedrich Fritta, Leo Haas, and Jiri Lauscher. On July 16, 1942, Peter’s wife Ilse arrived in the camp. On January 30, 1943, Peter’s parents Leonard and Olga were transported from Bzenec to Terezin. Peter was assigned major projects by the Jewish Council that administered the camp for the Germans, such as the scrip receipts used in place of money in the camp. He secretly documented the inmate’s daily life, creating portraits and other drawings, and wrote plays, poems, and an operatic libretto. On October 16, 1944, Peter’s wife Ilse and his parents Leonard and Olga were selected for deportation. Peter volunteered to go with them. Before leaving, Peter and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Peter survived the selection process, soon fell ill, likely with typhus, and died at age 25 in late October 1944. His wife and parents were killed at Auschwitz. Some of the work that Peter left with other prisoners or hid at Theresienstadt survived and has been exhibited worldwide.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Ink drawing on cardboard of a man, Moritz Henschel, dressed as a circus ringmaster.
    overall : cardboard, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Yoel Givol and Michal Lilli Kahani, the grandchildren of Hildegard and Moritz Henschel.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-29 07:56:17
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