“MONOPOLY – LIVING IN ILLUSION" - the Opening Event
The connection between the two words “bank” and “ghetto” is like the connection between Herzl and Lilienblum to discount bank but nevertheless, under the patronage of discount bank there exists in Tel Aviv the “HerzLilienblum”, a museum for banking and Tel Aviv nostalgia and at this museum the exhibition “Monopoly – Living in Illusion” was held from April to June, on the subject of the bank, which existed in ghetto Theresienstadt. In the following a report on a few events at the exhibition.
What is common to a bank, a symbol from the world of free work and prosperity and the ghetto where work was forced labor with no profit? Children, men and women aged 14 – 65 were employed in ghetto Theresienstadt in forced labor. But on the German’s order a bank was established, there where nearly 50.000 accounts for workers and other ghetto inmates. To acquiesce to the ruler’s demands and to prove the rise in efficiency, work reports and finance flow charts were prepared and banknotes printed; with the latter one could at the most pay for the watery beverage called “coffee” at the café opened at the main square, this, too, as part of the image of an quasi normal life in the ghetto the Nazis wanted to present.
The ghetto leadership (“Council of Elders”) managed accounts with a population that reached at times 58.000 souls, in a place whose infrastructure was suited to hold not more than 7.000 persons, most of these in barracks. The leadership took care of construction and infrastructure and tried to maintain the town. They had to provide food for all ghetto inmates, productive work in the hope that this would prevent transport to the East; they had to establish hospitals and health care for the prisoners under the threat of epidemics, disease and hunger and they had, of course, to care for youth and its education, in the face of the many German prohibitions. The leaders encouraged cultural activities and took special care to occupy children through education, creation, play and games (e.g. the “Monopoly” of the ghetto) and safeguarding them, as far as possible.
All these activities took place under the threat of drastic collective punishments, execution and torture and mainly the constant fluctuation of population – transports arriving from all communities of Central Europe and transports leaving to the East – to forced labor and extermination camps. The organization of labor in the ghetto is aptly documented in the album “Working in a Trap”, created originally in the ghetto and reprinted in a special edition by Beit Theresienstadt.
Through cooperation of Beit Terezin and the Discount bank the exhibition “Monopoly – Living in Illusion” was opened on April 8, 2010, at the HerzLilienblum museum in Tel Aviv. The exhibition, whose opening was attended by VIPs and Holocaust survivors, displays two faces of life in ghetto Theresienstadt: the existence and function of the bank and the organization of labor in the ghetto; and a spotlight on the life of children in the ghetto (1942-1945) in contrast to the life of Tel Aviv children in those years.
The exhibition describes life in the ghetto, the world of children and youth studying clandestinely but at the same time drawing their surroundings, together with dreams and serenity they wish for – and on top of all this threaten hunger, diseases, death and transports to extermination camps and separation from the family.
The exhibition ”Monopoly – Living in Illusion” documents the children’s life through their drawings.
Work and the development of the bank are shown through reports and drawings by adults, in the anomalous reality the ghetto inmates lived in; in the end most were sent to extermination camps and did not return. At the same time, children in Tel Aviv studied in educational institutions, played and went to the sea – they were free.