Special Exhibition “The Courage to Know, The Endeavor to Tell”
Michiko Nomura (Nonfiction Writer) [Profile]

Born in Tokyo in 1937, graduating from Waseda University in 1959 with a degree in French literature from the Department of Literature. After working as a copywriter and editor-in-chief of a town magazine, she wrote essays and reportage for newspapers and magazines. In 1989, she encountered pictures of the children of Terezín in Prague and negotiated with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, the Jewish Museum, and others to publicize the fact and obtained permanent rights to use 150 replicas of the drawings.

Since 1991, she has held the “Terejin-shuyojo no Osanai Gaka-tachi ten (Young Painters of the Terezín Ghetto exhibitions)” at 23 venues in Japan.

She has continued to interview the few survivors, hold exhibitions, write books, and give lectures for 32 years. In order to convey the facts of the Holocaust, she also organizes tours to Poland and the Czech Republic, and tours to Tsuruga City, Yaotsu Town, Fukuyama City, and other cities in Japan.

She won the Grand Prize of the Sankei Children's Book Award for her book, Terejin no Chiisana Gaka-tachi (Little Painters of Terezín) and she has also written many books, including Furiidoru sensei to Terejin no Kodomo-tach (Friedle and the Children in Terezín) and Seikansha-tachi no Koe o Kiite (Listening to the Voices of Survivors).

Since 2010, Friidoru to Terejin no Chiisana Gaka-tachi (Friedl and Young Painters in the Terezín) has been included in a 6th grade Japanese language textbook for elementary school students (Gakkotosho). She had given many lectures at elementary and junior high schools, where students are learning from that textbook.
She has performed “Terejin mo Chocho ha inai (Terezín, No More Butterflies),” a concert of readings and songs, composed mainly from poems left behind by the children in Terezín, throughout the country, and in 2001 in Prague and Terezín.

In March 2023, she will resume a tour to Israel, one of her long-standing trips to learn about the Holocaust, and she continues her efforts to convey the message.

The “Life, Peace, and Encounter: Lecture and Concert ‘Terezín, No More Butterflies’” can be viewed here.

Courage to know

When I came across the drawings of the children of Terezín, I immediately wanted to show these to the children in Japan. When I learned about Ms. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who risked her life to open a drawing class in the Ghetto, I wanted to tell adults in Japan about it.

After 6 months, I was promised that I would receive a photographic film of the drawings, and in the meantime, I visited the Terezín concentration camp many times. I also visited Auschwitz (also called a “death factory”) where many children were sent and where their lives were taken. In both places, I bought every book on sale and read them with a dictionary. My head ached, and I felt sick, but it is still not enough. I must listen to the voices of those who have lived there; they should be there, but I cannot meet them. They refuse to see me because they don't want to remember those days.

Yet I finally met a survivor from Terezín. She had been sent to Auschwitz but was fortunate enough to survive. When she had gotten there and off the freight train, she had seen things fluttering in the air like flower petals and noticed a strange smell ... even a girl of only 13 years of age knew immediately that these were burning enormous corpses. She had been shaved, had had numbers tattooed on her arms, and had then been sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she had contracted typhus and had laid half-dead among the corpses until the war ended, when she was finally rescued.

It must be hard to tell, but it is also hard to listen. I struggled to say the words of the question. I stopped myself from looking at her arm with the number carved into it, but I have to ask. I cannot simply move on without knowing.
Dita Kraus said she would tell me, even though it would hurt. “It is the duty of the survivors to speak up, since everyone is dead and unable to speak.”