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.

Endeavor to tell

The “Terejin-shuyojo no Osanai Gaka-tachi ten (Young Painters of the Terezín Ghetto Exhibition)” began in 1991 and is still ongoing, even though it has been over 30 years. In Kawagoe, where I live, it has already been held five times. In Koganei and Kitakyushu, it has been held three or four times, respectively.

Some people come to the venue from far away, saying, “I’ve seen it so many times already.” They invite their friends and bring their children and grandchildren, and now that they know the facts about Terezín, they say that they want to tell everyone about it.

I started this work alone. No one even knew the name Terezín Ghetto. Even now, many people say they are learning about it for the first time, but I have tried my best to tell the story. I felt that I had to continue telling the story because there were people who had told me their own painful stories.

At the beginning of my activities, a newspaper reporter said, “It’s just children’s drawings.” When he stood in front of them, however, he said, “These children’s drawings make people’s hearts tender,” and wrote an article to reflect this. He said, “I felt it was my duty as a person who knew about it to tell people about it.” One by one, the number of such people increased.

All these people said to have heard the voices coming through those children’s drawings: “There was a little girl who was killed on the day I was born,” or “a girl who had the same birthday as my grandson, was drawing a picture of an amusement park that he also loved.” The trigger is trivial, but they want to tell many people that those children were there and that they drew such bright and beautiful pictures, even in the fear of death.
“I respect the teacher who encouraged the children, who was sent to Auschwitz at the same age as I was, and whose wonderful way to live brought back smiles and hope to countless children who had forgotten it. I will let everyone around me know because I think we all need to do that kind of work.”
A person who spoke with tears in her eyes… it would be wonderful if someone like that appeared today.

May 2023
Michiko Nomura