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Curriculum: To Paint is to Live

“I felt obligated to express the indescribable horror in the language of the absurd that I knew well.” 

Erich LichtBlau-leskly
Teaching Tools


    Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Nathan & Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center have partnered to create curricular pieces that explore the story of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly and broaden students’ understanding of the Holocaust. Erich and his wife Elsa were imprisoned in Theresienstadt, a camp in Czechoslovakia, from 1942 to 1945. During that time, Erich created cartoons that depicted the the hardships and challenges of daily life in the ghetto, infusing his images with satire that reflected in his own words, the “tragic and comical” aspects of life in Theresienstadt.

    After a number of artists were arrested, tortured, and deported, Erich tore up his creations, eliminating text that could be incriminating. Elsa hid the remnants under the floorboard of her barrack. The couple retrieved them after they were liberated. In the 1970s, Erich recreated these works, including the slogans he had eliminated. The exhibit includes both the artwork created in Theresienstadt and the later work he created in Israel. The exhibit highlights the power of art to maintain Erich’s humanity and the way art can document the events of the Holocaust.

    This curriculum includes both synchronous and asynchronous opportunities that expand on art, resilience, primary sources, and ghetto life. Each piece could be done individually or in connection with other JMM programs. Questions? Contact Ellie Gettinger or Sam Goldberg.

    Please let us know what you are planning on using with your classroom, by completing this short form.


    Virtual Tour of To Paint is to Live

    This pre-recorded tour will introduce your students to Erich Lichtblau Leskly’s artwork and provide context about his experience in Theresienstadt. 

    Asynchronous20 – 60 MinutesLink to Curriculum


    Erich Lichtblau Leskly: Documenting the Holocaust

    This synchronous experience provides students with more understanding of Lichblau-Leskly’s art and the opportunity to explore the pieces with an educator. In addition to focusing on Leskly’s art, the session will include a Q&A in which the students can engage broader questions around the Holocaust, Jewish history, and Judaism.

    Synchronous60 MinutesEmail to Book

    The Nature of Cartoons: How Cartoonists  Captured the Horror of the Holocaust

    Erich Lichtblau-Leskly is not the only person who used cartoons to document the Holocaust. In this workshop, your students will explore the history of cartooning and look at other examples from this period. Phil Hands, editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal will provide broader context about the history of cartooning.

    Asynchronous or
    60 MinutesEmail to Book
    Link to Curriculum


    Resilience Through Art

    Erich Lichtblau-Leskly reflected, “For me not to paint would be not to live.” Art provided a way for Leskly to channel himself and to maintain his humanity throughout this horrific period. This workshop explores how art allowed people to engage their trauma to create artwork. It includes an interview with Ted Comet, who shares his wife, Shoshana’s story, of weaving tapestries to process her mental anguish. 

    Asynchronous or
    60 MinutesEmail to Book
    Link to Curriculum


    Additional Educational Opportunities through HERC and JMM

    Workshops Developed by HERC to explore the broader history of the Holocaust and topics like genocide, bystanders, antisemitism, and propaganda. For a complete list, click here.

    Bringing a survivor family member to speak to your class about their family’s experience in the Holocaust. Email us to set up this experience.

    A Tour of JMM’s Holocaust exhibit, offering a broader history of the Holocaust and learning the stories of Milwaukee survivors. Email us to set this up.

    Professional Development opportunities to advance your teaching about the Holocaust.


    Wisconsin Academic Standards 


    Sixth – Eighth Grade Standards

    ELA Standards 

    S.S. Standards

    Art Standards

    RI.6.1, RI.6.2, RI.6.3, RI.6.4, RI.6.6, RI.6.9, RI.7.1, RI.7.3, RI.7.4, RI.7.6, RI.7.7, RI.7.9, RI.8.1, RI.8.2, RI.8.3, RI.8.4, RI.8.6

    W.6.2, W.6.3, W.6.4, W.6.9, W.7.2, W.7.3, W.7.4, W.7.7, W.7.9, W.8.2, W.8.3, W.8.4, W.8.7, W.8.9 

    SL.6.1 SL.6.2, S.L.7.1, , SL.7.2, SL.7.5, SL.8.1

    L.6.2, L.6.3, L.6.4, L.6.6, L.7.1, L.7.2, , L.7.3, L.7.4, L.7.5, L.8.1, L.8.2, L.8.3, L.8.4, L.8.6

    RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.7

    WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.4, WHST.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.9

    A.A.R.11.m, A.A.R.12.m, A.A.R.13.m, A.A.R.14.m, A.A.R.15.m

    Ninth – Twelfth Grade Standards

    ELA Standards  9-12

    S.S. Standards  9-12

    Art Standards  9-12

    RI.9-10.1, RI.9-10.2, RI.9-10.4, RI.9-10.6, RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.2, RI.11-12.3, RI.11-12.4, RI.11-12.6

    W.9-10.2, W.9-10.3, W.9-10.4, W.9-10.6, W.9-10.9, W.11-12.2, W.11-12.3, W.11-12.4, W.11-12.6, W.11-12.7, W.11-12.9, 

    SL.0-10.1, SL.9-10.4, SL9-10.5, SL.11-12.1, S.11-12.2, SL.11-12.3, SL.11-12.4, SL.11-12.5

    L.9-10.2, L.9-10.4, L.11-12.2, L.11-12.4

    RH.9-10.1, RH.9-10.2, RH.9-10.3, RH.9-10.4, RH.9-10.6, RH.9-10.7, RH.11-12.1, RH.11-12.2, RH.11-12.4, RH.11-12.6, RH.11-12.7, RH.11-12.9, 

    WHST.9-10.2, WHST.9-10.4, WHST.9-10.6, WHST.9-10.7, WHST.9-10.9, WHST.11-12.2, WHST.11-12.4, WHST.11-12.6, WHST.11-12.7, WHST.11-12.9

    A.A.R.16.h, A.A.R.17.h, A.A.R.18.h, A.A.R.19.h, A.A.R.20.h


    Thank you to our generous exhibit sponsors: Bader Philanthropies, Harri Hoffmann Family Foundation, Isabel Bader, Anonymous Foundation*, Suzy B. Ettinger*, Herb Kohl Charities, Gerald & Louise Stein Family*, Esther & Fredric Ancel, Sharon & Richard Canter, Lloyd & Sheri Levin, Karen E & Leonard L Loeb*, Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, Betsy Rosenblum & Richard Buchband, Jody & Jeff Steren*, The Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 

    *Donor Advised Fund of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation

    Images from left to right:
    You Can See Right into the Stomach. Ghetto period, Terezin, 1943
    You Can See Right into the Stomach. Israeli period, 1970 – early 1980s
    The New Order Service. Ghetto period, Terezin, 1943
    Ghettoized: Placards from the Ghetto Theresienstadt. Israeli period, 1970 – early 1980s

    This exhibit is on loan from Holocaust Museum LA.