Teaching the Holocaust Through Art

Teaching through Art

Art is a very powerful and thought-provoking tool that educators can utilize to teach the Holocaust. Art of the Holocaust can be explored through four main areas: art created by the victims, art created by the Nazis, outside art, and remembrance/aftermath art.

Note: It is important to keep in mind that all materials (including artwork) that are used when teaching the Holocaust need to be placed within their historical context.

Four Categories of Art

Art Created by the Victims

This art was a direct response created to document, witness and respond to Nazi persecution. Examples can be seen in the work of the artists listed below. In addition to art actually done during the actual event, there are also works created immediately after liberation or at the end of the war to record their experiences as a direct witness.

  • Felix Nussbaum: Born in 1904 in Osnabreuck, Germany, Nussbaum fled to Belgium and was interned in several French detention camps. He escaped to Brussels but was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His work survived and is in a special museum dedicated to him in Osnabreuck. The museum was designed by Daniel Liebeskind.

  • Charlotte Salomon was a Jewish artist born in Berlin, Germany in 1917. Salomon painted a very large collection of autobiographical works known as Leben? oder Theater? (Life? or Theater?). In 1939, Salomon fled Nazi Germany, moving to the South of France to live with her grandparents, who had fled in 1933. The personal tragedy of the suicides of her mother in 1926 and her grandmother in 1940, as well as being Jewish in Nazi-occupied Europe, led her to confront her family’s past. From 1940-1942, she produced 1325 watercolors. Of that number, roughly 800 went into Life? or Theater?. In 1943, Charlotte Salomon was murdered at Auschwitz. She was 26.

  • Eli Leskley
  • Esther Lurie
  • Boris Kobe
  • Peter Aldor
  • Stanislaw Toegel

Art Created by the Nazis

This art was created by the Nazis and the artists of the Third Reich to promote their ideology. The German Propaganda Archive is one of the largest online archives of Nazi Propaganda Art.

  • German Propaganda Archive, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. An examination of the use and misuse of art and the visual during the the Nazi period.

Outside Art

Art that was created as a direct response to events taking place between 1933-1945 in Nazi Germany and Europe. Much of this work is in the form of editorial cartoons.


Work exploring the Holocaust by artists (survivors, and others) in the aftermath of the event.

Links to Educational Resources

The following are a selection of web sites that specialize in artwork created during or in response to the Holocaust and other genocides.

  • Art of the Holocaust is a site devoted to art of the Holocaust from University of South Florida. It includes Nazi art, art by survivors, and teaching guides.
  • Learning About the Holocaust Through Art is an important contribution to Holocaust education. This website provides high-quality reproductions of art works produced during the Holocaust. It also includes biographies of the artists and histories of the ghettos and camps in which they were interned. Study resources and lesson plans support its use in the classroom and an interactive section enables users to choose and annotate works for their own online collection. The website is available in English, Hebrew, Russian and Spanish. The website has been jointly produced by World ORT (an international educational charity) and Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (a major Holocaust museum in Israel).
  • Exhibitions: Yad Vashem is a collection of online exhibitions produced by Israel's living memorial to the Holocaust.
  • Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum serves as a museum and Holocaust research and documentation center, with an extensive art collection.

Art of Diversity and Acceptance

COEXISTENCE is an outdoor exhibition by the Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem, Isreal). The exhibition brings the universal message of diversity and acceptance of the other to the world community. In 2004 CHGS, the University of Minnesota and several community partners brought the exhibition to the Twin Cities. 

Art in Response to other Genocides

Alfredo Jaar: Rwanda