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Before she turned 15, Ela studied art with a famous painter. She performed a leading role in an opera and rubbed elbows with renowned composers and musicians. She appeared in a film directed by a famous movie star.

Ela was not a prodigy or a child star. She was simply a child imprisoned in Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp unlike any other.

Many of the most talented individuals within the occupied territories were held there. These were individuals with international reputations, people who could not simply disappear without the world taking notice.


As masters of propaganda, the Nazis understood the potential image problem presented by their Final Solution and the responses it would incite outside the Reich. They wanted to avoid attracting international scrutiny.

So rather than sending famous individuals to death camps, they sent them to Terezin. The camp’s inmate list read like the Who’s Who of European arts and entertainment.

Terezin’s prisoners worked long hours under harsh conditions. Starvation, overcrowding, harsh treatment, and disease took their toll. Transports carried prisoners to extermination camps nearly every day. Still, brilliant minds were creating, performing and teaching.



Within the confines of this concentration camp, an underground cultural haven emerged. Secret concerts and plays took place in basements; makeshift art galleries were furtively created in barracks; clandestine lectures and readings were held in attics; and children received covert lessons.

By March 1945, all but a few of Terezin’s brightest were gone. But they left behind the artistic, musical, literary and theatrical works found hidden within the camp’s walls after liberation. And their legacy endures with Terezin’s survivors, the Children of the Model Ghetto.

Children of the Model Ghetto tells the story of Ela and her Terezin bunkmates. This film illustrates the persistence and resilience of the human spirit, the endurance of humanity against inhumanity, and the necessity of artistic expression to human existence.

Children of the Model Ghetto is now available. To access online through Vimeo or order DVDs, please contact the filmmakers at

For information about Terezinfest visit


Children of the Model Ghetto ©2009 Matt & Trish Myers |  email