Franz Peter Kien (1919 - 1944)
     Franz Peter Kien

Catalogue-Monograph and Exhibition at Terezin Memorial (2009)

The project of Elena Makarova,
Israel Ira Rabin,
Israel NPO Solidarity,
Israel Terezin Memorial, Czech Republic

Franz Peter Kien (1919 - 1944), a prominent figure among Czech German Jewish talents in the Terezin ghetto during WW2, is known today mostly as the librettist of the opera “The Emperor of Atlantis” by Viktor Ullmann. Unfortunately, his brilliant artwork, poetry and plays stayed practically unknown.
Born in 1919 in a Czech border town Varnsdorf, Kien received education at the German gymnasium in Brno. His remarkable ability to write and to draw was even noted in his school certificate. In 1936, Kien enrolled in Art Academy in Prague (Prof. Willy Novak’s class) and attended the private graphic design school Officina Pragensis (Prof. Hugo Steiner-Prag). His drawings, poems, film scripts and essays in German attracted public interest.

In 1939, after the racist laws were enforced, Kien was sacked from the Academy, but continued to work at Officina Praguensis (Prof. Jaroslav Švab), and taught art at the Vinohrady synagogue. He tried to emigrate together with his family but didn’t succeed. In December 1941, Peter Kien was deported to Terezin. Over thousand drawings, sketches, designs and paintings originate from the pre-Terezin time.

In Terezin Peter Kien worked at the Technical department together with such artists as Bedrich Fritta, Jo Spier, Leo Haas and others. Kien left numerous portraits, landscapes, drawings and genre sketches. His artwork radiates light, hope and warmth. Contrary to his artwork his literary work is mostly tragic and hopeless.

In addition to libretto and numerous poems, Kien wrote a social satirical play “Marionettes,” staged by Gustav Schorsch. (Unfortunately lost.) Other plays written in the camp are “Medea,” “Bad dream” and “On the border.” (Deposited in the Wiener Library, London, they were never published and never performed). Gideon Klein set Kien’s poetic cycle “Plague-stricken city” to music.

October 16, 1944, Peter was deported to Auschwitz together with his parents and his wife. Nobody survived.

Project Staff

Elena Makarova - exhibit curator research, translation, writing

Ira Rabin - research, translation, writing,

Georg Schrom - exhibition designer

Miroslav Vesely - local exhibit curator.

Makarova has an 18-year research experience on Terezin ghetto/concentration camp history, in particular its cultural and spiritual life, resulting in scores of books, exhibits and films. One of the best Makarova’s achievements was her curatorship of the traveling exhibition of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in 1999 – 2005. This exhibit about outstanding Bauhaus artist and Terezin children’s teacher killed in Auschwitz was shown in the US, Japan and five European countries, including Czech Republic (Egon Schiele Museum).

Another of Makarova’s “discovery” was Peretz Bedrich Mayer (1906 – 2002), a Moravia-born painter. Brother of the Prague architect Leo Mayer, who was incarcerated in Terezin KZ and eventually murdered in Auschwitz, Bedrich miraculously escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe. After detention in a British camp on Mauritius Island (1941 – 1945) he became an accomplished, though under-estimated, Israeli artist. In 2005, in Terezin Memorial, Elena Makarova realized the exhibition “Boarding Pass to Paradise” dedicated to Mayer and his friend Fritz Händel (1911 – 1945), another gifted Mauritius detainee.

2012 © Elena & Sergei Makarov