Frederika Dicker, she married Pavel Brandeis in 1936. Dicker-Brandeis was a student of Johannes Itten at his private school in Vienna, and later followed Itten to study and teach at the Weimar Bauhaus. She was involved in the textile design, printmaking, bookbinding, and typography workshops there from 1919-1923. After leaving the Bauhaus, she worked as an artist and textile designer in Berlin, Prague, and Hronov.
“I remember thinking in school how I would grow up and would protect my students from unpleasant impressions, from uncertainty, from scrappy learning,” Friedl Dicker-Brandeis wrote to a friend in 1940. “Today only one thing seems important — to rouse the desire towards creative work, to make it a habit, and to teach how to overcome difficulties that are insignificant in comparison with the goal to which you are striving.”
In World War II
Dicker-Brandeis and her husband were deported to the Terezín “model ghetto” in December 1942. During her time at Terezín, she gave art lessons and lectures. She helped to organize secret education classes for the children of Terezín. She saw drawing and art as a way for the children to understand their emotions and their environment. In this capacity she was giving art therapy.
At Terezin she persisted in pursuing her goal — “to rouse the desire towards creative work.”
In September 1944, Brandeis was transported to Auschwitz; Dicker-Brandeis volunteered for the next transport to join him. But before she was taken away, she gave to Raja Engländerova, the chief tutor of Girls’ Home L 410, two suitcases with 4,500 drawings to whom she also taught Hana Brady.
F. Dicker-Brandeis died in Birkenau on 9 October 1944. Her husband Pavel, survived.
After the war, Willy Groag, the director of the Girl’s home L 410 brought the suitcases with children’s drawings to the Jewish Community in Prague. From the nearly 660 authors of the drawings, 550 were killed in the Holocaust. The drawings are now in the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection, with some on display in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague.
In 1999, a Friedl Dicker-Brandeis exhibition, organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and curated by Elena Makarova of Israel, opened in Vienna. The exhibition was shown in Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, France, USA, and Japan. Tokyo Fuji Art Museum founder Daisaku Ikeda, who was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to Japan, comments, “The various artworks left behind by this great woman and the children of Terezin are their legacy to the present, to all of us today. They demand that we continue in our quest for a society that truly treasures human life, transcending all differences of race, religion, politics and ideology. It remains my heartfelt hope that this exhibit may provide a moment of introspection for its viewers, a moment for us to reaffirm the importance of our rights as human beings and the value of life itself.”