25 January 2024 Time to read: 6 mins

Safeguarding the Record during the Holocaust: A testament to courage and humanity

The urgency in Sid’s voice as he recounts his life in Terezin transcends the screens that connect us. His memories transport us back to Terezin, where, at the tender age of 14, he found himself documenting the unthinkable. He explains his daily task of pulling horses carrying bodies to the crematorium and how his unique access to the man in charge of this facility allowed him to record the horrors that unfolded within its walls.  

Sid’s stories of this time are remarkable in their bravery and resilience. When his paternal grandmother, Emilie Taussig passed away in Terezin, Sid, undeterred by the circumstances, sought to honor her memory. Through his father’s connection as a blacksmith in the camp and his own connection to those running the crematorium, he arranged for her ashes to be placed in a wooden box and buried them.  

When he speaks about the boys in Home Number One L 417, a dormitory housing teenage boys on the ground floor of a barrack, he explains that the guard posted outside their door only saw a bunch of kids acting like typical teenagers in the room. Little did they know the boys were part of a sophisticated process of developing content for a magazine. “We published Vedem over the course of 2-2.5 years so there are so many stories in it. Notable people would come to the boys’ dormitory to be interviewed, like a comedian and actor named ‘Švenk’.” These conversations inspired interviews, articles, and drawings in Vedem, filling the boys with hope and giving them a necessary escape from their cruel reality.  

Sidney Taussig in the documentary, "The Boys of Terezin." Credit: Music of Remembrance

A quote from the first issue of Vedem reads: “They have unjustly uprooted us from the soil that nurtured us, from the work, the joys, and the culture from which our young lives should have drawn strength. They have only one aim in mind – to destroy us, not only physically but mentally and morally as well.” Vedem was an act of defiance – every issue thwarted the Nazi’s intentions of destroying the Jewish people. Though Sid watched as each one of his friends were sent on deadly transports to Auschwitz, their stories and drawings in Vedem remained to immortalize their thoughts and dreams.  

Sid’s wife, Marion, who knows this story well, emphasizes the responsibility that Sid felt as he watched his friends being sent to their deaths. “He was the last boy who was left there so it was really on his shoulders to make sure nothing happened to that magazine, which was a historical piece of evidence and something the boys worked hard on – they learned from it, they had fun with it and they experienced disaster with it, so it was a mixture of a lot of things that these young, 13-16 year-old boys went through. They had a lot on their shoulders that they had to conquer.”  

Agreeing with Marion, Sid makes a shocking revelation, “Everyone from the dorm was put on a transport to Auschwitz – including me.” Sid had been on a transport, facing his own death when an unexpected twist of fate intervened. An order had been given by Rahm, the last head of the SS in Terezin, to ensure a certain number of craftsmen were to remain in the camp. This automatically excluded both Sid and his mother from being placed on a transport according to the so-called Familienzerreisung rule. An SS guard, familiar with Sid‘s father from routine visits to the blacksmith’s workshop, intervened before the transport departed and Sid was spared.  

Everyone from the dorm was put on a transport to Auschwitz – including me.

Had Sid not been removed from the transport, Vedem may have been lost forever. Surviving the fate that befell his friends, Sid resolved to share Vedem with the world. He hid the magazine with his grandmother’s ashes to keep it safe from the SS and waited for liberation from Terezin. When it came, many people fled quickly. But young Sid had two duties to fulfill before he could leave the camp. The first was to honor his grandmother’s memory by digging up her ashes to bury them alongside his grandfather’s grave in Prague. The second was to take two copies of Vedem and find a way to share them. He wanted to ensure the stories of the young boys who witnessed and recorded the horrors of Terezin, but who never lost their hope for humanity among the brutality, would live on past their tragically short lives.  

The stories Sid shares are not just personal anecdotes but critical components of a broader narrative that demands our attention. In a world where antisemitism is resurging, safeguarding Holocaust-related sites and the stories they hold becomes more than a historical endeavor; it becomes necessary for society. The echoes of the past serve as warnings for the present and future. As Sid emphasizes, “Sites play an important role in telling the stories of the Holocaust so that younger generations can learn from the past and ensure it is never repeated.” This statement pulls us back to the present, to consider how Sid’s actions impact our understanding of the people who suffered during the Holocaust.  

Today, an original copy of Vedem is stored in the Terezin Memorial and other copies can be found at Yad Vashem. Thanks to Sid’s efforts, every year thousands of people learn about the boys of Vedem and their quest to safeguard the record of the Holocaust while it was still ongoing.  

Credit: Collection of Terezín Memorial


“The people I knew who were imprisoned with me in Terezin have all gone,” Sid says, highlighting the urgency of Holocaust remembrance. Their stories, preserved in Vedem and other records, serve as indispensable tools for Holocaust education. Many of those records can be found in Holocaust sites and archives throughout Europe.  

The responsibility to safeguard this legacy rests not only on survivors like Sid but on the collective conscience of the world. Holocaust-related sites are the foundation of Holocaust remembrance. Without them, testimonies like Sid’s and the boys of Vedem could fade into oblivion. The IHRA, with the launch of the IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites, underscores this so that sites remain places of remembrance and education for years to come.  

As Sid turns 93, his commitment to Holocaust education remains unwavering. His testimony reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of passing down these stories of youth, hope, and tragedy to shape a more tolerant and compassionate world. Regardless of the era and circumstances, many of the experiences of youth are universal. Keeping these stories alive therefore ensures that this history remains a living entity, rather than a distant chapter. This, Sid believes, is paramount to combating antisemitism in the world today. “If this history is forgotten, who knows what will happen to the Jews,” he says with concern.  

The boys of Terezin, through Vedem, handed us a torch – a torch that illuminates the darkest corners of history. It is our collective responsibility to carry it forward, ensuring that the flames of remembrance never flicker out. In doing so, we fortify the foundations of our pluralistic, democratic societies, forging a future where the lessons of the Holocaust resonate across time and echo in the hearts of generations to come.  

It was with great sadness that we learned, following this interview, that Sid Taussig passed away on 13 December 2023. His passing reminds us of the need to remember the Holocaust in a world where fewer survivors are here to tell their stories. May his memory be a blessing.