The cartoon series by Erich Lichtblau has existed in the collection of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in various versions: Along with the cut-up fragments from Theresienstadt, which were later reassembled after the liberation with the original picture captions, there is also the newly created, poster-sized version using watercolors on card, which Erich Lichtblau produced more than 70 examples of in the 1970s and 1980s in Israel. It is this second series, which retains a notable similarity in content with the original pictures from ghetto times, that is the focus of the following examination. It is supposedly very close to the existing original series, including the satirical slogans. In this multi-picture narration, Erich Lichtblau tells a visual story of the ghetto at Theresienstadt. Unlike with other pictorial memoirs, his motivation was not to reveal the brutality of the SS, but to present “normal” ghetto life. In one of his few autobiographical comments, he recalls after the war:

“I didn’t waste time crying over the monstrous behaviour of the Nazi regime, we knew that. I didn’t waste my precious material on the heroes of the ghetto. I just wanted to record the everyday, even banal.”

Yet his picture story is not only a visual narration of ghetto life, but also a cartoon, a pictorial caricature of that time. Combined with satirical comments and slogans on each picture, Erich Lichtblau shows us the grotesque and even the funny moments from daily life in a Nazi ghetto. He wrote:

“I felt obligated to express the indescribable horror in the language of the absurd that I knew well.”

Many images deal with the bad living conditions, e.g. the overcrowded barracks, high death rates or the lack of water for washing (see catalogue no. 84-42). Others reflect the problems of “organizing” meals or the absurd orders of the ghetto administration. An internal story of its own is the sequence about the visit by the Red Cross in June 1944 (see for example no. 84-60), which shows the grotesque beautification of the ghetto in order to deceive the public about the real purpose of Theresienstadt. We will now look more closely at some of the pictures in order to show how Erich Lichtblau makes targeted use of the device of the comic to expose the lies of Nazi propaganda. For example, the technique of exaggeration is utilized in the picture entitled "Only for Hard Workers Rations are Added" (see no. 84-33). Here we see a woman who uses a remarkably small ladle with which to serve a few drops of soup to three waiting people. The writing on the sign "Nur für Schwerarbeiter" (Only for Hard Workers) refers to the Nazi ordinance that physically hard working people were to receive additional food rations, usually in form of an extra portion of soup. In the face of the entirely insufficient amounts served as the normal portions, the "extra portion" must have seemed like mockery to the starving prisoners, which Erich Lichtblau satirically exaggerates through his miniaturized depiction of the ladle and soup portion. A number of the stylistic devices used in cartoons can be found simultaneously in the next picture, "The New Order Service" (see no. 84-34), which ridicules the behavior of the so-called New Order Service. The Order Service (or "Ordnungsdienst" – recognizable by their armbands with the initials O.D.) replaced the uniformed Ghettowache from August 1943 on, and was intended to maintain calm and order among the ghetto residents. Erich Lichtblau shows a member of this new service as he seemingly politely requests that the waiting people remain orderly ("Bitte höflichst nicht zu drängen!" or "Please kindly do not crowd!") during the serving of food. In crass contradiction of his decidedly polite words, the man, with raised fists and bared predator's teeth, nearly pushes the first in line to the floor. Here Erich Lichtblau makes targeted use of the stylistic devices of contradiction and transformation, to expose the supposedly new polite manner of the Order Service as the previously known aggressive behavior. A good example of the cartoon technique of transposition can be observed in the picture "Encounter of the Carriages" (see no. 84-24), in which, according to the picture captions, a "Jewish" and an "Arian" wagon cross paths in the ghetto. While the "Arian" driver has the otherwise usual draft animals in front of his wagon, in this case two horses, the "Jewish" driver has to pull the wagon himself. Here Erich Lichtblau plays with the viewer's surprise that a person is used outside of the normal context as a "human draft horse". As exaggerated and absurd as this situation may seem, the background was very real. Anything that Jewish prisoners wanted to transport within the Ghetto, they were obliged to carry or to load onto a wagon, which they themselves had to pull. For this purpose, hearses were often used, which had earlier been used for burials.

As can been seen through these examples by Erich Lichtblau, the goal of most camp cartoons was not to dramatize the conditions in the concentration camp or ghetto through exaggeration, or to downplay them with the use of humor. Much more so, the camp cartoons functioned as a satirical commentary on everyday life, much like a caricature in a newspaper comments upon daily developments in politics. At the same time, the massive death toll, the torture and murder by the SS and the deep despair and the suffering of the prisoners is less commonly shown. It is more the absurdities of daily life in the camp, the contradiction between Nazi propaganda and reality, that come to the foreground. Indeed, in comparison with other camp cartoons, Erich Lichtblau's work reveals a number of special details. The series of cartoons recalls advertising pictures or political posters, especially in the reconstructed version from the 1970s/80s. This is partly due to the relatively large format of the pictures and the depiction of the individual ghetto scenes, which are reduced to the bare essentials. Erich Lichtblau sets the figures in the scene with just a few, strong lines, while the background is often only suggested or is left out entirely, so as not to distract from the actual message of the picture. In addition, the flat colors in contrasting combinations as well as the slightly caricatured drawing style make each of the pictures recognizable. Furthermore, Erich Lichtblau supports his satirical messages using concise texts which, like the catchy slogans of advertising placards or political posters, are presented graphically. He makes use of large, easily readable letters, where individual words are emphasized using colored markings or a change in size. After all, in the title page that opens the cartoon series, Erich Lichtblau calls them "Plakate aus dem Ghetto Theresienstadt“ (Placards from the Ghetto Theresienstadt) (see cover page no. 84-1) and thereby clearly refers to the relation with advertising posters. That the aesthetics are borrowed from advertising is not a coincidence. Before his deportation to Theresienstadt in 1942, Erich Lichtblau was a qualified window dresser and practiced this profession for several years at various shops in Ostrau, then in Czechoslovakia. Despite a certain similarity, his pictures do not contain the impersonality and technical "slickness" of the mass media of the poster, which is intended for reproduction. Erich Lichtblau's "placards" are much more handmade watercolors on card, unique specimens which retain the stylistic hallmarks and characteristic brushstroke of the artist.The individuality of the works by Erich Lichtblau can also be seen in his incorporation of autobiographical elements. His pictures are not only satirical commentary on daily life in Theresienstadt, they are also a part of his own biography in the camp. This personal aspect is clearly referenced in a number of pictures, while others reveal their autobiographical background only with additional information or later explanation by Erich Lichtblau himself. In the first category, for example, are the two pictures from the hutment of Wulkow near Berlin, which include portraits of Lichtblau's fellow prisoners, including their names as well as the dates of their time spent in the camp (see no. 84-70 and no. 84-71). Belonging to the second category is, for example, the picture entitled "Im Beth Chaluzoth“ (In Beth Halutzoth = House of the Haluztim)“ (see no. 84-27). In an overcrowded dormitory, hemmed in between wooden bunk beds and articles of clothing, two women can be seen from behind, sitting a table with Sabbath candles and a Menorah. The captions contain references to the place pictured in Theresienstadt, namely the "Hamburger Kaserne, Zimmer Nr. 305" (Hamburg Barracks, Room No. 305), and to the zionist movement HeHalutz (Hebrew forThe Pioneer), whose goal was emigration to Palestine. Notable in this picture is the calm, introverted atmosphere and the lack of any satirical device. Without any further information, this might be a general depiction of religious and zionistic Jewish life in Theresienstadt, which was still possible to a limited extent despite all restrictions. Only with the help of additional information do we know that this is also the room in which Elsa Lichtblau, the wife of Erich Lichtblau, lived together with 25 other women, all of them members of the Haluzoth, which celebrated the Sabbath every Friday, as depicted by the two women here. It is such pictures, which to a certain extent also make Erich Lichtblau's cartoon series into a biography in pictures. And lastly, another feature of Erich Lichtblau's work: In contrast with many other artistic testimonies of the Holocaust, pictures from the liberation of the camp do not appear here at all. While pictures of the liberation are a constituent element of the narrative in numerous postwar picture stories, in his pictures, Erich Lichtblau (along with the viewer) remains in Theresienstadt the entire time. In so, he expresses the hopelessness of the prisoners, who were locked in the ghetto and left to their fates. Also fitting is the cover picture, which effectively, symbolically introduces the picture story. Visible in the background are the walls of Theresienstadt and a closed door, with the Jewish star of David locked within. On the other side of the wall is a swastika, as a symbol of the National Socialist oppression, as well as the word "Ghettoisiert" (Ghettoized), which the Nazis stamped in the passports of the Jews who were deported to Theresienstadt, which meant an irreversible journey into imprisonment and very often also death. As a sign of his survival, and therefore of hope, Erich Lichtblau writes "Eli", his new first name combining the first letters of his original first and last name that he took on after his release, and draws the Czech coat of arms, which functions as a symbol of freedom, placed almost triumphantly above the swastika. There was very little with which the people in Theresienstadt could revolt against the National Socialist dictatorship. As analysis of the cartoons by Erich Lichtblau has shown, laughing as the absurdities of daily life in the ghetto was one way of defying the Nazis. With limited means available to him, Erich Lichtblau found an effective way of facing evil with satire.