» Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest

Engaging and mentoring students in studying the Holocaust and in grappling with its meaning and lessons for today is a vital part of the mission of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.

In partnership with The 1939 Society, one of the largest and most active Holocaust survivor organizations in the United States, and with the support of the Samueli Foundation, Dana and Yossie Hollander and others, the Rodgers Center annually sponsors an art and writing contest for middle and high school students. 

Focusing on themes central both to the Holocaust and to ethical decision making in our world today, the contest gives students from public, private and parochial schools the opportunity to share their creative  works in response to survivors’ oral testimonies.

Representatives and educators from each school attend the awards ceremony where they meet Holocaust survivors.

+ - 17th Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest

Telling it Forward: Making Memory Matter

"When you listen to a witness, you become a witness." Elie Wiesel

Schools are invited to participate in the 17th Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. Participating schools may submit a total of three entries from three individual students in the following categories: art, film, prose, and/or poetry.

Students will be eligible to win a first prize award of $500 in each category. Educators and schools will also be eligible to win a first prize of $250 each. First-place student winners, their parents/guardians and teachers will be invited to participate in an afternoon conversation followed by a special event dinner in Los Angeles with 1939 Society members who are survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust. Transportation costs will be covered for those participating locally and transportation and two nights at a hotel for those participating nationally. When possible, students and teachers from outside of the United States will be Skyped in for the conversation. The date for the conversation and dinner will be scheduled for the latter part of June 2016.

Students awarded second prize in each category will receive $300 and their sponsoring educator and school will receive $150 each.

+ - Prompt

Select and view one full-length survivor or rescuer testimony from any of the following:

  • The 1939 Society website at the1939society.org
  • Chapman University’s Holocaust Art and Writing Contest website featuring video testimonies from the collection of the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education at chapman.edu/contest-testimonies
  • USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/uscshoahfoundation (“Full-Length Testimonies” playlists only)

* Lists of testimonies that are one to two hours in length are available on the contest website.

As you listen to the testimony, choose a specific memory that resonates or stands out to you. As the recipient of this memory you have the ability to share it with others, not just today, but in the future, by Telling It Forward. Make this memory matter through an original work of art, film, prose, or poetry.


If an internet connection is not available, students may view these testimonies in the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library at Chapman University from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please contact Jessica MyLymuk, Assistant Director, at (714) 628-7377regarding access to video testimony and scheduling a visit.

+ - Background

As you listen to the oral testimony of a Holocaust survivor or rescuer, you may sense a change in tone that makes you stop and listen again. Something about the way the person speaks tells you that this memory matters in a special way. For the survivor or rescuer, this memory needs telling forward.


Irene Gut Opdyke was a young nurse when Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939. After months in Soviet captivity, she returned to her home in Radom, which was under German control. Irene was assigned to forced labor, first in a munitions factory and then as a housekeeper to a German army officer. A devout Catholic, one day Irene witnessed SS men murdering Jews in a nearby ghetto. She could not erase the memory from her mind. She thought about it every day; at night it haunted her dreams. The memory became a summons to action as a rescuer. Irene shares this memory in her testimony and book, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer.


Gerda Weissmann Klein was liberated in Volary, in what is now the Czech Republic, in April 1945, one day before her 21st birthday. Gerda was one of only 120 from 4,000 girls to survive a brutal, months-long death march. She vividly remembers the first American soldier who approached her and his simply act of courtesy in opening a door for her and allowing her to precede him into the room. For Gerda, this memory is not only of liberation but of regaining her humanity, of being treated for the first time in years as a person deserving of respect. She shares this memory in her testimony and book, All but My Life: A Memoir.

+ - Art Criteria

  • Entries must be submitted with a cover sheet (printable or fillable form). Please do not staple, tape or otherwise attach the cover sheet to the artwork.

  • Entries must reflect genuine engagement with the survivor’s  or rescuer's testimony in its historical context and constitute a thoughtful and creative response.

  • Entries must be based on a survivor’s or rescuer’s testimony available from one of the following sources:

  • Entries must be submitted with the artist’s statement that includes:May be only two-dimensional image on medium no thicker than ¾” and submission must not exceed 12” x 18.”

    • Title of the work
    • Name of survivor to whose testimony this work is a response
    • Statement of how the work addresses the prompt
    • Statement must not include student or school name and must not exceed 100 words.
    • Acknowledgement of sources – to protect copyright holders, proper citation of all sources is required. Permission for sources that are not public domain must be obtained in writing from copyright holder and submitted with entry.
  • Artwork must not be matted or framed.

  • Fixative spray must be applied to charcoal, pencil, pastel, and chalk art.

  • May include photography, computer-generated images, or may be in charcoal, pencil, pastel, chalk, watercolors, acrylics, or oils. Please note that all images, whether computer, artist, or photo-generated are considered property of the original artist.

  • Renderings of another’s work will be disqualified.

  • Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

+ - Film Criteria

  • Entries must be submitted with a cover sheet (printable or fillable form).

  • Entries must reflect genuine engagement with the survivor’s  or rescuer's testimony in its historical context and constitute a thoughtful and creative response.

  • Entries must be based on a survivor’s or rescuer’s testimony available from one of the following sources:

  • Entries must be submitted with the filmmaker’s statement including:Content viewing time may be no longer than three (3) minutes.

      • Title of the work
      • Name of survivor to whose testimony this work is a response
      • Statement of how the work addresses the prompt
      • Statement must not include student or school name and must not exceed 100 words.
      • Acknowledgement of sources – to protect copyright holders, proper citation of all sources is required. Permission for sources that are not public domain must be obtained in writing from copyright holder and submitted with entry.
  • Final file size must not exceed 600 MB.

  • Submit film without credits for blind judging. A completed film with credits should be prepared in the event the film is selected for screening.

  • Final films may be submitted using WeTransfer.com, a free file transfer website.

  • To ensure compatibility with MAC and PC, please use either QuickTime or MPEG format.

  • Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

 We are grateful to the Orange County Klezmers for making available to registered participants musical selections from their album Echoes of Vilna. To preview or to request tracks for use in a film entry, please email Jessica MyLymuk, cioffi@chapman.edu.

 Students wishing to use music, photos, video, or other artwork in their films should be aware that these may be protected by U.S. copyright law and therefore require permission from the artists to use them.  Purchasing or downloading materials from a website is generally intended for personal and home use only and does not grant the purchaser the right to reproduce, perform, or display copyrighted works publicly.  For any copyrighted works appearing in the film, permission must be obtained from the copyright holders and submitted with the entry.

          

+ - Poetry Criteria

  • Entries must be submitted with a cover sheet (printable or fillable form). Please do not staple, tape or otherwise attach the cover sheet to the entry.

  • Entries must reflect genuine engagement with the survivor’s  or rescuer's testimony in its historical context and constitute a thoughtful and creative response.

  • Entries must be based on a survivor’s or rescuer’s testimony available from one of the following sources:Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

  • Entries must be titled.

  • Entries must be word-processed.

  • Entries must not include graphics, drawings or other images. It must be clear that the entry is a poem and not an artwork.

  • Entries must not include reference to student or school name.

  • Students should include the name of the survivor or rescuer about whom the entry is written.

  • Entries may not exceed one page: Times New Roman 12, 1” margins, single spaced

  • Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

+ - Prose Criteria

  • Entries must be submitted with a cover sheet (printable or fillable form). Please do not staple, tape or otherwise attach the cover sheet to the entry.

  • Entries must reflect genuine engagement with the survivor’s  or rescuer's testimony in its historical context and constitute a thoughtful and creative response.

  • Entries must be based on a survivor’s or rescuer’s testimony available from one of the following sources:Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

  • Entries must be titled.

  • Entries must be word-processed.

  • Entries must not include reference to student or school name.

  • Students should include the name of the survivor or rescuer about whom the entry is written.

  • Entries may not exceed one page: Times New Roman 12, 1” margins, single spaced

  • Entries that do not follow the criteria will be disqualified.

Cover Sheet

Printable cover sheet 

Fillable cover sheet


Reminder: Each entry must have a cover sheet

Important Dates

Entry Postmark Date:
February 3, 2016

Digital Submission due date:
February 5, 2016

Awards Ceremony
March 4, 2016

Music for Films!

We are grateful to the Orange County Klezmers for making available at no cost to registered participants musical selections from their album Echoes of Vilna. These tracks may only be used for projects created for the Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. 

Request link to preview or download songs.

Resource Guide

Download the new resource guide for access to judging rubrics, common core connections and frequently asked questions about the contest.

Survivor and Rescuer Testmionies

Testimonies eligible for the contest:

The 1939 Society website at the1939society.org

Chapman University’s Holocaust Art and Writing Contest website featuring video testimonies from the collection of the USC Shoah Foundation at www.chapman.edu/contest-testimonies

USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/uscshoahfoundation (“Full-Length Testimonies” playlists)

About the Contest

Highlights from 2015