There’s an amazing article by CNN’s Kevin Flower about the hand-drawn Monopoly set created in the early 1940s by a Czech artist who lived in the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt after the 1938 Nazi conquest of Czechoslovakia.
The article features an interview with Mischa Glass, who was eight at the time of his deportation from Brno. He remembers playing the game in the ghetto with his brother Dan, then 10.
Jews from Brno, now the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, were deported to the ghetto of Theresienstadt, in the northwest of the country, in 1942, along with Jews from other parts of Bohemia and from Moravia. Disease and starvation claimed 35,000 lives before another 84,000-plus were deported to death camps later in the war.
Flower describes the game, which has been preserved by the Israeli Beit Theresienstadt project:
Disease, famine, and sub-human conditions aside, the camp’s prisoners did everything they could to maintain a semblance of normality. For one prisoner, an artist named Oswal Poeck, this meant designing and drawing a makeshift version a famed board game. An unofficial version of the popular board game Monopoly was born.
Fashioned from cardboard and drawn by hand, “Ghetto” Monopoly, was created as a distraction for Theresienstadt’s thousands of children and used as a tool to teach them about life (and death) in the ghetto.
Properties in the game were not popular city streets and landmarks, but rather buildings and locations from the ghetto itself — all named after German cities and a grim reflection of the reality faced by the camp’s prisoners.