Although he was untrained, Mr. Terna began to draw at Theresienstadt and became part of a group of artists there who scrounged for good paper and any raw material they could turn into ink. He buried his sketches of everyday life there in a tin box under the barracks floor.
Before being deported to Auschwitz in September 1944, Mr. Terna gave his drawings of everyday events, like people lining up for soup, to another prisoner, believing he would never see them again. He had spent only two months in Auschwitz when he was deported to Kaufering, a subcamp of Dachau. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, he was liberated by American troops on April 27, 1945.
Sick and weighing only 70 pounds, he convalesced at a hospital, where he began painting scenes from Auschwitz, as well as landscapes.
“Much later, looking at my landscapes I noticed that there were walls and fences in many of them,” he was quoted as saying by the Defiant Requiem Foundation, which honors the prisoners of Theresienstadt. “It taught me that the memory of the Shoah was a part of me, and that it would not go away, and that I would have to live with it.”
His father died in Auschwitz, and his brother died in the Treblinka extermination camp.
After returning to Prague, Mr. Terna reunited with Stella Horner, his girlfriend. They married in 1946 and moved to Paris, where he studied art and worked as a bookkeeper for the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief agency. They left for Canada in 1951 and later moved to Manhattan. (They would divorce in 1975.)
Mr. Terna was not part of the Abstract Expressionist movement that had taken hold after the war, but he adapted it to his artistic vision, particularly in his use of sand and pebbles to create texture in his canvases. In addition to his Holocaust art, which he began in the 1980s, he painted circles as symbols of life’s continuity and representational pieces depicting angels and biblical stories like that of Abraham and Isaac.