Classical 91.5

Holocaust Remembrance in Music and Stories

Apr 30, 2019

Drawing depicting life in Terezin by artist Bedrich Fritta

November 1941: The Czech town of Terezín (Theresienstadt in German) begins use as a concentration camp by the Nazi regime. Among the people deported to this garrison town were numerous artists, who continued to write and perform in the camp. Terezín existed with a dual purpose. It was a ghetto that served as a transit point to the Nazi death camps. Additionally, it became the backdrop for a carefully constructed propaganda campaign which the Nazis used to deny the existence of the Final Solution.

May 1945: the Nazis have transported 140,000 people to Terezin by this point - among them some of Europe's most gifted artists, musicians, composers and writers who, despite the inhuman living conditions, sustained an active cultural community. Although art supplies, paper, musical instruments and performances themselves were contraband in the barracks, artists and composers relentlessly continued to work to create art and music.

Composer, pianist, and conductor Viktor Ullman (1898-1944)

“By no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon. Our endeavor with respect to arts was commensurate with our will to live.”-Viktor Ullman

Of the 140,000 people transported to Terezin, 33,000 died from starvation, lack of medical care, disease and torture. Of the 87,000 people transported from Terezín to the Nazi death camps, five percent survived. Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezín, only 93 survived.

April 2019: The New York Times reports that “many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened” during the Holocaust. 

Beyond the basic facts, it still matters hear stories directly from survivors, understand the scope of what happened, and to engage with the music and art created by those who were there. There are several opportunities to remember and learn more in the Rochester area over the next couple weeks, as part of Yom HaShoah / Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Ilse Weber (1903-1944) was a poet and songwriter who was imprisoned at Terezin and then killed with her son at Auschwitz

“We must not forget the tragic history that the spirit of this music and art reflects. We must remember the strength of the spirit, the beauty and the hope that carries through and transcends all.” – Pia Liptak

On this week’s Live from Hochstein program and in two upcoming concerts by Cordancia, you will hear music written by composers who were among those interred at Terezin and killed during the Holocaust, as well as a contemporary composer’s settings of poems written by children were among those imprisoned and killed. There are also moving and informative programs coming up at the Eastman School of Music and on WXXI television.

Wednesday May 1st, 12:10pm (encore broadcast at 10pm): Music from Terezin on Live from Hochstein (in person at The Hochstein School and broadcast live on WXXI Classical 91.5)

Sunday, May 5, 2019, at 7:30pm in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music faculty members, students, and alumni will join the worldwide observance of Yom HaShoah by performing a Holocaust Remembrance Concert entitled “A Time to Remember.”

The concert features music written by those who perished or survived the World War II concentration and work camps, as well as music written in tribute to those who died. The series of annual concerts was launched in 2014 by Professor of Violin Renée Jolles. Her father, Jerome Jolles, buried bodies as part of a work detail in Romania during the Nazi occupation. He survived and came to the United States, where he finished his studies at Juilliard in music performance and composition. A virtuoso accordion player, piano teacher, and composer, Mr. Jolles died in January 2014.

On Monday May 6 at 9pm on WXXI TV, you can see the documentary Eva: A-7063 about Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor journey from a Romanian Jewish farm girl to Nazi death camp survivor to leading global force on the power of healing through forgiveness.

Saturday May 11th at 3pm and Sunday May 12th: Music from Terezin concerts by Cordancia, with a pre-concert chat before each concert by Beneta Silberstern, widow of Henry Silberstern, who was interred at Terezin.