Exploring The Cultural Legacy Of The Terezín Ghetto
Drawing by Helga Weissova-Hoskova (b. 1932) showing a concert in the barracks.
The town of Terezín [pronounced tehr-eh-ZEEN] is located 38 miles northwest of Prague. From 1941 to 1945, it was a transition camp/ghetto that the Nazis used to hold Jews before deporting them to the death camps. The camp is widely known as the “show” camp where the Nazis staged performances by the Jewish internees to create the illusion of normalcy for Red Cross visitors in 1944 and for a propaganda film called The Führer Gives a City to the Jews.
But the Nazis’ use of Terezín as propaganda has obscured its remarkable and inspirational legacy. “The creativity and resourcefulness of those who passed through Terezín is astonishing,” says Hanna Arie-Gaifman, director of 92Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts and a Czech-born, Israeli-raised scholar of comparative literature and music who has been the driving force behind the series. “Despite inhumane conditions and constant deportations to Auschwitz, the internees of Terezín created a flourishing cultural life that would have been exceptional in a real town, never mind a Nazi ghetto.”
More than 2,400 lectures were offered on a wide variety of topics (more than one for each day of the camp’s existence). There were 55 performances of Hans Krása’s children’s opera, Brundibár. Composer Viktor Ullman wrote 20 musical works there, some still unfinished when he perished. The camp had not only orchestral and chamber concerts but a cabaret and a jazz band called “The Ghetto Swingers.” And the library was filled with 60,000 smuggled books. See posters and documents that provide some insight to broad range of performance activity, and a look at the daily life of the people interred in Terezín.
92nd Street Y presents a groundbreaking multidisciplinary series, Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín, from January 9 to February 16 to honor the people who passed through Terezín and explore the remarkable cultural legacy they left behind. The series features more than 20 events and educational programs; five free live webcasts; and one concert available via 92Y’s live satellite broadcast program.
In exploring the range of Terezín life, 92Y’s Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín draws from 92Y’s myriad specialties. The cornerstone of the program is a four-concert series with the Nash Ensemble of London, baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and pianists Shai Wosner and Russell Ryan performing music primarily played and written in Terezín itself.