Over the last couple of decades, musicians have been reconstructing the legacy of composers who spent World War II in Terezin (also known by its German name, Theresienstadt), a garrison city near Prague that the Nazis turned into a concentration camp. About 140,000 Jews were sent there, starting in 1941, including an unusually large number of musicians, writers and painters.
The Nazis allowed these artists to create a cultural life and turned it into a propaganda tool. Terezin, as they presented it to visitors from the Red Cross, was a model camp: musicians gave concerts; children painted pictures and wrote poems. But behind that facade, Terezin’s inmates were used as slave labor in local mines and factories, and most — some 88,000 — were eventually sent to Auschwitz and other death camps.
The 92nd Street Y’s Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezin, which opened on Tuesday evening, is an expansive monthlong series devoted to the camp, with concerts by the Nash Ensemble, the baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and the pianists Russell Ryan and Shai Wosner. It also includes panel discussions, readings, children’s programs, a film screening and an exhibition of posters, photographs, art and artifacts. If not for its subject matter, you would call it a festival.