The alternative to Jewish power

Terezin’s Jews scaled the heights of the human spirit. But it took an army to save their lives.

June 5, 2012 12:52
Aushwitz Birkenau entrance.

Aushwitz Birkenau entrance 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Last week, the Israel Festival featured one of the most gripping productions I’ve ever seen. “Defiant Requiem” tells the story of the Terezin concentration camp, where in the midst of death, Jewish inmates clung to their humanity through an outpouring of artistic endeavor, including a full choral production of Verdi’s “Requiem.”

So weak they could barely stand, so hungry they could barely concentrate, 150 inmates nevertheless rehearsed night after night, learning an extremely complex musical score by rote (since they only had one copy), and performed it to such a standard that the Nazis favored a visiting Red Cross delegation with a command performance. And after conductor Rafael Schachter’s first choir was deported to Auschwitz, he trained a second. And then a third. It was an incredible testament to the human spirit.


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