From the J-Wire
To complement its current exhibition Theresienstadt: Drawn from the Inside, which features works produced in the Czech concentration camp by two amateur artists later murdered in Auschwitz, the Jewish Museum of Australia is presenting a music tribute honouring the lives of the musicians of Terezín.
From late 1943, Terezín was transformed into a macabre mock-up of a real society, designed to lull the Red Cross and eventually the world at large into believing that it was a benign resettlement program, where Jews would be beneficiaries of the Nazis’ humane treatment. In fact it was a way station to the death camps.
A vast array of cultural activity was created by Terezín inmates: symphony and opera, chamber and choral music, jazz and cabaret, and marvellous original compositions that survived despite the murder of their composers. That the inmates could continue to create and perform in a place that barely sustained life, where brutality, fear of resettlement, deadly disease and hunger were daily features, is testimony to their resilience, inner strength and belief in the vital necessity of art. Penned together in atrocious conditions, the cream of middle-European Jewish intellectual and creative life refused to lose either dignity or culture, clinging to a desperate faith in the future.
Just over 10% of the 144,000 Jews sent to Terezín survived. Creativity did not protect them from the Nazi machine, but it remains their legacy and homage to the 800-year history of Czech Jewry.
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