Simon Wynberg on Terezín and Verdi’s Requiem

Simon Wynberg writes in the current issue of Commentary about the hijacking of Terezín and Verdi’s Requiem:

An 18th-century fortress town an hour north of Prague, Terezín provided the Nazis with a convenient transit center and the venue for a sham “model” camp. It was famously spruced up for an inspection by representatives of the Red Cross in June 1944, a charade that tragically succeeded in convincing the organization that there was substance to Nazi claims of humanity and tolerance at that camp and others. Terezín detained a significant number of Central Europe’s Jewish cultural elite. Despite the camp’s harsh and desperately overcrowded conditions, these talented prisoners produced and staged hundreds of events and performances. Musical productions between 1942 and 1944 included recitals, chamber-music concerts, and even operas. Their repertoire and organization were the responsibility of the Freizeit-gestaltung (Free-Time Organization), run by a select group of inmates but answerable to Terezín’s S.S. Kommandant. Jewish composers such as Rafael Schächter, Gideon Klein, Viktor Ullmann, Hans Krása, and Pavel Haas​ all played a key role in Terezín’s cultural output. But as Terezín’s true purpose was that of a way station to death camps farther east, all were ultimately murdered at Auschwitz.

You can read the rest (subscription required) at the Commentary website.

Wynberg is the artistic director of Canada’s ARC Ensemble, which performed in Pro Musica Hebraica’s Fall 2008 and Fall 2010 concerts.