Monday, April 12, 2010

Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day, Part 2

Virtues of Memory. Six Decades of Holocaust Survivors' Creativity

Artist: Etju Schoenfeld

Download the music, here:
Gideon Klein's Duo for Violin and Cello, previously lost, was among the compositions that his sister, Eliska Kleinova, found in a package in June 1990. The first movement is dated (in Klein's own hand) 6 November 1941. The second movement is incomplete, the act of composition interrupted by his transport to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in December 1941. This incomplete work is tragically symbolic of Klein's truncated life and career. Karl Ancerl (the renowned conductor) wrote: "Had he survived, Gideon would have achieved the highest standard as piantist, composer and conductor."
Klein was among the first to be sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp where, incarcerated among many other artists, composers, and writers, he soon became an extraordinary force as a pianist, educator, conductor, and composer. But even this exceptional creative activity amidst horror and deprivation was short-lived. Like almost all of those who did not die in Theresienstadt, Klein was sent to other camps: first to Auschwitz and finally to F├╝rstengrubbe, where he died in late Janary 1945.

Those compositions which survive reveal the influences of Janacek and Schoenberg and a blending of expressive folk elements from Gideon Klein's Moravian background. But these works are not derivative; rather they display a deeply mature and creative command of compositional techniques, especially in Klein's treatment of thematic material and use of tonal textures.

In this world premier recording of the Duo for Violin and Cello, the listener will not hear a reconstructed version of the second movement. Instead, it ends abruptly, unfinished as Klein left it. Perhaps what is unheard speaks most powerfully.
Some Notes about Musical Culture in Terezin
by Gideon Klein

While inspecting the weekly music program published by the Freizeit Gestaultung,* people who never lived here will look at the multitude of music reproduced here with admiration and amazement. They will admire both the feasibility of producing demanding works and the multitude of choices.

The quantitative (cultural) calculation of Theresienstadt would correspond to the cultural activity of a metropolitan area. Of the highest standard are the performances by instrumental soloists; these musicians played a major role in the musical life of their respective countries. If we consider the demands of the programs connected with the strain on the artist who lives in a changed setting under unfavorable living conditions we will understand that these artistic efforts cannot be evaluated alone by the standards of a metropolitan critic.

Written 20 August 1944 at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. Translation by Dr. George Homer.

* "Administration for Free Time Activities," a prisoner organization responsible for organizing cultural activities in Theresienstadt.


Theresienstadt was not just a Concentration Camp or a transit point to the Nazi death camps. It was a propaganda device, which the Nazis used to deny the existence of the Final Solution.

On 24 November 1941, a transport of Jews was sent to transform the small garrison town of Terezin into the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. In this camp the Nazis incarcerated some of Europe's most gifted artists, musicians, and writers. Despite the inhuman living conditions, an active cultural community sprang up. Musical instruments were smuggled in and performances were given secretly in the barracks.

But these very activities were co-opted by the Nazis and used as part of a plan to deceive both the international community and Jews under German occupation. Performances were staged for a visit of the International Red Cross; the camp was transformed into a Potemkin-like village with gardens, playgrounds, and an outdoor music pavilion for a propaganda film entitled "The Fuhrer Presents the Jews With a City," all designed to give the impression that Theresienstadt was a "Paradise Ghetto" for the Jews.

But of the 140,000 people who were transported to this "Paradise Ghetto," 33,000 died from starvation, lack of medical care, disease, starvation, overcrowding, and torture. Of the 87,000 people transported from Theresienstadt to the Nazi death camps, five percent survived. Of the 15,000 children who passed through, only 93 survived.

Artist: Ilka Gedo

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