A documentary featuring music by composers in the concentration camp, Theresienstadt, is now available online for the first time, after being locked in the BBC archives for 25 years.
Documentary The Music of Terezín highlights four of the main composers who were active in the Theresienstadt ghetto: Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Victor Ullmann, all of whom were killed during the holocaust. Director of the film, Simon Broughton, hopes ‘the film and website put back on the map people who have been undeservedly forgotten and neglected.’
Available from Thursday 11 April to coincide with Yom HaShoah, Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day, the 70-minute film ‘shows the paradox of beauty created amid horror’ says Clive Marks, who raised the funds to license the film for the Holocaust music website. Marks added that making this music available to the public was important ‘to show how Jews and non-Jews could produce fine work even in horrendous circumstances.’
Throughout the film archive footage is interspersed with on-location performances and first-hand accounts from survivors of the Theresienstadt camp, which makes this an incredibly moving and educational documentary. Broughton adds that this is ‘the only film that looks objectively at the work of the composers’ as well as revealing how and why musical life developed in such difficult conditions. Included is an interview with the late singer Karel Berman, who rehearsed Ullmann’s satirical opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis until it banned from performance by Nazi authorities.
The website also includes Broughton’s recording of a performance of Brundibar!, Krása’s children’s opera which was one of the most popular pieces performed in Theresienstadt. This opera was an example of how music was a source of optimism to the prisoners, and how musical life brought the community together.
Between 1941 and 1945 approximately 150,000 Jews were transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp where more than 30,000 died, with others being sent onwards to Aushwitz or Birkenau.
The Music of Terezín is available to watch here.