Holocaust survivor meets with students at historic performance
photo courtsey of Brendan Hopper '06
Messiah students listen intently to concentration camp survivor Edgar Krasa, who performed Verdi’s “Defiant Requiem” at Terezin in the 1940s.
During a cross-cultural trip to Prague in May, 18 Messiah students and two faculty members met Edgar Krasa, a Holocaust survivor who had performed musical selections for the Nazis while imprisoned at Terezin, a Czech concentration camp. Krasa shared with students reflections on his experience at Terezin after they attended the dress rehearsal for the performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Defiant Requiem.” Presented by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music (Washington, D.C.), the concert paid tribute to Rafael Schaechter, who led over 150 Terezin prisoners in performing the requiem 16 times over a three-year span in the 1940s.
Held in an old storage building to simulate the conditions the original musicians endured, the memorial performance interspersed music with narration, on-stage reenactments, and video interviews with Terezin survivors. At the requiem’s conclusion, members of the choir and orchestra exited out the back door and into a train car, which then carried them away, symbolizing the many Jews who were transported from Terezin to their death at Auschwitz.
Brendan Hopper ’06 reflects on the experience: “I was impressed with how they [the original musicians] held on to their skills and talents and practiced them even in the utterly hopeless environment in which they existed. But it shows how essential art is to artists.”
—Susan K. Getty '84