PROGAMS TO PAY TRIBUTE TO COURAGEOUS ARTISTS OF THE HOLOCAUST
For the past year, the Anti-Defamation League Atlanta staff, our board members and many of our supporters have shared a sad but inspiring journey exploring the remarkably rich body of art created by Jewish prisoners who were ensnared by the unspeakable evils of the Holocaust.
This exploration is motivated by the extraordinary multimedia concert “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín,” which ADL will present at Atlanta Symphony Hall on Oct. 11 in a co-production with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Defiant Requiem Foundation of Washington, D.C.
On that same evening, ADL will honor two of Atlanta’s most highly-respected community leaders, Linda Selig and retired Alston & Bird managing partner Ben Johnson.
The Defiant Requiem pays tribute to a series of performances of the Verdi Requiem Mass given by Jews imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Terezín, Czechoslovakia. The concert will include a full performance of the Verdi Requiem Mass plus video testimony of Jews who sang in the original chorus and actors telling the extraordinary story of why Jews awaiting transport to Auschwitz would choose to sing a Catholic mass to fellow prisoners and their Nazi captors.
Of course, these performances of the Requiem are but one example of the art produced by Jews in many camps. The work of Jewish composers, visual artists, writers, poets and musicians stands as an extraordinary testimony to their insistence on using art to report on the deplorable conditions under which they lived and died and to assert their humanity and lift their spirits – however briefly – above the dire circumstances imposed upon them by the Nazis.
To expand on the themes of “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín,” ADL is working with a number of deeply committed community partners to present a series of performances, lectures, panel discussions and exhibitions highlighting the work of the courageous Jewish artists of World War II.
The programs begin Aug. 29, when the Jacob Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education at the Breman Museum and ADL present “Celebrating Defiance,” which explores the many mediums artists have used to examine the Holocaust. The program features a performance of “Elegy for the Holocaust,” written by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra violinist Juan Ramirez-Hernández, and a screening of the animations of Cory Godbey, the artist who brought Theresienstadt prisoner Petr Ginz’s drawing to life in the documentary “The Last Flight of Petr Ginz.”
Godbey and Ramirez-Hernández will be joined on the panel by Catherine Lewis, Director of the Museum and of Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University, who will show examples of drawings created by concentration camp prisoners; and Atlanta actor Tom Key, who will perform several readings from the Defiant Requiem concert.
The Breman has also created a small jewel of an exhibit, “Theresienstadt Remembered,” which will display donated artifacts and letters from Theresienstadt prisoners. The exhibit opens on Aug. 24 and runs through Oct. 26.
Other community program partners include:
- The Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta, which on the afternoon of Sept. 30 will present “Defiant Chamber Music,” a concert by the highly-acclaimed Vega Quartet of compositions by composer Erwin Schulhoff, who perished in the Wulzburg concentration camp
- The Goethe-Zentrum of Atlanta, where I will present a talk on Oct. 4 on my recent trip to visit Jewish leaders in Berlin, Germany, who are working to rebuild their community
- The Alliance Theatre, which on Oct. 18, 20 and 21, will present “The Survivor,” a play about teenage boys who sneak out of the Warsaw ghetto to smuggle in food for starving Jews and later smuggle in arms for resistance fighters
- Kennesaw State University Museum of History and Holocaust Education, which on Oct. 24 will present a screening of “My Best Enemy,” and on Nov. 5 will present a concert featuring composer in residence Laurence Sherr, who will discuss and play Jewish music banned by the Nazis. In addition, visitors to Kennesaw State will be able to see “Parallel Journeys,” a poignant exhibit depicting teenagers who lived and died during the Holocaust
ADL is producing this ambitious series of programs with the hope that the entire community, regardless of religion or race, will come together to attend these events, celebrate these artists and convene a conversation about courage in the face of bigotry and violence.
“Celebrating Defiance,” the overall theme of the programs, reinforces our vital mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.
Editor’s note: Check the What’s Happening page of the AJT each week for the next event in this can’t miss series. For tickets to “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín,” call the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at (404) 733-5000 or visit atlantasymphony.org. For sponsorship information and more on the community programs, contact ADL at (404) 262-3470.
By Bill Nigut
Southeast Regional Director, ADL