Survival of the Spirit

Survival of the Spirit



Hannah Shapiro accompanies Ela Weissberger to light the first Holocaust Memorial Candle.

More than 500 people attended Am Yisrael Chai’s annual Holocaust Remembrance event, held this year on Sun., Jan. 26  in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Keynote speaker, Ela Weissberger, a child survivor of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, told her story of survival and the struggle to preserve the human spirit despite enormous adversity.

Many of Europe’s distinguished artists, composers, musicians and authors were imprisoned at Theresienstadt. Many ordinary people were deported there too. Everyone experienced the extraordinary spark of creativity, passion and spirit that existed there and that spark of creativity continues to inspire us around the world today.

Seventy years ago, the Brundibar music was smuggled into the Theresienstadt camp, where composer, Hans Krasa, adapted it for a children’s opera. Ela performed the role of the Cat in each of the 55 performances, including the one filmed for the International Red Cross Visit in 1944.

Most of the cast members, musicians and the composer were transported to their deaths in Auschwitz.  Of the 15,000 children who were forcibly deported to Theresienstadt, only 150 survived. Ela is one of them.

An incredible documentary that included original black and white footage of Ela singing in the Brundibar Opera in Theresienstadt provided chilling information about Theresienstadt. The curtains then opened and 21 students from Georgia College and five students from Atlanta joined Ela in singing two songs from Brundibar.

The audience watched the students touch history as they sang the songs Ela sang in a different place, a different time and a different world. Ela, surrounded by the students, shared memories of her experiences in Theresienstadt

Ela was then joined on stage by her dear friend, Ilse Milushka Reiner, who was with Ela at Theresienstadt. She was among those deported from there to Auschwitz, where she narrowly escaped death.

Mr. Robert Fischer, also a survivor of Theresienstadt, traveled from Jacksonville, Fla. to attend the event. These three Survivors were among 18 Holocaust Survivors who were honored by lighting memorial candles at the event.

Ela brought with her to the event the Talit (prayer shawl) of Rabbi Richard Feder who was the Rabbi in Theresienstadt during the war. “He married people under that talit in the camp,” Ela explained.

He provided tremendous moral support for prisoners in the camp. Ela recalls seeing him reciting the Kadish (prayer for the dead) in the darkness of night at Theresienstadt.

This Holocaust event is an integral feature of Am Yisrael Chai’s Daffodil Project that aspires to build a worldwide Living Holocaust Memorial by planting 1.5 million daffodils in memory of the 1.5 million children who perished during the Holocaust.

The daffodils are resilient and return with a burst of color each spring, reminding us to Never Forget, and to take action to help those suffering in humanitarian crises and modern day genocides.

To date, 75,000 daffodils have been planted in our collective effort to remember the Children of the Holocaust and the lessons we have learned from them.

Am Yisrael Chai!


Editor’s note: visit, for more information.


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