In January 1942, a score of Verdi’s Requiem was smuggled into Theresienstadt concentration camp and performed by prisoners, conducted by Rafael Schäcter.
Starting with about 150 singers, the numbers dwindled as they disappeared into this or that hellish ending. By the final performance there was only a handful left and Schäcter himself died on a forced march from Auschwitz as the war was coming to a close.
His comment is a simple, haunting summary of what motivated them, and a testimony to the need for music even in the face of genocide.
‘We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say.’
Source: Rafael Schäcter, quoted in Year of Wonder, Clemency Burton-Hill (London: Headline Home, 2017), p. 19
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