Singing Verdi in Theresienstadt

In 1943, the conductor Raphael Schachter, an inmate at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, mounted a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem with 150 of his fellow prisoners serving as the chorus. An orchestral performance of the same piece, combined with narration and video and entitled “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin” has just finished a tour of the U.S. as one of many recent efforts to recreate music produced or performed by Jews during the Holocaust. Matt Lebovic writes of the original Theresienstadt concert:

Theresienstadt’s Council of Jewish Elders—nominally in charge of the ghetto—was vehemently opposed to Schachter’s productions. Not only were Jews performing a Catholic funeral mass, but it was possible the camp’s Nazi rulers would see an act of defiance and deport the entire cast. It was also said that by performing their own funeral mass, the Jewish prisoners were “apologizing for existing.”

To end the debate, Schachter offered each performer the opportunity to bow out of the production, but not one of them did so. After performing the Requiem fifteen times to enraptured audiences, the inmate choir gathered for what would be its final performance on June 23, 1944.

Seated in the front row was Adolf Eichmann . . . and other SS officials. A Red Cross delegation was also in attendance, as part of its mission to vet the camp for signs of genocide. If only in the minds of the imprisoned choir members, Verdi’s funeral mass was used to condemn the Nazi perpetrators watching their Jewish victims perform. As Schachter most famously told his choir, “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Arts & Culture, Classical music, Holocaust, Theresienstadt


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy