Candle, Boat and Warning Lights. Lilly Edna Amit (Bobasch). c. WWII.
The candle stood proud and upright
a spark did kindle its light
spreading its shine, its heat
fleeting slowly and complete.
A ship sailed far and away,
listing, it went almost astray,
days, sunsets, storms and fogs
steering between the dangerous rocks
Will it find the lighthouse it seeks?
Will it be able to see the light shine,
to hear the warnings just in time?
-Poem by Lilly Edna Amit (Bobasch), Survivor, WWII Labor Camp at Terezin
Voices of Terezin: Art as a Strategy for Survival
Through April at Bender Library
In 1941, the Nazis created a ghetto in Theresienstadt (in the modern day Czech Republic) that served as a collection camp for inmates on their way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Prisoners were allowed a certain level of freedom by the Nazis to create an appearance of normalcy for outside observers. These prisoners found a release for their hopelessness in artistic creations ranging from operas and cabarets to concerts and covertly produced drawings that recorded the truth of the ghetto. This powerful exhibit chronicled that effort and features words, images and posters by the indomitable spirits who endured this terrible fate. The exhibit was part of the Capstone Project of Inga Bunsch Sieminski.
Honors Colloquium Course: Voices of Terezin
Jan. 13 to May 4
This was the first time the Jewish Studies Program will be represented in the Honors Program with this course that examines the experiences and testimonies of the Jewish inmates of the Terezin/Thereisenstadt concentration camp during and after the Holocaust with a particular focus on the extraordinary artistic life of the prisoners. The course had three goals:
1. To deepen students' understanding of the camp within the broader context of war and genocide.
2. To equip students with knowledge of the history and rich culture of the Jewish inmates of Terezin/Theresienstadt, most of whom came from communities across Central Europe.
3. To address broad historical themes such as war and genocide, totalitarianism, and collective trauma and memory.
Film Screening: The Fuehrer Gives the Jews a City
Jan. 27, Bender Library
This remaining 22 minute footage of a Nazi propaganda film was intended to deceive the outside world about atrocious conditions inside the Terezin ghetto. The screening was followed by a discussion about how media can be misused when populations have been robbed of their basic rights to free expression and information. Film was introduced and discussion was guided by Nina Spiegel, AU’s Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies. Cosponsored by the AU Library and Jewish Studies Program.
Film Screening: Fighter
Sponsored by the Embassy of the Czech Republic
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Director of Photography: Gary Griffin (AU SOC Professor)
Fighter followed two men, Jan Weiner and former American University Professor Arnost Lustig, survivors of Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. What Director Bar-Lev first envisioned as a historical documentary soon became the personal story of the battle between two very different men—one the bitter, angry fighter, the other, the wise and cynical philosopher—who have very different ways of dealing with memories of the Holocaust. As they retraced the steps of Weiner’s escape from the Nazis, they regaled one another with thrilling exploits, revisiting scenes of romance, humor, narrow escapes and life-or-death confrontations.
Stanislav Petr Kolar visits Washington
Prof. Kolar is the author of, among other works, Seven Responses to the Holocaust in American Fiction, published in the Czech Republic by the University of Ostrava. While at American University, he spoke about the east European shtetl before the war, participated in a panel with AU professors, including noted poets Myra Sklarew and David Keplinger, on "Art in a Post-Holocaust World," and lectured to the class on “Voices of Terezin.” Professor Kolar's visit was sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program.
Workshop with Woodrow Wilson High School
Woodrow Wilson High School in D.C. included Terezin for the first time in their Holocaust education. Fifty 10th graders worked with a study guide developed by AU graduate student Inga Sieminski, participated in an in-class workshop of experiential learning, attended a Voices of Terezin performance, and concluded with a talkback and reflective writing.
Survival in the Aftermath: Art in a Post-Holocaust World
Feb. 17, Bender Library
Panel with AU Professors Myra Sklarew, David Keplinger, and University of Ostrava (Czech Republic) Professor Stanislav Kolar. The panel presented readings of poetry, and a discussion on the stories and books by suvivors including Paul Celan Miklos Radnoti, Viktor Frankl, and Arnost Lustig, as well as Jewish American writers and the children of survivors, investigating the links between writing, survival, and memory. Cosponsored by the AU Library and the Department of Literature. Visited by Professor Kolar sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program.
Film Screening: Theresienstadt: Gateway to Auschwitz
Mar. 16, Bender Library
A group of child survivors of the Terezin ghetto shared how cultural activities enabled them to cling to hope in the face of daily exposure to death. A panel discussion with Dr. Nancy Goodman and Dr. Marilyn Meyer provided context through the lens of trauma psychology. Cosponsored by the AU Library and Department of Performing Arts.
Invited Preview: Voices of Terezin
Mar. 18, Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center
Detailed performance description below. The performance was followed by a "Talkback on Human Rights" sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Office. Panelists included faculty members Max Friedman (history), Brenda Werth (language & foreign studies), and David Vine (anthropology). Panelists expanded the issues raised in the performance to a broader human rights context.
Voices of Terezin—An Artistic Tribute in Two Parts
Mar. 19–21, Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center
Mar. 19 Performance with welcome and preface, followed by music talkback with Murray Sidlin, conductor of Defiant Requiem and Dean of Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America.
Mar. 21 Performance with welcome and preface, followed by talkback with playwright Zdenek Elias’ family members Kate and Dorothy Elias, facilitated by Pamela S. Nadell, Director of AU’s Jewish Studies program. The Czech klezmer quintet The Flying Rabbi (Letajici Rabin) will perform at the reception following the March 21 performance.
The group from its beginnings focused on traditional wedding music of Eastern European Jews, They have found their place in the atmosphere of Jewish "shtetls" spread across Eastern Europe. They present the sounds of the brave old world of Galicia, Bessarabia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Eastern Poland of the 19th century. The group includes Vojtech Pospisil (clarinet), Jana Dosedelova (flute), Miroslav Ondra (accordion, vocals), Vojtech Pestuka (violin, vocals), and Pavel Jurecka (double bass). For more information about the group, visit www.myspace.com/theflyingrabbi or www.letajicirabin.com.
Part One: American University Chamber Singers Convery: Songs of Children The AU Chamber Singers present Robert Convery’s poignant setting of nine poems authored by children interned at Terezin (Theresienstadt), a ghetto that served primarily as a gathering point for Jews destined to be shipped to Auschwitz death camp. Convery conceived the work as a story from beginning to end, a “reaction to where the child is, the rejection and the horror.” The distinct voice of the children of Terezin, heard through Convery’s beautiful and moving work for chorus, violin, viola, cello, and piano, was written “in memory of all children who perished in the Holocaust.”
Part Two: Smoke of Home
Written by Zdenek Elias and Jiri Stein, translated by Dorothy Elias
Prologue and epilogue by Barbara Korner
AU theatre students will present the North American premiere of this one-act historical drama, written in Terezin in 1943. Never performed in Terezin, the play nevertheless continued to live in the memories of the playwrights’ friends as part of the remarkable legacy of resilience and hope created by the inmates in that place of despair. Set during the Thirty Years War (another era of religious persecution with the seditious subtext of the destruction of Germany), the play explores issues of denial, loss, and longing for home. Presented with a contemporary prologue and epilogue for modern audiences.
CAS Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference
All day Katzen Honors Colloquium
Classical Concert: Czech Music from Prague, Terezin, and New York
March 26, 7:30 pm, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C.
The Embassy Series will present Tomas Visek (piano), Yuval Waldman (violin), and Valeriya Sholokhova (cello) in the program Czech Music from Prague, Terezin, and New York. The program includes music by Antonin Dvorak, Bohuslav Martinu, Gideon Klein, Hugo Lowenthal, Zikmund Schul, Jaroslav Jezek, and Josef Suk. The event is presented in collaboration with Music Bridges International, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that serves as a "musical missionary" by sponsoring bilateral and multilateral musical "events" to increase awareness of music's power to shape and transform society. Admission is $45, including a reception following the concert. To make a reservation for the concert, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-274-9105 by March 24.
Film Screening: Fighter
April 7, 5:30-8 p.m.
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Director of Photography: Gary Griffin (AU SOC Professor)
Q&A will follow
Fighter follows two men, Jan Weiner and former AU professor Arnost Lustig, survivors of Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. What Director Bar-Lev first envisions as a historical documentary soon becomes the personal story of the battle between two very different men—one the bitter, angry fighter, the other, the wise and cynical philosopher—who have very different ways of dealing with memories of the Holocaust. As they retrace the steps of Weiner’s escape from the Nazis, they regale one another with thrilling exploits, revisiting scenes of romance, humor, narrow escapes, and life-or-death confrontations. Time frame during class time recommended by Center for Social Media, so classes can attend with their professors. Cosponsored by the AU Library, Center for Social Media of the School of Communication and an anonymous donor.
Photo of author Peter Demetz signing copies of Prague in Danger: 1939-1945 for honors colloquium students at the International Historical Conference.
International Historical Conference: Czech Jews in America
Apr. 14, 10 a.m., Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C.
The Embassy of the Czech Republic presented Czech Jews in America, an international historical conference on Czech-Jewish heritage in the United States. The international gathering was hosted by H. E. Ambasador Petr Kolar, with the aim to discuss and appraise the role and contribution of the Czech-Jewish community in the history of American culture, science, and politics. Admission was free.