Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezin

92Y Explores Cultural Legacy of Terezín Ghetto (1941-1945)


January 9 - February 16

New York, NY: December 5, 2011 – 92nd Street Y presents a groundbreaking multidisciplinary series, Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín, from January 9 to February 16 to honor the people who passed through Terezín, a Nazi transition camp, and explore the remarkable cultural legacy they left behind. The series features more than 20 events and educational programs; five free live webcasts; and one concert available via 92Y’s live satellite broadcast program.

The town of Terezín [pronounced tehr-eh-ZEEN] – also known as Theresienstadt [pronounced tehr-AY-zee-enn-shtadt] – is located 38 miles northwest of Prague. From 1941 to 1945, it was a transition camp/ghetto that the Nazis used to hold Jews before deporting them to the death camps. There were 144,000 Jews sent to Terezín; only 23,000 – fewer than one in five – survived. The camp is widely known as the “show” camp where the Nazis staged performances by the Jewish internees to create the illusion of normalcy for Red Cross visitors in 1944 and for a propaganda film called The Führer Gives a City to the Jews.

But the Nazis’ use of Terezín as propaganda has obscured its remarkable and inspirational legacy. “The creativity and resourcefulness of those who passed through Terezín is astonishing,” says Hanna Arie-Gaifman, director of 92Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts and a Czech-born, Israeli-raised scholar of comparative literature and music who has been the driving force behind the series. “Despite inhumane conditions and constant deportations to Auschwitz, the internees of Terezín created a flourishing cultural life that would have been exceptional in a real town, never mind a Nazi ghetto.” More than 2,400 lectures were offered on a wide variety of topics (more than one for each day of the camp’s existence). There were 55 performances of Hans Krása's children's opera, Brundibár. Composer Viktor Ullman wrote 20 musical works there, some still unfinished when he perished. The camp had not only orchestral and chamber concerts but a cabaret and a jazz band called “The Ghetto Swingers.” And the library was filled with 60,000 smuggled books.

For those in Terezín, the will to create kept the collective human spirit alive even in the shadow of death.

Sharing the Story of Terezín at 92Y

92Y’s Will to Create, Will to Live explores the cultural life and legacy of Terezín through more than 20 programs over five weeks. “92nd Street Y – with its diverse expertise in arts, education and Jewish programming – can tell this story and honor the collective spirit of Terezín in a way no other organization can,” says Arie-Gaifman. “We are able to offer a huge range of programs to illuminate the many facets of this terrible and remarkable moment in history.”  

The cornerstone of Will to Create, Will to Live is a four-concert series of music from Terezín performed by the Nash Ensemble of London, baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and pianists Shai Wosner and Russell Ryan. In addition to the concert series, 92Y brings together Terezín survivors, scholars, writers and documentarians to share their knowledge and experiences in talks, panel discussions and documentary films.  An exhibit of art and artifacts from Terezín is on display in 92Y’s Weill Art Gallery, and there are dance programs, a literary reading and a class for adults on the music of Terezín.

In addition to these public events, 92Y brings the story of Terezín – in age-appropriate ways – to children in 92Y’s extended community. Thousands of public school children who participate in 92Y’s educational outreach program will study a specially designed curriculum and attend a concert of music by Terezín-related composers at 92Y; teens in 92Y’s Poetry Center Schools Project will study Ivan Klima’s work, meet with the author and attend his event at 92Y; and 92Y Teen Center students will have the opportunity to speak with Terezín survivors. 

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit: www.92Y.org/Terezin.  

Event Highlights

January 9 – February 16

Events indicated with a (W)
will be available via free live webcast.

  • The Culture of Terezín, an exhibition of art posters and historical artifacts curated by Charlotta Kotik (Jan 13 – Feb 16; opening reception Jan 17)
  • (W) Remember Me: A Concert for Schools and Families, a program for children featuring music from Terezín and anchored by the story and drawings of Petr Ginz, a child who lived in Terezín, presented by 92Y’s Musical Introduction Series in collaboration with The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme (Jan 18)
  • (W) The Story of Terezín, a panel discussion with Terezín survivors, filmmaker Simon Broughton and The New Republic’s Ruth Franklin (Jan 18)
  • The first public screening in North America of The Music of Terezín, a BBC documentary film, introduced by director Simon Broughton (Jan 21)
  • (W) Ivan Klima, Czech author and Terezín survivor, reads from his work (Feb 6) 

About 92nd Street Y

92nd Street Y is a world-class nonprofit community and cultural center that connects people at every stage of life to the worlds of education, the arts, health and wellness, and Jewish life. A community of communities, 92Y is a home for candid, thoughtful discussions on the most pressing issues of our time. We offer an outstanding range of experiences in the performing, literary and visual arts for both audiences and practitioners; unparalleled access to celebrated artists, teachers and thinkers; and a place to pursue personal journeys – spiritual, physical or intellectual. Through the breadth and depth of 92Y’s extraordinary programs, we enrich lives, create community and elevate humanity. Every year, more than 300,000 people visit 92Y’s New York City venues, and millions more join us through the Internet, satellite broadcasts and other digital media. A proudly Jewish organization since its founding in 1874, 92Y embraces its heritage and enthusiastically welcomes people of all backgrounds and perspectives. 92Y is an open door to extraordinary worlds. For more information, visit www.92Y.org.

Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín is generously supported by The Rita Allen Foundation; and The Harold W. and Ida L. Goldstein Lecture Fund through the Estate of Sanford Goldstein.

Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor; Suzi and Martin J. Oppenheimer; UJA-Federation of New York; the Austrian Cultural Forum; the Czech Center New York; and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

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