Concert of inmate's music and poetry to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust to be commemorated in Hong Kong with music written by inmates of death camps

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 3:50am

A cabaret, classics and a prayer for the dead - music written in Nazi concentration camps will be performed for the United Nation's Holocaust Memorial Day at the Academy of Performing Arts next Sunday.

"What happened during the Holocaust is important in understanding what humanity is," said Glenn Timmermans, board member of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre organising the concert.

"What is remarkable about the music is that even in times of real hardship, people tried to maintain their humanity by continuing to write," he said. "The Nazi process was to dehumanise people … The whole idea of people continuing to make pictures, poetry, music goes against that."

Timmermans says the centre wants to portray those who died in the Holocaust not just as victims. Even facing death, the civilian prisoners retained their dignity by creating art, he said.

Next week there will be readings of poetry written by child inmates and music by Victor Ullmann, Robert Dauber, Egon Ledec, Frantisek Domazlicky, James Simon and Gideon Klein.

"Gideon Klein was a true musical genius," said Timmermans. "He died in Auschwitz at 26 years old. Had he not died, he would almost certainly have gone on to be one of the great musicians of the 20th century."

Klein, a Czech pianist and composer, had been awarded a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but was barred from leaving his country.

All the composers were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic.

Theresienstadt - a model camp where the Nazis shot propaganda films showing Jews in a semblance of real life - was one of the few camps where music was allowed to flourish. Only Domazlicky survived the camp while others were sent to death camps towards the end of the war.

"We know that Einstein and Freud got out [of Germany and Austria], but most didn't," said Timmermans. "What the world lost because these people never lived - we'll never know."

About six million prisoners, mostly Jews, were murdered in extermination camps in Europe during the world war.

Next Sunday's concert, which is free of charge, will be held at the Academy of Performing Arts' main concert hall.

Reservations through the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre are encouraged to guarantee seating.