Monday, 8 April 2013

The Defiant Requiem

Last night, I watched a beautiful documentary on PBS, Defiant Requiem.   It is the true story of a 1944 performance of Verdi's beautiful Requiem Mass in Terezín, a Nazi concentration camp.   The performance was arranged by inmate and conductor, Rafael Schächter.   It was performed by a chorus of his fellow prisoners, many of whom would be shipped out to face death following the performance.

The link above is for a great article by Jason Apuzzo, of The Huffington Post.

"Know before whom you stand."  A wall of the secret synagogue at Terezin.

There's not much to add to Apuzzo's article, other than:

1. My favorite quote, amongst many:

Survivor Edgar Krasa says of the Requiem, "It was a prayer that overcame hunger ... you were there [singing] in that cellar and you were a different person." Another survivor who sang in the chorus, Marianka May, agrees: "My stomach stopped growling when I was singing. I think when you are more a soul than a person, I don't think the soul has to be nourished by anything but heavenly music." 

"...when you are more a soul than a person..."   The very knowledge that should have prevented the Holocaust--and all the ugliness we do to others--in the first place.

Danny and Rafi Krasa lift their father Edgar Krasa, who was Raphael Schachter's roommate and a choir member during their time in Terezin.

2.  Schächter chose the Requiem because he and the inmates could tell their Nazi captors of the judgement which awaited them and they could cry openly to God for their liberation.   The inmates who survived speak of the beauty of the piece and the power they found in the Latin words.   They memorized it without any books or papers.   It nourished them, connected them to God, to each other, and to hope.

It seemed a contrast to those few Catholics who nearly spit with anger when they discuss why the mass should only be in Latin.   I wonder what is their motivation because surely if the Latin mass affected them as it did the prisoners of Terezin, they would speak with more love and seek their own ways to convince others--with beauty and art-- all in the name of He who is Love and Hope.

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