Brundibár- A Holocaust Opera.

Opera

On the 23rd of June , 1944,two delegates from the International Red Cross and one from the Danish Red Cross visited Theresienstadt  accompanied by the commandant SS First Lieutenant Karl Rahm and one of his deputies.

Rahm

During the visit the delegations were treated to an Opera by the Jewish composer Hans Krása. The children’s opera Brundibár was composed by composer Hans Krása and written by the writer Adolf Hoffmeister in 1938. for a government competition, which was  later cancelled because of  political developments.

In mid 1941 a production of the opera  was directed by Rafael Schächter, and several  of his friends,  it served as a fiftieth birthday present for the director of the orphanage at Hagibor. There had only been 2 performances of the production in Prague, both took place in secret for the Jews were banned of partaking in any cultural events.

By winter 1942 composer Krása and  the set designer František Zelenka had been transported to Theresienstadt.

By summer 1943, almost all of the children from  the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt.

cast

This gave composer Krása the opportunity to reconstruct the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that he had kept, the opera was adapted ait to suit the musical instruments which were available in the camp:guitar, clarinet, , flute, accordion, piano, percussion instruments, 4 violins, a double bass and a cello . A set was once again designed by František Zelenka, who had  formerly been  a stage manager at the Czech National Theatre.

In spring  time of 1944 the Theresienstadt ghetto was getting ready  for a visit from the  International Red Cross committee, whose aim it was to assess its function as a ‘model’ ghetto that was ‘given’ to the Jews, by Hitler. Brundibár was chosen as the opera that would be put on show  for the committee. It waswas moved to a large sports hall outside the ghetto, and Zelenka, was given the materials make improvements to  the set and costumes. This beautification of Brundibár had to happen overnight. The end scenes of Brundibár were then filmed on June 23  1944 for the propaganda  film Theresienstadt (better known under the title The Führer Has Given the Jews a Town).

film crew

The plot of the opera is about two children,Aninka and Pepíček, whose mother is very ill and needs milk to get better, but there is no money.An idea  of making money occurs to them when they see the organ-grinder Brundibár earning a living in the market. But Brundibár is an evil man , and shouts down the children. During the night,  animals from one of the posters  come to the aid of  the despairing children, and the following  day they help the children to sing louder than Brundibár. The children get  the money they need , but the evil Brundibár steals their earnings . In the end the children find him and are given back what belongs to them.

All of the cast who were involved in the Theresienstadt production were put on transport  sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately when they arrived, including the children and also the composer Krása.

Krasa

What makes all of this worse is that the whole charade was believed by the Red Cross.

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