The Terrezin Nazi ghetto was home to many artists





The Terezín ghetto near Prague was home to a remarkable array of renowned Czech musicians, composers and theatrical artists, writing and performing as they and their fellow Jewish inmates awaited an unknown fate in Auschwitz. Ahead of a London concert to commemorate their lives and work, Ed Vulliamy talks to some of the survivors who remembered them

The drawing shows a performance by a string trio, to a small audience. A suited man rests his head on one hand, his left elbow on the arm of his chair; he wears an inward stare of meditative immersion in the music. Next to him, a little girl sits on a low chair, feet tucked in beneath her. A couple are seen from the rear, sitting on a bench, the man's arm around his lady's shoulder. The musicians' faces are hidden, but nevertheless, something in this picture communicates the poignant beauty of whatever they are playing, along with their audience's rapt attention. The clue to what sets this scene apart from the idyll it appears to be is that the suited man has the star of David sewn on his jacket. The people gathered for this intimate private concert are living in the ghetto of Terezín, or Theresienstadt, as their German captors called it; a former 18th-century garrison town in northern Bohemia, just north of Prague, which was commandeered by the SS in 1940 and transformed into a transit hub for the extermination camps, usually Auschwitz. This is music performed in the antechamber of genocide, soundtrack to the Shoah, as it happened.

The image was drawn and coloured in watercolour by the hand – now wrinkled, but delicate and steady still – of Helga Weissová-Hošková. Now 82, Mrs Weissová-Hošková was 12 when she did this drawing. "Maybe those two are myself and my father," she says of the figures on the left, with that charged, elegant detachment with which so many Holocaust survivors communicate. She lets on that "I didn't know how to draw a violin, so I hid the instruments behind the music stands"....



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