Within the Czech Republic, in a little town cradled within North Bohemia, 34,000 people were killed inside the military fortress of Terezin during the atrocious events of the Holocaust. It is a time that has permanently scarred human history.
Daniel Hope is a British-Irish classical violinist whose grandparents escaped the Nazi regime in Germany. He has devoted his life for the past 15 years to preserving the music of the Terezin prisoners who were murdered by the Nazis. The tonality of these incredible musicians is beautiful and haunting, personal and sometimes satirical. Every single piece of music has a message, one we all need to remember.
During the Savannah Music Festival, Hope will present “Terezin: Refuge in Music,” a film he produced that covers the story of Alice Herz Sommer and Coco Schumann — two survivors of the Holocaust — and their wildly different yet equally talented musical styles.
Sommer was a Jewish pianist and music teacher. She played in more than 100 concerts during her time in Terezin, where she performed for both prisoners and guards. Her music was an inspiration for the inmates of the concentration camp.
“From the first tone, it goes directly into our soul. We are no longer in this world," Sommer laments in the film, signaling the importance of music as a form of hope, even in hopeless situations. She died Feb. 23, 2014, at the age of 110, making her one of the world’s oldest Holocaust survivors.
Schumann was a celebrated German jazz musician who died Jan. 28 at age 93. He was only 19 years old when he was transported to Terezin. He joined the Ghetto Swingers, a jazz band organized in the concentration camp. Schumann says in the film, “I am a musician who was imprisoned in a concentration camp ... not a concentration camp prisoner who plays music.”
“Soon no one will be able to talk about [the Holocaust] in the first person,” Hope explains in his documentary. “We have a responsibility to keep this history alive.”