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Concert celebrates composers who perished in Holocaust

CARROLLWOOD —Don't be put off by the grim history.

Yes, the composers featured in Tuesday's Music Reborn concert at the Carrollwood Cultural Center died in the Holocaust.

But the music itself is anything but morbid.

Think of hope.


Even whimsy.

How else to describe songs with titles like Daisies, An Unmarried Girl and Your Lips Say No! But Your Eyes Say Yes!

The program is a project of Nancy Rubenstein, a pianist, teacher and music scholar in Pittsburgh who grew up in Tampa.

Several years ago, Rubenstein decided to promote and preserve the music of the generation of composers persecuted by the Nazis.

"Not only was there music written during these very tragic years, but there was some very fine music written," Rubenstein said.

"Life did go on," she said. " ... The more popular songs that we're doing were born of people's hopes, dreams and memories. Because it was such a tragic time, the only escape that people had was through their creativity."

The full title of her program is Music Reborn: The Lost Composers of Theresienstadt.

Located 45 miles north of Prague, Theresienstadt was a concentration and transit camp for European Jews sent to Auschwitz and other death camps.

During the war, the Nazis used Theresienstadt as a propaganda tool, touting it as a spa and a "Paradise Ghetto."

It did have a diverse cultural life, with at least four concert orchestras, plus chamber groups, jazz combos, theater companies, a large library and children's programs.

But the Nazis pointed to Theresienstadt to divert attention from other concentration camps.

In June 1944, after beautifying Theresienstadt with new paint and freshly planted gardens, the Nazis allowed Red Cross inspectors into the camp.

That visit led to a propaganda documentary. After the film was complete, the Nazis sent the director and cast to Auschwitz.

In all, about 144,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt. Of those, 34,396 died there, and 88,000 more were sent to Nazi death camps.

Rubenstein's program features more than a dozen composers, a fraction of those at the camp. Some composed classical music, some performed in cabarets and some wrote folk songs.

Among other works, Tuesday's program will feature a lullaby, Wiegala, by Ilse Weber, a poet, children's author and musician.

She wrote more than 60 poems while at the camp.

Some she set some to music and sang while working as a night nurse in the children's infirmary.

Weber chose to join her husband when he was sent to Auschwitz to keep her family together.

There, she sang the lullaby to the children she had cared for, including her son Tommy, as they went to the gas chamber.

There's also a violin serenade by Robert Dauber, who was murdered at Dachau at age 22.

"One piece of his survived, and it's the piece I just happen to love the most of the whole program," Rubenstein said. "It's such a tender and sweet reflection of a young man cut down in his prime."

Music Reborn was recommended to the cultural center by Rubenstein's mother, Irene, who is active in the Florida Orchestra Guild and Hadassah.

Hadassah and the center scheduled the concert in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

On Nov. 9, 1938, Nazi soldiers went on an anti-Semitic riot, arresting 30,000 Jews, burning synagogues and looting Jewish businesses.

The Germans called the attack Kristallnacht, or the "Night of Broken Glass."

As part of the concert, Lisl Schick will talk about her memories of living through Kristallnacht as a 10-year-old girl, being put on a train that took her and a younger brother away from Vienna and not seeing her parents for six years.

Schick, now 80 and living in Largo, lost 20 to 25 relatives in the Holocaust, including her grandparents.

She recalls the morning after, when she saw hundreds of men trying to clean up the debris with little brushes as Nazis prowled the streets with whips.

"It was very frightening to see grown men on their hands and knees so powerless," she said.

Yet Rubenstein marvels at the resilience of artists such as those at Theresienstadt. She says one, famed composer Viktor Ullmann, said it best.

"By no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon," he said. "Our endeavor with respect to arts was commensurate with our will to live."

ROBERT DAUBER was murdered at Dachau at age 22. "One piece of

his survived and it's the piece I just happen to love the most of the whole program," says music scholar Nancy Rubenstein. "It's such a tender and sweet reflection of a young

man cut down in his prime."

ILSE WEBER, a poet, children's author and musician,

wrote more than 60 poems while at the camp. Some she set to music and sang while working as a night nurse in the children's infirmary.


If you go

What: A concert, Music Reborn: The Lost Composers of Theresienstadt, plus memories from Lisl Schick of Largo, , who survived Kristallnacht.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, at the corner of Lowell and Casey roads and South Village Drive.

Tickets: $18, $36 and $76. Reservations required.

More information: Call (813) 269-1310 or visit

Concert celebrates composers who perished in Holocaust 11/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 3:30am]
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