2014 Schächter Institute Recap
From June 8 to June 12, 2014, The Defiant Requiem Foundation presented its annual Rafael Schächter Institute for Arts and Humanities. Conceived by Foundation President & Founder, Murry Sidlin, the Institute is named for the conductor of the Verdi Requiem performances in Terezín during World War II, and is dedicated to perpetuating the arts and humanities as practiced by the prisoners of Terezín in what some have called an “accidental university.” This year, for the first time since the Institute’s inception, the programs and events took place in the U.S. at the Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University. Previous Institute events have been held in Terezín and Prague.
This year’s Institute began with a presentation of the Foundation’s award-wining and Emmy-nominated documentary film, Defiant Requiem, with introductory remarks by Raye Farr, former Director of the Steven Spielberg Film & Video Archive at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ms. Farr’s insightful presentation included footage of Claude Lanzmann’s interview with Maurice Rossel, head of the International Commission of the Red Cross delegation that visited Terezín, about his shamefully upbeat report on Terezín in 1944. A second (recently discovered) clip showed Rossel visiting a POW camp earlier in the war and pronouncing that the soup being served was “very good!”
The next evening, Allan J. Lichtman, Distinguished Professor in History at American University, gave an engaging and high-energy talk about his latest book, FDR and the Jews, which he co-authored with Professor Richard Breitman (also from American University). This was a fascinating look at the many internal, external, domestic and foreign factors that impacted what President Roosevelt did and did not do for the Jews of Europe during his time in office.
On Tuesday, June 10, pianist Phillip Silver, and cellist Noreen Silver, performed music of imprisoned Terezín composers Gideon Klein, Robert Dauber, James Simon, and Viktor Ullmann. The Silvers provided thoughtful and comprehensive background information prior to each piece they performed, and then presented each work with wonderful sensitively and exceptional musicality.
The final event of the 2014 Institute was an eye-opening discussion focusing on Anti-Semitism in Europe today. Chairman of The Defiant Requiem Foundation Board, Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, was joined by Ira N. Forman, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and Michael Salberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s Associate National Director and Director of International Affairs, for an analysis of this important topic. Each speaker presented opening remarks and then all three panelists took questions from audience. Mr. Salberg presented statistics from the ADL’s Global 100 study – a survey of attitudes toward Jews in over 100 countries around the world conducted between July 2013 and February 2014. The audience was thoroughly engaged and the discussion about this critical subject was both sobering and illuminating.
The next Rafael Schächter Institute for Arts and Humanities is planned for May or June of 2015 in Terezín and Prague, and the program of events is currently being developed. The 2015 Institute is expected to include “When Music Transforms,” Maestro Sidlin’s latest concert-drama that will present the music of 15 imprisoned Terezín composers.