Forgetting is the final instrument of genocide — Simon Norfolk

From October 1941 to May 1945, Nazi Germany turned the Czechoslovakian garrison town of Terezín into the Jewish ghetto they called Theresienstadt. Little known, even today, was that within its walls of brutality and injustice endured a culture of creativity, ingenuity and irrepressible human spirit that is profoundly expressed through the children’s opera Brundibár, the brainchild of Jewish prisoner, Hans Krasa, and performed by Jewish children suffering under the yolk of Nazi occupation. An allegory which mocks Hitler’s tyranny and boldly predicts his resounding defeat, the opera was performed 55 times under the unwitting eye of Nazi oppressors who did not understand the Czech language. Armed with hopeful lyrics and performed without yellow stars, Brundibár empowered its child players and allowed them to experience a brief moment of freedom as they discovered the weight of their collective voice.

“Beyond imagination” is a term Holocaust survivors often use to qualify their experience, as words and images cannot fully express what they have witnessed and endured. The same holds true for those individuals throughout the world who have weathered and survived genocide since the end of World War II. Exposure to these events is especially poignant when considering the innocent child survivors whose strength of character within the talons of inhumanity leads us to a place beyond our own imagination.Today we find ourselves at pivotal crossroads of Jewish, and world history. A juncture where the few remaining witnesses and survivors of the Shoah leave us every day. A time when the profound tragedy and dignity of their very existence is in jeopardy of being relegated to archival documents of faded portraits and static history.

As with any crossroads, we are now tasked with the responsibility of choosing a pathway of remembrance and awareness which acknowledges the specter of genocide that still walks among us — not only for ourselves but for those who will follow our lead and example. In doing so we must honor a rich Jewish history and culture while acknowledging those who have experienced the multigenerational effects of genocide by connecting the voices of the past to the hearts and minds of future generations within an engaging, meaningful and relevant forum of discovery and creativity which fosters unique interpersonal relationships. What’s more, we must share this salient story and experience with an ever-growing number of people throughout the world who find themselves distant from the cataclysm of the Holocaust, and closer to the fuel of ignorance, tinder of ambivalence and match of intolerance.