The Music of Terezín

This is a remarkable BBC documentary made in 1993 about the musicians and the cultural life in the Teresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia during WWII. The film, directed by Simon Broughton, tells the story of the four main composers who were active in the ghetto: Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann, and reveals how and why the musical life developed.

Ironically, Terezín was artistically the freest place in occupied Europe.“Only the Germans knew we were sentenced to death,” says Zdenka Fantlová, who was an actress in Terezín. “So they let us get on with it and what we were really doing was dancing under the gallows.”

The BBC/Czech TV coproduction film includes location filming in Terezín, archive footage, powerful music and performance in some of the attics and a hidden synagogue where it was first performed, and vivid first-hand accounts from survivors. These include the singer Karel Berman, Lisa Kleinová (the sister of composer Gideon Klein), composer František Domažlicky, writer Ivan Klíma, pianist Edith Kraus, pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, artist Helga Weissová-Hošková and actress Zdenka Fantlová, who died in only 2022 aged 100.

This is a story of musical creativity that resonates way beyond the walls of the ghetto. And it is powerful music that still deserves to be heard today.

Duration 70mins