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To Remember and Bear Witness

Chapman University Holocaust Event Features Works of Composers Who Died in Nazi Camps

April 13, 2001|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The music of composers who died in Nazi death camps wonderfully survives. But the way Gideon Klein's Duo for Violin and Violoncello breaks off abruptly in the second movement is an eerie reminder of the horrific reality of that time.

Klein died in 1945 in Furstengrube, a Nazi concentration camp in Silesia, one of millions--including thousands of children--exterminated deliberately and coldly.

Klein and others who perished, as well as those who survived, will be honored at "An Evening of Holocaust Remembrance: The Children of Terezin" at 7 p.m. Monday in Memorial Hall at Chapman University in Orange. Admission and parking (in the structure at Sycamore and Lemon streets) are free of charge.

Klein's Duo will be played by Pacific Symphony concertmaster Raymond Kobler and principal cellist Timothy Landauer. Kobler also will play "Nigun" from Ernest Bloch's "Baal Shem: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life."

Members of Opera Pacific will perform selections from Hans Krasa's children's opera "Brundibar," originally staged in 1943 as a propaganda tool at Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. (Krasa died in Auschwitz, as did composers Pavel Haas and Viktor Ullmann.)

Ela Stein Weissberger, who played the Cat 55 times in the original production and one of about 100 survivors of the 15,000 children interned at Terezin, will speak. Poems written by children in the camp (Theresienstadt in German) will be read.

Chapman president James L. Doti will speak, as will Rabbi Shelton Donnell of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana and Ronald Farmer, dean of All Faiths Chapel at Chapman.

The event is presented by the university's internationally recognized Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education in conjunction with Yom Hashoah, a day of Holocaust Remembrance observed around the world. The holiday this year is Thursday. The Chapman program is made possible through a grant from the Kenneth and Laura Honig Foundation.

Marilyn Harran, Stern Chair in Holocaust Education and founding director of the Rodgers Center, has put the event together and will introduce it.

"We thought that at Chapman we could play a very special role and be a gathering point for people from all religious traditions who want to come together and want to remember and learn and become witnesses to the future," Harran said.

"Chapman is not a Jewish institution. I am not Jewish. I regard this as something for humanity. That's really what we're trying to do."

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Hired as an associate professor of religion at Chapman in 1985, Harran first began teaching about the Holocaust as part of the university's freshman seminar program in 1987.

"When I began teaching, at Barnard College in the '70s, not very many resources were available. Survivors were far more reticent to talk about their experiences then than they are now. The survivors now are so courageous to relive that horrible period of their lives in order to try to shape young people, to teach them that you can't tolerate small acts of injustice because tolerating small acts prepares for the big acts.

"Who knew what when--while an important question--is not the most interesting and the most overwhelming one. To me, the question is, when non-Jewish German citizens read about the Nuremberg Laws, why didn't they do something? This was arguably the most cultured, sophisticated country in Europe, and here were people who for various reasons chose to be uninvolved, chose to be bystanders.

"The most important lesson is: None of us can afford to be bystanders. You can't bring that about by preaching, but by presenting models who have chosen not to be bystanders."

Advisor for the music part of the program is Pacific Symphony president John Forsyte.

"My parents are Holocaust survivors, so I have a very strong personal interest in the subject," Forsyte said.

"Just last summer, my parents went back to Europe for the first time. My father had not been back to Poland in 55 years. It was a very emotional experience and created a lot of closure. It brought me closer to the subject matter."

Impressed by Harran's work at Chapman, Forsyte discussed ways in which the symphony could also become involved. Through the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation in Boston, he had discovered music written by composers who died in the concentration camps and proposed that several chamber works be part of the remembrance program.

"We thought that the Gideon Klein Duo was a particularly poignant work," he said.

"When I approached Raymond Kobler, he was more than happy to learn it, as was Timothy Landauer. Raymond also suggested adding the second movement of the 'Baal Shem' suite, [portraying] a culture that has almost vanished from Europe, particularly eastern Europe."

"Anything involving the Holocaust, I am more than willing to do," Kobler said. "My father fled in 1938 from Austria, from Vienna. Four of his aunts perished at Auschwitz and also, on his side, my grandfather. So it is something that is a living thing within me."

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