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PtJA helps German students investigate music under the Third Reich

Twenty students from the Gymnasium Heide-Ost in north Germany attended a day of seminars delivered by PtJA Project Consultant David Fligg. It was hosted by the Terezín Initiative Institute (TII) in Prague on 14 February, and was part of the ‘Jewish music in concentration camps’ project that the students are currently engaged in. As part of it, on the following day, the students visited Terezín, after being prepared for their visit by David.

David Fligg and the Heide-Ost students outside of the former Jáchymova Street Jewish school. (Photo: Berndt Steincke)

“We looked at a whole range of subjects, from music-making in the camps, especially Terezín, to the ways in which some musicians in Nazi occupied Europe collaborated with the Nazis, via the fate of Prague’s Jewish musicians under occupation,” David explains. “There was an immense amount of lively debate, and I was struck by the maturity of these students, and their emotional involvement with some of the issues we discussed.”

The venue for the seminars, now home to the TII and other Jewish communal organisations, was the former premises of the Jáchymova Street Jewish school. From August 1940, after Jewish pupils were expelled from regular schools, Jáchymova became a place of refuge for Jewish pupils and teachers alike, and was one of only three schools in the occupied Czech lands where the Nazis permitted children to be taught. At end of the 1941/42 academic year, the school was closed down, and the pupils, along with their parents and teachers, were deported. Only a small number of them survived.

When David showed the Heide-Ost students the propaganda film that the Nazis made about Terezín, he explained, as was confirmed by one of the TII staff, that some of the children on the film would have been Jáchymova pupils. “I think it was at that point,” says David, “that the students realised that we were dealing with real people who probably sat in the same classroom where they were now sitting. And the room fell silent.”

Berndt Steincke, Honorary Chairman of the Heide-based Foundation Against Extremism and Violence, which is working with the students, attended the seminars. He said afterwards, “David captivated us with challenging short videos, archival documents and musical extracts. We were able to recognize the lies of the Nazi era. We sincerely thank David for coming and will continue to process his findings in our project.”

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