Sometimes in the year 2000 the phone rang. The caller introduced himself as Murry Sidlin
conductor of the Oregon Symphony. He wants to speak to Mr. Krasa. I told him I am he. He asked whether the name Rafael Schaechter
means anything to me. I told him enough that we named our son after him. It did not take long, he appeared at our house.
He read books about Music in Terezin, and was upset that only a few paragraphs were written about Rafael Schaechter, whom he considered to be a hero based on what was written about him. After reading those books he started to search for someone who knew Rafi. He found out that Rafi's sister lives in Jerusalem. He visited her, but she could not speak about it. Her daughter told him that in Boston lives a person named E. Krasa. Through telephone information he got my number, and that was the above call.
In Terezin among many Rafi's admirer was Marianka Zadikova
, whose mother was a painter. She asked her mother to paint the little house in the backyard of one of the houses where Rafi and I had a little room (kumbal) in the attic. After the war Marianka gave me a copy of that drawing. I made another copy and sent it to Rafi's sister. I never received an ackowlegment, but the painting did not come back. This was how the daughter knew about E. Krasa.
He told me he wanted to write a book about Rafi, I should find him people he could interview. Unfortunately at that time I did not know anybody alive who knew Rafi before the war. He decided to create a Concert /Drama,: "Defiant Requiem/Verdi in Terezin". It is Verdi's Requiem, and between movements actors represent Rafi, the Judenaelteste, and Viktor Ullmann
, the critic of all music creations and performances in Terezin. There is also a movie screen on the stage where surviving singers speak about the impact of the Requiem on them. Also parts of the Nazi propaganda movie is shown.
The premiere should have been 2002 in Jerusalem, but could not take place because of unrest. So it premiered in Portland, Oregon,
Sidlin's home. The orchestra was that of the Oregon Symphony, and 3 Portland universities contributed their Choral Departments.
It was not performed at the Symphony Hall, but in the Expo Hall, where beams and pipes were exposed, no comfortable chairs, only benches, to bring it as close as possible to Terezin environment. Where ever possible Sidlin avoids Concert Halls.
The first 2 movements were accompanied by a piano, and the singers sang without looking into a score, as it was done in Terezin.
Between the movements Sidlin spoke about the life in Terezin and actors as I have described above. At the end a single violinist plays "Oseh Shalom"and on the movie screen appears the train and people are being loaded into the wagons. The singers walked single file towards the train, and it seemed as if they were boarding the train, and Sidlin walked last, all that symbolizing the deportation of the singers and the musicians. On the screen is written "In lieu of Applause Please Stand a Moment in Silence
Honoring the Memory of the Terezin Participants"
2 performances were given for an audience of 2.000 each, mostly non-Jews, and there was not a dry eye among the audience.
Since then 6 performances were given in US State Capitals and 2x in Terezin. The Czech Ministry of Culture asked Sidlin to perform the Requiem June 30th 2009 for 600 delegates from 46 countries attending the Conference for restitution of Art stolen by the Nazis.
The leader of the Czech delegation was Felix Kolmer
. The leader of the American delegation was Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat
, who for decates worked on Holocaust related causes.
He was so overwhelmed by the Requiem that he became part of it. He arranged for a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, which took place October 6 and was sold out 2 months before. He created the "Defiant Requiem Foundation" and took fundraising into his hand. He went to Israel to arrange a performance there. Performances in New York, Atlanta, Michigan, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen are booked. The Archbishop of New York attended in Washington and went to Rome to have the Pope invite the Requiem to the Vatican.
I think I wrote that the Terezin Mayor donated to Sidlin the Riding Hall where the performances took place, and Sidlin created there The Rafael Schaechter International Institute for Art and Humanities, where each summer concerts, theater, lectures, conferences and more will take place.
Now, when my time comes, I shall be able to close my eyes, knowing that Rafi's memory will exist in perpetuation.