Rafael Schaechter (1905 – 1945)
Birth: May 27, 1905, Brăila, Romania.
Arrived in Theresienstadt: transport H, nr. 128, on November 30, 1941
Left Theresienstadt: transport Er, nr. 943, on October 16, 1944 Destination: Auschwitz
With the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 Schaechter moved to Brno and then to Prague where he studied piano with Wilhelm Kurz and Karel Hofmeister, composition and conducting at the Prague conservatory. In 1937 he founded there the Chamber Opera and worked in avant-garde music for theatre. The German occupation in 1939 restricted his musical activities, though Schaechter succeeded to stage the children’s opera Brundibar, by Hans Krása, at the Jewish orphanage in Prague. (This was the only time it was staged before the ghetto era – testimony by Margit Silberfeld).
On November 30, 1941 he was deported with the second transport to ghetto Theresienstadt, he was among the pioneers who influenced music life in the ghetto. He staged and conducted a variety of musical performances in the ghetto, among them the opera The Bartered Bride by Smetana, which was very successful and was performed 35 times. In September 1943 he was ordered by the SS to conduct Verdi’s Requiem, for which he established a choir of 150 vocalists and 4 soloists. Since most of the performers were deported to Auschwitz he had to re-create the choir twice to perform the work; at the end only 60 vocalists remained – they performed the Requiem 15 times, including a performance in June 1944 attended by the delegation of the International Red Cross and SS officers.
On October 16, 1944, Schaechter was deported from Theresienstadt to the Auschwitz extermination camp, together with members of his choir and other musicians. As far as is known, he died in early 1945 during a death march from the camp.