April 25, 2014 2:02 pm

Second World War concentration camp survivor tells her story

WINNIPEG – When music is all you have, it can be a very powerful force.

Kathy Blum, 83, was 13 when she arrived by cattle train at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp created by the Second World War Nazi propaganda machine.

The Winnipegger’s story is central to a one-hour Shaw TV special called In Remembrance Lies Hope, which will be broadcast April 27 and 28 and May 2.

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Theresienstadt was a façade created by the Nazi propaganda machine to fool the world, and to hide the terrible conditions and loss of life taking place at this camp and others, such as Auschwitz and Dachau.

Theresienstadt’s hand-picked, musically inclined prisoners were forced to perform a concert for a visiting Red Cross delegation to show the world life was good there, although prisoners faced dehumanizing conditions. Those musicians, under the guidance and enthusiasm of composer Rafael Schächter, decided to secretly practice and perform Verdi’s Requiem in defiance of the Third Reich. The musicians bravely looked the Nazis in the eyes as they performed the complicated death mass at the concert held for the Red Cross, knowing in the morning they’d be on a train to Auschwitz, an extermination camp.

Approximately 35,000 people died in Theresienstadt and some 88,000 people, including 15,000 children, were sent from it to extermination camps.

An interfaith choir concert performance at Westminster United Church in Winnipeg in January honoured the 70th anniversary of the infamous Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt. Shaw TV producers who recorded the concert decided to add interviews and images to the concert performances and created the one-hour special In Remembrance Lies Hope, which will be broadcasted on Shaw TV systems across the country.

Belle Jarniewski, chair of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada in Winnipeg, organized the concert and helped tell the story of Theresienstadt with the Rev. Dr. James Christie, a professor of dialogue theology at the University of Winnipeg. Incredibly, Jarniewski was able to find a Theresienstadt survivor living in Winnipeg who was willing to share her story — Blum.

The one-hour special television presentation will air this weekend on Shaw TV Winnipeg Channel 9 in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Watch it April 27 at 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., April 28 at 5:30 p.m. or May 2 at 9 p.m.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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