New music school brightens Terezin's dark legacy

The Czech town of Terezin was the infamous site of a Nazi "show camp" for Jewish detainees during the Second World War. In order to convince the International Red Cross that they were treating Jewish captives well, the Third Reich allowed the people kept there were to enjoy something of a cultural life. As many artists and musicians were sent to Terezin, they managed to produce some stunning art and music such as Hans Krasa's Brundibar opera during their captivity before being eventually transported to Nazi death camps. Now a new international music centre has opened there, which has been inspired by the town's tragic history.

The sound of Joseph Haydn resounded in the Czech Senate at a special gala concert held there this week to mark the opening of TIMUC or the Terezin International Music Centre.

TIMUC is part of the so-called Europroject Terezin which aims at establishing Terezin as a university town - a centre for education, culture and sports.

If all goes to plan it should become a prestigious music school for students and teachers from all over the world, which will celebrate the achievements of those who lived here during the Second World War.

TIMUC's co-founder Tomas Kvetak thinks it will be a fitting tribute to the people who managed to produce art and music in Terezin under such adverse conditions during the Nazi occupation.

"Terezin is a very famous place, perhaps the second-most famous place in the Czech Republic after Prague. It is so well known precisely because during the time of the Holocaust there were many artists and musicians there. These were people who stood on the brink of a chasm, whose lives were in danger and yet they were able write and perform music like the celebrated Brundibar opera. We want to link our project to this tradition. We wish to use Terezin's fame to bring people there who are making art and music today. In this way we hope to resurrect this old music that originated in Terezin and to take young people and make them aware of the historical context of this art and the background of suffering behind it. This should help nurture a new generation of people who are full of humanity and tolerance."

The Europroject Terezin eventually hopes to open other educational, cultural and sports facilities in the town, which would eventually become part of a university.

In this way, Tomas Kvetak, like many others, is hopeful that Terezin can become just as well known around the world for being a centre of culture and learning as it is now for its dark past.

"We want Terezin to be known not just as a Holocaust memorial, but also as a living city of culture and education, which emerged from the stigma and shame that once existed here and which powerfully demonstrates how things turn out when people are intolerant and don't observe the rights of others. Europe today is becoming multiethnic and we hope that Terezin will become a prime example as to how people from all cultures, religions and races can meet and come together."