Recently I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Edgar and Hanka Krasa, two remarkable survivors from Terezín living in the Boston area.
Edgar sang in all the performances of the Verdi Requiem that Rafi Schächter staged in the ghetto, and he is a major contributor to the dialogue and presentation of Defiant Requiem, a work incorporating the Verdi Requiem and Terezín testimony written by Murry Sidlin, resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. [Disclaimer: I haven’t seen this production]. Edgar was asked to join the first group of the Aufbaukommando, 342 young men sent in late 1941 to set up Terezín as a ghetto for the Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia. Because of his training, Edgar assisted in the setting up of the kitchens in Terezín. Hanka worked in the Landwirtschaft (agricultural labour force) and escaped deportation to the East because of this work. The initial meeting with Edgar and Hanka took place at the home of their friends, Ralf and Basia Gawlick. Ralf works at Boston College with my dear friend Michael Noone, hence the introduction. It was a very meaningful afternoon, but I felt we needed to talk in more detail one-on-one, so we arranged another meeting with Edgar and Hanka, this time at their home.
Together with Michael we sat around the Krasa’s dining room table and talked about features of musical life in the ghetto, both formal and informal. We discussed all different aspects of society in the ghetto. And of course, being a Jewish home, we were offered an abundance of food – all traditional Czech biscuits (cookies, known as vánocní cukrový) and a seriously delicious plum cake (švestkový kolác). Hopefully I will get some of the recipes from Hanka in coming months.