While in Theresienstadt Viktor Ullman wrote: 'For me Theresienstadt has been, and remains, an education in form. Previously, when one did not feel the weight and pressure of material life, because modern conveniences - those wonders of civilization - had dispelled them, it was easy to create beautiful forms. Here where matter has to be overcome through form even in daily life, where everything of an artistic nature is the very antithesis of one's environment - here, true mastery lies in seeing, with Schiller, that the secret of the art-work lies in the eradication of matter through form: which is presumably, indeed, the mission of man altogether, not only of aesthetic man but also of ethical man.
I have written a fairly large amount of music in Theresienstadt, mainly to satisfy the needs and wishes of conductors, producers, pianists and singers and thus to make provision for the permitted leisure activities within the ghetto. To make a list of this music seems to me as idle as it does to emphasize, for instance, that in Theresienstadt it was impossible to play the piano since there were no instruments. The severe shortage of manuscript paper will surely also be of no interest to future generations. All that I would stress is that Theresienstadt has helped, not hindered, me in my musical work, that we certainly did not sit down by the waters of Babylon and weep, and that our desire for culture was matched by our desire for life; and I am convinced that all those who have striven, in life and in art, to wrest form from resistant matter will bear me out.' Viktor Ullmann, 26 Kritiken über musikalische Veranstaltungen in Theresienstadt.
+ Viktor Ullman died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz between October 14th and 18th, 1944 +
The Emperor of Atlantis was first performed in 1975, and is recognised for its contribution to the understanding of the Nazi atrocities.
* The one-off student performance will be staged at the Weston Auditorium at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK on 27th January 2006 preceded by a talk by Holocaust survivor Stephen Frank about his experiences of Theresienstadt.
* Internet resources available at Viktor Ullman Foundation
* Thanks to SomethingJewish for the lead on this story.
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* Image credits - Auschwitz from Libertarian.nl. Viktor Ullman from Viktor Ullman Foundation
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For a related story take An Overgrown Path to Childhood luggage