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Mar 2013 Journal

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Letter from Israel

The Theresienstadt Memorial Museum is situated in Israel’s verdant Jezreel Valley, in premises attached to Kibbutz Givat Chayim Ihud. Once or twice a year I receive the Museum newsletter, continuing the subscription taken out by my late father. For many years it appeared in stencil form on plain paper, making it easy to fold and stow in my handbag for reading while I waited for a bus or to see the doctor. In the last few years, however, it has been revamped and appears as a highly professional glossy magazine, replete with full-colour photos, making it much easier to read but far less easy to stuff into my handbag. Still, the information it contains is so rich and varied that I feel impelled to make the effort to study it and maintain my annual subscription. Although the Museum was recently accorded official recognition and a budget was allocated for its upkeep, the money has not actually been released, which hampers the day-to-day running of the site.
The journal itself is a treasure trove of information, revealing a plethora of activities and events associated with Theresienstadt. One of the salient projects initiated by the Museum is the annual conference on Music and Memory, held in conjunction with the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, celebrating the creative musical talents which abounded in the camp. In addition, several members of the Association of Former Inmates of Theresienstadt were provided with tickets and transportation enabling them to attend the stellar performance of Defiant Requiem given in Jerusalem last year.
Several pages of the journal are devoted to visits to the Museum by well-known and less well-known persons. Thus, one distinguished visitor was Stuart E. Eizenstat, former US Ambassador to the European Union and one of the sponsors of the Defiant Requiem project. Another was an American teenager, Jordan Seri, who came accompanied by her family. Jordan has devised an original way to raise money - she collects sea shells, paints them and sells them, donating all the proceeds to the Museum.
In addition, on Holocaust Day groups of IDF soldiers participate in a ceremony and tour the Museum. For some years now pupils from the Ort High School in the nearby Druze town of Daliat-al-Carmel have also attended this ceremony, with representatives from both groups, as well as Theresienstadt survivors, being among those lighting beacons.
The Museum also engages in an outreach programme and the journal contains a report of talks given by representatives of the Museum and the survivors’ association to IDF soldiers in their bases around the country. Leaders who are due to accompany school delegations to Poland are also given briefings.
The journal contains, in addition, an account of an exhibition of drawings by former prisoner Albin Glazer depicting sites in the camp as well as scenes from daily life. Another feature describes the exhibition of items commemorating the football ‘league’ that was instituted in the camp. This is currently on loan to the Theresienstadt Museum in the Czech Republic. In May last year, before the Czech national football team left to participate in the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland, its members were taken to the site of the camp to view the exhibition.
Finally, a project is under way, in conjunction with Yad Vashem, to scan all the thousands of documents - letters, articles, eye-witness accounts, pictures, etc - in the Theresienstadt Museum’s archive and put them online. This will mean closing the archive for a year, but the end result will surely be worthwhile, ensuring that the precious material will not be lost as a result of the ravages of time.

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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