The commemorative gathering on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the 16 October 1944 transport and opening of an exhibition by Alfred Kantor

On the occasion of the anniversary of the 16 October 1944 transport, there was a commemorative gathering held on 16 October 2009 the former Magdeburg barracks. Those in attendance commemorated the 65th anniversary of the autumn extermination transports. From 28 September 1944 through 28 October 1944, 11 transports took 18,402 prisoners from Terezín to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Out of those, only 1,574 people survived.

Exhibition of drawings by A. Kantor in the attic theatre of the former Magdeburg Barracks
Výstava kreseb A. Kantora v půdním divadle bývalých Magdeburských kasáren

The transport of 16 October 1944 was the eighth one, labelled Er. In the ghetto history, this was a transport with huge impact on the ghetto’s cultural life which had great significance for the prisoners. Theatre, music and other forms of art in Terezín gave them optimism, faith in survival during their hard, depressing everyday lives in the ghetto. For its protagonists and audiences alike, culture was a means of escape from the cruel present, from the atmosphere of fear of the transports. This particular transport severed many cultural links, as it saw the largest group of artists from the ghetto dragged off to Auschwitz-Birkenau – among them Hans Krása, Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullmann, Karel Ančerl, František Petr Kien and others.

The ceremony was personally attended by Mrs Helga Weissová-Hošková who herself experienced the Terezín ghetto with her parents and whose family was deported to Auschwitz by the autumn transports of 1944. The commemorative ceremony was accompanied by compositions of Terezín composers, performed by doc. Jiří Hošek (violoncello) and prof. Božena Kronychová (piano).

 

As a further reminder of what life was like in the Terezín ghetto, Auschwitz and Schwarzheide, an exhibition of drawings by Alfred Kantor was opened on this occasion. A. Kantor was an artist who before the war studied advertising in Prague and worked on paintings. At the beginning of 1941, being 18 years old, he was deported to Terezín, followed by Auschwitz and, in summer 1944, Schwarzheide. He captured the everyday reality of the ghetto and the concentration camps in hundreds of drawings. After the war he wrote: “I began to feel an urge to record bizarre scenes… I wanted not so much to paint my own experience than to capture the unbelievable place so that I could show the world at least some parts of it… The drawings came out of the urge for self-preservation. When I adopted the role of an observer, I could at least for a little while detach from what went on in Auschwitz and retain the last remnants of sanity.” The exhibition is located in the attic theatre of the former Magdeburg barracks.

Drawings of A. Kantor were also published in book form with the author’s annotations. The book is available in the shops of the Terezín Memorial.

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S příchodem nacistů se mé dětské mysli otevřely podivné obzory. Uvědomil jsem si, že nelze spontánně ctít starosty, radní, duchovní, soudce, učitele, různé přednosty, ale že si naši úctu musí zasloužit. Vždyť někteří z těch, které jsem míval v oblibě, zvedali pravici k poctě vůdce a později pilně vstupovali do komunistické strany. Začal jsem brzy lidi třídit. — Tom Luke, Kolektiv autorů: Pokoj 127, Domov mládeže Q708, Terezín, Gymnázium Plzeň a o.s. HUMR, 2007, s. 89.