The chronicle of Terezín – ISTA site of learning
By Julia Roberts
Terezín (or Theresienstadt in German) was used as a Nazi camp between 1940 and 1945. In particular it was a camp that housed intellectuals, artists, writers, musicians and families. Approximately 150,000 people passed through it, including 15,000 children. Of those only about 23,000 survived the war.
Every year ISTA hosts a festival in this extraordinary site of learning, giving students, teachers and artists alike a unique opportunity to stay in Terezín and learn of its history. Everyone is a guest of the site itself (as opposed to other festivals with a school host) and this contributes to the unique privilege of experiencing history intimately, with a sense of respect and responsibility to honour the memories that Terezín holds.
Everything I experienced in my week in Terezín has stayed with me: the learning, the emotional and creative response to the site and the relationships and creative energy which were generated through our shared experience. It was raw, real and remarkable.
On our first day of being expertly guided through Terezín and learning of its history, a song began to form in my head. This song became the theme of our festival performance and we also had the honour of performing it to Holocaust survivor Doris Grozdanovičová who came to speak to us of her experience of being incarcerated in Terezín as a young girl. It was one of the times of my life when I have been most acutely aware of my privilege and humbled by the strength of human spirit, represented in this song: Children of Terezín.