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KAMP! SONGS AND SATIRE FROM THERESIENSTADT PERFORMED AT BARD COLLEGE ON MONDAY, MAY 7 Production features poems and cabaret acts written and originally performed by the inmates of a "model" concentration camp

Emily Darrow

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.-Viennese actor, director, and playwright Alexander Waechter was inspired to write Kamp! Songs and Satire from Theresienstadt after a visit to the Nazi detention camp where his uncle, Baron von Waechter, perished, and his aunt Emilia was detained before being sent to Auschwitz, where she died. Kamp! tells their story through poems and cabaret acts, written by inmates of the concentration camp that was held up by the Nazis to the outside world as a model of their generosity. Hap Erstein of the Palm Beach Post notes of the show that, "one could call it gallows humor, but its act of defiance is what makes it so bracing."

Kamp! is performed at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, May 7, in Olin Hall. An act by the German Studies students precedes the cabaret performance. On view in the Olin Atrium, beginning at 6:30 p.m., is an exhibition of art and posters from Theresienstadt, including the film The Führer Gives the Jews a City. Both the performance and the exhibition are free and open to the public. Michael Mauer directs Kamp!, which features Amelia DeMayo and Curt Buckler accompanied by pianist Sergei Dreznin, the music director and pianist for the original European production. They are currently performing Kamp! at the 78th Street Theater Lab in Manhattan. The performance at Bard College is presented by the German Studies Program, with support from the President's Office, Dean of the College, Music Program, Division of Languages and Literature, and Jewish, Historical, and Russian Studies Programs.

All the lyrics for Kamp! were written by inmates of Theresienstadt-Ilse Weber, Leo Straus, Karel Svenk, Martin Roman, Walter Lindenbaum, Hans Hofer, and Kurt Gerron-and translated into English by Caren and Thomas Neile. Some the songs were based on German and Austrian hits of the 1940s, others were written in Theresienstadt, and additional new music was composed by Sergei Dreznin and Gerhard Bronner of Vienna's still-thriving cabaret scene. Many of the works featured in Kamp! were hidden in the attics and cellars of Theresienstadt, recovered after the Germans left the former Czechoslovakia, and made available after the opening of the Eastern bloc.

In 1944 a group from the International Red Cross who visited the camp (located north of Prague), were impressed by prisoners apparently leading well-organized lives, going about their daily business, buying and selling with a special camp currency, and enjoying cabaret performances and classical music concerts. There was even a band playing on a bandstand in an attractive central square. This visit was captured in the Nazi propaganda film The Führer Gives the Jews a City. But it was all a sham to persuade the world that the rumors of a Holocaust were unfounded, even as members of the chorus were taken away on trains for Auschwitz during the performance for the visitors.

Although Theresienstadt was not a death camp on a par with Auschwitz, the conditions at the "paradise ghetto" were horrible, with overcrowding, poor food, and lack of sanitation and medical care. Of the 140,000 people interned, 33,000 died and 87,000 were transported to Nazi death camps elsewhere; only 5 percent survived. Of the 15,000 children who passed through, 93 survived.

Kamp! celebrates the lives and courage of the former inmates of Theresienstadt. As noted in the program introduction, "Amid the death and hardship . . . was a wellspring of life and hope. Laughter was one of the main elixirs of life in Theresienstadt. It was the most important medicine against hunger, overcrowding, and fear. It made life bearable."

For further information, call 845-758-6822 or e-mail

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This event was last updated on 04-11-2001