The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra staged an one-of-a-kind performance of Verdi's Requiem Thursday which paid homage to victims of the Holocaust and the unique way in which they managed to resist Nazi oppression.
The "Defiant Requiem" tells the story an unique artistic community that somehow flourished in the middle of the Terezin concentration camp.
Starting in 1941, the Germans converted the city of Terezin into a Jewish ghetto and forced labor camp. It eventually became home to tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners -- many of whom were intellectuals, artists and musicians.
Conditions in the camp were harsh and unforgiving. There were too many people and too little food. Overcrowding and deprivation led to disease. But even if they survived, tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners were eventually shipped to the death camps and the gas chambers.
In 1943, Jewish composer Rafael Schachter organized a ragtag group of volunteer musicians and singers to stage a performance of Verdi's Requiem -- the Catholic funeral mass set to music.
ASO Guest Conductor Murray Sidlin says the Requiem's themes of redemption and judgement resonated with the prisoners, allowing them to sing to their German captors things they could not say aloud.
Schachter performed the Requiem a total of 16 times, often being forced to replace musicians and singers who'd been shipped to the death camps.
After his final performance, Schachter too was shipped from the camp and died a short time later.