Teach the story of Jewish prisoners of the Nazis
who used music to defy their oppressors,
find courage and sustain hope.
How and why did a group of Jews in Terezín Ghetto learn to sing Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem in the original Latin? What did it mean to them and what does it mean for us? This is the story of Defiant Requiem. The 45-minute documentary film is designed for classroom use and accompanying modules provide lessons adapted to a variety of disciplines.
Adapted to multiple disciplines
Aligned with Common Core
Teaching Defiant Requiem
Explore four different modules for teaching Defiant Requiem in Social Studies/World History,
English Language Arts, Music and Art.
The Story of Defiant Requiem:
The Holocaust and Creative Resistance
In this module, students will view the documentary film Defiant Requiem and learn the little-known but meaningful story of Jewish conductor Rafael Schächter and a group of prisoners in the Terezín ghetto who learned to sing Verdi’s Requiem as an act of creative resistance. Students will gain general knowledge about the Holocaust or build on what they already know, and they will consider the nature of creativity as defiance in oppressive times.
Propaganda and Deception:
Terezín as a “Model Ghetto” and the Red Cross Visit
In this module, students will study the story of Jewish conductor Rafael Schächter and a group of prisoners in the Terezín ghetto who learned to sing Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem as an act of creative resistance. Students will study the complex nature of Terezín, exploring how it functioned as a typical Nazi ghetto and how it had unique characteristics as a propaganda tool. They will learn about the visit of the International Red Cross on June 23, 1944 and the “beautification” efforts the Germans undertook to conceal the reality of conditions in the ghetto and its role in their genocidal plans. Students will also consider the final performance of the Verdi Requiem in Terezín and its meaning in this context.
The Rhetoric of Verdi’s Requiem:
Reading the Libretto in Three Contexts
In this module, students will engage in close readings of excerpts of the Verdi Requiem libretto considering how the same words sung in different contexts can yield different meanings. Using the elements of rhetorical situations as a starting place (text, speaker, audience, purpose, and setting), students will study the meaning of the libretto in three contexts: a Catholic funeral mass, a Jewish chorus singing for an audience of fellow imprisoned Jews in a Nazi ghetto, and a much-reduced Jewish chorus singing for an audience of Nazi authorities and members of the International Red Cross sent to inspect the Terezín ghetto in the final year of the war.
Music, Art, and Creativity in Terezín
In this module, students will consider the story of conductor Rafael Schächter and his chorus in the context of other musical, artistic, theatrical and intellectual efforts in the Terezín ghetto. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the material, students will learn about a variety of artists working in different media and consider the significance and meaning of their work in that unique context.