The answer was simple, Sidlin said. Verdi’s “Requiem” is a piece about the judgment of God, and the prisoners sang it to the Nazis.
“They were singing about a day of wrath coming to the Nazis,” Sidlin said. “In other words, ‘You’ll get yours.’”
The conductor who put together the Verdi requiem at Terezín, Raphael Schächter, used the performance to try to show the outside world what was happening at the concentration camp.
“He was the genius that put together the Verdi requiem, and the climax of these performances was when they sang before the International Red Cross and the Nazis, in the hopes that the Red Cross would see the camp for what it really was,” Sidlin said.
Junior Jeremiah Hartsock, a singer in the requiem, said this performance is a tribute. He said he’s moved by the message behind the Defiant Requiem and gets chills when he hears the piece.
“Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ is very powerful,” Hartsock said. “It’s incredibly powerful and it’s defiant because the piece they sing is about the judgement of God. So they sing this to the Nazis as they come to film their propaganda.”
He said Terezín was one of the locations the Nazis used to film propaganda for their campaign in Germany, and that the prisoners performed the requiem wherever they could.
“There were records of people being deported to Auschwitz and other death camps and still singing on the platforms as they were put in boxcars,” he said.
Music professor Michael Figueroa said this performance is the last event in a series that’s been going on all semester, including academic conferences and film screenings.
“My role was planning an academic conference that sort of put this idea of commemorating trauma into a global perspective,” he said.
Figueroa said the Defiant Requiem spawned academic discussion about music’s role in commemorating tragedy, as well as cooperation between different branches of the University to help put it on.
“It created a great opportunity for interdisciplinary cooperation at UNC,” he said. “This has involved all different sorts of groups across campus and has really enabled us to come together around questions that concern more than just one small group.”