Long-lost Terezin drama to be performed at York massacre site


The scene of a 12th-century massacre of British Jews will be the setting for a live performance of a play written in the Terezin ghetto during the Holocaust.

Clifford's Tower in York was the site of the infamous suicides and murders of hundreds of besieged Jews as antisemitic riots spread in 1190.

Next week it will be the backdrop for a performance of The Smoke of Home, written by Zdenek Elias and Jiri Stein in 1943.

The play is part of the Out of the Shadows project set up by the University of Leeds. The initiative will see a series of performances of rediscovered Jewish music and theatre previously thought to have been lost.

Musicology lecturer Dr Stephen Muir is co-ordinating the project. He said it was especially appropriate that the tower would be used for the performances of play on April 16 and 17.

Mr Stein died in Dachau in 1944, and Mr Eliáš survived the war to move to the United States. He died in 2000.

York University's Dr Lisa Peschel rediscovered their work 10 years ago while researching her thesis on the cultural life of the ghetto. She tracked down Mr Elias's widow, who found the play's script in her husband's safe.

Dr Muir said: "The play's two young authors confront a question their fellow Terezin prisoners could not bear to face: 'If we survive, will we have a home to return to?'.

"Out of the Shadows promises to be a poignant and uplifting programme of events celebrating the lives and achievements of Jewish artists in times of both adversity and freedom, with pieces once thought lost or languishing 'in the shadows', now brought back into the light."

The festival, which runs until June with performances in Leeds and York, includes appearances from internationally-renowned cabaret and theatre groups as well as an exhibition of drawings by children from Terezin. The series will also include the staging of the work of child piano prodigy Josima Feldschuh, who was imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto before his death in 1943.

Out of the Shadows is part of the three-year Performing the Jewish Archive project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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