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In Prague, the wounds inflicted by the horrors of the middle of the 20th century strike close to home. In honor of a 70-year old pledge to defy those brutal oppressors who tried to silence them, a once-in-a-lifetime presentation of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem Mass performed by the Roman Catholic Mass was held in Prague, simultaneously a great triumph of human spirit and a tale of defiance against all odds.
In a concentration camp designed by the Nazis to eradicate Jewish cultural life, among 120,000 of its inmates who would ultimately be murdered, a rising young musician named Rafael Schachter managed one of the miracles of the Holocaust.
Assembling hundreds of sick and hungry singers, he led them in 16 performances learned by rote from a single smuggled score of one of the most monumental and moving works of religious music — Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem Mass.
"These crazy Jews are singing their own requiem," Adolf Eichmann, a principal architect of the genocide, was heard to remark after attending one of the performances at the unique and surreal camp of Terezin, in what was then German-occupied Czechoslovakia.
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