Vienna Coffee for the Doomed

I was privileged to attend a unique gala concert, “a tribute to artistic creativity and survival in Terezin.” The fortress Therezienstadt was built at the end of 18th century by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II who named it in honor of his mother Maria Theresa. However, the Nazis found another use for the quaint little town. In 1940 it became a concentration camp, mainly for Czechoslovakian Jews, but also for Jews from Austria and Germany. “More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, including 15,000 children, and held there for months or years, before being sent by rail transports to their deaths at Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps in occupied Poland, as well as to smaller camps elsewhere.  Less than 150 children survived” (http://www.terezin.org).

Entrance at the inner camp of Terezin.  "Arbeit macht frei" means "Works frees."

Barbed wire and the infamous concentration camp slogan “Work Frees” marked the entrance to the inner camp of Terezin. Conditions were dismal, and, even though Terezin was not a death camp but rather a transfer station to Treblinka and Auschwitz, about 33,000 people died there, in addition to approximately 88,000 transported to their eventual death elsewhere.  As fate would have it, Terezin population was composed of the creme de la creme of intellectual and cultural elite: prominent writers, poets, musicians, composers, actors, and artists. Some of them risked their lives to smuggle in musical instruments which Jews, by Nazi law, were forbidden to keep. A cello, sawed into pieces, was reassembled in Terezin!

Prisoners of the Terezin concentration camp outside Prague rehearse Verdi's Requiem for an upcoming performance for the Red Cross inspection in 1944

As the word about extermination camps started spreading around the world, a Red Cross inspection was allowed to visit Terezin, a “model internment camp.” Among several cultural events staged for this visit, was a performance of Verdi’s Requiem by an adult chorus of 150 Jews conducted by a Czech composer Rafael Schächter. The notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who had hosted the Red Cross representatives, remarked later, “Those crazy Jews – singing their own requiem.”

A propaganda film was made on the basis of the inspection, called “Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet“ (“Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement”). Immediately upon the conclusion of the visit, all performers were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished (ibid.)

Terezin Music Foundation (TMF) was founded in 1991 in Boston. It dedicates itself to “recovering, preserving, and performing the music created by prisoners in the Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp during WWII, where the Nazis attempted to hide unspeakable horrors behind a facade of art and culture. Inside the camp, from 1941 to 1945, composers Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, Viktor Ullmann, and many others were spiritually sustained by music they composed and performed” (http://www.terezinmusic.org). The gala concert I attended, called “Do Not Forget Me,” featured music by those composers performed by prominent musicians and vocal soloists (https://www.tmfgala.org).

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As a part of the Nazi propaganda film, they included an excerpt from a children’s musical produced in camp. Two of those children, Ela Weissberger and Michael Gruenbaum, survived and became active members of TMF. As a finale of the gala, a clip of the Nazi film showing the final chorus of the children’s musical was shown, followed by the Boston Children Chorus performing the same number together with Michael Gruenbaum!

Alisia close up.jpeg

Here is a close up of my granddaughter Alisia (between the girl in glasses and the tall boy). I don’t know who was more emotional, the kids singing on stage or the audience! I know I was crying, and I wasn’t the only one.

Part of the Nazi “Operation Embellishment,” the elaborate fiction staged for the Red Cross inspection and filmed, was a Viennese-style cafe combined with a cabaret performance. Camp inmates, the doomed candidates for extermination, were dressed in fashionable clothes and positioned at cafe tables with cups of coffee in front of them. You could almost smell the tantalizing aroma of melted chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon exuding from those dainty steaming cups topped with whipped cream! You can also visualize the smoke of Auschwitz ovens where these people ended their lives.

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In their memory and as a tribute to their heroic lives, let’s have a real Vienna coffee, made with cream and chocolate.

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This is pretty clear and also insanely, richly decadent; that’s why I am not making it but using a stock image. You can try to recreate it with substitute products, but it would not be the same. It would be, well, almost like pretending that the doomed Terezin inmates were enjoying themselves, sipping Vienna coffee in a Viennese cafe.

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WE WILL NOT FORGET YOU!

76 Comments Add yours

  1. E says:

    What a powerful story Dolly. I’ve read and studied many survivor stories from this horrific chapter in history but had never heard of this particular camp. The coffee indeed sounds rich and wonderful I just don’t know that I could get a sip down between sobs. The resilience of these artists performing on their way to death…my mind is still trying to accept what was. How beautiful that your granddaughter could be a part of such a beautiful tribute. Brilliant post, as always. E-hugs from me on this one. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for understanding and empathizing, dear Elizabeth! I also couldn’t bring myself to make this coffee, but the photo of those doomed people with steaming cups of Viennese luxury in front of them seemed like such a poignant metaphor!
      P.S. You might run into my granddaughter a couple of years form now. My son got his Ph. D. from Brown, so by default, it’ll be one of the schools she is looking at. 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. E says:

        I wish perpetual blessings on you and your family. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We say that those who bless others are more than blessed themselves – thank you, Dear Elizabeth!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Osyth says:

    The moment we forget this atrocity, this disgrace, this despicable moment in history a the moment that humanity self-destructs. This is a wonderful, informative and emotional tribute to those that perished and those that survived in the blackest time of all. Thank you Dolly, as ever your voice is rich, informed and poignant. I salute you. And I raise my coffee tomorrow ((we have a rather delightful coffee house that I tend to frequent which though not Viennese does serve rich creamy coffee with delicious chocolate fancy on the side)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear Osyth, for your understanding, your kindness, and your empathy. Even though this story was burning my throat like bile, wanting to be spilled out, It took me a week to bring myself to tell it. I am grateful that my granddaughter had a chance to be a part of it and blend her voice with those who are no longer with us. And I don’t believe in coincidences: it had to happen that I arrived in Boston on the day of this event!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Osyth says:

        I am not at all surprised it took much time to get the story out. It is such an immense thing to take on and you really did justice to those that suffered, those that were routinely and barbarically dispatched.
        That is a gift, Dolly make no bones about it. To be able to take such a vast vat of disgrace and tragedy and make it a pellet that we can palate is remarkable. Your grand-daughter has a gift and I am gladdened that she had the opportunity. I am saddened that I was not in Boston to hug you tight and look into your eyes with my Gentile stare and tell you that while I have blood in my body and breath in my lungs I will never EVER roll over to this appalling time and I will continue to remind those that care to listen ((and those that don’t really want to) that we need not ever come close again if we regard ourselves with any decency. All of us, irrespective of creed or colour or religion. None at all. My friend , I am deeply and profoundly glad and proud to be connected with you

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Now I am crying again… I thank you for your kindness from the bottom of my heart! As Evgeny Evtushenko (Ukrainian) wrote in his poem Baby Yar, “Here, today, we are all Jews.” I was born after the war, of course, but part of my family perished in Baby Yar. I don’t know about any gifts of mine, other than a gift of wonderful children and grandchildren, but to quote another Russian poet, Sergei Esenin, I write “with blood of my open veins.”

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Osyth says:

        That poem is one of the most seering compositions I have ever read. One that tatoos itself on the heart and the line you quote is perfect. A line we should all swallow and absorb into our own fabric. I cannot imagine what it can have been like in Kiev and Odessa at that moment. I have tears running down my cheeks just thinking about it. Your writing is a joy. Just know it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You are too kind! 😻
        Odessa was a different story altogether. It was occupied by the allies (Romanians and Italians) who were mainly into living a high life and having fun. That is not to say that atrocities did not happen, but not on the same wholesale scale. There was a very effective resistance group led by Colonel Gorbel (Jewish) operating out of the famous Odessa catacombs. I did a story on Odessa resistance once and got to interview the survivors – what a group of heroic people, especially women!
        I am reminiscing, i.e. rambling – sorry!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Osyth says:

        Don’t apologise … I could listen all day 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. And I could ramble all day on certain topics…

        Like

      7. Osyth says:

        Good topics that need to be rambled I’d venture

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I try to stay on the positive side of events by avoiding negative emotions, but certain things just spill out sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Osyth says:

        I’m very much the same …. but I believe for a light to be really bright it needs shadow to highlight it and that conversely when you are generally upbeat and positive there is more power to the words when you occasionally choose to share the darkness

        Liked by 1 person

      10. We believe that darkness has no substance of its own; darkness is only absence of light. Thus, one can’t share something of no substance; however, light thrown into that darkness can and must be shared.

        Liked by 2 people

      11. Osyth says:

        Sing it sister … i love that ❤️

        Liked by 2 people

  3. dharkanein says:

    History with coffee…amazing combo….Specially loved the recipe. Thanks for such informative blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, dear!

      Like

  4. dharkanein says:

    History with coffee…amazing combo….Specially loved the recipe. Thanks for such infotainment post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But we shouldn’t forget!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. samanthamurdochblog says:

    So very sad, such a terrible time in history. We visited Yad Vashem some years ago now, and what happened must never be forgotten. You must be very proud of your granddaughter xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Samantha, for your understanding and for your empathy! As to my granddaughter, I think every grandmother has a right to brag, wouldn’t you agree?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A_Boleyn says:

    What a heartbreaking story. Man’s inhumanity to man seems to have no measure so we are called upon daily to do small acts of kindness, love and charity to remember why our creator gave us life and do honour to his gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right! Only love and kindness can defeat cruelty in this world!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on MarethMB and commented:
    Thank you so much for including this wonderful performance by Yo-Yo Ma and George Horner in this poignant blogpost. I’m sure there will be others who follow my blog who will also be blown away by, not only the music, but also the contents of this post. Thank you KoolKosherKitchen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear Maretha, for reblogging and for your kind words! Yo-Yo-Ma is one of my musical idols, so I was very touched when I discovered that he had a connection to this foundation. Another great musician who has this connection is Andre Previn.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you included him, because I didn’t know about him till today and I also went to YouTube and listened to his first performance as a lad of seven, when he and his sister performed in front of the President. 🤓

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am so happy I was able to give you something new to enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! We sad memories… which should not be forgotten. I am really interested in second world war and facts what happened… Your post is very touching as well as you are mentioning my home country! ❤ Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your interest, your empathy, and your kind comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Joëlle says:

    I once visited the terrible Matthausen camp… couldn’t sleep before the visit or after. I am usually upbeat and optimistic, but I often wonder how long it will take before people forget what happened during those insane years, and if we are not already forgetting. We are less than human when we treat other people like animals.
    I was cutting down on my coffe intake, but today I will make myself a cup and drink it in memory of all the children who died in those camps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your understanding, your empathy, and your kindness, dear Joelle!
      Unfortunately, some people are not only forgetting, but also denying that it ever happened, and that is the biggest tragedy!
      I thank G-d every day for lovely human beings I have come across in my life, and you are one of them. Many blessings to you and yours!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you very much! I ve never heared about Therezin originally was built during the monarchy. However it goes to much to heart what the Nazis had done there. And its also horrible what happend a few years ago here in Germany, and nobody is interested in clarifiing things done by the self named “NSU” during ten years. ;-(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Michael, very few people are aware of tragedies that happen in other countries! It’s a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really! And our politicans always seeing only themselves. ;-(

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s characteristic of all politicians, unfortunately.

        Like

  11. My heart hurts with you, Dolly. I read this heartrending story with horror, and teared again as I read the comment conversation between you and Osyth. The sadistic cruelty of the Nazis was unparalleled, and we must NEVER allow even a dilute manifestation to happen again.

    I am glad that your granddaughter was able to be a part of this concert tribute, and happy to know that you were there to witness it live. I’m sure this was a difficult post to write, but I thank you so much for sharing the experience.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Madelyn, for understanding!
      It was a challenge to bring myself to express these feelings in words, but that’s what I meant when I had said to you that I was burning to write.
      I am very happy that my granddaughter is growing up with the right values through participating in vital events like this one. Of course, it was a totally incredible coincidence – and I don’t believe in coincidences! – that I was there on that day and was able to see it.
      It is heartwarming that so many wonderful people who are non-Jewish are lending their talents, their names (Yo-Yo-Ma! Andre Previn!), and their financial support (this concert was underwritten by a Pakistani) to this cause.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YES – there are many people of many nationalities and religions who feel, as we do, that we must honor the many who fell to horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, willing to support activities like this one.

        It will be wonderful to hear what your granddaughter does as she grows older. She sounds like a remarkable young woman.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, Madelyn! I am holding my fingers crossed, as well as my toes and my eyes, for the promise she demonstrates now to realize itself. Ultimately, I want her to be healthy and happy, regardless of what she ends up doing in life.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Of course – the prayer of every mother (and grandmother)!
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I like how your whole blog is comprised not only of recipes but also of lessons and history pertaining to Judaism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I am so glad you like it!

      Like

  13. The coffee sounds much too sweet for me but I’d love to try making it some day soon!
    StephenDiagram | https://stephendiagram.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Stephen. You’re so right; traditional Vienna coffee is not only too sweet, it’s also too rich, but once in a while I think we could indulge!

      Like

  14. notamigrant says:

    It’s a great skills to encapsulate a traumatic and moving story into an image of Viennese coffee. I am all too well familiar with Viennese coffees from Bratislava although I doubt they had any true chocolate in them, they did have a good dollop of cream and Granko (which is a form of chocolate granules and cinnamon on top. I knew about Terezin, as one of the Slovak public figures, Fedor Gal, is a survivor from the camp. I am just researching Bratislava Museum archives and there are some ‘propaganda’ photos from labour camps, of ‘normal life behind the barbed wire’. I was so shocked to see such pictures existed! You explained it a bit in your story – about officials coming to visit and so on. It is beyond cruel…I want us to remember the humanity and the concern harnesses such energy. Thanks for sharing it with us, it is so well written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, for your understanding, your empathy, and kindness.
      Terezin is one of the least known sites, as the focus has always been on the so-called death camps, yet when one accesses records, it is obvious that it was no less of a death camp than the rest of them, Nazi propaganda notwithstanding.
      Thank you for your interest!

      Like

  15. oldpoet56 says:

    Great article my friend, just reading your story it is easy to see everything that you were saying. If these actions by the Nazi does not get a person angry inside, I really don’t know what would. As you know, I am not Jewish but I love the Jewish people very much just as I love Israel with all my heart. The heartless cruelty toward other human beings is sickening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your understanding and empathy, Ted, and your kind words. This attitude towards other people arises when they are nor perceived as human beings. The Nazi did not see Jews as human beings, and we all know about lamp shades and soap made of Jewish bodies.However, dogs and cats, left by Jews who had been transported to death camps, were very well taken care of. The terrible thing that is happening now is denial that it ever happened. That’s why we can’t remain silent!

      Like

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Like

  16. Thats a powerful story, very sad but telling of the human spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words!

      Like

  17. Deeply moving, Dolly. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your compassion and your kindness, dear Anna!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Daedalus Lex says:

    You have some interesting stories to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    I am repeating this post, published almost 5 years ago, in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. May this memory never be forgotten!

    Like

    1. Thank you for reblogging, dear Edward.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I find the Propaganda Film as horrific as any others I have seen – maybe because of the others and because of the attempt at denial

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see it as a deliberate attempt to cover up crimes against humanity, rather than denial, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. lghiggins says:

    What a sad and powerful story. The propaganda movie is sickening. I agree that we must never forget. The selective killing of artists, writers, and professionals, in particular, deprived the world of a wealth of knowledge and creativity, but every person is a creation of the Almighty and deserves respect and life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your compassion and understanding, dear Linda.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I cannot believe, there were not more Germans knowing about the preparations to kill people. Here in the rurality most of the village archives are closed for research. ;-( The reasoning behind this always annoys me the most. I have been told several times that personal rights must be protected. Whose personal rights? Those of criminals? xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Michael!

      Like

  23. Americaoncoffee says:

    A great rap up on a high note, 🎶a tasty Vienna! ❤️🎶🍮🍮

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, darling!

      Like

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