Brooklyn Heights

St. Francis College to welcome Maestro Murry Sidlin and Holocaust survivor and painter Fred Terna

April 19, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Holocaust survivor and painter Fred Terna will speak at St. Francis College on April 25. Photos courtesy of St. Francis College

St. Francis College will welcome Maestro Murry Sidlin and Holocaust survivor and painter Fred Terna to watch scenes from “Defiant Requiem,” the Emmy-nominated documentary film for which Sidlin composed the music, and discuss Terna’s experiences during the Holocaust and how it has impacted his artwork, on Monday, April 25. The event will take place at 12:20 p.m. in the college’s Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture & Education (180 Remsen St. in Brooklyn Heights).

“Defiant Requiem” illuminates the extraordinary untold story of the brave acts of resistance by the Jewish prisoners at Terezín who learned and sang the Verdi Requiem as an act of survival and defiance against their Nazi captors.

Murry Sidlin, a conductor with a unique gift for engaging audiences, continues a diverse and distinctive musical career. He is the founder and president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation, an organization that sponsors live concert performances of “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín” and “Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer,” as well as other programs, such as The Rafael Schächter Institute for Arts and Humanities at Terezín.

Fred Terna was born 1923 in Vienna to a Prague Jewish family. The family was solidly middle-class, financially comfortable but not wealthy, and soon moved to Prague. In Terna’s own words:

“I had a brother who was born in 1926. My father, a doctor of law, a rather typical Prague intellectual. I went to school in Prague until 1939 when I was not allowed to continue, then in a Realgymnasium. Early in 1941, and about 17 years old, I was taken in by the Gestapo, and questioned for nearly an entire week in a rather unfriendly way. The reason quite obscure to me, and I feel it was so to the Gestapo too. It was a difficult stretch of days. 

“On Oct. 3, 1941, I was taken to my first camp, at Lipa, in Bohemia, then called Linden bei Deutschbrod. From there in March 1943 to Terezin, or Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz in October 1944. After a few weeks of Auschwitz by train to Kaufering 4. Liberated in Kaufering 1 on April 27, 1945. Upon liberation I weighed about 35 kilos [about 77 pounds], and for a while it was touch and go whether I would make it. Later I was brought by a U.S. Army outfit to Bad Woerishofen to a hospital set aside for camp survivors. In summer 1945 repatriated to Prague. I was the only survivor in the family.

“In Prague I married another camp survivor early in 1946. We left Prague in fall of 1946 with false documents and went to Paris. I worked in Paris for the Joint Distribution Committee. We left for Canada in 1951, and in 1952 immigrated to the USA, living in New York City. My first wife died of cancer. I remarried in 1982 [and have a son]. I am a painter, artist. My style semi-abstract, symbolic. My last major effort was a large, 12-by-12 feet, stained-glass window for a synagogue in Panama.” 

Terna’s work will soon be on display at the The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and has appeared at museums around the world, including the Smithsonian Institute and Yad Vashem.