Hedda Grab-Kernmayer in Theresienstadt
Hedda Grab-Kernmayer and the Intersectionality of Gender and Cultural Identity in the Nazi Ghetto of Theresienstadt
Sheffield, EmilyGrymes, Jay
1 online resource
During the Holocaust, mezzo-soprano Hedda Grab-Kernmayer (1899-1990) was one of the most prominent musicians in the Nazi ghetto of Theresienstadt (Terezín). During the earliest days of the ghetto, she organized and starred in various unaccompanied performances. Because of her professional opera career before the war, she was asked to be a leader in the Freizeitgestaltung (“Free Time Activities” bureau) that oversaw artistic activities in Theresienstadt. As Grab-Kernmayer recalled, she was so in demand with the Freizeitgestaltung that she “sang every day.” Despite Grab-Kermayer’s leadership and prominence in the Freizeitgestaltung, the existing narratives of music in Theresienstadt portray her role as merely supportive. In addition to being marginalized for being a woman, Grab-Kernmayer was especially neglected in the ghetto due to cultural dissonance between the Czech and German prisoners. Born in Prague but reared in Vienna, Grab-Kernmayer was often overlooked by the predominantly German administration of the Freizeitgestaltung and ostracized by the dominant Czech prisoner population for her inability to speak Czech. Previous music histories in Theresienstadt have focused primarily on men, specifically male composers, to the near exclusion of women who played essential roles in the musical life of the ghetto. Until recently, histories of the ghetto have also underestimated the frictions between the Czech and German prisoners. Drawing on current research and often neglected interviews with Grab-Kernmayer from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, this project seeks to chronicle Grab-Kernmayer’s role as one of the most important yet undervalued musicians in Theresienstadt.
MusicJewish Holocaust (1939-1945)Nazi concentration campsGender identityHistory
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