1899 - 1944
Hans Krasa was born on November 30, 1899. His father was a Czech lawyer and his mother was a German Jew. Krasa studied violin and piano as a child and went on to study composition at the German Music Academy in Prague. He became a vocal coach at the New German Theater in Prague and had a successful career until the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in 1938.
Krasa was sent to the Ghetto Terezin (Theresienstadt) in 1942. In the Ghetto there were many composers, musicians, artists and actors. The Jews in the Ghetto did their best to have a cultural life in terrible circumstances. There were many concerts and shows that took place in the Ghetto.
In 1944 Hans Krasa was sent to the Auchwitz concentration camp where he died. He was 44 years old.
Here is a more detailed biography of Hans Krasa from the Jewish Music Research Center.
In 1938 Hans Krasa composed a children's opera for a government contest. The contest was cancelled because of what was happening in the country but Krasa's opera survived and was performed one time in Prague in a Jewish orphanage.
Brundibar is a story of two children, Aninka and Pepicek, whose mother is sick. The children are told by the doctor to go to town to get milk for their mother. On their way to town they see a baker and an ice cream seller and finally they get to the milkman. But when they ask for milk, they discover that they need money to pay and they don't have any money. The children are thinking about try how they can get some money when an ugly mustached organ grinder named Brundibar appears. Brundibar is a bully and his music is awful sounding but everyone in the town listens to him and pays him money for his music. The children decide that their music is nicer than Brundibar's and start to sing so that the townspeople will give them money. But when they sing, Brundibar get very angry and the policeman comes and chases them away. The children are very scared. They run away and are about to go to sleep when a talking cat, bird and dog appear. The animals tell the children that all they need is to get more children to join them. Even though children are small they can beat a bully if they work together.
The animals bring three hundred children to come help Aninka and Pepicek. When they sing together all of the townspeople give them money. Brundibar tries to steal the money from Aninka and Pepicek but his power over the town has been broken and the townspeople chase after him. They return the money to Aninka and Pepicek and everyone sings a victory song.
Brundibar was performed in the Ghetto Terezin 55 times. The victory song was filmed by the Nazis for a propaganda film in 1944. Soon after, many of the children in the film, the musicians, the director and Hans Krasa were sent to Auchwitz Concentration Camp. Most of them did not survive.
Brundibar has been now been performed all over the world. In 2014 WBAIS had a week long Brundibar Project, including six performances of the opera. The school made 15,000 butterflies to remember the 15,000 children of Terezin. Below are some Brundibar videos. The 60 Minutes segment features Ela Weissberger who was an honored guest at the WBAIS Brundibar Project. She passed away last year and we are honored and humbled to have known her.
The last video talks about Alice Herz-Sommer, a pianist who survived Terezin and died in 2014 at the age of 110!