In the weeks leading up to Liberation Day in the Czech Republic, Oko! Magazine will be commemorating the occasion by sharing weekly stories of those who fell victim to the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities during World War II. In collaboration with the good people who are spearheading the Stolpersteine Prague project, we will be reliving the accounts of those whose lives were mercilessly ended prematurely, and aiming to ignite a collective conscience to help ensure that the horrors of the past are never to be repeated.
The Story of Gideon Klein
Gideon Klein, Czech pianist, and classical music composer was born on this day 99 years ago.
Gideon was forced to abort his university studies in 1940 when the Nazis closed all institutions of higher learning following their occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Since compositions and performances by Jewish musicians were banned, his own works could not be performed, though he managed to perform as a concert pianist under several aliases for a time, e.g., under the pseudonym Karel Vranek. In 1940 he was offered a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but by that time anti-Jewish legislation prevented his emigration.
In December 1941 he was deported from Prague to Terezín where he became one of the major composers at the camp. He gave concerts in secret, but the camp became one of the few in which artistic activity was eventually permitted by Nazis, if only to deceive the broader public as to their real intentions.
Klein was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944 and then to Fürstengrube, a coal-mining labour camp. He died under unclear circumstances during the liquidation of the Fürstengrube camp in January 1945. He had confided his manuscripts to Irma Semtska, his Theresienstadt girlfriend, before leaving, and they were turned over to his sister Eliska at the end of the war.
Gideon was 25 years old.