September 13, 2010

'Testaments of the Heart' shares voices of the Holocaust

From "The Last Album." Courtesy of Ann Weiss.

A debut of music written in Nazi concentration camps and a collection of personal photographs brought as keepsakes by Jewish deportees to those camps are part of a program at Emory this month titled "Testaments of the Heart," a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit.

"Testaments of the Heart" is a series of visual art, music and multimedia programs and lectures that seek to supplement the images and stories of brutality and death that are typically associated with the Holocaust with evidence of the humanity, creativity and faith of its victims.

Photography exhibit

Noted author and Holocaust scholar Ann Weiss will present a campus-wide exhibition of photographs from her internationally acclaimed book, "The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau."

A selection of more than 100 photographs from "The Last Album" will be shown in five locations at Emory: the Visual Arts Gallery, Center for Ethics, School of Medicine, Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, and Cannon Chapel. Titled "Testaments of the Heart: Photographs from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau," the exhibit is on view from Sept. 15-Nov. 12.

Opening reception

All the venues will host an opening reception from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, with a gallery talk and booksigning by Weiss at the Visual Arts Gallery from 5-6 p.m. and special multimedia presentation by Weiss at 7 p.m. at the Center for Ethics. A map of all of the exhibition locations is available at All events for the exhibition are free and open to the public.


A concert of music written in Nazi camps, compiled by renowned musician, composer and musicologist Francesco Lotoro, will have its international debut at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at Emory's Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

Scribbled in notebooks, diaries and even on pieces of lavatory paper, the collection provides a remarkable history of the music played and sung by the victims of the Holocaust.

Musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Georgia State University Orchestra and Emory's Department of Music will come together to perform a selection of diverse musical pieces, from cabaret to classical. Interspersed with visual imagery from Ann Weiss' book, "The Last Album," stories and commentary from Weiss will accompany the music.

"It's a great privilege to encounter Francesco Lotoro's work in this way, and to bring 'The Last Album' photo exhibition to Emory," says Weiss.

On-air music host Lois Reitzes of Atlanta's NPR affiliate, WABE 90.1 FM, will serve as the evening's master of ceremonies.

Lotoro also will be present to provide a historical context and to perform a composition written for the organ.

"I am trying to right a great wrong through my work," says Lotoro.  "These musicians who composed in the Nazi death camps were hoping for a musical life for themselves, and they would have had it if their destiny had been different. Nevertheless, no one can control the creative energy of mankind, and their creativity, their humanity, live on through their music.

"It is very meaningful to me to know that some of this music will be heard in live performance for the first time on Emory's campus, and that the photographs and stories brought by Ann Weiss will illuminate the music in new ways."

The concert, presented in partnership with Mythic Imagination Institute, will be held at the Emerson Concert Hall of the Schwartz Center. Free tickets (limit 4) may be obtained in person or by calling the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404.727.5050.

Related programs

Additional programs throughout the exhibition dates include guided walking tours, student colloquia with Weiss, and a lecture on "Photography and the Shoah" by photographer and writer Jason Francisco of Emory's Visual Arts Department on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

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