Obituaries for Feb. 16, 2017

Photo via screenshot of Vimeo

Chaim Ferster, survivor of 8 Nazi camps, dies at 94

Chaim Ferster, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent time in eight concentration camps, has died.

Ferster died Feb. 6, in Manchester, England, from pneumonia and a kidney infection, surrounded by his three sons and other family members, the BBC reported. He was 94.

He was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1943, the Nazis forced him to leave his home, and he spent time in concentration camps in Germany and Poland, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
Ferster, his sister Manya and a cousin were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. Manya is now 92.

After World War II, Ferster moved to England, where he found work repairing sewing machines. He later set up “a series of successful businesses,” according to the BBC.

Ferster lectured about the Holocaust in schools and colleges.

“His greatest fear was that people would forget the horrors of the Holocaust,” his son Stuart told the BBC.

On Feb. 6, the Greater Manchester Police shared a video of Ferster playing the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” on the violin during a Jan. 27 visit to its headquarters on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

—JTA News and Features

Literary critic Tzvetan Todorov, who studied moral aspects of the Holocaust, dies

Tvetan Todorov, a Bulgaria-born literary theorist who wrote about moral issues during the Holocaust, has died.

Todorov died Feb. 7, in Paris from multiple system atrophy, a progressive brain disorder, according to media reports. He was 77.

Todorov published a number of studies about the Holocaust. In “Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps,” first published in 1991, he suggested that despite the inhumanity of the conditions faced by prisoners of the Nazis, they did not succumb to an all-out war for survival but were actually capable of acts of generosity and help for one another.

“The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria’s Jews Survived the Holocaust,” published in 2001, argued that that motivations for the rescue of Bulgarian Jewry were more morally complex than many had imagined.

Todorov, a Sofia native, fled the communist regime for France when he was 24, becoming a French citizen in 1973.

—JTA News and Features

Theresienstadt chorus member and Holocaust survivor Edgar Krasa dies at 95

Edgar Krasa, a Holocaust survivor who sang in the Theresienstadt concentration camp’s chorus, died Feb. 7.

His death was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Defiant Requiem Foundation, which performs the music created by inmates at Theresienstadt (also known as Terezin). Krasa, who had moved to Boston with his family in the 1960s, was 95.

The Theresienstadt chorus was led by the Czech-born composer Rafael Schachter, who was Krasa’s bunkmate. In June 1944, the chorus performed Verdi’s “Requiem” before an audience that included high-ranking Nazi officials and a small number of representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross.

“Edgar provided living testimony to the extraordinary events that unfolded in Rafael Schachter’s choir at Terezin,” said Murry Sidlin, the foundation’s president and creative director. “He was my first teacher and we owe a great deal to him. We will miss him terribly and his indomitable spirit lives on in each of us and inspires our work every day.”

Krasa, a native of Czechoslovakia, was sent with his family from their home in Prague to Thereseinstadt, where the young Krasa worked as a cook. He also survived Auschwitz, slave labor and a death march.

In the 1950s, after multiple attempts to flee Prague, he and his late wife, Hannah, also a survivor of Theresienstadt, made their way to Israel, where they lived for about a decade. Krasa established the new nation’s first culinary school.

In Boston, Krasa served as the food services director for the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.
Krasa and other surviving members of the chorus were interviewed in the 2012 documentary “Defiant Requiem.”

An April 2015 performance of “Defiant Requiem” led by Sidlin at Boston’s Symphony Hall was dedicated to Krasa and his wife, who had died only two weeks earlier. Krasa was in the audience as his sons and grandson joined the Orchestra of Terezin Remembrance and the acclaimed Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

—JTA News and Features

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