The Boys of Terezín: A Feature Documentary
Five Holocaust survivors, a boychoir, and a chamber music group unite to tell the story of the secret concentration camp journal created under the nose of their Nazi captors.
Producer, director, writer, and narrator: John Sharify
Cinematographer: Tim Griffis
Festivals/broadcasters: For information on screenings or airings, please send us an email.
Watch excerpts from the 2010 world premiere of Vedem, featuring comments by Lori Laitman, composer and George Brady, Terezín survivor and Vedem contributor:
Watch the November 5, 2016 performance at Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall in Seattle:
A True Story Most People Have Never Heard
You’re a Jewish teenager—in 1942. The Nazis occupy your country, and you’re deported to the concentration camp at Terezín. You don’t know your fate—but in fact most of the children there will be sent to a death camp at some time in the next two years.
It’s very easy for young people today to see a tragedy like the Holocaust as something from the distant past that could never happen to me. But for members of Seattle’s acclaimed Northwest Boychoir, their rehearsal of a new oratorio is about to open their eyes to what the Holocaust’s genocide meant to teens just like them. They’re going to meet the surviving “boys of Terezín,” and learn the poems that the boys wrote for their secret magazine VEDEM while imprisoned by Nazis.
Stunning music by American composer Lori Laitman illuminates the boys’ homesickness, fatigue from cold and hunger, and anger at their imprisonment—and also their humor, courage and unity even at the darkest of times.
In a poignant finale, four “boys of Terezín” reunite in Seattle—after sixty-five years—for the world premiere performance of the new Music of Remembrance oratorio, remembering their lost friends, honoring the courage and idealism they all shared, and proving that nothing is as deeply human as the music we share.
The History of VEDEM
A group of 100 teenage boys lived in the same room, Home One, at Terezín. Terezín is known by many for its use in Nazi propaganda depicting it as “the Fuehrer’s gift to Jews.” In reality, life there was brutal, cut short by cold, disease, starvation—and regular deportations to death camps. Of the 15,000 children sent to Terezín, less than 1,000 were alive by war’s end.
The boys in Home One, aged thirteen to sixteen, documented their lives in a secret weekly magazine that they called VEDEM (Czech for “In the Lead”). They drew pictures, and wrote essays, interviews and poetry. It was a huge risk—they would have been sent to death camps if caught—but the magazine was never discovered. Sidney Taussig, the only boy to remain at Terezín until the end of the war, buried about 800 pages of the magazine, then retrieved the manuscript after liberation.
Below are some excerpts from the film, featuring interviews with survivors of the infamous Terezín concentration camp, and excerpts from the rehearsals and world premiere performance of Vedem:
Saving the secret magazine Vedem
The boys' pseudonyms for their secret magazine
"They tried to bury the evidence..."
Mina Miller introduces Vedem to The Northwest Boychoir
The Northwest Boychoir rehearses and learns
"Hear our story now..."
Three of the surviving contributors to Vedem meet for the first time in 65 years
Survivors Emil Kopel, Sidney Taussig and George Brady speak to The Northwest Boychoir
The world premiere of Vedem on May 10, 2010 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle
John Sharify, producer, director, writer and narrator continues his cinematic exploration of artistic resistance to oppression. In 2009 he produced the documentary UNSILENCED, about voices of musical witness to the Holocaust. To film The Boys of Terezín, Sharify traveled the world to meet with five of the six remaining survivors who created an extraordinary secret journal. Sharify is a eight-time recipient of the coveted National Edward R. Murrow prize for journalism, and the winner of 68 Emmy Awards. A graduate of Princeton University, he also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing from Columbia University.
Tim Griffis, director of photography, is creative director of NorthWest Video Edge and the winner of seventeen regional Emmys, three Edward R. Murrow Awards, and dozens of National Press Photographers Association awards for documentaries, breaking news and feature stories. A graduate of the University of Idaho, Griffis is a faculty member for NPPA and NPPF courses, the National Press Club, and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.