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Home / Films / Defiant Requiem



You can teach music as an act of resistance.

Defiant Requiem tells the remarkable story of Rafael Schachter, a brilliant young and passionate Czech opera-choral conductor who was arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezin) in 1941.

Under the most brutal of circumstances, and determined to sustain dignity, humanity, and hope within his fellow prisoners, he recruited 150 prisoners and taught them Verdi’s Requiem by rote in a dank cellar using a smuggled score, after grueling days of forced labor. They performed on 16 occasions for fellow prisoners, with the last, most infamous performance on June 23, 1944, in front of high-ranking SS officers from Berlin and the International Red Cross to support the charade that the prisoners were well treated and flourishing.

The Nazi legacy of brutality is well established, but the Terez¡n legacy is virtually unknown. For over ten years, conductor Murry Sidlin has dreamed of bringing the Requiem back to Terezin. Now, through soaring concert footage, powerful survivor recollections, cinematic dramatizations and evocative animation, Defiant Requiem brings the incredible story of this artistic uprising to life. A rare form of courage, hope, and survival sparked an entirely unique method of fighting Nazi oppression, battling the worst of mankind with the best of mankind.

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Defiant Requiem - Curriculum Guide

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The Curriculum Guide

Defiant Requiem offers a different and extraordinary perspective on the Holocaust. Along with chronicling a particular example of Nazi war crimes, the film speaks to the courage of the human spirit in the face of hopeless odds, the power of art to sustain us, and the importance and endurance of community life. The modern re-staging of Verdi”s Requiem, so many decades after the closing of the Terezin camp, is an affirmation of these themes; so is the film that records it.

This interdisciplinary curriculum guide for educators includes 8 lesson plans that cover world history, music history, psychology, political science, visual literacy and English language arts.

Lesson Plans

  1. Music and Music History | Verdi and His Requiem
  2. World History (European History) | The Jewish Community of Prague
  3. Film Viewing Lesson | The Viewer-Response Journal
  4. World History (European History) | Terezin
  5. Psychology | Art and Suffering
  6. Political Science (Government) | Propaganda
  7. Visual Literacy | Cinematic Collage
  8. English Language Arts | Writing a Film Review

Additional themes explored through the guide are:

  • The invincibility of the human spirit
  • Importance of the arts in human life
  • Courage
  • Horrors of the Holocaust
  • The power of music
Authors: Jack Burton, Jonathan Coppadge-Freeman, Marybeth Duckett, Dr. Tamara Freeman, Martin Kushner, Matthew McCormick. Special Contributor – Deborah Schoeberlein
This curriculum guide, developed for The Defiant Requiem Foundation, has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

Further Research


In addition to our curriculum, Journeys in Film is honored to connect our work in the field of Holocaust education to IWitness, an extensive educational website developed by USC Shoah Foundation and the Institute for Visual History and Education. The archive provides access to more than 1,500 testimonies of survivors and witnesses to global genocides for guided exploration. We encourage educators and their students to use these resources for multimedia learning activities.

Educators are invited to create a free IWitness account at the USC Shoah Foundation website to access testimonies relevant to Terezin. After reviewing the four clip compilations, we encourage you to refer to the Essential Questions of each Journeys in Film lesson for inspiration in choosing which videos may be pertinent to a specific lesson.

1. Visit IWitness.USC.Edu to create a free educators account.

2. Access the Defiant Requiem page linked in the video summaries here.


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