Zvi Cohen: Age: early 80’s, Terezín Survivor

“Childhood? I never knew what It meant to be free.” Zvi learned to play harmonica on his own when staying at home for weeks on end as his parents worked in the labor camps in Berlin prior to their deportation. “It was me and four walls, one radio, and one harmonica, so I learned how to play. I played what was on the radio.” When the SS came to his house to take him away he begged for them to wait for his parents. Of course they refused until one of the young soldiers saw the harmonica falling out of the pocket of the scared young boy. “Play something for us. The giant screamed at me.” describes Zvi “So scared and almost breathless I played what I knew… They froze, they sat in the seats and cried.” Zvi found out that he was playing Nazi youth hymns and Marching songs. In response, the soldiers decided to wait for Zvi’s parents to arrive so they could be transported together. All three survived the war. Zvi performed in Brundibár with the orchestra. He remembers using music as a tool to survive. He and another boy would sing in the courtyards of Terezín for breadcrumbs. “Life was just a slice away from ending, if you ate that one slice you survived, if you didn’t, you died.”