Otto Porges & Elsa Bernstein (Porges) in Theresienstadt

Among the 254 Porges deported to Terezin :

Otto Porges    Elsa Bernstein (née Porges) (who was treated as a "VIP")    Felix Porges

Otto Porges
Lecturers in Ghetto Theresienstadt

"It is great here, so many interesting people. One could live here quite decently, if not for the constant fear of being sent to the East" -- Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, artist, designer, art teacher, and Holocaust martyr, wrote in a postcard sent from Ghetto Theresienstadt, in 1943.
Theresienstadt (Terezin), an 18th century fortress near Prague, was converted by the Nazis into a transit point, where deported Jews were interned, sometimes as long as two years, and then sent to the extermination camps.
The prisoners were mainly professional Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Holland and Denmark, many of them a part of the European cultural elite.
But the cliched image of a 'pyitiful Jew', crushed by a 'demonic force', didn’t hold in Terezin.
In spite of miserable conditions and numerous deaths from starvation and diseases, the prisoners never gave in.
In this surrealistic world on the edge of life and death, they stubbornly clung to their cultural values - books, art, music, intellectual debate, humor and irony.Volumes have been written about the culture in Theresienstadt.
The inspired operas and musical pieces that originated there are widely performed.
Drawings by children and adult artists, camp magazines and poems have been published.
The children in Terezin were trained and cared for by excellent teachers and social workers.
They regained their will to live and hope for the future, but, with few exceptions, most were ruthlessly exterminated.
In addition to that, hundreds of professionals and academics gave thousands of lectures on all imaginable cultural and scientific subjects.
In the documents that survived the war, many of them explain the main motivation for this work - first, to prepare and educate the youth for the post-war life; and second - to revive their own professional self-esteem and replace the misery of physical existence with the richness of spiritual life.
Lectures replaced teaching, which was forbidden by the Nazis.
Delivered in scattered miserable attics and cellars, however cold or hot the weather, the lectures formed full courses in history, philosophy, art, literature, medicine, science, Judaism and other fields.
They attracted tens of thousands of young people and adults, hungry and exhausted after their day’s work - the triumph of human dignity in the face of death.
Ironically, the inmates had to inform the Nazis of all cultural activities that took place in the camp.
That is why the documentation of so many lectures - including their titles, time and locations - have survived.Some of the Terezin lecturers were well-known before the war in their own right, for example, Dr. Leo Baeck, Chief Rabbi of Germany, Alfred Meissner, Minister of Masaryk Government in Czechoslovakia, and composer Viktor Ullmann.
Others survived the Holocaust and found wider recognition afterwards, like psychologist Viktor Frankl, historian Miroslav Karny, writer Josef Bor (Bondy), and writer Norbert Fried. But the majority perished.
Their careers stopped short, they were simply forgotten.
They were such fascinating people as the Jewish philosopher Yehuda Palache, the psychologist Max Brahn, the art historian Max Bohm, the historian Maximillian Adler, the psychologist Gertrude Boeml, the art collector Hugo Friedmann, the journalist Philipp Manes, and the semitologist Moizis Woskin.

Among the lecturers in Theresienstadt, was :

Otto Porges Ing. , b. 02.06.1899, deported from Prague to Terezin on 24.02.42 then to Auschwitz on 29.09.44




Elsa Bernstein
"VIP" in the Ghetto

January 2000, Newsletter N° 48
Theriesienstadt martyrs rememberance association

Elsa Bernstein's father [Heinrich Porges, born in Prague] was a conductor and assistant of Richard Wagner.
To achieve full assimilation with the German nation and culture, he converted, with his family, to the Christian faith.
Elsa was a well-known dramaturg, who wrote under the pen-name of Ernst Rosmer.
She was deported to Terezin in summer 1942, aged 76 and almost blind, together with her beloved sister Gabriela whose eyesight served both - but who died shortly after their arrival in the ghetto.

In the beginning, Elsa lived in the same hard conditions as the other old people from Germany.
But suddenly - on the order of the ghetto commander Siegfried Seidel - she was moved to one of the "houses for prominents", possibly because she was the wife of the admired German dramaturg Gerhard Hauptmann, or maybe because of the relations to the Wagner family.
So Elsa Bernstein survived in the ghetto.
Immediately after the liberation she wrote down her experiences in the ghetto for her family, on a typewriter for blind people.
Only now, in 1999, the booklet was published at "Edition Ebersbach" in Dortmund by the "Zentrale fuer politische Bildung" in Hamburg, titled "Das Leben als Drama" (Life as Drama).
It is a gripping book, describing a reality not known to many : the life of the VIPs in the ghetto with its hardships, the help they received and the life of the small Protestant community in the ghetto.

Elsa Bernstein died 4 years after the liberation in Hamburg.


Click here to access Elsa Bernstein's family tree and biography



Felix Porges

Published by the Prague Jewish Museum in 2006 :

Theatre : Divadlo Reduta
17 November (2006?) , 7 p.m. Czech Cabaret in Terezín
A presentation based on a hitherto unknown cabaret that was written in the Terezín ghetto in the spring of 1944 by the prisoners Felix Porges, Vítozslav “Pidla” Horpatzký and Pavel Weissenstein, with texts by Pavel Stránský, evidently inspired by the Liberated Theatre of Jirí Voskovec and Jan Werich which was popular between the wars.
The cabaret was put on in Terezín by ten performers, including the famous post-war opera singer Karel Berman.
Hannelore Brenner-Wonschick: The Girls from Room 28

Stage reading - Friendship, Hope and Survival in Terezín.
Translated by Iva Kratochvílová and Lenka Šedová, published by Barrister & Principal.
This book provides a riveting picture of the fate of a dozen girls who went through Terezín.
Their urgent testimonies from diaries and quotations from Holocaust survivors are complemented by extracts from historical documents.