Prince Bettliegend is a musical revue written by Jewish prisoners in the Terezín Ghetto (Theresienstadt). Terezín was a transit camp, serving as a place to gather Central European Jews before sending them on to the death and labour camps in the east. In spite of harsh living conditions, the prisoners initiated a stunningly diverse and active cultural life, including theatrical comedy. As one survivor wrote, “I don’t know if anyone today, especially youth, can imagine what laughter meant in a Nazi concentration camp. In spite of all the harassment, dirt, ugliness and horror, or rather exactly because of them, we all sought stimulus through which it would be possible to live and draw hope…”
Prince Bettliegend is a satirical fairy tale. Written as a humorous critique of favouritism and corruption in the ghetto, new song lyrics were set to popular jazz melodies by Jaroslav Ježek, a brilliant composer of the legendary interwar Liberated Theatre in Prague. Bettliegend, meaning literally “bedridden,” indicated a person who had been prescribed bed rest due to illness and did not have to work. This designation could also exempt prisoners from outgoing transports. Even healthy prisoners could be declared bettliegend in order to protect a friend or family member or in return for a bribe. In the plot, a comic duo tries to free the Prince from a spell that kept him in bed, until finally realising that this was the last thing he wanted. This world premiere reconstruction of this work is being performed as part of the Out of The Shadows Festival.
Head Researcher: Lisa Peschel
Curator: Dr Joseph Toltz