George Horner is one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors to have performed music with the extraordinary composers of Terezin. We are thrilled and honored to present his performance on piano — accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma — of a selection of Kabarett tunes composed in Terezin by Karel Svenk. Dr. Horner himself performed these works nearly seventy years ago as a prisoner in Terezin.
For a sense of how rare and meaningful Dr. Horner's performance will be, we recommend watching "I Remember Gideon," our short film (less than seven minutes) of Dr. Horner sharing his memories of Gideon Klein in Terezin.
In 1942, George Horner was transported to Terezin with his family at the age of nineteen from Prerov, in Moravia. He found solace inside the camp by joining in its musical life, playing piano and accordion and getting to know Gideon Klein, Karel Svenk, and other musicians.
In 1944, Dr. Horner and his family were transported from Terezin to Auschwitz in a cattle wagon. On arrival, his father was sent to the gas chambers by Mengele, and Dr. Horner was assigned to hard labor. After weeks of beatings and near starvation, he claimed to be an experienced welder in order to join other laborers at a German airplane factory. Another narrow escape followed after the SS decided that faulty landing gear crashing the factory’s planes was caused by worker sabotage; a firing squad aimed at Dr. Horner and other workers lowered their guns when the last-minute command came to keep the assembly lines running.
In 1945, with the approach of the Allies, Dr, Horner was among thousands ordered to move on foot to Buchenwald in the notorious March of Death. When Buchenwald was liberated by Patton, Dr. Horner was taken to a hospital in Prague. He soon returned to Prerov to find that his mother and sister had been killed only two weeks before.
Dr. Horner completed his high school exams and studied medicine in Prague, then escaped Commmunist-run Czechoslovakia for Sydney, Australia, where he performed music and earned his medical degree. In 1964 he brought his wife and sons to the US, where he became Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the Cardiopulmonology Lab at Yale. He has since held a professorship at Jefferson University Medical School and was Vice President for Clinical Research and Development at Wyeth Labs. He continued teaching until 1988 and retired in 1990.