“And a Child Shall Lead” is a play that is both riveting and harrowing to watch. It is the true account of a group of Jewish children who must negotiate the horror that awaits them in the Terezin camp, a fortress city that was used by the Nazis to hold 15,000 children before moving them to Auschwitz for extermination. This small village was near Prague.
The essence of the play is that the children must confront what has happened to them and use their ingenuity and creativity to survive as long as possible. The children grow as they must make life-saving decisions in facing the reality of their situation. They are determined to maintain hope and beauty by studying, playing, making art, and creating an underground newspaper. If they are found out, their lives will end quickly.
The play by Michael Slade was chosen by drama teacher Alissa Zimmett at the Paul Duke STEM High School, located in Peachtree Corners. What brought even more credibility to the play was audience member Ilse Eichner Reiner, a Holocaust survivor, who at the age of 11 was separated from her parents and sent to Terezin. Of the approximately 15,000 children forced into this “village,” only 132 survived. Reiner did survive Terezin and later was moved to Auschwitz.
Zimmett chose this play due to its continuing relevance in today’s world. The play was selected prior to the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7.
To prepare for their roles, students read about the actual children of Terezin who wrote the real stories and poems that are included in the play. In addition, the students watched interviews of Holocaust survivors, including survivor Ela Weissberger’s testimony about the Brundibar Opera that she and other children were forced to perform for the visiting International Red Cross.
Following the performance there was a standing ovation for the cast, who then presented a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Reiner. She told the student actors that she was greatly moved by their individual performances.
As she hugged them, many broke down in tears.