Thursday, April 19, 2012

They made music in hell

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It was disconcerting to suddenly come upon this ensemble in the upscale Mamilla Mall last week, as part of an otherwise upbeat Musical Instruments sculpture exhibition.

But it seems more appropriate today because Israel is right now observing Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The official name is Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day and this year's theme is Hayachid vehayachad--My brother's keeper: Jewish solidarity in the Holocaust.

This sculpture's creator is Dr. Martin Kieselstein, who survived five Nazi concentration camps but lost his entire family.
He remembers the Jewish musicians who had to play music at the gate of Auschwitz as the forced laborers went out to work every day.
The artists says that the music gave hope to the prisoners, raised their spirits, and strengthened them.
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From the viewpoint of the SS, however, "The orchestra’s primary task was to accompany prisoners marching to and from work, so that the marching rhythm would allow ease of control over the prisoners. "
So it says in a very interesting page about "the elaborate musical scene" at Auschwitz at holocaustmusic.ort.org.

The first prisoner orchestra began in 1941 and grew to a hundred--they were non-Jews, mainly Czechs, Soviet POWs, and Polish intelligentsia and resistance members.
The articles says "The orchestra had a high turnover rate. In addition to the generally high death rate in Auschwitz -- musicians were not freed from their daily labour assignments -- there was also a high suicide rate, due perhaps to the emotional pressure of the context. "

It was only in October 1944, when mass transports removed large numbers of non-Jews from the camps, that they were replaced by professional Jewish musicians.
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"Some SS officers employed individual ‘musical slaves’, who were required to play or sing whenever commanded to. One such prisoner was the Italian tenor Emilio Jani, whose memoirs are titled My Voice Saved Me. Another was Coco Schumann, who recalled years later that

The music could save you: if not your life, then at least the day. The images that I saw every day were impossible to live with, and yet we held on. We played music to them, for our basic survival. We made music in hell."

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14 comments:

Reader Wil said...

"Music in Hell" that's true.
I am glad we had wonderful days in the north of Israel. The birds viewing was fun indeed. I think the rain made the view even more beautiful.

Sara said...

Shalom Dina. I visited the music link...trying to imagine such a hell, but it is not possible. I can only know about it from the words of others, such as Eli Weisel, that I have read. Remembering today...

VP said...

I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, an unforgettable sight...

cieldequimper said...

It's capital to never forget...

Rob and Mandy said...

I know this story very well, as my grandfather, not a Jew, was playing in one of them. Her survived to tell the story.

Robert Geiss said...

If language can't go on, its music which takes over and beyond. a deep bow in respect of their strength.

Anonymous said...

yesterday was my birthday (19th)as well as Yom HaShoah and i cried when i read this post. i take strength from it. thank you for posting.

mirae said...

hello beautiful Dina,it is difficult to imagine how mankind could stoop to such depths much less to survive these acts.

I have been writing my elderly father's memoirs, he was in the royal canadian navy during world war 2 and he was just telling me this afternoon how 20 kids that he hung out with swimming and such fun summer activities, did not return, they were killed in world war 2.

my father sang in concerts during the war but it was just to entertain the other troops and ofcourse music was uplifting.

but to have to play music in an environment like that at Auschwitz
well the irony in itself would be enough to kill no wonder there were suicides.

shalom and peace.

Honest Abe said...

A different time. A different country. A different people. None of World War II Germany persons claim any allegiance to the Nazi government. I always found that hard to believe.

mirae said...

Why Abe? The Nazis created the greatest atrocities of ever why would anyone want to claim allegiance to the Nazi government. The german race is filled with remorse and shame over the Nazi government.Why would anyone want to claim allegiance to it?

have a nice day Abe.

crystal said...

I read a novel once that had a character who had played the violin at Auschwitz - horrible. It's hard to think about this kind of thing, but if we don't, it's more likely to happen again.

Hilda said...

Placed in its context, the quotation you chose as your title is heartbreaking.

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Dina - Trying to catch up on your latest posts. They are always so interesting and you always teach us something new. I've been having terrible internet problems the past couple of months and I'm so excited because this is the first time I've been able to blog hop and leave comments in a long time!

VP said...

Great title, excellent post!