On this day

Politics and Propaganda

Politics and Propaganda

From Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 until the liberation in 1945, music played an integral role in daily life under Nazism. The Nazi Party used music in its publicity, policy, and propaganda, and attempted to 'cleanse' the German musical world of 'degeneracy'.

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Resistance & Exile

Resistance & Exile

While for the vast majority of Nazi inmates armed resistance was almost impossible, isolated groups were able to engage in organised resistance—and music often supported their cause.

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Responses

Responses

The Nazi ghettos and camps housed millions of people from across Europe, and their responses to internment were as diverse as the religions, ages, and nationalities they represented.

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Memory

Memory

Music has played an integral role in Holocaust commemoration since the immediate post-war period. In the late 1940s, Jewish Holocaust survivors established a lively and diverse musical life in Displaced Persons’ camps in Allied-occupied Europe, particularly in the American zone of occupied Germany.

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Featured Articles

Memory

Music amongst Displaced Persons

The Displaced Persons’ (DP) camps of occupied post-war Europe were home to a diverse range of musical activities. In the American and British zones of occupatio

Memory

Music in the Bergen-Belsen DP-camp

After the liberation Bergen-Belsen on 15 April 1945, British occupation forces established a Displaced Persons’ camp for survivors.

Resistance & Exile

Berthold Goldschmidt

Emigre composer Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1966) died in London at the age of 93. He had lived at the same ground floor flat since fleeing Germany.

Resistance & Exile

Bohuslav Martinu

In 1939 the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) tried to join the Resistance in France but was not accepted because of his age.

Politics & Propaganda

Classical Music Radio in Wartime Britain

For better or worse, BBC radio was the dominant voice of Britain throughout WWII for which classical music was an important and revealing feature.

Politics & Propaganda

Jews and Music in Fascist Italy

The modern nation of Italy had existed for barely more than sixty years when, in October 1922, Benito Mussolini became the country’s prime minister.

Response

Brundibár

Brundibár is a children's opera written in 1938 and composed by Hans Krása with lyrics by Adolf Hoffmeister. Its premiere in Terezín was on 23 September 1943.

Response

Music in the Nazi Camps and Ghettos

Music existed in most Nazi camps. Evidence comes from testimonies and concert programmes, posters, tickets, prisoner drawings and surviving compositions.

Response
Restoration and Restitution

Richard Fuchs

Richard Fuchs was a German Jewish architect, artist and composer who founded the Baden-Wurttenberg branch of the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural League).

Response
Restoration and Restitution

Wilhelm Rettich

Wilhelm Rettich was a German composer, conductor and teacher. He fled to the Netherlands in 1933 and survived the Nazi occupation by hiding in a cellar.

Henech Kon

Singer
Actor

Composer Henech Kon (1890-1970) moved to New York before WWII, where he was one of the immigrant writers and artists who had fled Nazism. He continued to compose pieces commemorating the destruction of Polish Jewry.

Yonas Turkov

Song Writer
Actor
Director

Jonas Turkow (1898-1987) was an actor, stage manager, director and writer. He received the Itzik Manger Prize for his contributions to Yiddish letters.

Diana Blumenfeld

Musician
Singer
Actor

Diana Blumenfeld (1903–1961) was a folksinger, pianist, and actress. Caught in the ghetto along with her husband, family and friends, she continued to sing, performing in cafes and in the ghetto theatre.

Benzion Moskovits

Cantor

In 1942 Cantor Benzion Moskovitsh (1907-1968) was deported to Westerbork and in 1944 to Buchenwald. There he sang for fellow prisoners and took notes of melodies he heard on a smuggled block-note.

Gershon Sirota

Cantor

Gershon Sirota (1874-1943) was one of the leading cantors of Europe during the "Golden Age of Hazzanut", sometimes referred to as the "Jewish Caruso". He and his family died together in the Warsaw uprising in 1943.

Joseph Schmidt

Emigré
Singer
Actor
Cantor

When the war broke out Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942) fled to France then retreated to Switzerland. Although in possession of an American visa and well known, he was interned and, owing to a lack of medical attention, he died on 16 November 1942.

Viktor Ullmann

Music Teacher
Composer
Conductor

Composer Viktor Ullmann (1898 -1944) grew up and was educated in Vienna. He was trapped in Prague on the German invasion in March 1939 after trying unsuccessfully to find work in London or South Africa. In 1942 he was deported to Terezin.

Carlo Taube

Musician
Composer
Conductor

In December 1941, pianist, composer and conductor Carlo Sigmund Taube (1897-1944) was deported to Theresienstadt with his wife and child.

James Simon

Composer

In spring 1944, composer, pianist and musicologist James Simon (1880-1944) was sent to Westerbork. On April 4 he was deported with 1000 other inmates to Terezín. On 12 October 1944 he boarded the transport to Auschwitz.

Rafael Schächter

Musician
Composer
Conductor

Rafael Schächter (1905-1944) made his name as an accompanist and vocal coach, working in opera and theatre before deportation to Terezin in Nov 1941. A pioneer of cultural life in the ghetto, he was deported to Auschwitz on 16 Oct 1944.

Dovid Ayznshtat

Composer
Conductor

Dovid Ayznshtat (1890–1942) continued to compose, conduct, perform, and train aspiring musicians, in the Warsaw Ghetto, despite the limitations and dangers of ghetto life.

Misha Veksler

Composer
Conductor

The conductor and composer Misha Veksler (1907-1943) became an important figure in the musical world of the Vilna ghetto, serving as the conductor of the theatre orchestra and composing music for many of the revues that were performed there.

Kurt Gerron

Actor
Director

A cabaret artist, theatre and film actor and director of theatre and early sound movies, Kurt Gerron (1897-1944) was a successful entertainer of the 1920s and early 1930s. He directed the Terezin propaganda film and was killed soon after.

Wolfgang Langhoff

Actor
Director

Actor, director and leftist activist Wolfgang Langhoff (1901-1966) engaged in cultural activities in Börgemoor, organising the ‘Zirkus Konzentrazani’, as well as co-creating the song ‘Moorsoldatenlied’.

Walter Starkie & the British Institute in Madrid

Director

Musician Walter Starkie who set up 'El British' and met with General Franco to formalise cultural exchange between Britain and Spain. Starkie's efforts helped keep Spain neutral during WWII.

Bruno Walter

Emigré

By 1898 Bruno Walter Schlesinger (1879-1962) was a musical theatre director and a few years later director of the Bavarian state opera. Blacklisted by the Nazis, he left for the US in 1938 where he conducted the New York Philharmonic.

Kurt Weill

Emigré
Composer

Like few others, Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) are synonymous with the cultural innovation of the Weimar Republic. Most famously with their Die Dreigroschenoper, the duo represented everything that the Nazis declared its enemy.

Arnold Schoenberg

Emigré
Composer

Composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) together with Berg and Webern, are known as the Second Viennese School. His revolutionary musical technique of dodecaphony (twelve tones) was his signature creation.

Alfred Rosenberg

Nazi

Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) wrote Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (The Myth of the 20th Century) in 1934, which argued for the supremacy of the 'Aryan' race and the threat posed by Jews. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and executed.

Hans Pfitzner

Nazi
Composer

The composer Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949) saw himself as a defender of the German nation, its values, and its culture against a ‘degenerate’ and ‘corrupt’ France. During his denazification trial, along with Furtwängler, Egk and Strauss, he was found not guilty.

Hans Joachim Moser

Musicologist
Nazi

Hans Joachim Moser (1889-1967) blamed America and the Jews for commercialising music. His commitment to celebrating Germany won him Nazi approval and was promoted to general secretary of the Ministry of Propaganda.

Wladyslaw Szlengel

Poet

Władysław Szlengel (1912-1943) was a Jewish-Polish poet, lyricist, journalist, and stage actor. He was shot along with his wife at the age of 28.

Avraham Sutzkever

Partisan
Poet

Avraham Sutzkever (1913-2010) is one of the most important contemporary Yiddish poets. During the war, Sutzkever was involved in many acts of resistance and helped save many important texts. He escaped to Moscow with his wife.

Leah Rudnitski

Partisan
Poet

Leah Rudnitski (1916-1943) wrote one of the most beautiful lullabies to have survived the Vilna ghetto, entitled ‘Dremlen feygl oyf di tsvaygn’ (Birds doze on the boughs). She was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Treblinka, where she was murdered.

Karel Berman

Singer

Bass singer Karel Berman (1919-1995) was deported to Terezin on 6 Mar 1943. He sang in operas and recitals and was cast as 'Death' in Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis. Transported to Auschwitz on 28 Sep 1944 and liberated from the Allach camp.

Marysia Ayznshtat

Singer

Marysia Ayznshtat (1921–1942) was one of the best-loved musical figures of the Warsaw ghetto. She was shot dead by an SS officer aged of twenty-one.

Khayele Rozental

Singer

Khayele Rozental (1924-1979) was one of the most popular singers in the Vilna ghetto. She established her talents in drama and singing aged 16, when she was chosen to represent Vilna at the Festival of Songs in Moscow.

Partisans

Partisan

During World War II, many European Jews defied their Nazi oppressors by actively resisting. This partisan warfare, carried out by clandestine, irregular forces operating inside enemy territory, was particularly widespread in the dense forests and marshlands of Eastern Europe.

Shmerke Kaczerginski

Musician
Partisan
Poet

Poet and partisan fighter Shmerke Kaczerginski (1908-1954) was a collector of Yiddish Shoah song. He was sent to the Vilna ghetto in early 1942 where he crafted songs to console prisoners and encourage resistance.

Hirsh Glick

Partisan
Poet

Hirsch Glick (1922-1944) was a Jewish poet and partisan. He began to write Yiddish poetry in his teens and became co-founder of Yungvald, a group of young Jewish poets.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witness

Erich Hugo Frost

Musician
Jehovah's Witness

Composer and musician Erich Hugo Frost (1900-1987) was imprisoned several times in prisons and concentration camps between 1934 and 1945. He composed ‘Fest steht in großer, schwerer Zeit (Stand Fast in Great and Hard Times) in the spring of 1941.

Leo Strauss

Song Writer
Musician

Leo Straus (1897-1944) was arrested along with his wife Myra and sent to Theresienstadt where he was involved in cabaret productions, both as a librettist and performer. In October 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz and killed.

Egon Ledeč

Musician
Composer

Egon Ledeč (1889-1944) was a Czech violinist and composer sent to Theresienstadt. He appears as the concertmaster in Karel Ančerl’s orchestra in the Nazi propaganda film of the camp.

Artur Gold

Musician

Artur Gold (1897-1943) was a Polish violinist and composer. He collaborated with his brother Henryk Gold and with Jerzy Petersburski with whom he arranged music. He and his fellow musicians were murdered during Treblinka’s final weeks.

Herbert Gerigk

Nazi
Musicologist

Herbert Gerigk’s (1905-1996) Lexikon der Juden in der Musik was so popular that by 1943 thousands of copies were circulating throughout the German Reich. Even within the framework of Nazi ideology Gerigk was known as being particularly conservative and critical.

Arno Nadel

Musicologist
Poet
Composer

Jewish musicologist, composer, playwright, poet, and painter Arno Nadel (1878-1943) had an exit visa to England but he was too weak to make the journey. On 12th March 1943 he was deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered the same year.

Hans Keller

Emigré
Musicologist

Austrian-born British musicologist and music critic Hans Keller (1919-1985), who made significant contributions to musicology and music criticism, was arrested by the Nazis and forced to leave Austria following the Anschluss in 1938.

Paulina Braun

Song Writer
Composer

Paulina Braun (1915-1943) was a songwriter and composer in the Warsaw ghetto. Before being forced into ghetto’s cramped quarters, she had established a name for herself as a composer in the Polish theatre world of Warsaw.

Alek Volkoviski

Song Writer
Composer

Pianist and song writer Alek Volkoviski (1931-2019) won a competition in 1943 at age eleven in the Vilna ghetto for his lullaby ‘Shtiler, shtiler’.

Yankl Trupyanski

Song Writer
Music Teacher

Yankl Trupyanski was (1909-1944) a music teacher and composer of children's songs in Warsaw and Vilna. He composed many of the songs sung by children in the Yiddish schools of the inter-war years.

Zofia Czajkowska

Music Teacher
Musician
Conductor

The Polish music teacher Zofia Czajkowska arrived in Auschwitz on 27 April 1942 on a transport from her home town of Tarnow. She was to become the original organiser and first conductor of the Birkenau women’s orchestra.

Hans Neumeyer

Music Teacher
Composer

From the age of fourteen, Hans Neumeyer (1887-1944), a composer and teacher of musical composition, was completely blind. He died whilst interned in Theresienstadt on 19 May 1944.

Peter Gellhorn

Emigré
Music Teacher
Musician
Composer
Conductor

German conductor, composer and pianist Peter Gellhorn (1912-2004) fled Germany during the 1930s and settled in London. He conducted at the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells and Glyndebourne.

Featured Music

Name
Artist
Category
Time
Lyrics

1940.
On my birthday
The Germans walked-walked into Holland
Germans invaded Hungary
I was in 2nd grade
I had a teacher
A very tall man, his head was completely plastered smooth
He said, "Black Crows-
Black Crows invaded our country many years ago"
And he pointed right at me
No more school
You must go away
And she said, "Quick, go!"
And he said, "Don't breathe"
Into the cattle wagons
And for four days and four nights
And then we went through…

The idea for the piece comes from my childhood. [Due to my parent’s divorce], I travelled back and forth by train frequently between New York and Los Angeles from 1939 to 1942. […] While these trips were exciting and romantic at the time, I now look back and think that, if I had been in Europe during this period, as a Jew I would have had to ride on very different trains. With this in mind, I wanted to make a piece that would accurately reflect the whole situation.

Sur l'aile de la liberté
Par les cités et les compagnes.
Nos pas, nos coeurs sont emportés
Au loin de nos cheres compagnes,
Mais on les reverra,
L'heure H arrivera

Car nous sauvons la France
Nous les amis, nous les amis,
Car nous sauvons la France
Nous les amis
Du maquis.

On the wings of Freedom
By the cities and the countryside
Our feet, our hearts are carried
Far away by our dear friends
But we see them again
Zero hour arrives

Because we are saving France
Us friends
of the Maquis.