Jewish composers who died during the Holocaust but whose music lives on
Amit Weiner's project "Music in Times of Tragedy" revives the oeuvre of the Jewish composers who were murdered by the Nazis but who created timeless music that has survived.
Born in Prague in 1894, Erwin Schulhoff was a protege of Antonin Dvorak. "He saw in Schulhoff the next big promise of the European musical scene," said Amit Weiner, who founded the project "Music in Times of Tragedy." His music combined many avant-garde styles with jazz." Schulhoff was a professor of music in Prague before he was murdered in 1942 in a concentration camp.
The youngest Jewish composer murdered during the Holocaust, Gideon Klein was only 26 when he perished in the Fürstengrube sub-camp near Auschwitz. His oeuvre fuses Jewish themes with modern composition techniques. In 1940, he was offered a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. "This could have saved his life, but he was not allowed to travel from Prague," explained Weiner.
"I find it very interesting that Krasa's music is always so happy and optimistic. Even the music he wrote in Theresienstadt is very lively," said Weiner about the Czech composer and author of the children's opera "Brundibar," who died in 1944 in Auschwitz. "Even in such dark times and horrible conditions, he saw hope and was optimistic about the future."
The Czech poet had published several books of fairy tales in German before being transported to Theresienstadt in 1942. Weber started writing songs when she worked in the camp's children's hospital, and her music survived only thanks to her husband Willi, who discovered her songs after the war. Ilse and their son, Tommy, were murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
"He was not a professional musician — in fact, he was a carpenter who did not even know how to read notes. All the songs he composed were written down by his friend, a clockmaker," said Weiner about Gebertig, who, despite being just an avid amateur, remains one of the most popular singer-songwriters in Israel. The Polish composer died in the Cracow ghetto in 1942.
Prior to his deportation to Theresienstadt, Pavel Haas had written film scores and orchestrations but also destroyed much of his work. "He was very depressed at first, but composers such as Klein or Krasa encouraged him to keep on writing," said Weiner. Paradoxically, the work he created in Theresienstadt surpassed what he had done before the war. He was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
"If he hadn't been imprisoned and later murdered in Auschwitz in 1944, I am sure he would have become one of the most important musical forces of the 20th century," said Weiner about the Austrian Jewish composer who had been appointed conductor of the Prague State Opera before the war. The three years he spent in Theresienestadt were paradoxically the most prolific years of his career.