We have just remembered the brave men and women of WWII and witnessed the great flyover in Normandy. It seems only fitting that we should also remember those who spent much of the war in concentration camps as well as the brave people who tried to save the Jews and the Jewish children.
We will start with the fact that some of the Jews survived because they were accomplished musicians…and the Nazis liked music. They liked being entertained. Perhaps for some of the German soldiers, who were caught up in this terrible time of German history, it was the only thing that helped them keep their sanity…especially when they knew what was going on in the death camps.
Music and musicians had a distinct place in the death camp of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Not as much is written about the musicians who often had to play as people were executed.
The following is an account of some of the musicians in the concentration camps where millions of people were killed and more than ninety percent of whom were Jewish. When I took students through Auschwitz, we saw crosses scratched into the walls of the torture areas. Christians and those who opposed politically were also part of the camps. Catholic nuns and other non-Jewish families hid the Jewish children as long as they could, giving them different identities and birthdates.
“In addition to the orchestra, there was a variety of other SS-sponsored music at Auschwitz. 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.”
(Taken from Music and the Holocaust)
Let me introduce you to a woman named Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson, who played the piano to survive.
Anna’s story: “The day after Christmas, the Jews were ordered to prepare for transportation.”
Dawson says her father knew they were all going to die when he saw the trucks go north. There was nothing to the north. It was a road to Dobritsky Yar, a road to the unthinkable. Dobritsky Yar had two giant pits like the ones at Babi Yar near the city of Kiev, where the Nazis killed 34,000 Jews in two days, most machine-gunned in the back.
Dimitri Arshansky, Anna’s father, pulled out his gold pocket watch and flashed it in front of a young Ukrainian guard. He told the guard his family wasn’t Jewish; to please let his little girl go. Dawson says her father realized that he could not save both his girls — two of them running would be too much commotion. He knew Zhanna, or Anna, the adventurous, free-spirited one named after Joan of Arc, had a chance to survive. As the guard took the bribe and looked away, she fell out of line and ran like the wind.
“I don’t care what you do,” her father told her. “Just live.”
A few days later Dawson found her sister. With the help of friends, the two girls made it to an orphanage and were able to obtain fake, non-Jewish identities. For the rest of the war, they were no longer their father’s daughters. She had to repeat the following as her new identity: “My name is Anna Morozova. I am from Kharkov. My sister Marina and I are orphans. Our father was an officer on the Red Army and was killed in action. Our mother died in the bombing of Kharkov.” Dawson said it so many times during the rest of the war that it echoed endlessly in her head.”
A piano tuner at the orphanage heard her play one day and offered her and Frina jobs with a musical troupe that entertained the Germans. It was a frightening prospect, but Anna kept thinking of her father’s last words — just live…JUST LIVE!
They played for Nazi generals and in front of German audiences in the city of Kremenchug: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin.
Years later people asked her how she could have done what she did. Was it not like the musicians who played as Jews walked into gas chambers in the concentration camps?
And her music, she says, was the only spot of beauty in that bleak atmosphere. Music provided a psychological cocoon. Without it, her spirits might have broken… “We were a precious commodity for the Germans,” she said. “We were more valuable alive than dead.”
When the Germans began retreating, they took the musical troupe with them, back to Berlin. There, the Jewish Arshanskaya girls walked past Gestapo headquarters and even Adolf Hitler’s bunker after the Allied bombing began…When the war finally ended in 1945, they were taken to a displaced persons camp…” ( Mona Basu CNN )
Turn up the sound. Video made by her son after Zhanna made it to America. You will hear her playing the piano in the background.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to remember and proclaim “NEVER AGAIN.”
Having just posted about the horrors of Syria, which may be another Holocaust if a solution is not found to bring peace to the area, it is fitting to think about World War II and all those who perished under the Nazi dictator, Hitler. It is estimated that over six million men, women and children died in the death camps. Memorials can be found around the world. One special one is the children’s memorial, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem. The day my husband and I visited this memorial, there were little lights on the ceiling and the name of each child was read aloud continuously.
It doesn’t seem like any time since I took Student Ambassadors to Poland and we visited Auschwitz, one of the death camps. None of us will ever be the same. I, as a Christian, walked beside a young Jewish student who laid flowers at the very wall where so many were executed. I noticed that he wore his shorts but respectfully put on a tie and sports jacket as he approached the wall.
As we traveled, this same young man also wanted to find the apartment building where the Israeli Olympic team had been murdered by terrorists. We looked and looked; finally finding a small plaque outside an apartment building to remember the event. Given the gravity of this terrible tragedy, it seemed far too small.
Our student group spent time looking at the ovens where the bodies were burned. One amazing fact was that the home of the military commander and his family was right next to the grounds of Auschwitz. We saw the place where he was executed after the war by hanging. Eye glasses, shoes and suitcases were piled high in glass cases. One could see the torture chambers where a cross was scratched into the wall…indicating that not only Jews were interned there, but political prisoners and Christians.
Steven Spielberg has made it his mission to record the lives of survivors so that future generations will understand what hatred, prejudice and war can do to people. Once the people who fought WWII and the Holocaust survivors have died, their voices will be silenced forever….except for these recordings. Just as our World War II veterans are passing away by the hundreds each day, so are the survivors of the Holocaust.
It was my privilege to have the veterans and survivors come to my classroom of 5th graders and talk to each one of the students about their experiences. Because each person’s story was different, the students took notes that they wrote us and presented orally to the class the following day. Those students are adults now. Many have finished college and have families of their own. I pray that they have not forgotten that experience and are passing along what the Holocaust was and why we can never let this happen again.
After returning from that trip, I felt that the students in our Florida county needed to know as much about the Holocaust as possible. With financial help from the community and parents of students, we raised enough funds to place in every school library tapes, books and age-appropriate material about the Holocaust.
I read about a grave-digger who was told to bury all the Jews in the woods. These were those shot on a death march. Instead, he buried them in St. Anna’s Roman Catholic Church in Swierklany, Poland. This is only after he had carefully copied all the numbers from each victim’s arm. Some seventy years later and with research from Yad Vashem in Israel, some relatives now know that Christians carefully buried the bodies of their loved ones. A new memorial has been erected with a cross. The new plaque at the previously unmarked grave in Swierlany, Poland now reads:
“In memory of the death march victims from Auschwitz-Birkenau”
and lists the victims’ concentration camp numbers or names. The caring of one grave digging man, who believed differently from those he buried, made all the difference over 70 years later to a family who simply wanted to know what had happened to their loved one.
Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as the sirens wail, in some places people will stop in the streets and cars will stop on the highways …wherever they are…to remember again. We too must never forget!
It is not our purpose here to try to re-create the horrors that went on here. Probably the closest to that would be to watch Schindler’s List, produced by Spielberg, about a Christian businessman, Oskar Schindler, who saved many Jews by taking them to work in his factory.
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. (Wikipedia)
VIDEO: This music is played in honor of John Williams and his contribution to the telling of this story of the Holocaust and the saving of many lives. (Turn up sound)
The Music from Schindler’s List, written by John Williams.
Someone died this week, August 10, 2013, who should have died much sooner. Laszlo Csatary was 98 when he passed away in Poland, waiting for a trial that never came.
Csatary had lived in the West since WWII…even ran an art gallery in Canada, where he had become a citizen until Canada got wind of his connections to the Holocaust. Interesting that he fled back to Poland where his war crimes had been committed. Later he was arrested in Hungary. There were many ghosts to meet him there…some still living after torturous conditions in the camps.
According to an AP writing,Holocaust survivor Edita Salamonova, whose family was killed in the Auschwitz death camp after their deportation from Kosice, said she remembered Csatary well. “I can see him in front of me,” Salamonova said. “A tall, handsome man but with a heart of stone.”Salamonova remembered Csatary’s presence at the brick factory… and would make sure to keep out of his sight when he was around.”
“Hungarian authorities said Csatary was the chief of an internment camp set up in a brick factory for around 12,000 Jews in Kosice — a Slovak city then part of Hungary — in 1944, beating them with his bare hands and a dog whip regularly and without reason. He had also been charged with “actively participating” in the deportation of thousands of Jews to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps….On June 2, 1944, Csatary rejected a request by one of the deportees to allow a ventilation hole to be cut into the wall of a railroad car on its way to a death camp and crammed with around 80 people.”
We would like to know that all war criminals had their lives cut short by a swift justice that was handed down to them by high courts. That is, unfortunately, not the case. We are told by Efraim Zuroff, one of the last Nazi hunters and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem Office, that they were “deeply disappointed” in Csatary’s death ahead of his possible trial in Hungary…“It is a shame that Csatary, a convicted … and totally unrepentant Holocaust perpetrator who was finally indicted in his homeland for his crimes, ultimately eluded justice and punishment at the very last-minute,” Zuroff said in a statement.
We would question whether Csatary truly eluded justice and punishment …..for his day is coming. No earthly court sentenced him to a shorter life when it should have, but his secret hours and sleep may have been one of nightmares and torment…for the “wicked have no rest”. The Great Court and Judgment Day is Coming from which he and no other person will escape. Many people do not want to consider this part of the Word of God because it is not comfortable to consider. Nevertheless, if we are to believe even one word of the the Scriptures as truth, we cannot dismiss this part. The other side of the grave will have much more than we can imagine.
The New and Old Testament Holy Scriptures tell us the following…let those who have ears to hear…hear….
Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Ezekiel38:17-23 “Thus says the Lord God: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? But on that day, the day that Gog (may refer to most of the middle eastern countries surrounding Israel) shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many people who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
We serve a just God…a merciful God to those who repent….a kind and generous God…whose patience will not endure forever.
One may think enough is enough….whether our political leanings are Democrat or Republican…conservative or liberal. We are tired of hearing the “party line”…the talking points. One may be ready to toss it out the window and look for something new. If this is our thinking during this sometimes tiring hash and rehash bombardment of our senses, then we better rethink what freedom is all about.
It is our right to choose.
It is our privilege to decide.
It is our obligation to vote….less we forget what living without would be all about. It has not been too many years ago that oppression was a stark reality. If you are sick of it all….get over it. It could be much worse.
I was struck recently by the eyes of a young actor in the movie, ” The Boy in the Striped Pajamas“, directed by Mark Herman and based on the novel by John Boyne.
Filmed in Budapest, Hungary by BBC films, this movie studies the character and innocence of two boys and the disintegration of a family torn by circumstances. One boy, played by Asa Butterfield, is the son of a powerful German officer, who is commander of a concentration camp. The other boy, behind the barbed wire, is victim of the Holocaust. It is the story of prejudice, lies and propaganda during a terrible time in history with unexpected results. If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it. The eyes tell it all.