The forgotten music of the Holocaust

When I received an invite to the performance of music written by victims of the Holocaust, I wasn’t expecting to be humming the tunes months later. But as I would learn, the musicians in concentration camps wanted to provide their audience with escapism, not the kind of sombre soundtracks that accompany the films made about that time since.

The music itself, though, is jazzy and upbeat – something of a surprise, until one remembers it was written by men and women steeped in the cabaret of Weimar Germany, and trying desperately to escape the darkest days of their lives. There are songs about lost loves and jokes about the harrowing conditions. “Tango in Auschwitz”, an adaptation of a popular tune, was written by 12-year-old Irka Janowski.  “Before the war we sang, we danced the tango and foxtrot,” sings a woman in a flapper dress while, behind her, black and white images of the deadliest Nazi concentration camp loom. Janowski died there.

Read the full article in the New Statesman here.