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.
In December 1941, pianist, composer and conductor Carlo Sigmund Taube (1897-1944) was deported to Theresienstadt with his wife and child.
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.
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.
The composer and violinist Zikmund Schul (1916-1944) and his father left Germany in October 1933, taking residence in Prague. He was transported to Terezín on 11 November 1941 where he continued to compose pieces, few of which survive.
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.
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.
After spending several years in Terezin being active in its musical life, Hans Krasa (1899-1944) left for Auschwitz on 16 October 1944 with his fellow composers Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein.
At age 6, Gideon Klein's (1919-1945) precocious musicality was evident and he began to study piano with the head of the Přerov conservatory. He was an organiser of cultural life at Theresienstadt.
Pavel Haas (1899-1944) works were banned and he and his wife were forbidden employment. On 2 Dec 1941 he was sent to Terezin, where he continued to compose and was deported to Auschwitz on 16 Oct 1944.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jonas Turkow (1898-1987) was an actor, stage manager, director and writer. He received the Itzik Manger Prize for his contributions to Yiddish letters.
The musical career of Wladyslaw Szpilman (1911-2000) was interrupted by the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. Szpilman and his family were driven, along with hundreds of thousands of other Jews, into the Warsaw ghetto.
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.
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 twenty-one.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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 (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.
Leyb Rozental (1916-1945) was a poet, publishing his first poetry book at the age of 14. In the Vilna ghetto he became one of the most successful writers of musicals and theatre revues.
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.
Soprano Lyube Levitski's beautiful voice made her a star at the age of 21. In the Vilna ghetto she was lashed, kept in solitary confinement for a month, and eventually killed at Ponar.
Yankl Krimski was a theatre artist and musician in the Vilna ghetto. One of his most popular songs was 'Dos Elnte Kind' (The Lonely Child). Krimski’s fate is uncertain, but he is believed to have perished in an Estonian labour camp in 1943.
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.
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.
Rikle Glezer (1924-) was only 16 when the Nazis invaded her home city of Vilna. She wrote several songs during her years of imprisonment in the Vilna ghetto. She escaped during deportation and joined the partisans in the forests around Vilna.
Wolf Durmashkin (1914–1944) was a Jewish composer, conductor and pianist in Vilnius. He was deported to Klooga during the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto and was killed one day before liberation.
Avrom Brudno was a musician and composer in the Vilna ghetto. He created many of the ghetto’s most successful songs including the melody for ‘Friling’. He died in Klooga.
Kasriel Broydo (1907-1945) was a songwriter, singer and coupletist. He was born in Vilnius and played in various troupes and marionette-theaters.
Khane Khaytin (1925-2004) was a Lithuanian-Jewish songwriter who wrote many popular songs in the Shavli ghetto.
Writer, poet and teacher of Yiddish literature, Isaiah Spiegel (1906-1990), was an inmate of the Lodz Ghetto from its inception in 1940 until its liquidation in 1945. In August 1944, Shpigl hid some of his writings in a cellar and took the rest with him to Auschwitz.
Conductor and pianist Teodor Ryder (1881-1944) was deportated to the Łódź ghetto in 1940. He continued to perform and organise even after the death of his wife and gave his final concert in the summer of 1943.
In 1940, Yankele Hershkovitsh (1910-1972) was deported to the Łódź ghetto. He became the much-loved voice of the ghetto, singing in the courtyards and streets, and documenting and commenting on events.
David Beigelman (1887–1945) was a Polish violinist, orchestra leader, and composer of Yiddish songs. In the Łódź ghetto established a small theatre where he composed prolifically and wrote his own lyrics.
Poet, actor and songwriter Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942) was politically active and called 'the perfect Jewish folk poet'. His songs provide a window into daily Jewish life in inter-war Poland.
One of the remarkable reunions to take place in the immediate aftermath of the war was that of the Jewish brothers Michael (1898-1994) and Robert Hofmekler (1905-1994), in June 1945, at the Saint Ottilien Displaced Persons’ camp.
An important poet and song writer in the Kovno ghetto, Moshe Diskant was critical of the divisions between wealthy and poor in the ghetto.
Avrom Akselrod was a well-known poet and songwriter in the Kovno ghetto, known for his cynical, humorous and realistic depictions of the misery and occasional joys of ghetto life.
The violinist Alma Rosé (1906-1944) luck came to an end when she was arrested in France and sent to Drancy for several months. In July 1943, she was transported to Auschwitz.
A doctor put Henry Meyer’s ID on a corpse and hid the violinist. Meyer (1923-2006) was transferred to Birkenau, where he played in the orchestra. After brief time in other camps and surviving a death march, he survived and emigrated to the US.
Anita Lasker-Walfisch (1925-present) was arrested with her sister and sent to Auschwitz where she played in the orchestra. In 1996 she published her memoir "Inherit the Truth 1939-1945".
Szymon Laks (1901-1983) studied mathematics and musical composition. His memoirs, written soon after the war, were controversial because he argued against the belief that music provided hope and a sort of 'mental self-defence' to the prisoners.
Fania Fénelon (1922-1983) was a French pianist, composer and cabaret singer whose contested 1976 memoir, Sursis pour l'orchestre, about survival in the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz during the Holocaust was adapted as the 1980 television film, Playing for Time.
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.
Krystyna Żywulska is best known as the author of Przeżyłam Oświęcim (I Survived Auschwitz), her candid and moving account of life and death in the Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination camps.
The Polish musician Jozef Kropinski was born on 28 December 1913 in Berlin. On 7 May 1940, Kropinski was arrested by the Gestapo for publishing an underground newspaper, and sent to Auschwitz.
Polish musician Adam Kopyciński (1907-1982) was conductor of the men's orchestra in Auschwitz. He struggled with the morality of a death camp orchestra knowing that rejecting a musician could well mean his death.
Such was self-taught violinist Louis Bannet's (1911-2002) talent that, at the age of twelve, he played for the Dutch Queen Wilhemina. Gestapo arrested him on 15 Dec 1942 and sent him to Westerbork.
Erwin Schulhoff was one of the most popular Czech composers of his time, but his premature death in the Wülzburg concentration camp in 1942 signalled the almost total erasure of his work from music history.
Jan Vala was a self-taught guitarist, singer and composer. He had been the owner of a popular bar in Ostravia, where he had entertained his patrons with comedy sketches and musical performances. He spent 2,060 days in German prisons and camps.
Karel Štancl survived his years under Nazi internment and published his memoirs in Czech in 1993. His book describes his conviction in the power of music: 'We sang because we ourselves needed it, and because the others needed us'.
In 1933, Rosebury D’Arguto’s activities with his Gesangsgemeinschaft was banned. On a return trip to Germany to settle some personal matters in September 1939, he was arrested by the Gestapo, and taken to Sachsenhausen where he organized a Jewish choir.
Alexander Kulisiewicz (1918-1982) was a poet, player, and songwriter of ballads in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp that often evoked his native Poland with nostalgia and patriotic zeal.
A professional Czech violinist and graduate of the Prague Conservatory, Bohumír Červinka (died 1945) became a popular musician in Sachsenhausen. During his first years there, he acquired a second-rate violin, and would go between barracks playing to prisoners.
Isa Vermehren (1918-2009) volunteered to support the German troops as an entertainer between 1940 and 1943. Due to her brother's defection she was taken to Ravensbrück, where she was locked in an isolation cell.
Irma Trksak (1893) was involved in Czech cultural, theatre and music groups. She said "Singing was for me—I would say always—life-saving. It was a part of my nature, it always and in every situation helped me, to sing."
Käte Ostermai (1913-2003) spent just over a year in Ravensbrück; her experiences there were to cement both her political convictions and her belief in the power of music.
Resistance activist and singer of the Mury youth group Katarzyna Mateja (b. 1920) would often teach nationalistic songs to other Polish inmates while suffering as a political prisoner in Ravensbrück. She survived the war.
Vera Hozáková, born Vera Fialova on 28 October 1917, led a life defined by commitment and idealism. In Ravensbruch she secretly wrote down her own and the other poems and drew illustrations for a book created together with Vlasta Kladivová.
Emil F. Burian
Emil Burian (1904-1959), the leftist Czech composer, writer and musician, was among several thousand weak and sickly inmates in Neuengamme that the Nazis ‘removed’.
Actor Paul Morgan (1886-1938) studied theatre and writing, and began performing in small theatres and cabarets before World War I. He died in Buchenwald concentration camp.
Fritz Löhner-Beda (1883-1942) co-wrote the libretto for Franz Lehár’s Land des Laechelns (Land of Smiles), still one of the most performed operettas, and was one of most popular songwriters of his time.
One of the few surviving Jewish members of the cabaret scene of 1920s Vienna, Herman Leopoldi (1888-1959) was interned in two of Nazi Germany’s most notorious camps but obtained a last-minute release.
Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen (1908-1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. He composed and performed Quatour pour la fin du Temp while interned in Stalag VIII-A.
Actress Camilla Spira (1906-1997) was born to acting parents. Not fully understanding the threat she faced, she was interned in Westerbork on her return from the US. Her charm and friends' bribes secured her later release but her parents were killed.
Cabaret song-writer and pianist, Willy Rosen (1894-1944) was granted a visa to Cuba in 1941 and expected a US visa soon but his luck ran out in the spring of 1943 when Jewish artists in Scheveningen were arrested and taken to Westerbork.
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.
Poet, actor and cabaret performer Max Ehrlich (1892-1944) began his career as a stage actor in the 1920s, quickly building a reputation as a vital force on the Berlin cabaret scene. A popular parodist and poet, he performed with many other Jewish and leftist artists during the Weimar years.
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’.
Austrian-Jewish entertainer and cabaret star Fritz Grünbaum (1880-1941) was deported to Dachau in May 1938. It was on New Year’s Eve, 1940, that Grünbaum, gravely ill with tuberculosis, gave his last performance.
Because of overcrowding in Dachau, composer, conductor and teacher Herbert Zipper (1904-1997) was transferred together with Jura Soyfer to Buchenwald on 23rd September 1938. Although he was released in Feb 1939 this was not his final internment.
In Dachau, Jura Soyfer (1912-1939) recited his poem to Herbert Zipper who then set the poem to music. This became the well-known ‘Dachaulied’. Soyfer died in Buchenwald at the age of 26.
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.
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was one of the most significant figures in the history of opera whose music is tarnished by the composer's anti-semitism.
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.
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.
The composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) established a place for himself and his music within Nazi Germany. After WWII, he was placed on a blacklist, for denazification. However, he managed to clear his name with the help of an American friend.
Hans Joachim Moser
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.
Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) was a Jewish German-born conductor and composer, described as "the last of the few really great conductors of his generation." In April 1933, he fled to Austria, leaving his wife and children behind, to follow when he had secured a permanent residence.
Herbert von Karajan
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) was an Austrian conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. Generally regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the mid-1950s until his death.
Kurt Huber (1893-1943) was an active member of the Munich-based resistance group, the White Roses (die Weiße Rose). His execution in 1943 sent shock-waves throughout the world, making him a martyr for the left.
Violinist and conductor Gustav Havemann (1882-1960) moved from being a modernist musician and friend of radical Jewish composers, to becoming a committed Nazi music ideologue and finally a fervent anti-fascist after the war.
Karl Amadeus Hartmann
Throughout WWII, composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963) withdrew from German musical life, prohibiting his own music and half-poisoning himself to ensure he was unfit for conscription. His music was denigrated as atonal and degenerate.
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.
Werner Egk (1901-1983) rose to prominence in the early 1930s with his opera Die Zaubergeige, which became one of the most frequently performed works of the period. The debates that surrounded the opera were compounded in the dramatic saga of his next, 1938’s Peer Gynt.
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) had a huge influence on music in the modern age. Schoenberg, Mahler, Furtwängler, Hindemith and von Karajan found inspiration in his grand and innovative symphonies. However, his music also had significance to the Nazi party.
Author of the 1939 book Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Mahler: Three Chapters of Jewry in Music as the Key to Music History of the 19th Century, established Karl Blessinger's (1888-1962) reputation as one of the most prominent anti-Semitic musicologists of the Third Reich.
Composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) gave a speech in 1934 celebrating the Reichskulturkammer and its music division, the Reichsmusikkammer. Founded months after the Nazis seized power, the RKK was intended to consolidate, purify and strengthen German cultural life.
Few are so mixed with debates around collaboration, passive resistance, and the tension between art and politics as Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954). In 1933 he was 47, at the peak of his career and saw himself as defender of Germany’s musical heritage.
Conductor, musician and musicologist Kurt Singer (1885-1944) had been described as 'more German than the Germans'. As a Jew, he was dismissed from Germany’s musical life after Hitler’s takeover and from 1933-1938 led the Berlin Jüdischer Kulturbund.
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.
By the late 1920s, Nazis had begun to boycott Franz Schreker's (1878-1934) performances and to interrupt them with anti-Semitic threats. The premiere of his new opera, Christopherus, had to be cancelled in 1932 due to threats of violence.
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.
Austrian composer of the famed Jazz opera Jonny Spielt Auf, Enrst Krenek (1900-1991) emigrated to the US in 1938, after his music was banned by Nazi Regime. He taught at several universities and continued to compose until his death in 1991.
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was one of the most successful composers of twentieth century Germany but had a relationship with the Nazi Party plagued by inconsistencies and paradoxes.
Emigre composer Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996) died in London at the age of 93. He had lived at the same ground floor flat since leaving Germany to flee the Nazis in October 1935.
Marxist composer Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) was in Vienna in January 1933 when Hitler became German Chancellor. Eisler stayed true to his Communist ideals, fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s and America in the 1940s.
Paul Kling (1928–2005) had already learned 52 violin concertos by the time the Nazis invaded his home in Brno. When he arrived in Terezín on 9 April 1943 aged 15, the camp’s musical activities were in full swing. He survived the Holocaust.
The blind organist and composer Siegfried Würzburger (1877-1944) died in the Lodz ghetto. Two of his organ compositions have survived, the Passacaglia über “Moaus-zur” and the Passacaglia und Fugue über “Kol Nidrei”.
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.
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.
Cantor Yehoshua Wieder and his family were deported to Auschwitz, where his wife Chana and three youngest children were killed. Wieder and his three other children survived.
Cantor Charles Lowy (1911-1998) escaped Munich after Kristallnacht to Hungary and became chief cantor in Szolnok. From 1942 he was subjected to forced labour and liberated by the Red Army in 1945. His wife and son were killed in Auschwitz.
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.
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.
British Internment and Music
Hans Gál (1890-1987) enjoyed professional success prior to 1933. When the Nazis came to power, he served as director of the Mainz Conservatory but was dismissed and his work was banned from both performance and publication.
Hans Gál OBE (1890-1987) was a prolific Austrian-British composer, teacher and scholar throughout his long life. He exiled to the UK after he was dismissed from his post and his work was banned from both performance and publication.
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.
Erich Hugo Frost
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.
Alfred Denis Cortot was a Franco-Swiss pianist, conductor, and teacher who was one of the most renowned classical musicians of the 20th century. He was especially valued for his poetic insight into Romantic piano works, particularly those of Chopin, Saint-Saëns and Schumann.
The Troubadours of the French Resistance
Songs of the French resistance were collected by Paul Arma with his wife Edmée to rescue from obscurity the numerous songs that were written as acts of resistance during World War II, and to recognise the efforts made and dangers faced by their creators.
Paul Arma (1905-1987) is a crucial figure in the history of French Resistance music, both because of the songs he composed and because of his efforts to preserve the enormous body of music created during the war. Arma saw Resistance songs not just as sources of hope and acts of wartime courage, but also as important artefacts to be saved.
Jewish Musicians in Vichy France
A troubling story of one French musician is that of the singer Maurice Chevalier. His case will always draw suspicion, but it also highlights the difficult situation experienced by many musicians in wartime France, who simply could not avoid getting entangled in the political crisis.
Edith Piaf (1915-1963) was not a devoted Resistance fighter. Her career was her first priority, and she clearly felt some compassion towards the Nazis, some of whom had been her fans. All in all, it seems that she made the most of the situation.
WWII forced Yves Montand (1921-1991) to work in French shipyards where he sang for co-workers. This started a successful career despite the horrors and prohibitions around him but camp photos affected him so much that he became reclusive.
David Botwinik is a composer of Yiddish music and a music teacher. At the age of almost 13, he began his studies at the Yidisher muzik-institut conservatory in Vilna. Later, he studied at the Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy.
The activities of one particular group of French composers during World War II has become a popular topic of discussion over the last few years. 'Les Six' (The Six) were established as a group in the 1920s after they shot to fame under the guidance of Jean Cocteau.
Walter Starkie & the British Institute in Madrid
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.
Jacques Stroumsa (1913-2010), a violinist from Salonika was one of the few Salonikan Jews to survive the war. He was transported to Auschwitz in a cattle car with his entire extended family and his violin.
Dame Julia Myra Hess, DBE (1890-1965) was an English pianist, best known for her performances of the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann. During WWII, she put on concerts at the National Gallery to raise morale.
Ukrainian composer, musicologist and editor Leopold Spinner (1906-1980) escaped Nazi persecution in 1938. In England he worked in a train factory before joining Boosey & Hawkes in 1947, eventually as chief editor, focusing on Stravinsky.
The 2nd symphony of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) was performed in Apr 1944 by the Boyd Neel Orchestra, the score received on microfilm by parachute from France.
Composer and conductor Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991) was an anti-Nazi. He left his studies when Austria was annexed and performed in cafes with Witold Lutosławksi, composing resistance songs and raising money for the resistance and Jewish artists.
After the Anschluss in 1938, Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) was named the greatest living composer in the Ostmark by the Nazis. At the premiere of his Das Buch mit Sieben Siegeln, it was reported that Schmidt made a Nazi salute.
Varian Fry and Alma Mahler-Werfel
Varian Fry (1907-1967) was an American journalist who ran a rescue network in Vichy France that helped approximately 2,000 to 4,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
Pianist Karlrobert Kreiten (1916-1943) was overheard saying Hitler was ‘brutal, sick and insane,’ by a Nazi sympathiser. He was executed by hanging. The day after his execution, his mother discovered her clemency plea had been accepted.
The prolific Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) wrote 22 symphonies, 17 string quartets, 7 operas, 6 concertos, 3 ballets, 30 sonatas and more than 200 songs as well as 60 film scores and incidental music for theatre and circus.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1965) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.
Mikhail Fabianovich Gnessin was a Russian Jewish composer and teacher. Gnessin's works "The Maccabeans" and "The Youth of Abraham" earned him the nickname the "Jewish Glinka".
Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer. Throughout her long career, which spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she continually reinvented herself. In 1920s Berlin, Dietrich acted on the stage and in silent films.
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.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He refused to perform in Germany after 1933.
Jack Hylton (1892-1965) and his band made regular tours in Germany during the 30s when Nazis were banning jazz music. During WWII, Jack Hylton and His Orchestra disbanded, having out-sold every other band in Europe.
Clemens Heinrich Krauss (1893-1954) was an Austrian conductor and opera impresario, particularly associated with the music of Richard Strauss. Called ‘the most powerful man in German opera,’ and a ‘culture leader’, his career advanced significantly under the Nazi regime.
Wilhelm Rettich was a German Jewish composer, conductor and teacher. He fled Germany for the Netherlands in 1933 and survived the Nazi occupation by hiding alone in a cellar and composing music. Although not particularly well known today, his music is highly regarded.
Richard Fuchs was a German Jewish architect, artist and composer who founded the Baden-Wurttenberg branch of the Jüdischer Kulturbund. Fuchs was interned in Dachau before escaping to New Zealand after Kristallnacht in 1938.
Composer and music critic Walter Arlen found fame when his compositions were first performed in 2008. He escaped from Nazi persecution in 1939 and is described as the 'quintessential exile composer'.
Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) was an Austrian composer, conductor and teacher. He fled Germany in 1933 reaching the US in 1938, but he did not flourish and he was almost forgotten.
Composer Boris Blacher (1903-1975) studied music in Irkutsk, Siberia and Harbin, China, before going to Berlin in 1922. There he studied and taught before falling out of favour with the Nazis due the fact he was one quarter Jewish.
Jan van Gilse
Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) a Dutch composer and conductor, began serving as director of the Utrecht Conservatory in 1933, a post he accepted upon leaving Berlin after the rise of the Nazi regime.
Petr Eben (1929-2007) was a prolific Czech composer who suffered under both Nazi and Stalinist regimes. He was imprisoned in Buchenwald as a teenager.
Leopold "Leo" Smit was a Dutch composer. In April 1943 he and his wife were transported to Westerbork and soon after they were killed in Sobibor.
Polish violinist Bronisław Huberman (1882-1947) helped to save an estimated 1000 lives during the Holocaust through the foundation of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.
David (1914-1996), Toni (1916-2006) and Rosi Grunschlag (1922-2012) were musical prodigies who escaped Nazi persecution in Austria in the 1930s with the help of violinist Bronisław Huberman.
Pianist and teacher Edith Kraus (1913-2013), who lived to 100, was a prolific musician in Terezín. She emigrated to Israel in 1949 where she gave concerts and taught at Music Academy at Tel Aviv University until her retirement.
Ethnomusicologist, composer, conductor, librettist and teacher Walter Kaufmann (1907-1984) was professor of classical musicology at the University of Bloomington.
Music historian, composer, pianist and conductor Arthur Chitz's (1882-1944) successful career was tragically cut short when he was unable to escape Germany before the Holocaust. He is presumed to have died in a concentration camp in Riga.
Margit Bokor (1905-1949) was an accomplished soprano with a career spanning Europe and America. She was forced to leave Dresden and was forbidden to work in institutions such as Dresden Opera House.
Composer and conductor Vilem Tauský (1910-2004) orchestrated an operetta based on music by Bizet in exchange for the money for an exit visa to France, which he collected from the Gestapo in person.
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.
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) was an Austrian-born composer, teacher and musicologist whose works were banned in Austria in 1933. He escaped to England in 1938 where he was interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien.
After the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and the signing of the Munich Agreement, composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) tried to join the Czech Resistance in France but was not accepted because of his age.
Charlie and His Orchestra
Charlie and his Orchestra were a Nazi-sponsored German propaganda swing band. They chose to play jazz standards that were popular with English listeners but with modified lyrics. This musical form of propaganda contributed to the spread of Nazi ideology and conveyed a defeatist message in the ranks of the Nazi enemy, British or American.
Franz Lehár (1870-1948) is famous for his operetta The Merry Widow. He stayed in Austria during WWII, refusing to involve himself with politics but benefiting financially from Hitler’s promotion of his operetta.
Joseph Goebbels wanted to promote all works demonstrating German hegemony in music; that is, paradoxically, why he initially protected composers or conductors opposed to the application of anti-Semitic laws, even obscuring the Jewish origins of some talented composers or protecting their wives.
Walter Bricht (1904-1970) was an Austrian composer whose years as a professional composer coincided with Hitler’s rise and the onset of Austro-fascism in 1933.
Werner Richard Heymann
Born in Königsberg to musical parents, Werner Richard Heymann (1896-1961) was a musical prodigy. He worked as a cabaret, film and theatre composer in Berlin before escaping Nazi Germany for Hollywood.
Friedrich Hollaender's film composing career took off in 1930 when he wrote ‘Falling in Love Again’ for Marlene Dietrich in Der Blaue Engel. He opened his own cabaret theatre, Tingel Tangel, in 1931 and performed anti-Hitler revues which included the satirical song ‘An allem sind die Juden schuld’.
Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985) is remembered in Germany for his Kabarett and satirical revue songs. Forced to leave in 1933, he took British citizenship and, during the war, wrote for a team of ex-Berliners who had fled Germany.
Franz Waxman (1906-1967) was a composer, conductor and impresario. He wrote 150 films scores and received 12 Academy Award nominations. He was exiled to the US where he found success as a film composer.
German actress and cabaret artist Annemarie Hase (1900-1971) emerged as a star during the Weimar Republic but because she was Jewish faced persecution from Nazis. In 1936 she went into exile in Britain where she worked for the BBC.
Charles Delaunay (1911-1988) co-founded Le Jazz Hot, one of the oldest jazz magazines. In 1937, he started Disques Swing, a record label exclusively for jazz. During WWII Delaunay was a member of the resistance, but continued leading the Hot Club.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was an Italian composer, pianist and writer. Even before Mussolini’s racial laws, his works were banned. A performance of his 2nd violin concerto was cancelled in 1938, months before the laws were imposed.
Austrian conductor, pianist, and teacher Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944) is most prominently remembered as a composer. He was arrested in a night raid and sent to the camps of San Sabba and in 1944, Auschwitz, where he died on the 31 December.
On 18 January 1939, composer Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) boarded the ocean liner ‘Champlaigne’ using falsified Honduran passports bound for New York. After a short period in Hollywood, Horenstein joined the faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York.
Musically precocious by age 5, Karol Rathaus was born on 16 September 1895. In 1932 he moved to Paris, where he worked as a film composer. Years of exile, fatigue and ill health took physical and emotional toll on him. He died in New York on 21 Nov 1954, age 59.
From 1929 the composer, conductor and arranger Julius Bürger (1897-1995) conducted for Berlin Radio but in the spring of 1933 Burger resigned from his post and returned to Vienna working for the BBC. He exiled to the US in 1938.
Ignaz Strasfogel was born 17 July 1909 in Warsaw, Poland. At aged 14 he was accepted into Franz Schreker’s composition class and was heading for a successful music career. In late 1933 he was able to emigrate to the United States.
German composer and conductor Walter Goehr was born on 28 May 1903. Forced as a Jew to seek work outside Germany after working for Berlin Radio in 1932, he was invited to become music director for the Gramophone Company (later EMI), so he moved to London.
Czech conductor Karel Ančerl is considered one of the more prominent conductors of the twentieth century. Despite Nazi persecution, incarceration, and the loss of his family in the Holocaust, Ančerl forged an international career and helped lift the profile of Czech classical music globally.
Composer Rudolph Karel (1880-1945) studied with Antonin Dvorak and Josef Klicka. In Mar 1943 he was arrested for his resistance activities and sent to Terezin where he composed on toilet paper using charcoal. He died from dysentery in Mar 1945.
Austrian soprano Margarete Feiglstock (1880-1942) adopted the less obviously Jewish name of Grete Forst. Her conversion to Catholicism in 1940 failed to save her. On 27 May 1942 she was transported to the extermination camp of Maly Trostenets and murdered.
Soprano Henriette Gottlieb (1884-1942) was deported to Poland in 1941 and died in the Lodz ghetto on January 2nd 1942.
Contralto Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann (1878-1943) and her daughter fled to Brussels in 1939 where they were later arrested by the invading Germans and taken to Auschwitz where they died.
The music education of Hungarian-Austrian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) was interrupted when he was sent to a forced labour brigade by the Horthy regime. His mother was the only person to survive the Holocaust in his immediate family.
Karl Weigl’s story exemplifies how the Nazis altered the musical canon of early 20th century classical music through their misguided attempts to reshape the ‘racial’ landscapes of Europe.
Salomon Meijer Kannewasser (1916-1945) was the lead singer in a popular young musical duo from Amsterdam known as Johnny & Jones. Their popularity began in 1938 and they went on to record six albums under the Panachord music label.
Arnold Simeon van Wesel
Arnold Simeon van Wesel (1918-1945) played guitar in a popular young musical duo from Amsterdam known as Johnny & Jones. Their popularity began in 1938 and they went on to record six albums under the Panachord music label.
Throughout her lifetime, Frieda Belinfante (1904-1995) had faced persecution and prejudice for three distinct reasons: her half-Jewish heritage, her sexual orientation, and her position as a woman in the field of orchestral conducting.
In 1934, the sixteen year-old Hilde Zadek overheard a schoolmate remark, “Es stinkt nach Juden” — “It reeks of Jews” so she punched the girl’s front teeth out and she was expelled from school. At risk of arrest, she and her family immigrated to Palestine that year.
In May 1943, the composer Ludmilla Peskarova was arrested by the Gestapo for hanging up black flags in memory of her husband, which was seen as a gesture of resistance. At age 53, she was deported to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück.
Following the rise of National Socialism in Germany in 1933, Eugen Engel (1875-1943) found it increasingly difficult to pursue his musical activates. He was put onto a transport with around 1,250 other prisoners and deported to the Sobibór death camp.
Salim Halali was a singer who became known for his traditional Arab-Andalusion music and as an iconic figure of French-Arab cabaret music. He survived in France under fake papers as a Muslim.
The composer Leon Kaczmarek was imprisoned in Dachau from 1940 to 1945. During his incarceration, he assumed the role of conductor of the 45-member German men's choir, despite being Polish.
The composer and musician Franz Reizenstein (1911-1968) led a remarkable life, both in his career as a musician and piano professor, and as a Jewish refugee living in Britain during and after the Second World War.
Zuzana Růžičková is known as one of the world’s leading harpsichordists and interpreter of classic and baroque music. She and her family were forcibly detained and sent to Theresienstadt, where she attended concerts and joined a children’s choir.
Ilse Weber worked in Theresienstadt's children’s infirmary, composing poetry and songs to entertain the children. Weber refused to abandon them and joined the transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where she and her son Tomáš were both murdered.
Zdenka Fantlová (1922-2022) lived to 100 and died on 14th November, 2022. She was a valuable witness to the remarkable musical and theatrical life in Terezín.