The Polish musician Jozef Kropinski was born on 28 December 1913 in Berlin. He returned at a young age to his family’s homeland of Poland, where he completed his musical training.  On 7 May 1940, Kropinski was arrested by the Gestapo for publishing an underground newspaper, and sent to Auschwitz.  During more than four years of imprisonment at the camp, he composed over one hundred songs and poems.  In early 1945, he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he became friends with the Polish writer Kazimierz Wojtowicz.  Wojtowicz himself wrote dozens of song texts and poems during his time in the camp, and the two worked together extensively, producing several pieces in collaboration.

After the war, Kropinski moved to Breslau.  His vast musical output was almost forgotten, although he enjoyed a minor revival in 1962, when several of his compositions were published by the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and later performed in a movie about concentration camp songs.  Kropinski suffered a heart attack in 1966 and died in Breslau in 1970.  Decades after his death, the songs that he wrote under Nazi internment, along with the works of Wojtowicz, were brought together to form the basis for Donald McCullough's Holocaust Cantata, which premiered at the Kennedy Centre in 1998.  Many of Kropinski's and Wojtowicz's materials have been preserved in the extensive collection of Aleksander Kulisiewicz, which is held in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sources

Musique dans les Camps de Concentration et les Camps d'Extermination (Online), Claude Torres

Ricorda cosa ti ha fatto Amalek - Giorno della Memoria 2006 (Online), International Service of Jewish-Christian Documentation.

Music and song bring to life tales of the Holocaust, (Online), CNN.