Marysia Ayznshtat was one of the best-loved musical figures of the Warsaw ghetto.  The pianist Wladislaw Szpilman said about her:

She would have been a famous name to millions now for her wonderful voice, if the Germans had not murdered her.

Though hardly well known today, during the few years of her musical performances before the liquidation of the ghetto she made a lasting impression on those lucky enough to hear her.  Born in 1921, she came from a musical background (her father, Dovid Ayznshtat, was a well-known musical figure in Warsaw).  As a child she was an enthusiastic participant in all sorts of musical activities and school performances.  She received a general music education at the Chopin High School in Warsaw, and a secular education at a Zionist school.  Although her true love was singing, she was also trained in piano.  Under the tutelage of her father, she was introduced to the classics and fell in love with Romantic music.  She also always showed enthusiasm for the Yiddish folksongs of her childhood.

When World War II broke out, Marysia became melancholy, fearing what lay in store for her and her people.  Despairing of the future in her native Poland, she decided to leave for Russia; although she gained the approval of her father, however, her mother could not bear to be parted from her daughter and insisted on her staying.  Soon after, the Nazis arrived, and the Ayznshtat family, along with tens of thousands of Warsaw Jews, were herded into the ghetto.  Ayznshtat first began her singing career while imprisoned in the ghetto; prior to the invasion, she had sung only informally for family and friends.  In the ghetto, she quickly made a name for herself as a singer of folksongs and opera, and became known as the ‘ghetto nightingale’.  She frequently performed at the Femina Theatre on Leshno Street, accompanied by her father. As well as being a frequent solo performer, she also sang in the children’s chorus.

During a selection in the ghetto, her parents were placed on a different wagon.  Desperate to be with them, she dashed toward their transport, only to be shot by an SS officer. She died at the age of twenty-one.

Sources

Fater, Y., 1970. Yidishe muzik in poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkohmes, Tel Aviv: Velt federatsye fun poylishe yidn.  

Stompor, S., 2001. Judisches Musik- und Theaterleben unter dem NS-Staat, Hannover: Europaisches Zentrum fur Judische Musik.  

Szpilman, W., 1999. The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45, London: Victor Gollancz.