Dovid Ayznshtat exerted an important influence on the development of the inter-war Jewish musical world, particularly in Warsaw. Even after moving into the Warsaw ghetto, he continued to compose, conduct, perform, and train aspiring musicians, despite the limitations and dangers of ghetto life. The father of the popular singer Marysia, Ayznshtat was committed to his family, his music and his community.
Ayznshtat was raised in a religious household, and frequently assisted his uncle, who was a cantor; it was this early exposure to music that apparently convinced him of his calling. Although always poor, he read prodigiously and taught himself music theory, spending a period in Berlin where he learned much about musical performance. In 1909, at the age of 19, he was offered a position as conductor of a choir in the Groyser Moyer-Shul (Great Walled Synagogue) in Hamel. After several years there he moved to Riga, where he also conducted a choir and directed opera and theatre. He went on to join a Russian theatre troupe in 1916, and in 1921 returned to Poland, becoming the conductor of the German synagogue on Tlomotska street in Warsaw. This was the same year his first and only child, Marysia, was born. In inter-war Warsaw, a city with a vibrant Jewish musical world, Ayznshtat quickly became a fixture. In addition to being a director of both synagogue and secular choirs, Ayznshtat arranged and composed theatre music and songs. He also taught music in several of Warsaw’s Jewish schools and experimented with modern teaching methods. He helped to found the Jewish Music Society and the Warsaw Music Institute, and published a popular music encyclopaedia in Yiddish. His career, however, was radically transformed with the outbreak of war.
Like many artists, Ayznshtat continued to teach and perform in the ghetto. During the years of his imprisonment, he helped to found the Jewish Symphony Orchestra and gave several concerts in the Femina theatre on Leshno Street, frequently accompanying his daughter Marysia, nicknamed the ‘nightingale of the ghetto’. He also taught, gave piano recitals and conducted choruses. He and his wife were selected for a transport to Treblinka in 1942; their daughter was placed in a different transport. However, unable to face being separated from her parents, Marysia tore herself away and ran toward her father. She was shot in front of her horrified parents. The Ayznshtats were themselves killed shortly thereafter.
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