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Music From a Nightmare

Music From a Nightmare

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Published by Eryn McQueen

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Eryn McQueen on May 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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Eryn McQueenMr Neuburger English 10115 May 2011Music from a Nightmare"As long as they wanted an orchestra, they couldn't put us in thegas chamber. That stupid they wouldn't be, because we are not reallyreplaceable. Somebody who carries stones is replaceable." (4) Music unites humanity from the distant corners of the globe. FromAlbania to Zimbabwe, people sing, crossing barriers of race, religion, andnationality. Music is commonly associated with joyful times of celebration, worship, and romance. Whether serenading the bride during awedding, praising the Supreme Creator, or wooing a first love, musicelegantly expresses the inexpressible, thereby giving hearts a voice when words fail. Whathappens to music, however, when life is so full of sorrow that tears veil the sun, God is silent,and love itself seems to die?The fate of the Jews and other ³undesirables´ under the Nazi regime is recognized as oneof the greatest tragedies to blight the history of mankind. Difficult to comprehend both in itsmassive scale and extreme cruelty, the Holocaust ignominiously represents the first occurrenceof industrialized death. Ten million people were stripped of their identity, herded like beasts intocattle cars, torn from their families, starved, forced to slave for their perpetrators, and finallyreduced to ashes blown by the night wind. Under such incomprehensible circumstances, does
Anita Lasker Wallfisch, age12, Music saved her life: inBerlin in 1938. Photograph:David Levenehttp://bit.ly/jYmjAw 
 
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music also die? Unlikely as it might seem, music still existed in the ghettos and concentrationcamps.During the course of World War II, the Nazis successfully used their control of music andthe arts as a powerful propaganda weapon against those aspects of German cultural life theyhated most. In terms of music, this eclectic blacklist included compositions from Europe'smodernism movement, music written by Jewish composers, music containing explicit sexuality, black jazz, and any piece written in opposition to Nazi ideology.Calling on a combination of racial doctrine, Wagnerian anti-Semitism, and their personal belief of Aryan supremacy, the Third Reich sought to destroy every form of music it had brandedwith the term Entartete Musik (degenerate music) during the period that led to World War II.Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels worked closely to formulate a plan that would erase this musicfrom the face of the earth.
 
Through their efforts, a generation of musical innovation and promise was not only abruptlycurtailed in Europe, but excluded from its rightful status in history. What should have been thedawning of a thrilling new phase of musical evolution, instead fell silent under the dark shadowsof the swastika.(1)Camps were established for humiliation, dehumanization andextermination as opposed to music. But music did exist in theconcentration camps. As the camps became larger and more musicianswere among the prisoners, real camp orchestras were formed. Professionalmusical performances were censored and controlled by the authorities--butthe freedom to sing and compose music could not be totally censored or controlled. Thus, music became a symbol of freedom. (10)
 
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The sufferings of European Jewry under the Nazi regime were reflected in their musicand musical life. Music offered Jews a way to express their humanity in inhuman conditions, toescape from reality and give voice to their yearning for freedom, and to find comfort and hope.
 
In addition to private occasions at which Jews played music, sang, and even danced,music was performed publicly in some ghettos. Street singers performed in ód, Warsaw, andKraków, giving voice to the feelings of the ghettos¶ inhabitants.(10)But the music was misused for propaganda purposes and for the inhuman interests of theSS in the camps. Even in Auschwitz, that terrible place which today is a synonym for the crimesof the Shoah, there were several orchestras. (5) At one point, Auschwitz had six orchestras - thelargest of which, in Auschwitz I, consisted of 50 musicians. A women¶s orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau was made up of 36 members and 8 transcribers under the musical direction of thesinger Fania Fénelon. Treblinka, Majdanek, Beec, and Sobibór all had orchestras. (10)
 
Insome camps and killing centers, the Germans formed orchestras from among the prisoners and
Mauthausen Camp, 1943: Prisoners being led to their execution accompanied by the camp orchestra.pinktriangleproject.com
 

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