Music was an integral part of camp life in the Nazi-run camps.
while marching, doing exercises, on the way to or from work, to frighten and humiliate prisoners, after a long day of hard work, singing was an enormous physical effort and could be life-threatening. I. Singing on Command
Orders: “In step... March! Sing!” “Sing, a Song!” anyone who did not know the song was beaten, anyone who sang too softly was beaten, anyone who sang too loud was beaten.
Songs banal naive humiliating double-meaning obscene texts offending the prisoners’ sense of shame
Anthems Many concentration camps had their own special anthems - official tune for the camp, e.g.: - „Moorsoldatenlied” - „Treblinkalied” (Treblinka Song)
Music from radio or gramophone Propaganda speeches Music by a German composer and antisemite - Richard Wagner
Camp orchestras amateur and professional musicians, from a temporary trio in Treblinka to a symphony orchestra in Auschwitz. The camp orchestras: - provided background music for punishments and executions -gave concerts for the entertainment of the SS guards -deceived the newly-arriving prisoners at the selection process.
Music to entertain the guards often members of the camp orchestras gave private performances for the guards, works by Grieg, Schumann and Mozart were played for the guards who came to “relax” after the process known as selection.
II. Music initiated by the prisoners music gave the prisoners consolation, support and confidence, aim: to set an example of solidarity and humane behavior in their dehumanized surrounding.
Spontaneous Music when prisoners marched to the gas chambers they sang the Jewish song “Hatikvah”, they expressed their protest, and showed that they had not been broken.
Partisans’ songs associated with resistance and freedom for the German-speaking prisoners: “Die Gedanken sind frei” (“Thoughts are free”) for the Polish prisoners: “Warszawianka” for the Jewish prisoners: “Zog nisht keyn mol” ("Never Say”)
Conclusions music - an integral part in the daily life of the Nazi concentration camps, professional and amateur musicians, of different ages, genders and nationalities, played music on command, and on their own initiative, they performed solo, in choirs, in chamber music groupings, in small ensembles, in jazz bands, in camp orchestras and in symphony orchestras, music of various kinds: from light music to classical music, from traditional folk songs to critical cabaret songs, music was used in the „process of breaking the will, and degrading the prisoners” as human beings, music was used also a sign of resistence and freedom, it was made in spite of constant hunger, mental and physical violence, diseases, an uncertain future and acts of terror.
Task Listen to the soundtrack from The Schindler’s List and express your feelings and emotions by making coal paintings. You can: - draw - write (e.g. poems, notes, thoughs…) - or whatever artistic you wish.