Survivors’ accounts tell us that among the deportees to Nazi concentration camps were prominent, less known, and unknown musicians and composers. These accounts also attest to the existence of compositions that were written in the camps, either spontaneously or on the orders of the camp’s commanders.
Musica Concentrationaria was established to research, study, and catalogue this vast repertoire, to demonstrate the role the music had on the life of the deported: a temporary escape from the horrors that surrounded them. Some 2,500 works have already been found, and reports of further works continue to arrive.
The project has resulted in the documentary Musica concentrationaria (2007, produced by Associazione Musikstrasse and directed by Ermanno Felli), which includes documents, original scores, and interviews with deported musicians or their relatives. A related project, KZ Musik: Encyclopedia of music composed in concentration camps 1933–1945 (distributed by Membran Music), will present performances of selected works on 24 CDs.
Above, from a Nazi propaganda film, Pavel Hass and the conductor Karel Ančerl at the premiere of Haas’s Studie pro smyčcový orchestr at Theresienstadt, a year before the composer died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Below, the trailer for the documentary.