Concert for the 75th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

fot. Magda Starowieyska

In fall of 1940, a group of Jewish musicians in the Warsaw ghetto established the Jewish Symphony Orchestra. Among its members were musicians from the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Polish Radio Orchestra as well as many artists from outside the capital.

  • 19 April (Thursday), 8PM, free admission

The most eminent conductor in the ghetto was Szymon Pullman, who, as Marcel Reich-Ranicki observed, believed that even in such terrible conditions, it is an honor and obligation of the Jews to play the best music in best possible way. The Orchestra played works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Vivaldi, Mozart, Weber and others. Music - write Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak in their monograph of the ghetto - gave the tormented prisoners of the ghetto a moment of respite from the nightmare of everyday life, probably a better respite than other forms of art.

In April 1942, the German authorities suspended the Orchestra's activity because the band performed, contrary to the binding ban, works by the “Aryan” composers. Yet the musicians continued to work. In the summer of 1942, the Orchestra began to rehearse with the 80-member Shir (hebr. song) Choir. The artists planned to play the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. We can find those information in the writings of Kopel Piżyc ("Po wojnie z pomocą Bożą...") and Adolf Berman ("Wos der gojrl hot mir bashert. Mit Jidn in Warshe, 1939-1942").They intended to sing the "Ode to Joy" in the fourth part of the Symphony in Hebrew, translated by Menachem Kipnis.

The concert never took place. On July 22, the Germans begun the great deportation of the Warsaw ghetto. In the following weeks more than 300,000 prisoners of the ghetto and almost all the artists of the Orchestra and Choir perished in the death camp of Treblinka.

For the musicians of the Orchestra and the Choir, playing Beethoven was a was a protest against the Nazi barbarity, against their forced isolation behind the ghetto walls and symbolic exclusion from humanity. Beethoven and Mozart had been part of their musical world before the war, as well as a part of their identities as artists and Europeans.

This year, for the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising we wish to complete what the Jewish Symphony Orchestra and the Shir Choir began: in the middle of the former ghetto, in front of the Monument of its Heroes and Martyrs, we want to play the fourth part of the Symphony No. 9 of Beethoven in Hebrew.

We wish to include outstanding soloists and conductor in the concert next to the musicians of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the National Philharmonic Choir.

National Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, in the 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence.

Concert "Remembering together" is financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.