When Jews had to form their own orchestras

When Jews had to form their own orchestras


norman lebrecht

October 21, 2017

Michael Haas has written a fascinating paper on the Kulturbund, the cultural organisation that arose in Hitler’s Germany when Jews were banned from general musical activity.

Some of the recordings here are sensational.

Read and listen here.


  • Has been says:

    Story/history of the Juedische Kulturbund was told at some length in Martin Goldsmith’s excellent book The Inextinguishable Symphony published in 2000.

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    Martin Goldsmith’s book The Inextinguishable Symphony is indeed the easiest place to start in reading about the Kulturbund. It is the story of his own family, his father and mother being young musicians who were members of orchestras (in Frankfurt and Berlin) in the Kulturbund. The title of the book has a double meeting. The very last work performed by the Kulturbund was Nielsen’s “Inextinguishable Symphony”.

    Goldsmith’s grandfather and uncle were on the ship St. Louis. When the ship was forced to return to Europe, his grandfather and uncle were allotted to France and eventually died in Auschwitz. Goldsmith has written a second book–Alex’s Wake: a Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance–that goes into great detail about what happened to his grandfather and uncle.

    A more scholarly book about the Kulturbund is Lily E. Hirsch, A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany. Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League (University of Michigan, 2010).

    There is a substantial literature in German, some of which is mentioned in the article by Michael Haas that Norman cites. Michael Haas has his own book–Forbidden Music. The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis (Yale, 2013)–that includes material about the Kulturbund.

    The Kulturbund was about more than music. There is this book by Rebecca Rovit, The Jewish Kulturbund Theatre Company in Nazi Berlin (University of Iowa, 2012).

  • Robert Holmén says:

    It is surprising that this was economically sustainable in an environment where only Jews were allowed to attend the concerts and yet Jews were banned from the well-paying occupations that would create the disposable income to buy tickets.

  • NYMike says:

    And now we have neo-Nazis marching and chanting “Jews will not replace us” right here in the good old USA…..

  • David R Osborne says:

    I am lost for words. What an amazing, tragic story and wonderful collection of musical samples. There is certainly more than one composer new to me here that I need to learn more about. Thank you Michael Haas.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    How is the artistic level of this band compared to the Reichsorchester? It would be interesting to do a side-by-side review of their CDs, especially those with major repertoire, like Beethoven and Bruckner symphonies