The Auschwitz violinist who reinvigorated Polish music

The Auschwitz violinist who reinvigorated Polish music


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2018

Early in 1945, a starving survivor of the Auschwitz women’s orchestra saw a sign in Krakow reading ‘Polish Musicians Union’.

Helena Dunicz-Niwińska went inside to ask if anyone knew anything about her brother, who was also in the camps. A second sign led her into the office of the newly-founded Polish Music Publishers, PWM. She was hired on the spot and, for the next 30 years, she looked after producing scores by a new generation of Polish composers.

Helena died on June 12, aged 103.

Obituary here.




  • Bruce says:

    What a great story.

  • V.Lind says:

    My Polish is too rusty to slog through that obit. DID anyone know anything about her brother?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Great lady. Poland has many gifted composers….. especially after Szymanowski introduced a more cosmopolitan approach to music, in spite of the parochial music life in Poland of the twenties and thirties.

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    Helena Dunicz Niwinska wrote a book about her experience in Birkenau in the “women’s orchestra”.

    Her book can be obtained in English translation:
    One of the Girls in the Band. The Memoirs of a Violinist from Birkenau. Transcribed by Maria Szewczyk. Translated from the Polish by William Brand.
    Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2017 (ISBN 978-83-7704-078-2).

    It can be ordered online here:,208.html#2