The Kapellmeister of Auschwitz

The Kapellmeister of Auschwitz


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2019

Basia Jaworski brings to our attention on International Holocaust Day the poignant music of Szymon Laks, whose life was saved at Auschwitz by being chosen to conduct the concentration camp orchestra.

Read and listen here.



  • Whimbrel says:

    Also very interesting and moving was this programme on the BBC World Service a few hours ago: ‘Songs from the Depths of Hell’ tells the story of Aleksander Kulisiewicz who committed to memory the songs of his fellow prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and plays extracts from some of the songs.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    It is shameful how still so little music is being programmed by major orchestras and ensembles by Holocaust composers and the suppressed composers; meanwhile performances of Wagner and Strauss go unabated. And even Israel is being pressured to allow Wagner performances. Not one note of Wagner’s music is so great as to warrant more attention than these composers. If it hadn’t been for Liszt and Meyerbeer, Wagner would have been no more than a little composer. He never did learn to write properly for instruments. And he ruins too many voices. There should be a 100-year ban on Wagner and at least a 40-year ban on Strauss.

    • Sibylle Luise Binder says:

      Sorry, but I strongly disagree with you. It’s no question that the “Holocaust composers” should become more played, but that doesn’t mean to me that Wagner and Strauß should become condemned and even “banned”. I’m not a big Wagnerian (just on the contrary – for years I ran away when someone wanted me to go into the opera for Wagner), but as a former bassoonist I can’t complain about the way he used my instrument and as far as voices are concerned: I don’t believe it’s Wagner who ruins voices. It’s the singers who overdo it! Just look at people like Rene Kollo who’s now in his eighties, sang a lot of Wagner and still has a voice left. Or I remember Wolfgang Windgassen, one of the great Wagner voices. I grew up with listening to him – he was in the first opera I ever saw and I remember he got me crying in a Butterfly (that must have been around 1968 or so).

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Why not play the music that the audience wants to hear? The audience for Wagner and Strauss, whatever I or you may feel about these composers*, is much larger than the audience for “holocaust composers”. That may be a disappointment to many, but trying to force musical programmes for non-musical reasons is unlikely to be in the long term interests of classical music.

      *My view is that while neither are particularly heroic characters, Wagner being particularly obnoxious, neither have any responsibility for what happened to the Jews in Europe under the Nazis.

  • Andrew S says:

    Excellent documentary and thank you for introducing me to someone who shamefully I knew nothing about. Very poignant and so good to have such an articulate son .