The fourth annual German Area Studies symposium focused on the music composed by concentration camp inmates during the Holocaust. The program, titled “Curating the Traumatic Past: Music and Memory of the Holocaust,” took place on Saturday, April 7, in the Bartlett Theatre in Coxe Hall.
The symposium highlighted music composed at the Thereseinstadt concentration camp, in German-occupied Terezín, Czechoslovakia, that was used as a “model camp”— a propaganda tool by the Nazis to fool the world into thinking that prisoners were treated well. Many of the residents were artists and musicians who were, for a time, permitted to practice their art.
“The past symposia have, in one way or another, interrogated the construction of German identity in various ways, whether focusing on post-unification literature, the migration crisis or cultural topography. This year, music takes center stage both figuratively and literally,” says Associate Professor and Chair of German Area Studies Eric Klaus, who helped plan the symposium.
Associate Professor of Music at Dickinson College Amy Wlodarski gave the symposium’s keynote speech, which explored how “dominant narratives surrounding the Terezín concentration camp, both during the war and after, overwhelmed and suppressed the individual narratives and experiences of the Jewish people who experienced the horror of the camp,” explains Klaus. “It’s painful to look back at this period. As has been said by many, it’s hard to believe that the culture that created Beethoven and Bach also created Hitler. But out of so much pain rose great beauty. It’s amazing to see the resiliency of the human spirit when you listen to the music that was produced at Terezín.”
Wlodarski’s research explores the relationship between music, trauma, memory and politics, especially with regard to the music of European totalitarian regimes. Her publications focus on the manner in which composers ranging from Arnold Schoenberg to Steve Reich have imagined the Holocaust in musical works.
Her lecture was followed by two concurrent discussions, one for student and one for faculty, on the symposium’s theme of “Curating Soundscapes.” The symposium finished with a concert of music created at Thereseinstadt by prominent Jewish composers detained at the concentration camp, including Hans Krasa, Viktor Ullman, Ilse Weber, Gideon Klein and Pavel Haas.
The concert featured musicians led by the internationally acclaimed and award-winning violinist Professor of Music Pia Liptak, who, along with performing regularly, is a member of the faculty at Hochstein School of Music and Dance in Rochester and director of both the HochStrings Adult Chamber Orchestra as well as the Cordancia Chamber Orchestra.