Music during the Holocaust website


9 February 2006 A leading American folk singer has thrown his weight behind World ORTs Music during the Holocaust project. Jerry Silverman has published more than 200 books including The Undying Flame: Ballads and Songs of the Holocaust, which contains 110 songs in 16 languages. He has now given World ORT permission to use songs from this book, together with recordings of his performances for the Music during the Holocaust educational website, which aims to be the most formidable collection of Holocaust-era music and accompanying information available online. The songs include the works of concentration camp prisoners and inhabitants of the ghettos of Eastern Europe as well as songs of resistance fighters. Intolerance, antisemitism and racism are on the rise in many lands and new instances of terrorism and genocide are reported every day, so it is increasingly important for us to reaffirm our commitment to peace and brotherhood among the nations, Mr Silverman said. The lecture-concerts I give that are based on my book, The Undying Flame, attempt to do just that. When I heard that ORT was doing something similar it was a no-brainer that I should help. Jerry Silverman at the Stepney Jewish Community Centre, London on Holocaust Memorial Day. . Thanks to Clive Marks OBE, a long time supporter of World ORT and the originator and sponsor of the Music during the Holocaust project, the Lord Ashdown Charitable Trust provided funds to allow Mr Silverman to leave his New York home for London to participate in events organised by the Jewish Music Institute to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day last month. At the Stepney Jewish Community Centre, Mr Silverman presented his lecture-concert based on The Undying Flame. He was also one of the featured artists in a concert at the Central Synagogue titled Wandering through Theresienstadt and later gave a lecture on Holocaust-related music at the School of Oriental and African Studies. World ORTs Project Coordinator-Web Developer, Sadler Johnson, recorded Mr Silvermans performances, parts of which may be used on the website. Its easy to detach yourself from the past, said Mr Johnson, who has coordinated the projects researchers and is working to construct the website by the end of the year. But listening to the music, hearing how contemporary it is, it makes you realise that the people who were caught up in the horror of the Holocaust were no different from us. A drawing of musicians at Mauthausen concentration camp.. The Music during the Holocaust website will be a sister site to World ORTs Learning about the Holocaust through Art website (; just as the latter contains teaching tools and class-based activities, so, too, the new website will contain interactive teaching materials. When the website is launched, it is due to contain biographies, performances, portraits and other information on more than 70 composers, musicians and writers, hundreds of samples of music, 20 complete pieces of music, 30 scores and much more. The projects content leader is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Dr Shirli Gilbert. A former concert pianist, Dr Gilbert is the author of Music in the Holocaust: Confronting Life in the Nazi Ghettos and Camps, which was published last year by Oxford University Press. Dr Gilbert said that music had not received as much exposure in Holocaust-related studies as other aspects of life under Nazi domination yet it offered an accessible way of approaching the era. The music and songs offer a unique insight into what people including those who did not survive were thinking at the time of the persecution and so offer a valuable addition to the testimonies of survivors after the fact, she said. People are able to get a glimpse into what ordinary people like them experienced, Dr Gilbert added. In place of the huge, faceless number of six million victims, music offers perhaps a more personal way into understanding the Holocaust. Mr Marks, who has lectured for 30 years on music in the Third Reich and who also chaired the London College of Music for 15 years, said World ORTs project would help to fill what is perhaps the largest single gap in understanding the Holocaust. This project benefits from being on the world wide web, he said. Documentaries are constrained by time, books are limited by length, but an internet resource like this has the potential to grow indefinitely as long as we can continue to get the funding. Among the projects chief financial supporters are the Boltons Charitable Trust, the Lord Ashdown, Samuel Sebba and Maurice Marks Charitable Trusts and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. In Moscow, ORT helped the citys commemoration of what is the first International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust following last years UN resolution designating January 27 for such events. ORT provided technical assistance for the event at the Great Hall of the Central House of Literature Workers, which involved the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, Israeli Ambassador Arkadi Milman and Russian politicians and church leaders. The ORT Technology Centre at Moscows Jewish School No. 1311 gave a presentation at the commemoration and 11th grade student at the school, Andrew Rozenblatt, was presented with a diploma for best film at the international Lessons of the Holocaust Path to Tolerance contest. Founded in Russia in 1880, World ORT is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation with some 270,000 students Jewish and non-Jewish in 58 countries.