Not everything has been destroyed in Auschwitz and nearby. “Something” has survived Nazi death camps, despite the murderous rage of the SS, their gas chambers, persecutions, and atrocities that led to the extermination of 6 million innocent Jews. This “something” miraculously emerged from oblivion and – after more than 70 years after the end of World War II – is now preparing to live a new life full of teachings, warnings, and memories for new and older generations.
It is music – classical, symphony, opera, jazz, and light – mostly composed and smuggled by a handful of staunch musicians internees, before disappearing in the agony of the camps, had the strength to give life to poignant symphonies of rare beauty, music, tunes, works, classical and light compositions that “are rightfully part of the musical heritage of the twentieth century, although still almost unknown to the general public,” says Professor Francesco Lotoro, pianist, teacher at the Conservatory “U. Giordano of Foggia”, exponent of the Jewish Communities of Trani, who dedicated his entire life to the recovery of music in Nazi camps.
For the first time, a part (small but important) of the notes that saw the light in the darkness of the Nazi concentration camps – starting with Auschwitz, but also in many other places of internment scattered throughout Europe and in all the places of World War II – were presented last year at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome during a concert conducted by maestro Lotoro. Ute Lempert was present at this concert, to mark the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Polish camps by the Soviet troops.
But there is more to it. Francesco Lotoro’s scrupulous research, which he conducted in all the concentration camps of Europe, recovering more than 5000 scores, that is, hundreds and hundreds of symphonic, classical, and jazz compositions, as well as sacred symphonies, musicals, will finally have an official seat in the Citadel of Camp Music, which will be built on the former grounds of Barletta Distillery. About 8 thousand square meters destined to become a university campus and a research and study center for young musicians and historians who want to get to know one of the most tragic and fascinating aspects of the inmates’ life in concentration camps, most of whom were Jewish, but also Romani, dissidents, homosexuals, opponents of the regime. That is to say, works composed by musicians who were “candidates” to gas chambers – composers, conservatory teachers, authors of classic and contemporary pages – before being slaughtered. These pieces were destined to oblivion and destruction, but Lotoro’s tenacity and dedication have brought them to the fore after more than 30 years of research carried out in Europe, with the help of musicians who survived the Holocaust and their families, but also former prisoners interned in Japan and in the former USSR.
A task carried out with indescribable passion, which costed him many personal sacrifices and which will be welcomed in the Citadel of Music od the Foundation Institute of Literature on Camp Music – established in 2014 in Barletta in Via V. Marone 38/C and chaired by Lotoro himself – with the support of the City, the Region and the Government and the help of public and private sponsors (banking foundations, cultural institutions…). The project – drafted by architect Nicolangelo Dibitonto – has been recently approved by the city hall of Barletta. “Construction works and the ceremony of the first stone abode – announced Professor Lotoro – will begin in spring. According to the forecast of the technicians, the Citadel will be opened by 2020. After the approval of the project, the competent authorities have given rise to the first feasibility tests of the soil. In March, works should begin. Meanwhile, public and private institutions are responding positively to the initiative with an enthusiasm that gives us hope for the future, which will see the city of Barletta becoming a world center and the beating heart of a structure, the Citadel, which will have the merit of safeguarding music born in the concentration camps and of being a reference point for those who, young, old, amateur enthusiasts, will want to study this music, or simply learn about it’s existance.”
The lyrics and music saved by Lotoro – who is also the author of the monumental encyclopedia Thesaurus Musicae Concentrationariae – were composed during the months of internment by authors “forced by their captors to perform for the entertainment of the Nazi leaders, and to compose original music, most of which was kept hidden. A music heritage of great artistic and human significance that is finally able to see the light,” says Lotoro.
This research has also shown that there were over 1,600 musicians interned in Nazi concentration camps and that over 4,000 scores were composed“. Only 10 percent of them have been entirely recovered (that is, about 500 compositions).” It is an international community of authors, mostly of whom were Jewish, but also of other nationalities. Besides composing, they organized dozens of music bands while in camps, both male and female, in Birchenau and Auschwitz, where six groups performed, including a jazz band.
The most famous ensemble is perhaps the one represented in the historical giant exposed at the entrance to Auschwitz, where musicians, on the orders of their Nazi torturers, were forced to play every day to create a fake serene and welcoming atmosphere. “The same musicians who, along with many other unfortunate colleagues – reminds Lotoro – composed poignant music and the atrocities committed by the Nazis were not able to destroy it. It helps us, through the power of music, not to forget one of the darkest moments in our history”.
There will be five poles at the Citadel (Music Campus of Sciences, the Library of Music, Museum of Regenerated Art, Theatre New Shipyards, International Library of the twentieth century) in adjoining, separate lots; the sections of some poles will be connected across batches (of the Campus and New Shipyard Open Park). Spaces for study and entertainment will be also created in the underground part of the former Distillery.