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The Musical Geography of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

July 30, 2012

This project maps the spaces where music was played or sung in Auschwitz- Main Camp and Auschwitz- Birkenau. You can explore these interactive maps and listen to clips of the songs which were heard there.

Music is not typically associated with the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, but, as these maps display, there was a vibrant musical culture in the camps throughout the war. The music of Auschwitz ranged from institutionally sanctioned performances, like the concerts performed by the 80-member prisoner orchestra in the main camp, to secret resistance music that was hummed or whistled, like Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free). In between lie pieces like Alexander’s Ragtime Band, which was officially prohibited but performed at the request of SS officers in need of relaxation. Or Wiazanka z Effektenkammer (Medley from the Effects Depot), a subtly subversive set of songs written by a prisoner and performed as a cabaret in the barracks in the last months of the war. On a methodological level, several issues were unavoidable and ought to be mentioned. First of all, this is a small selection of the thousands of songs which were heard in Auschwitz, and while the selection we chose is hopefully representational of larger patterns, it is not a complete picture. The quality of the music is also not an accurate representation- most of it is far too polished. To ameliorate this, we used unprofessional recordings when available and tried to find arrangements with approximately the same instrumentation as the memoirs and testimony describe.

Written and Coded by Melissa Kagen and Jacob Melrose. See it HERE

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