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PtJA helps German students investigate music under the Third Reich

Twenty students from the Gymnasium Heide-Ost in north Germany attended a day of seminars delivered by PtJA Project Consultant David Fligg. It was hosted by the Terezín Initiative Institute (TII) in Prague on 14 February, and was part of the ‘Jewish music in concentration camps’ project that the students are currently engaged in. As part of it, on the following day, the students visited Terezín, after being prepared for their visit by David.

David Fligg and the Heide-Ost students outside of the former Jáchymova Street Jewish school. (Photo: Berndt Steincke)

“We looked at a whole range of subjects, from music-making in the camps, especially Terezín, to the ways in which some musicians in Nazi occupied Europe collaborated with the Nazis, via the fate of Prague’s Jewish musicians under occupation,” David explains. “There was an immense amount of lively debate, and I was struck by the maturity of these students, and their emotional involvement with some of the issues we discussed.”

The venue for the seminars, now home to the TII and other Jewish communal organisations, was the former premises of the Jáchymova Street Jewish school. From August 1940, after Jewish pupils were expelled from regular schools, Jáchymova became a place of refuge for Jewish pupils and teachers alike, and was one of only three schools in the occupied Czech lands where the Nazis permitted children to be taught. At end of the 1941/42 academic year, the school was closed down, and the pupils, along with their parents and teachers, were deported. Only a small number of them survived.

When David showed the Heide-Ost students the propaganda film that the Nazis made about Terezín, he explained, as was confirmed by one of the TII staff, that some of the children on the film would have been Jáchymova pupils. “I think it was at that point,” says David, “that the students realised that we were dealing with real people who probably sat in the same classroom where they were now sitting. And the room fell silent.”

Berndt Steincke, Honorary Chairman of the Heide-based Foundation Against Extremism and Violence, which is working with the students, attended the seminars. He said afterwards, “David captivated us with challenging short videos, archival documents and musical extracts. We were able to recognize the lies of the Nazi era. We sincerely thank David for coming and will continue to process his findings in our project.”

This entry was posted in News.

Professor Dobbs at Yad Vashem

 By Teri Dobbs

Dr. Teri Dobbs and Dr. Juliet Hess, conference chair.

This past January, PtJA team member Professor Teri Dobbs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent two weeks in Israel and Jordan. During her time there, she was a guest at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, together with colleagues from UW-Madison’s Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. In addition, she conducted research in the Yad Vashem Archives, met with musicology/music education colleagues to discuss the possibility of future projects within Israel, and met with the family of piano prodigy and composer, Josima Feldschuh (d. 1943).

Professor Dobbs will present several conference papers this coming semester, most of which pertain to her work with Performing the Jewish Archive. Her paper, “Music Education and the Holocaust: So What?” was heard at the New Directions in Music Education Conference: Musicking Equity: Enacting Social Justice Through Music Education,” Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, February 17.

Further, professor Dobbs has been invited to present two papers, one in collaboration with soprano and PtJA performer Elizabeth Hagedorn of Vienna, at the 25th European Association for Music in Schools/6th European International Society for Music Education regional conference, JOINT (AD)VENTURE MUSIC: Network as a Challenge for Music Educators, at the University Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria, April 18 – 22, 2017.

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‘Getting to know you’ Nick Barraclough

Tell us about your role in PtJA?
I am a co-investigator on the grant, and am responsible for the research involved in examining how audiences respond to the different PtJA performances. Along with Lisa Peschel, I co-supervise Richard Oakes, a PhD student, who also works on this aspect of the research programme.

What were you doing before working on PtJA?
I am a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of York. My research group investigates how we perceive and understand other individuals’ actions and behaviours. We use a range of different techniques to achieve this aim including neurophysiological testing, neuroimaging, and behavioural testing.

What’s the best thing about working on a project like PtJA?
It’s educational! It has stretched me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me to think how my research knowledge and skills can be used to address new questions with colleagues with diverse interests in different, non-lab environments, where it can be extremely hard to control random and confounding factors

What do you get the most satisfaction from professionally?
Solving problems by designing experiments to generate informative data

What’s the biggest challenge for you on this project?
Obtaining good quality data without ruining the audience members’ experience of the performances at our festivals; and dealing with variable and sparse data when we eventually get it

Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?
I play polo at the White Rose Polo Club and compete in tournaments across Yorkshire. A lot of my spare time is spent looking after my horses, but also playing with my 2 year old son. The horses are going to get a couple of lambs in with them this spring, so I am becoming a sort of amateur farmer too.

Outside of work, what are the top things on your ‘bucket list’?
Becoming good enough at polo so that I could get paid to play! Climbing all the ‘Munros’; visit more countries than my age.

If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you want with you?
Knife, fishing equipment, boat



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PtJA takes Centre Stage at National and International Holocaust Memorial Events

The PtJA team was heavily involved in, and deeply committed to, a number of high-profile Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in January, reaching a total audience of thousands.

Caption: The Clothworkers Consort of Leeds, conducted by Steve Muir

For what is the culmination of the UK’s HMD events, Stephen Muir conducted the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds as part of the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day on 26 January at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster. It was held in the presence of 200 Holocaust and genocide survivors and around 1,000 guests. Attended by the Chief Rabbi and Archbishop of Canterbury, and with special addresses by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid MP, and Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis, Stephen and the Choir performed Mogen owos, by Josef Gottbeter. A full report, and videos, can be seen here:

Vera Müllerová

Commemorative events for this year’s HMD, with its theme of ‘How can life go on?’, commenced earlier than in previous years, starting with a prestigious concert at London’s Wigmore Hall, Music on the brink of destruction. Curated by Shirli Gilbert (Associate Professor of History at the University of Southampton), the sold-out concert, recorded by the BBC, launched the ORT Marks Fellowships to support continued research on music connected with the Holocaust.

The concert opened with the Clothworkers Consort, under Stephen Muir, performing a selection of songs from the Nazi ghettos, reflecting research undertaken by PtJA’s Joseph Toltz. Also performed was Dovid Ayznshtat’s cantata Chad gadya, discovered in South Africa by Stephen Muir, and featured in previous PtJA-related concerts. Receiving its UK premiere was Gideon Klein’s Topol (‘The Poplar Tree’), a melodrama for narrator and piano, uncovered by David Fligg in the Prague Jewish Museum archives. It was narrated by David, accompanied by the pianist Vera Müllerová, who premiered it in Pilsen as part of the PtJA’s Czech festival in September, and who travelled from the Czech Republic specially for this concert. Vera also performed a collection of solo piano works by Josima Feldschuh. PtJA’s Teryl Dobbs is currently leading on research connected to Josima, the 12 year-old pianist-composer prodigy of the Warsaw Ghetto. These piano pieces, as well as the choral items, were later broadcast on Radio 3 on 23 and 24 January, and Klein’s Topol is scheduled for later broadcast. Linked to, and with the same name as, the Wigmore concert, was Shirli Gilbert’s Radio 3 documentary on 22 January which featured David Fligg discussing Gideon Klein. The Podcast of the programme can be downloaded here from the BBC website ( The full report of the concert is available on the Jewish Chronicle’s website (

The grandly ornate Leeds Town Hall was the setting for the Leeds Civic Holocaust Remembrance Service on 22 January, at which, as in previous years, members of the Clothworkers Consort, with Stephen Muir, provided the music. This year they performed Baruch Gutman’s beautiful Jisgadal. The service was opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Gerry Harper, with a keynote address by Leeds North East MP, Fabian Hamilton.

RNCM students performing Walter Freud’s Purimspiel finale

For the Royal Northern College of Music’s respected Sir John Manduell Research Forum, HMD was marked by a special seminar, Performing a Holocaust Archive, on 25 January. Lisa Peschel presented the Purimspiel finale by Walter Freud that she discovered in Israel, wonderfully performed by RNCM students Rachel Fright (piano) and singers Rachel Speirs, Stuart Orme, Matthew Nuttall and Jacob Newsham. David Fligg discussed his dramatisation, Gideon Klein – Portrait of a Composer, whilst RNCM’s Head of Composition, Prof. Adam Gorb, who has previously collaborated in PtJA activities, talked about his forthcoming, and as yet untitled, opera which will have a Holocaust-related story-line, and which will be premiered in Leeds next year.

Nena Kafka and Simo Muir

Meanwhile, on 29 January, over a thousand miles north east from the UK, at Finland’s Limmud in Helsinki – the country’s largest Jewish cultural learning event – Simo Muir was interviewing Holocaust survivor Nena Kafka, and talking about his book No more letters from Poland ( Mrs Kafka, native of Kozigłowy, Poland, survived the death marches and Bergen-Belsen and settled in Finland after the war. She was an honorary guest of the national Holocaust Memorial Day event held at the House of the Estates in Helsinki.

Lisa Peschel (left) and David Fligg (right) with Board of Deputies President, Jonathan Arkush. (Photo: John Fisher)

The final HMD event to involve the PtJA was the Leeds Jewish Community’s own commemoration, a joint event between the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue and the Leeds Jewish Representative Council. Theatre in the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto: The Survivors Speak, was the title of Lisa Peschel’s fascinating and often moving talk, preceded by David Fligg presenting an overview of PtJA activities to the capacity audience. The evening was attended by Jonathan Arkush (President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews), and the Board’s Vice President, Marie van der Zyl. Rabbi Jason Kleinman recited the El Malei Rachamim memorial prayer, and Rudi Leavor who, along with his family, escaped Berlin in 1938, lit the Yahrzeit (memorial) candle. 


Reviews about the Wigmore Hall concert: 

‘Concert: Music on the Brink of Destruction at Wigmore Hall’, The Times, 6 January 2017

‘Music in the Holocaust, Wigmore Hall’, Classical Iconoclast, 5 January 2017 

‘Melodies saved from the Shoah’, Jewish Chronicle, 26 January 2017 

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PtJA at Holocaust Memorial Day events

PtJA members will be part of several Holocaust Memorial Day events. Here are links to them:

Leeds Holocaust Memorial Day event on 22 January, Leeds Town Hall 
Stephen Muir and members of the Clothworkers Consort

Music on the Brink of Destruction on 22 January, BBC Radio 3 
Stephen Muir, David Fligg, Lisa Peschel, Simo Muir

Performing a Holocaust Archive on 25 January, Royal Northern College, Manchester
Stephen Muir, Lisa Peschel and David Fligg

Theatre in the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto: The Survivors Speak
on 29 January, 399 Street Lane, Leeds
Lisa Peschel

Interview with Nena Kafka on 29 January, Helsinki
Simo Muir


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Music on the Brink of Destruction at Wigmore Hall

By Anna Picard

The Times, 6 January 2017 

A survey of works written and performed in Terezin and the Warsaw Ghetto

Songs sentimental and satirical, string trios and duos of brazen beauty and wistful waltzes by a tubercular child prodigy. Pulled together in little more than five weeks by musicians from the Leonore Piano Trio and the Belcea Quartet, postgraduate students at the Guildhall and a consort from Leeds University, and programmed by the historian Shirli Gilbert, Music on the Brink of Destruction was a survey of works written and performed in Terezín and the Warsaw Ghetto. Of eleven featured composers, only three survived the Holocaust.

Read the whole review here

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Newsletter issue 7

newsletter-7Our latest newsletter is now out. To read it click here

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‘Out of the Shadows’ triumphs in the Czech Republic

“Thanks to the project Performing the Jewish Archive, this music and theatre will now ‘step out of the shadows’ and again occupy its rightful place in contemporary history. It bears witness to the failure of the monstrous plans to wipe from history a whole nation and its culture.” (Michael Žantovský, Festival Patron)

In September, Prague, with its rich, yet poignant, Jewish history, became the stunning backdrop for the third of the PtJA’s international festivals. Though centred in Prague, this iteration of Out of the Shadows, or Ze stínu, as it was billed in Czech, also used historic venues in Pilsen, and an attic in the former ghetto of Terezín, to bring to light recently discovered, and neglected, Jewish music and theatre.


Jerusalem Synagogue, Prague

The interest in the Czech Republic for reanimating this repertoire, and for celebrating Jewish culture, attracted an impressive list of festival partners and sponsors. Such was the high-profile support from numerous organisations and individuals, and widespread publicity, that audience numbers were often at, or close to, capacity.

The festival’s official opening took place in the magnificent Spanish Synagogue, with the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds performing music by Hans Gál, himself displaced by Nazi persecution. Earlier in the day, the opulent Jerusalem Synagogue hosted the Consort, this time performing synagogue music from pre-war Prague, alongside songs arranged by Daniel Dobiáš based on texts by children imprisoned in Terezín.


The Loos Apartments, Pilsen

The Gál concert was repeated the following day in Pilsen’s restored Old Synagogue. That afternoon, the Musical Conservatory of Pilsen provided the lovely venue, and fabulous musicians, for ‘Fate and Fairytales’, which included world premieres of music by Gideon Klein, and by Josima Feldschuh, the young pianist incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto. That evening, a restored apartment designed by the celebrated architect Adolf Loos, and once owned by the Jewish Kraus family, was the intimate setting for ‘Jewish Cabaret from Helsinki to Terezín’.

The following evening, ‘Gideon Klein: Portrait of a Composer’ was performed in a fully-staged version directed by Kateřina Iváková, at the Prague Conservatory. It was especially appropriate and moving, staged at the institution where Klein studied, and performed by Conservatory students the same age as Klein when he was a student there. The Conservatory also hosted the following day’s performance of Finnish-born Jac Weinstein’s powerful response to Jewish suffering, ‘Mother Rachel and Her Children’, directed by Holocaust survivor Helena Glancová.


Attic theatre, Terezin

The festival’s final public event was held in the Attic Theatre at Terezín, a performance of The Fireflies, a musical originally created for children imprisoned in Terezín. Lauren McConnell from Central Michigan University reconstructed the original work, performed by students from her university. In what was one of the most moving events of the festival, it left a deep impression to see this piece return to the place where it was first staged, and to have a post-performance discussion with Terezín survivors.

There were a number of invitation-only events. The Maisel Synagogue saw the premiere of a new work specially commissioned for the festival, Daniel Chudovsky’s compelling Mikva, in a concert of ‘The Czech Musical Tradition: Persecution and Inspiration’, performed by David Danel and the wonderful Fama Quartet. The Prague Jewish Museum was the venue for an academic symposium, ‘Performing the Jewish Past’, whilst David Fligg led a guided tour of Gideon Klein’s Prague. In association with the Institute of the Terezín Initiative, the fourth annual Yom HaShoah competition for schools was held at the Gymnázium a Hudební škola.

Ze stínu involved a massive effort from many people, not just the PtJA team in the UK, USA and Australia, but also Czech-based partners. Its undoubted success, however, was in no small measure the result of the wonderful and deeply appreciated work of the festival’s co-ordinator, Zdenka Kachlova.


Click here to see videos of the performances.

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Out of the depths – the first collection of Holocaust songs


Cover of Mima’amakim, image courtesy of the Silberfeld-Sapera families

By Dr Joseph Toltz

On 19 October, Dr Joseph Toltz presented at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Musicology Colloquium Series. The title of the talk was Out of the depths: complexity, subjectivity and materiality in the first collection of Holocaust songs.  The talk focused on the first post-Holocaust songbook Mima’amakim, compiled by Yehuda Eismann in Bucharest in June 1945, a copy of which recently appeared in a private collection in Sydney, Australia. The tiny pamphlet contained songs that would become part of the canonic memorialising repertoire of the Shoah, songs that disappeared from all other written accounts, clues to the contributors and places of origin of the songs and a testimonial introduction by the compiler. In the talk, Toltz questioned the nature of a material object to open further conversations on the place of music inside and outside testimony. He also delved into the issue of the process of canonisation of a body of testimonial songs.  Toltz will be travelling to Israel in January 2017 with Dr. Anna Boucher (Department of Government and International Studies), to research contributors to the songbook.  The two scholars will work in archives at Yad Vashem, Bet Hatefusot, Bet Leyvik and the Ghetto Fighters House Museum.


Linda Dessau AM, pictured with Dr. Joseph Toltz

On 8 November, Dr Joseph Toltz was special guest at the Dunera Association Reunion in Melbourne. The Dunera Association represents the remaining survivors and descendants of the men, women and children forcibly deported from the UK on the SS Dunera in 1940, and from Singapore on the Queen Mary later that year. These people held German and Austrian papers, but many were Jewish, of Jewish descent, conscientious objectors or anti-Nazis. Despite such obvious mitigating factors, the British Government declared them all to be “hostile enemy aliens” and decided to forcibly deport them to internment camps in rural Australia.  The “Dunera Boys” as they came to be known, were released in 1942. Many returned to the UK, some migrated to the USA, but many also stayed in Australia and made enormous cultural and social contributions to the country. Toltz is researching the music of four Dunera Boys: Werner Baer, Boas Bischofswerder, Felix Werder and Walter Wurzburger, and he will present their compositions as part of the Sydney Out of the Shadows festival. The keynote speaker at the Dunera Association’s dinner was Her Excellency the Governor of Victoria, the Honourable Linda Dessau AM, who spoke about her connection to various Dunera boys in Melbourne.  The lunch also heard from trustees of the Hay Internment and Prisoner of War Camps Interpretive Centre and the Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum. Hay was the first internment camp site, an exceptionally isolated town in the Riverina district, in between Sydney and Adelaide.  Tatura was the site of the second internment camp, and is in the Goulburn Valley, 167km north of Melbourne.

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Archiving Sounds of Memory

By Katia Chronik

Cantos Cautivos (Captive Songs) is a digital archive that compiles memories of individual and collective musical experiences in centres for political detention and torture in Chile under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). Conceptualised, edited and directed by me, at its inception it was developed in collaboration with the Chilean Museum of Memory and Human Rights and as part of my broader Levehulme research project ‘Sounds of Memory: Music and Political Captivity in Pinochet’s Chile’, hosted by the University of Manchester in 2013-16.

Cantos Cautivos is the first online resource on music and dictatorship in Latin America. First launched in 2015 in Spanish, since 2016 the complete archive has been available in English too. The project uses crowdsourcing as the main method to compile content, and was created with the purpose of speeding up the process of collecting oral sources, which until then I had conducted via face-to-face interviews. Factors that make crowdsourcing challenging include ex-prisoners’ technological gaps and limited IT access, and the range of psychological barriers imposed by the archive’s format. The above highlights the need to continue engaging with contributors on an off-line basis.

At present Cantos Cautivos contains circa 130 testimonies relating to thirty political detention and torture centres, of which approximately 30% refer to songs that were partially or fully written under detention. Most entries narrate activities initiated by the inmates; a small number recount uses of music by the agents of the State. Whilst the majority of accounts are testimonies from ex-prisoners, some are voiced by their descendants, exemplifying inter-generational memory.


Chacabuco concentration camp.

The repertoire referred to in the testimonies originated in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, the former Yugoslavia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the Ukraine, the UK, Uruguay, the US and Venezuela, covering a range of popular genres including tango, bolero, cueca, cumbia, ranchera, ballad, easy listening, rock, pop, blues, chanson and cabaret, film music, anthems, marches, religious music and conservatory-tradition pieces. Among the archive’s most unique materials are recordings from Chacabuco concentration camp in the Atacama Desert, made while the musicians were detained, and accounts from Dawson Island concentration camp at the southern tip of Patagonia.

Each Cantos Cautivos entry is linked to the Museum of Memory’s website Recintos, which provides details of the 1,132 political detention and torture centres that operated under Pinochet; entries referring to the disappeared and executed are also linked to the Museum’s website Víctimas. Cantos Cautivos users are thus able to access information about the precarious conditions and repression under which musical experiences took place.

Hailed as “extraordinary” by The New Yorker critic Alex Ross, Cantos Cautivos has received wide print, radio, online and TV press coverage in the UK, USA, Spain, Chile, Argentina and Guatemala. The project is endorsed by various associations of former political prisoners, the Víctor Jara Foundation, the University of Chile’s Pro-Vice-Chancellorship for Engagement and Communications, and the Historical Memory Project (CUNY). A growing number of volunteers and Advisory Board members have contributed to the project, advising on strategies, conducting interviews, translating entries, providing copy-editing and IT support, among other tasks. Future plans include conducting ethnographic research in the regions that are still unrepresented in the archive, strengthening our media strategy, and developing school-level lesson plans around selected entries.

Visit the archive at Follow the project’s news on Twitter (@cantoscautivos) and Facebook (

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