Music soothes the savage beast, that is what Eric Vogel must have thought when he send a petition to the Commander of the Theresienstadt camp on January 8, 1943 , to start a Jazz band, named the Ghetto Swingers. The band would include the following members he noted.
Dr. Brammer (piano), Dr. Kurt Bauer (percussion), Fr. Goldschmidt (guitar), Fasal (bass), Ing. Vogel (trumpet), Langer (tenor sax and clarinet), and Fr. Mautner (trombone)
As crazy as it may seem the request was granted and the band was formed.The Jewish prisoners organized in the ghetto a lively cultural scene including jazz music.
The Jazz classic “„I Got Rhythm“ by George Gershwin became the theme tune of the band. One of the prisoners favourite song was the 1932 song Bei Mir Bistu Shein composed by Sholom Secunda. The song is better known as Bei mir bist du schön , The Andrew Sisters had a hit with the song in 1936.
The Ghetto Singers also included guitarist Coco Schumann Kurt Gerron and clarinetist Bedřich “Fritz” Weiss, who had joined later.
After being pressurized following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944
After the Red Cross inspection, Commandant Rahm instructed Gerron to make a propaganda film. Filming took place over eleven days between 16 August and 11 September 194.The Ghetto Swingers participated in this Nazi propaganda film “Theresienstadt: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area” which is also known as albeit with the erroneous name “The Fuehrer gave the Jews a city.”
After the camp closed, the members of the jazz band were sent to Auschwitz.
In Auschwitz Coco Schumann had to play for the SS hangmen, “for hours and hours every day, especially when they tattooed the new arrivals, because they considered it such boring work. Four members survived among those 4 were Vogel, Schumann and Roman
Ending this blog with the aforementioned ‘Bei Mir Bistu Shein’ played by the Ghetto Swingers.
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