Germany: New archive of music which the Nazis silenced


29 February 2008


New archive of music which the Nazis silenced

Centre for Ostracised Music aims to recover and revive the forbidden musical voices from the Nazi regime in Germany 70 years ago. Currently it holds 400 works of 50 ostracised composers, reports Deutche Welle.

The centre, Zentrum für Verfemte Musik, is based in Schwerin, a city in northern Germany, at the Schwerin Music Conservatorium. It opened in January 2008.

In an article about the centre, Deutche Welle describes how the Nazis censored music:

“Numerous Jewish musicians across Europe were forbidden from performing or publishing their compositions during the Nazi years. After the introduction of race laws in 1933, the German Music Chamber (Reichsmusikkammer) established a registry of all German musicians. As a result, many talented composers and musicians had their work deliberately suppressed because their race or style of music offended the Third Reich.

Works by renowned composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, and Arnold Schoenberg were among those forbidden by the Nazis.

As the Nazis occupied other parts of Europe, the numbers of banned musicians grew. However, many of these names are forgotten today. In some case, this is because they were murdered by the Nazis, and in others, their persecution meant they were unable to continue their creative work.”

Competitions and concerts

The Schwerin Music Conservatorium has long been active in the promotion of ostracised music: it holds an annual international ‘silenced music competition’, it organises concerts, and offers studies in the field.

Deutche Welle talked with one of the archive employees, Jennu Swensson, who explained that the search for these forbidden compositions, scores and notebooks is a difficult and time consuming process. This is because many of the banned musicians were unable to have their work published or recordings.

“You have to rely on contemporary eye witnesses or hope that their children have managed to hold onto some works,” Jennu Swensson told Deutche Welle.

The son of Italian composer Aldo Finzi donated copies of his father’s compositions to the centre, allowing the musician’s works to be reheard.

“Aldo Finzi is virtually unknown, but here in Schwerin, we have increased his visibility by showing off his work in many concerts,” Volker Ahmels, the director of the conservatorium, told Deutche Welle.

Born in 1897, Finzi came from an established Milanese Jewish family. He was considered one of the most talented young composers of his generation. But forced into hiding before being finally imprisoned by the Nazis in 1944, Finzi’s health suffered and he died of a heart attack in 1945.


Deutche Welle – 29 February 2008:

‘New German Archive Focuses on Music Silenced by the Nazis’

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