Alek Volkoviski was just 11 years old when the ghetto where he was living in Lithuania announced a music competition. The young musician entered a lullaby, “Shtiler, Shtiler,” that would both win the competition and become one of the best-loved songs of the time.
The Toledo community will have an opportunity to take in “Shtiler, Shtiler,” as well as other emotional melodies composed in ghettos and concentration camps, in a premiere performance on Wednesday. Never Again: Music Out of the Ashes promises an hour of music and education, appropriately tied this week to the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of violent anti-Semitic pogroms that wracked Germany and its occupied territories in 1938.
Kristallnacht is recognized as a turning point in anti-Semitism in Europe, ultimately tipping Germany toward the Holocaust, said Hindea Markowicz, director of the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center in Toledo.
What: Never Again: Music Out of the Ashes
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Congregation B’nai Israel, 6525 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania
Information or RSVP: 419-517-8400
“This gave them the legitimization to say, ‘This is what’s going to take place,’ ” she said.
Never Again: Music Out of the Ashes is the brainchild of Sara Jobin, who collaborated with other performers on the project over the last year independently of her work as resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. She said she hopes the upcoming performance is the first of many in the United States and, in September, plans to stage it outside the concentration memorial site in Dachau, Germany, where she first conceived the idea in September, 2016.
Ms. Jobin was in Dachau to participate in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor in memory of Noorunisa Inayat Khan, an Indian princess and British spy who died there during World War II.
“What I realized when I came home was that the voices of the Jewish composers” – she clarified that the composers were not necessarily professionals, but people who lived and died in the camps – “that’s the music that needed to be sounded there.”
Finding that music proved surprisingly easy, she said, crediting as “amazing” the research that has been done in this field over the past 20 years. Never Again will be performed with piano and voice, featuring Ms. Jobin as pianist, Carol Dusdieker as soprano, Aleks Romano as mezzo soprano, and Lauraine Carpenter as narrator.
The free performance is at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel, 6525 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania. Congregation B’nai Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo are co-sponsors.
“Shtiler, Shtiler” could strike a particularly emotional chord among the evening’s selections. Its young composer survived the Holocaust and, today, goes by Professor Alexander Tamir at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, as concert organizers were delighted to discover.
Mr. Tamir will share comments during the performance by way of a video recorded by a congregation member, Hedva Romanoff, who happened to be traveling to Israel just days after concert organizers made contact with the elderly musician.
Ms. Jobin said the performance is intended to offer a historical context on the rise of Nazism, pointing out that, while most Americans know about the history of the Holocaust, “we’re not always taught the small, incremental steps that were taken to enable the Holocaust to happen.”
Kristallnacht represents one of those steps. Ms. Jobin said it will be referenced in an opening selection.
The Nov. 9-10, 1938, assault on Jewish temples and businesses was nominally sparked by the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris, by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew whose parents were among the thousands of Poles recently expelled from Germany. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is credited with instigating the pogroms, which left approximately 90 Jews dead and 30,000 in custody.
Kristallnacht translates to Night of Crystal, or more commonly Night of Broken Glass, a reference to shattered windows.
Perpetrators were not prosecuted in the aftermath of the attacks, a point Ms. Markowicz of the resource center said revealed the “rampant anti-Semitism that fueled this violence.” In fact, the German government actually imposed a fine, equivalent to approximately $400 million, on the German Jewish community and confiscated insurance payouts to Jewish business owners and homeowners.
While the day is typically recognized in some way in synagogues, this is often to a lesser extent than Yom Hashoah, the day in April set aside by the Israeli government to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Bennett Romanoff, who chaired the organizing committee for the concert, said the upcoming performance stands out because the Toledo Jewish community has not, in the past, typically recognized Kristallnacht with a community-wide event.
Mr. Romanoff and Ms. Markowicz, who educates schoolchildren through her position with the resource center, each said it’s important to remember the events of Night of Broken Glass.
“We need to stand up and make sure that we know what happened,” Ms. Markowicz said. “You can only learn from history so that it never ever happens again — and it could happen again.”
Ms. Jobin spoke similarly, relating the same lesson to the theme of the performance.
“Never again should Jews be treated this way,” she said. “And never again should anybody, anywhere, be treated this way.
“Right now the Rohingya Muslims [in Myanmar],” she continued, trailing off. “Never again should people in Syria be treated this way. Never again should black people in the United States be treated this way. Never again should anyone be treated this way.
“That’s the theme of the concert,” she said. “Never again for everybody.”
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.