The DP Orchestra with Leonard Bernstein, May 10th 1948
The young and uprising musician Leonard Bernstein heard oft he small „Orkester fun der Szeerit Hepleitah“. Being Jewish himself, he wanted to visit the survivors in the DP-camps near Munich.
On his explicit wish he arranged and organized a concert on May 10, 1948 at the DC Camp Feldafing and Landsberg together with the surviving musicians.
Impressed by the small orchestra, whose cast was mainly a result of chance and which only played pieces of music whose scores were preserved by Holocaust survivors, he conducted the orchestra from the piano. On Leonard Bernstein‘s request, they only performed Yiddish or Hebrew songs.
In addition to the Holocaust survivors from the DP-camps, there also were about 100 members of the Munich state-opera orchestra in the audience.
They admired the work of Leonard Bernstein and thus had followed him to Landsberg.
Moved by the concert, they laid down flowers onto the podium. But they weren’t the only ones touched by the concert. Apart from the audience and the musicians of the small orchestra, Leonard Bernstein himself was deeply moved. He never forgot that day.
After the concert, the musicians presented him with a concentration-camp uniform as a tribute. He was touched by the present and brought it back to New York with him.
“My mother said it was incredible, moving. For a brief moment in time,
Leonard Bernstein made them feel they could leave behind the hell they had lived through
and soar into the magical world of music they loved so much.
He left an indelible mark on her soul as well as an amazing legacy.”
Vivian Reisman about the orchestra’s experience playing with Bernstein.
Source: Beker, Sonia Pauline, “Symphony on Fire”; New Milford: The Wordsmithy, 2007.
Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sonia Beker