Named after Wolf Durmashkin

Named after Wolf Durmashkin

Wolf Durmashkin came from a Jewish-Polish musician family from today’s Vilnius, Lithuania. On the other hand, the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg or Tchaikovsky was cultivated in the family. Wolf Durmashkin directed the Vilnius Symphony Orchestra, was a chorus, but also composed. After the German occupation in 1941 his activities were limited to ghetto and concentration camps. He was separated from the family and died in 1944 one day before the liberation by the Red Army in an Estonian concentration camp, which had lit the SS. Durmashkin is portrayed in the relevant literature as an outstanding character.

The orchestra

His sisters Henia (singer) and Fania (pianist) were deported to the KZ outside camp in Kaufering/ Landsberg, where they were sent to the death march to Dachau. Four weeks after their liberation, the St. Ottilien DP Orchestra was founded, which consisted of a handful of musicians and dissolved in 1948/49 with the emigration of its members to America and Israel. Other musicians were, B. Isma Rosmarin, a pianist who exchanged his “handclavier”, an accordion, on the death march through Landsberg for two loaves of bread so as not to starve.

Like Rosmarin, the conductor Micha Hofmekler also came from the Lithuanian Kaunas, was also a concentration camp in Landsberg, the three Borstein brothers were trumpeter and violinist, like Max Beker or Chaim Arbeitman, who later became David Arben and became a member of the Philadelphia Philharmonics. Other musicians such as George Horvath came from Hungary to join the DP orchestra of St. Ottilien. A reflection of the range between Jewish-cultural tradition and classical music is the program of May 10, 1948, conducted by Leonard Bernstein in Landsberg, a far-away Anatevka romanticism.

It was made during the regime of the National Socialists to resist spiritual-artistic resistance. After the liberation, it was also a goal of the orchestra to make a contribution to the trauma processing for the survivors in the DP camps, a survival instrument in the truest sense of the word.

Compared to other concentration camps, musicians were often considered privileged: the Nazis loved music. However, they had to play not only to build their tormentors. Music was also used to distract the cries of executions, or to drown them out. On the way to an execution, for example, musicians were forced to intonate “Hänschen klein”. A survival guarantee was not the status as a musician, however, as the example of Wolf Durmashkin shows.

It is therefore necessary to differentiate between music from one’s own motives and interests-between despair, humiliation, and hope-as well as that which was desired or ordered by the National Socialists.

In Kaufering / Landsberg, this partial preferential treatment was only conditionally applied. Survivors describe the time between summer 1944 and April 1945 as the worst thing they had experienced.

Abba Naor, the successor of Max Mannheimer as spokesman for the International Dachau Committee, who sang for the SS in Kaunas, says today:

“In Kaufering the Nazis have robbed my soul.”

They were all witnesses of torture and shooting in the eleven concentration camp camps, who were victims of their own family or close friends, former neighbors, acquaintances. In spite of these tortures, some artists still had the power to write poems or compositions, and to sing secretly, such as the International, even if they were not Communists.