Last Tuesday we went downtown to attend a concert at Benaroya Hall, commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.
The performance was called Art From Ashes, and was produced by Music of Remembrance.
I had mixed feelings about going.
It was a wet cold day in Seattle.
The city seemed dirty.
It would be heartbreaking to listen to works by Jewish composers whose lives and legacies were cut short at the death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau.
But the music proved more poignant than heartbreaking.
These doomed artists plumbed the depths of their despair, gleaned beauty from their cruel twisted world, and imbued their swan songs with love and longing.
Each note, each word a parting glance, a declaration of love, a prayer…
“…Tearfully stolen from the distant west, a gentle pink ray on the thin twigs, settling its quiet kiss on tiny leaves..”
As Jake Heggie wrote in his song Farewell, Auschwitz, they cast off their striped clothes and held their shaved heads high. “The song of freedom upon our lips will never, never die.”
Ashamed and bewildered by the depths of depravity to which humankind has too often sunk, I also felt a fierce pride for its passion and courage and tenacious love of life that can raise art from the ashes.
Copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck
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The horrors of what cruel evil things man has done and can do are mind boggling and make my heart weep. Even our present day news offers stories that make me cringe, but I think nothing can match the days of Hitler. Without those loving acts, passionate creations, life would be – not worth it.
Sometimes it makes me reel, to think that this could have happened in such recent history. I know that it goes on still, in pockets, from tiny little personal hells to genocide, like we saw in Bosnia not so many years ago. Thank goodness there are also acts of goodness and kindness as well, and artists and musicians and humanitarians who do help us see the good and inspire us to do the same.
Very moving, Naomi. We see such evidence of horror and depravity around us, but if every act of every day were weighed in a gigantic balance scale, I believe we would be staggered to see how much more heavily the good weighed. Humans have such an enormous capacity for wonder and goodness.
I have to believe that too. Thank you so much for sharing this conversation.
It was good to go. Important to remember with music that lifts the soul. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your visit, Richard, and for sharing too.
We cannot forget about these atrocities, which somehow haven’t lessened. I’m glad you went as well, to share the reminder here. ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Tess. Thank you for your visit, and for sharing your thoughts.
You are welcome. It is sad to me that we still do such ill towards each other. What’s it going to take to learn from the past?
Sounds like an important evening and very rich. Depth is often uncomfortable, putting pressure in places that aren’t used to bearing it. Still, the massage brings about a healing that is often unexpected. Thanks for your story!
Thank you for this post, Naomi. It’s sad, but it’s reality.
Thank you for coming by and taking the time to comment. Next time I promise to share something to make you smile.
A fellow blogger of mine visited Auschwitz recently and blogged about it here:
Towards the bottom I left a comment about visiting the Holocaust Museum here in Richmond. She has two posts and I found them deeply moving.
I appreciated the somber tone of your post and the sharing of the day. I’m glad the music was uplifting as to the spirit of men and their resilience. Thanks for the pictures and taking time to write it up. I enjoy sharing your day, no matter what the topic. And this was a good one.
What a kind and comforting message. It is ALWAYS good to hear from you. I appreciate the link, and will visit your friend’s blog. I must confess that last summer we were only a few hours away from Auschwitz, but we had been to Schindler’s museum, to the Warsaw Uprising Memorial, to the World War Two Museum in Caen, and to the Holocaust Museum in Berlin, which was heartbreaking. I know people who survived the Holocaust, and others whose families did not. The Nazis murdered all my grandfather’s people at Baba Yar. Perhaps it was cowardly, but we were already so overcome with sadness that we did not go.
Thank you again for your kind words.
You’re welcome, but you owe no one an apology. I know how I felt just visiting one small museum here in Richmond (very well done, but small). I can’t imagine seeing that much of it. My family did not lose anyone – my grandparents (all of them) had already immigrated here before World War I. My paternal grandfather was Swiss and he had some pretty biting criticisms about World War II. It was only because he was here that he didn’t get called up to the Swiss army. I actually have a copy of the telegram telling him he didn’t need to report.
That’s really interesting, Nancy. I’m glad your family suffered no casualties during the war. Do you know where in Switzerland your grandfather came from? My mother’s people came from Bonfol, Switzerland in 1837.
He came from Appenzell. They were the poorest of the poor and even well into the 20th century were pretty backwards. He immigrated because as an Appenzeller, the doors in Switzerland were closed even though he had a college degree. The phrase “once an Appenzeller, always an Appenzeller” in the 1930’s meant “once a stupid, always a stupid”. He came here, worked for Henry Ford and went onto to own a very successful commercial refrigeration business.
Beautifully expressed, Naomi. When will there be none of us to whom it is real? Humans learn nothing. Care about little. But, in the midst of it all, the goodness of the human soul persists. And lives on.
It’s a miracle, George, but I do believe you are right. How are you doing, George? It’s great to hear from you.
i am always touched by your profundity.
Thank you. That means so much to me.
I’m glad you went, and found some inspiration through the music. Your last sentence speaks volumes.
Thank you, Patti. I appreciate your visit, and thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I can imagine how difficult it was to decide to go, Naomi, but it’s something we must never, ever forget! The sad thing is that Stalin killed even more people and we had to align ourselves with him to defeat the evil that was Hitler.
You are so right. It was so sad to go to Poland and learn that the end of the war was only one more milestone in Hell for the people in Eastern Europe. The Soviets waited for the Nazis to destroy all the resistance, and then they went in and got rid of the survivors–anyone who would rise up against Russian oppression. Winning the war for them only placed them under the Soviet boot heel instead of the Nazis’.
And Stalin killed millions of his own people as well.
Hi Naomi, Such a fine and lovely post, about a good day to remember the horror. We are, as you know I believe, a mixed Native and Jewish family, so we share many moments of grief about genocide. We are also practicing artists, and my wife is a musician. We have been drawn repeatedly to the music of the Holocaust. Many years ago I lived in the Pacific Northwest and was reminded all too often of the ongoing suffering of so many Native people. There is an unruly and unnerving overlap of time in so many Native places. Thank you.
There are many similarities in our family histories, although I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to grow up in America as one of the First People. My late adopted grandmother, Vi Hilbert, was an Upper Skagit elder, and as a child she was forced to go to ‘Indian School.’ What amazed me most about her was how, in spite of all the discrimination she had suffered, her heart was still so open and full of love.
Thank you so much for your visit, and for joining in on this conversation.
I always remember, from my childhood, this lovely Polish woman who worked in my favourite ice-cream parlour on the seafront on the south coast of the UK. She was the kindest, sweetest person. One day, when she was serving at the table, I caught sight of some blue numbers tattooed on her arm. Being polite, I asked my mother about them after we had left the parlour. She told me that the markings were from a prisoner of war camp. That was when I learned just how cruel people could be, yet how brave their victims. It gave me a lot to think about, because to an 8-year-old it’s hard to imagine someone being kind and sweet after going to hell and back.
Thanks, Naomi, for reminding me of that woman who may not have been a great musician or artist, but knew how to put together the most amazing ice-cream and make children smile.
That is an excellent story–thank you so much for sharing it. I was at this concert with a woman whose family fled Prague while they could, but she lost all her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. One of the composers was a friend of her father’s and he cried whenever he spoke of him. Her husband, also Jewish, said his sisters learned their numbers from reading the tattoos on his aunts’ arms. So many snippets, and each one just the tip of the iceberg.
Such cruelty is beyond belief — that human beings can do such horrendous things to one another. But if you think about it, those composers who perished in body have been immortalised in their music, so their spirit lives on to touch future generations.
I am touched by your sensitivity.
I’m sure you were so glad that you did go, Naomi. I wish you could have shared with us, some of the uplifting and inspiring music you heard. “Art from the Ashes” is such a poignant and triumphant title.
It is amazing the music survived at all. One young man was only 23 when he went to the gas chambers, but his first musical compositions were found by chance after his death, which is all we have to know him by. Thank you for visiting, and for sharing your kind response to this post.
I just finished reading a memoir of an Auschwitz survivor and then learned of the anniversary. I wonder what she did that day? Probably tried to forget. Her author interview at the end described how hard it is to remember and relive it.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have survived, especially when so many people lost everything and everyone. The Holocaust Museum in Berlin was unlike any I have been in. It was so personal, sharing the stories of whole Jewish families throughout Europe, with photographs and stories of how each one fared and what happened to those who did survive the war. There were letters that survived from Jews who did not that would break your heart. It put a face on this tragedy like no other museum I’ve been to.
Beautiful & stirring words! I am deeply touched by your share. May we only witness beauty, generosity, kindness, love & compassion from today onward & remember that light always prevails therefore there’s no need for all that suffering in the first place.
I wish the world would realize that 🙂
Thank you so much for your wise, kind and compassionate response to this post!
Beautifully done, Naomi.
Thank you, Elyse!
so inspiring Naomi!!
Thank you, Cybele!
brilliant – and it all flowed so well – and when I got to this “But the music proved more poignant than heartbreaking” – well then seeing the orange and yellow sky – you got me! I sat up and whew – beautiful flow – and sound alike a rich experience
I so appreciate your visit, and your detailed response. It helps to have such detail in a response, so that I know I have succeeded in communicating my thoughts.
🙂 – thx for saying that – have a nice week –
So well said, Naomi. Hugs, j
Thank you, Jean! Hugs right back to you!
Beautifully expressed … ❤
Hi Ana Lora! Thank you for the visit and your kind response! Your letter with the kids’ notes came today. I took your mom to the doctor this morning, and wish I’d picked up my mail first. I’m sure she would like to see the boys’ drawings too.
Wow Huge great photography Naomi 🙂
Thanks so much for the visit, and the kind word, Jake!
Your welcome Naomi 🙂
Stunning photographs taken in a special occasion, as 70 th Auschwitz’ s anniversary is!… All my best wishes, Aquileana ⭐
Thank you! Best wishes to you too.
Beautiful and inspiring Naomi. It is that inherent tenacity of the human spirit that we need to repose our faith in. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.
Thank you, Madhu!
Beautiful as always. It’s probably right that we always feel unsettled when we think of such horrors as Auschwitz.
Thank you, Kate, for your visit, and your thoughtful response. I think you are right–it is fitting that we should feel unsettled at the thought of what happened, and I hope it will keep us more aware and quicker to act the next time. I fear that cruelty to one another will always find its way to the surface, but thank goodness, so does kindness and courage.
Brave. I also would be very conflicted about going —
the passion, the pain, the beauty, the horror.
Your photos suit the post so well —
Thank you so much.
I love what you did with the pictures and text. Really moving and heartfelt. A perfect complement to the tragic subject matter.
Thank you so much, for the visit and for your thoughtful response.
So beautifully expressed… It’s hard to forget…
I appreciate your visit and your thoughtful response, Amy.
Beautifully said Naomi – and I’m sure strongly felt. I too am amazed at the strength of the human spirit when surrounded by such cruelty and despair. So few survivors remain, it is good that they will live on through their music and art.
Thank you so much for your visit and your thoughtful response.
Very moving, Naomi.
Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate your visit, and your taking the time to share your response. I have been enjoying your blog about a part of the world I have never been to, and hope to visit one day..
you’re welcome Naomi. I hope my pages help you decide whereabouts in this vast land you might want to visit.
Happy Chinese New Year! Debbie
Thank you, Debbie! I think it will truly help, and it seems to cover such a wide range of subjects.
thanks Naomi – that is very meaningful to me. I blog to bring the beauty and richness of my adopted country to the world so it makes me happy that is supporting you in some way. I plan to write more about the many diverse places in China – the ‘rivers and mountains’ section is for that – but it is a huge place, with a rich history – so a lot to cover! stay tuned 🙂
I look forward to it, Debbie!
Isn’t it marvelous how sometimes our instinct is to go to something, then we find ourselves reluctant later? The original thought is the one we must follow, this is my finding at least in life. You proved this also, Naomi.
I have often ‘dragged’ my feet, to see a film, go to a concert, do ‘the right thing,’ … the list is endless, but each time I followed my impulse pushing down my other half, I have always been so happy I did or went where I had chosen. (It really is like that ‘devil’ and ‘angel’ on each shoulder.)
This concert experience was a fantastic example of human tenacity, fierce desire to live and contribute to others. I loved the way you supported your thoughts about the songs, sharing the actual details of a few of the songs. This was very meaningful and such a wonderful post, Naomi.
My grandmother came to America as a girl, my grandfather came to America as a boy, they met while in their twenties, two different countries, but they also felt happy to be here. Leaving some sadness behind, but mainly the music you heard was of people who were seriously in pain and facing death. The triumph shown through their music would haunt me and make me change my mind on things. Certainly would take away any of my future ‘pity parties.’ smiles!
Thank you for lending a very heartfelt and thoughtful perspective on this post. I also really appreciate your sharing your family story too, which is very relevant to this conversation. Where did your grandparents come from?
A deeply moving take on the theme.
This might be one of my favorite posts of yours. I’m always amazed at your interweaving of images and text, but showing Seattle this way, in contrast to the description of the concert is resonating. Nicely done!
Reblogged this on Writing Between the Lines.
You are so brave. I would expect to be moved to tears. Even the lines you’ve quoted show the beauty within us despite the most dire circumstances. It is always the love and kindness and beauty within us that moves me.