A Song Will Save the World
Music That Survived The Holocaust
One man’s mission to save music created in concentration camps.
For the past thirty years, Francesco Lotoro, a concert pianist, composer and director from Italy, has tirelessly led a single-handed quest to find, revise, and archive thousands of works of concentrationary music. He has recovered over 8,000 scores produced in concentration, extermination, civil and military imprisonment camps that deprived people of the most basic human rights. In addition to the scores, Lotoro found 12,500 documents of musical production in the camps and 3,000 university publications of concentrationary music.
Lotoro organizes concerts worldwide, and with the help of the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation, he has created the largest concentrationary music hub in the world in his southern Italy hometown.
This music belongs to mankind, it is not mine. I’m just the person who tracked it down. It should be shared with the world again, and that means playing it as one plays any type of music, be it Chopin, jazz or country music. If we don’t play it, it will be as if it were still imprisoned in the camps.
The music proliferated in the Camps is incalculable in quantity and value. The 8,000+ scores recovered so far could one day prove to be only a fragment of what has been created in the more than twenty years that passed from the Dachau Lager to the closing of the Kolyma Gulag.
Music is the most culturally transversal element known to man. It has the unique power to cross the furrows that separate doctrines and religions and to unite the concentrationary universe under the sign of its language.
Music marks the triumph of the common human imprint over the devastating ideologies of the twentieth century.
At the epilogue of every tragic epochal event in history, from the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, scribes, drafters and monks set to work in order to save, encode, retrieve, and put to paper. In their hands, history becomes a safe of human knowledge, a vault of spiritual treasures, of a people or an entire generation.
It’s up to musicians – scribes of sound – to safeguard the canteen of musical literature that comes to us from the concentrational universe. We restore dignity to these musicians when we save their music, their most beautiful and fascinating dimension. This amounts to saving a life in its meta-historical and metaphysical sense.