Remembering Music’s Saving Powers at Auschwitz

[From The New York Times]

The cello has accompanied Anita Lasker-Wallfisch through hell and back. At age 17, she played marches in Auschwitz while prisoners burned next door. Less than a decade later, she became a founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra.

“It was always music that helped me survive [until] the next day,” Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch, the last known living member of the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz, said in a telephone interview from her home in London last month.

If it were not for her skills as a cellist, she might not have been spared in World War II. Becoming a member of the band shortly after her arrival at the concentration camp in 1942 entitled her to privileges such as extra food and ensured her eventual escape.

On Saturday, Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch, 95, is to speak about the role of music in her life at the Salzburg Festival’s lecture series “Reden über das Jahrhundert” or “Talking About the Century,” at the festival’s famous Felsenreitschule theater. (Because of her age and current risks associated with travel, she will appear by video recording.) Her speech will be framed with cello works by Paul Celan and Bach, performed live by the soloist Julia Hagen.

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