Members of the camp orchestra perform in front of a barracks in the Janowska concentration camp. USHMM (78710), courtesy of Herman Lewinter.

In the suburbs of Lvov, where a huge ghetto had just been constructed, the Nazi occupying forces established an armaments factory on a street named Janowska.  The original factory, which began operation in September 1941 with several hundred labourers, was fenced in and staffed by Jewish slave labour from the nearby ghetto.  Within months, it had become an organised concentration camp where thousands of Jews were forced to work in harsh conditions. Their situation was to worsen in the spring of 1942, when Janowska expanded to became a transit camp for Jews being sent to death camps. Inmates were also often killed in the nearby quarry, and even those who were assigned to work would only survive days or weeks before being summarily slaughtered.

Given these conditions, almost no records survive of musical activity; the information that does exist relates largely to acts of musical torture on the part of the camp command.  A camp orchestra was established with Jewish musicians from Lvov.  One of the few survivors of Janowska remembered vividly the ways in which music was incorporated into the suffering of the camp’s daily life:

We had to make up songs and sing while we were going to work, and also the Brandmeister (burning master) would march in front, he was clothed like a devil; he had a special uniform with a hook in his hand and we had to march after him and sing.  Afterwards we were also joined by an orchestra which would play as we sang and accompany us on our march to work.

The orchestra was forced to perform during selections, mass shootings, and public beatings, and a composition was even commissioned to accompany these events.  In 1943, the guards gathered the orchestra for a final concert, and shot them together as they played. A few known musicians include Henryk Apter, Marek Bauer, Amelia Deicz, Jozef Frenkel, Adolf Gimpel, Jozef Hand, Yuzef Herman, Artur Hermelin, Marceli Horowitz, Willem Kristel, Tatiana Modlinger, Alfred Stadler, Eduard Steinberger, Maks Striks, and Leon Zak.


USHMM photo archive (archival information accompanying photographs)