Rare recordings of Holocaust survivors recovered after decades

"It’s a bit like hearing the voice of a ghost. Here are voices that have been silent for 70 years."

June 19, 2017 16:27
1 minute read.

Long-silenced songs of Holocaust survivors are rediscovered

Long-silenced songs of Holocaust survivors are rediscovered


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A long-missing reel of Holocaust survivors recorded singing after World War II were recently rediscovered at the University of Akron in Ohio, PBS reported last week.

The songs were part of a collection of testimonies recorded over 70 years ago by Chicago-based psychologist David Boder following the liberation of Nazi camps in Europe. The mysterious wire recordings were delivered to the American university in 1967, and remained unheard for decades.

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"Scholars were telling us that there was a missing reel. There was a reel of songs that were sung to Boder by Holocaust survivors in a camp in France after the war," Akron Professor David Baker told PBS affiliate WVIZ 'ideastream' in Cleveland. "We had a box of reels, and scholars would ask from time to time, do you know what’s on those? And we had to say, no, we don’t."

Therefore, media specialist Jon Endres and his colleague James Newhall spent three year building a mid-century-style playback machine from spare parts that would transmit the audio stored on the spools of thin silver wire.

By reproducing the outdated audio technology, the Akron scholars were able to emit a set of hauntingly somber Yiddish songs sung by Jews who had survived the harrowing ordeals of the Holocaust.

The songs were understood to have been recorded around 1946 at a displaced persons camp some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Paris.

Baker, the director of Akron's Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, said two of the uncovered songs were sung by a woman named Guta Frank, who had survived several ghettos in Poland and forced-labor work.

One song, translated to "Our village is burning," was adapted by the composer's daughter to inspire Jews in the Krakow ghetto to rebel against the Nazis, Frank discusses in introducing the song in the recording.

"It’s a bit like hearing the voice of a ghost. Here are voices that have been silent for 70 years," Baker said. "And, all of a sudden, they’re singing. And they’re singing to us."

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