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Yale Releases Music Drawn from Holocaust Testimonies

Yale’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies holds more than 4,400 testimonies comprising 12,000 recorded hours of videotape. The testimonies were produced in cooperation with 36 affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel.

The Archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies were recorded in whatever language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions).

The Yale collection includes many instances of survivors sharing songs and poems that capture aspects of their experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust. Yale News reports that the archive is making a collection of these songs and poems available with music composed and arranged by Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch, a musician and ethno-musicologist.

Stephen Naron, the director of the Fortunoff Archive explained to Yale News that:

The pieces were written in the camps collectively. The prisoners wrote the song lyrics and set them to a melody from a popular tune. There’s a great irony in that these are beautifully melodic songs, but the lyrics can be very dark and brutal. They are songs about hunger and struggle and being beaten by guards.

The first batch of recordings are available now on the archive’s website. A full album of songs is slated for release later this year.

The recordings are also available for free on Soundcloud.

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