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  • Scott Williamson

Jewish Music in the 20th c., Part 2

Temple Emanuel, Roanoke

Per request, here are some images and notes from my presentation at Temple Emanuel on Jewish Music in the Nazi era.

Jewish Music in the 20th Century | Temple Emanuel | October 2018 | Scott Williamson, DMA

2. Entartete Musik (“Degenerate Music”): Music and the Third Reich

Intro | Schoenberg & Musical Modernism | Terezin | Kurt Weill in Exile

Berlin Cabaret in the early 20th c.

Introduction: German Jews and music from Wagner (1813-1883) to Mahler (1860-1911)

  • Vienna, Leipzig, Berlin: Jewish cultural capitals

  • Wagner to Mahler: Assimilation and the rise of Nationalism

Arnold Schoenberg in the "Degenerate Music" catalogue

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) & the “Second Viennese School”

  • Vienna: Secessionism & Expressionism [cf: Schiele portrait vs. Monet/Renoir]

  • Schoenberg’s evolution & his “school” [Verklärte Nacht and The Woman in Gold]

  • Schoenberg’s teshuva (return): Moses & Aron; Jacob’s Ladder, Survivor from Warsaw, Kol Nidre, Psalms (projected series of “Modern Psalms”) his unfinished works = inexpressible, unutterable...

  • “Degenerate Music”: the next/latest purge


Terezin / Theresienstadt: the “front” or “show” camp outside Prague

  • Composers and artists in the “show-camp” way-station before Auschwitz

  • Art as propaganda: Concert for the International Red Cross

  • Yizkor: “Songs of Terezin,” a legacy of musical memory

An image from Brundibar, a children's opera written and performed at Terezin

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) in Exile | Berlin to Paris to NY & Hollywood

Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill

Recommended reading:

  • Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, Michael Haas.

  • Music in the Third Reich, Erik Levi

  • Speak Low: The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

  • Schoenberg and His World, ed. Walter Frisch


  • Making Light in Terezin: A Documentary on Art vs. Death

  • Defiant Requiem (PBS)

  • Moses und Aron (Belair)

Arnold Schoenberg: Kol Nidre (September, 1950)

RABBI/Speaker: "The Kabalah tells a legend: At the beginning God said: "Let there be light!" Out of space a flame burst out. God crushed the light to atoms. Myriad of sparks are hidden in our world, but not all of us behold them. The self-glorious, who walks arrogantly upright, will never perceive one; but the meek and modest, eyes downcast, he sees it—"A light is sown for the pious."

Bischivo Schel Malo Uvischivo Schel Mato. In the name of God, we solemnly proclaim that every transgressor, be it that he was unfaithful to Our People because of fear, or misled by false doctrines of any kind, out of weakness or greed: we give him leave to be one with us in prayer tonight. A light is sown for the pious, a light is sown for the repenting sinner.

All vows, oaths, promises, and plights of any kind, wherewith we pledged ourselves counter to our inherited faith in God, Who is One, Everlasting, Unseen, Unfathomable, we declare these null and void. We repent that these obligations have estranged us from the sacred task we were chosen for.

CHOIR: We repent…"

Schoenberg: Modern Psalm No. 1 (September, 1950)

"Oh Thou my God, all peoples praise Thee and assure Thee of their veneration, but what can it mean to Thee whether I too do so or not? Who am I to believe that my prayer is necessary? When I say 'God,' I know that I am speaking of the Only, Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Unimaginable, of whom I neither can nor should make an image. Of whom I have neither the right nor the possibility of making a demand, and who can answer my most fervent prayer or disregard it. And nevertheless I pray, as all that lives prays, and yet I beg that I may receive forgiveness, wonders, and plenitude. And nevertheless I pray, for I do not wish to be deprived of the happiness afforded by the sense of unity, of union with Thee, O Thou my God. Thy grace has given us prayer as a link with Thee, a link which brings blessedness, like a rapture which gives us more than any fulfillment. . . .

Weill's prophetic 1937 "opera-oratorio"

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