Students Staff

16 June 2014

Brighton composer to help launch international journal The Holocaust in History and Memory

How can we keep the memory of the Holocaust alive when fewer and fewer survivors are still with us to tell us about their experiences?

What role can the Arts play in telling current and future generation about the Holocaust and fostering empathy with all its victims?

Film makers, visual artists, actors and musicians continue depicting the Holocaust, but are there risks when art replaces authentic testimony?

Brighton-based composer, writer and director Bill Smith will help launch an international academic journal focused on the Holocaust at the Latest MusicBar in Brighton on Sunday 22 June.

The Holocaust in History and Memory is published annually by the University of Essex and this year features articles from across the world reflecting on the Arts and the Holocaust. Mr Smith has contributed a piece discussing his work with The Life and Death Orchestra, which has received wide acclaim for setting to music the poetry of Holocaust survivors, among them author Elie Wiesel and Tadeusz Bororowski, a member of the Polish anti-Nazi resistance movement.

The Life and Death Orchestra has developed a close link with the Journal's editor Professor Rainer Schulze since the Orchestra played at the University of Essex's Holocaust Memorial Week in 2011 and again in 2013, and a CD of its work is included with the journal.

Professor Schulze said: “The question of the role of the arts is becoming all the more important as almost 70 years since the end of the Nazi regime and the liberation of the camps, the number of survivors who can speak about what happened to them with the authenticity of those who lived through the Holocaust is getting smaller almost by the day. Indeed from some of the victim groups, there is already no known survivor to bear witness, most importantly from the persecuted disabled people.

“This means the work of artists such as The Life and Death Orchestra takes on ever greater significance and importance.

“Speaking and interacting with survivors has always been inspirational, in particular for the younger generation, and has been paramount to the shaping of Holocaust memory and for the rebutting of Holocaust deniers.

“While their voices are not lost – most Holocaust museums and memorial sites have collected audio and video interviews with survivors which are screened in the exhibitions or can be listened to or viewed by visitors, while other organisations have extensive collections of testimonies – will these recordings have the same impact as actual meetings with survivors? Can art created about the Holocaust – like the performances by the Life and Death Orchestra - help to keep the legacy of the survivors alive?”

Mr Smith said: “Tadeusz Borowski’s slender volume of short stories, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, occupies a place apart in Holocaust literature, Borowski believed that an artist’s role was to tell the truth. And if you know the truth, you can learn what to do.”

Other contributors to the Journal include Antony Penrose, son of wartime photographer Lee Miller; Essex-based artist Robert Priseman; and founder and artistic director of Hamburg-based costa compagnie Felix Meyer-Christian. The journal also includes poetry alongside academic contributions from the UK, United States, Germany and Israel analysing the role of art from the depiction of the Holocaust in Hollywood films and Soviet Cinema through to modern art.

Two special supplements published with the Journal include the script from Meyer-Christian's The Earthquake in Chile Or The Prisoners of Stutthof and the CD Songs For the Betrayed World: Holocaust Survivors' Poetry set to Music by The Life and Death Orchestra.

Launch details: Sunday 22 June, 6pm to 9pm, Latest MusicBar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN1 4GH.

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