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Lost Music of the Holocaust: The Story of Recovering the Music Created in the Camps

Francesco Lotoro

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Prose: non-fiction

A great pianist and composer Francesco Lotoro has been involved for over thirty years in an epochal undertaking: building an archive of the music that survived the concentration camps.

For more than thirty years Francesco Lotoro, an Italian pianist and composer has been on an odyssey to recover music written by the inmates of Adolf Hitler's concentration camps and the gulags of Stalin's Soviet Union. Between 1933, the year of the opening of the Dachau Lager in Germany, to Stalin's death in 1953 when thousands of Soviet prisoners were released, Lotoro pieces together the human stories of survivors whose only salvation was their love of music.

Across three decades of relentless investigation, his findings as captured in Lost Music of the Holocaust are extraordinary and historically important. Lotoro unearthed over eight thousand unpublished works of music, ten thousand documents (microfilms, diaries, notebooks, and recordings on phonographic recordings), as well as locating and interviewing many survivors who in a previous life had been trained musicians and composers. Be it a symphony, an opera, a simple folk song or even a gypsy melody, Lotor has travelled the globe to track them down. Many pieces were hastily scribbled down ow whatever the composer could find: food wrappings, a vegetable sack and even a train ticket stub. To avoid discover by camp guards, Lotoro even discovered forgotten pieces of code inmates had invented to hide their real meaning - music. In many cases, the composers would be murdered in the gas chambers or worked to death, not knowing whether their music would be heard by the world. Until now.

Their stories and their music adds colour and humanity to the horrors of the Holocaust and of Stalin's oppressive rule. It is a journey into music and history that reveals a new way of telling the darkest chapters of the twentieth century whilst shining a light on the beauty that could still be created amidst the horrors endured.

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