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KHC/NEH 2014-2015 Colloquium: Testimony across the Disciplines: Cultural and Artistic Responses to Genocide: Culture as Survival: Music and Theater in the Nazi Concentration Camps and Ghettos

Testimony across the Disciplines: Cultural and Artistic Responses to Genocide

Event Information

Culture as Survival: Music and Theater in the Nazi Concentration Camps and Ghettos
Wednesday, September 17, 2014, at 12pm   —    
SPEAKERS: Dr. Barbara Milewski, Swarthmore College, and Dr. Lisa Peschel, University of York, England

Video of Event

Event Description

Barbara Milewski is Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music and Dance at Swarthmore College. A Polish music specialist, she has lectured extensively on music of the concentration camps, and Polish musical memory. Recently she has explored narratives of Polish/Jewish identity in the music of Polish films created in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Her scholarship has appeared in 19th-century Music, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 19th-century Music Review, and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. With Bret Werb she also researched and produced the compact disc, Aleksander Kulisiewicz: Ballads and Broadsides. Her translations of Polish songs for that recording, as well as for Thomas Pasatieri's song cycle Letter to Warsaw, and Paul Schoenfield's Camp Songs, have brought wider attention to the remarkable repertoire of topical songs created in the Nazi camps. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships and prizes awarded by Fulbright, the American Musicological Society, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, and the Kosciuszko Foundation. Most recently she was awarded a Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. Her latest essay, "Remembering the Concentration Camps: Aleksander Kulisiewicz and his Concerts of Prisoners’ Songs in the Federal Republic of Germany,” will appear this fall in Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music, and Postwar German Culture, ed. by Tina Frühauf and Lily Hirsch. She is currently at work on a book-length study that explores Krystyna Żywulska's musical-poetic activities in Auschwitz-Birkenau. For this event, Dr. Milewski will examine a selection of Żywulska's camp songs and the various contexts in which they were created. She will also consider the extent to which the stylistic qualities of these works lent Żywulska 's post-war literary and artistic efforts their force in a Poland forever changed by the Holocaust and the insanity of a Soviet-imposed Communist regime. 

Lisa Peschel is a noted scholar of theatrical performances in the Terezín Ghetto during the Holocaust and the Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Dr. Peschel will share some of her most recent findings from her book, Continuity in Diaspora: Theatrical Performance in the Terezín Ghetto. She will speak about how she began to investigate theatrical performance in the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto, including her early research in the KHRCA at QCC. She will then discuss recently rediscovered scripts of comic theatrical performances by Czech and Austrian Jews in the WWII Jewish Ghetto at Terezín (in German, Theresienstadt). She will argue that these performances functioned as social process of "working through" that may have kept the prisoners from developing traumatic stress disorders in the face of potentially traumatizing events: theatrical performance provided the prisoners with an opportunity to "rewrite" the events into humorous and thus psychologically manageable narratives. In this way, performances functioned as a sophisticated coping mechanism within the chaotic and dangerous environment of the ghetto. After a discussion of the history of the ghetto and of the scripts, Dr. Peschel  will divide students into small groups and provide each group with an excerpt of a script. Their task will be to create a brief performance of the excerpt that uses framing devices (program notes, a brief spoken or performed introduction, running commentary on the script, etc.) to make the performance understandable to spectators who do not know the history of the ghetto.  The colloquium will end with a presentation of the students' performances.


For more information about this play, visit the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York.