Stories of Music with Cantor Sarah Myerson: Musical Journeys Through the Holocaust

Back to On-demand

Stories of Music with Cantor Sarah Myerson: Musical Journeys Through the Holocaust



How does music reflect the American Jewish experience? What does Jewish music tell us about our identities and history? Join us to explore these questions and more through Stories of Music, an adult education project of the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where you will have the opportunity to learn with top faculty from UCLA and the Cantors Assembly.

This Unit: Musical Journeys Through the Holocaust [Unit 6]

Music as Comfort, Inspiration & Collective Memory

Under even the most difficult of circumstances music continued to be composed. Music provided inspiration, comfort and was an outlet for self-expression and resistance. In the post-Holocaust world, music has played a vital role in creating and maintaining collective memory. This lesson will explore some of the musical activities that took place during the Holocaust, and the ways that Jews have collectively remembered the Holocaust through music.

Through this class the learner will understand that:

  • Artistic creation did not stop during the Holocaust
  • Music played several roles during the Holocaust, including serving as a form of/in support of the resistance; as forced labor; and, simply for the sake of making music
  • Music created during the Holocaust continues to play a significant role in the ongoing memorialization/remembrance of the Holocaust.
  • Music created during the Holocaust and music influenced by the Holocaust serve to create and maintain “collective memory.”
  • Music created during the Holocaust has expanded beyond the Holocaust itself, to be incorporated more generally in moments of memorial and remembrance. (ie. poems of Hannah Senesh put to music used regularly in funerals.)
  • The Holocaust has influenced the development of liturgical and art music in the post-Holocaust era as a form of ongoing remembrance and memorial.

Learners will listen to music created both during WWII and after the war.  They will be introduced to music created in concentration camps and music used by the resistance. They’ll explore the role that humorous and satirical music played. And, they’ll hear music composed in response to the Holocaust that was written post-war.

Along the way, they’ll be asked questions such as:

  • What roles do you think music played for Jews and others oppressed by the Nazi’s?
  • Why do you think that, under such difficult circumstances, people continued to compose and perform music?
  • How might music be a form of “resistance”?
  • How do compositions composed after the war differ from those composed during the war?
  • What role does music play in the creation of “collective memory”?

The Stories of Music curriculum is developed in partnership with the Cantors Assembly, the American Conference of Cantors, and our colleagues at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. Our goal is to provide prepared lesson materials on a broad range of musically related topics to engage participants in adult education programs to think about the American Jewish experience through stories of the evolving nature of Jewish music.

This program is made possible by the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.