Art kept Holocaust victims alive

April 30, 2014 Agencies
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World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer has noted the importance of the arts to the persecuted Jews in Nazi Europe. “The will to make art kept alive for a few more days countless Jews imprisoned in ghettos and camps,” Singer said. “The art that Jews made lifted the spirits of those who heard the music of ghetto orchestras or saw a drawing scratched out in charcoal on a barracks’ wall. It was the finest kind of spiritual resistance.”

Robert Singer

Robert Singer

Singer addressed a packed audience at “Learning About the Holocaust Through the Arts,” a UN program to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28, which featured presentations by accomplished artists in the fields of dance, literature, film, and music, including choreographer Steven Mills of Ballet Austin, author Nava Semel, actress Olympia Dukakis, Professor Olga Gershenson of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, philanthropist and arts patron Clive Marks, and Shirli Gilbert of World ORT.

The event, co-sponsored by the UN Department of Public Information, the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, and World Jewish Congress, drew more than 500 attendees, a cross-section of the international community, including diplomats, dignitaries, and arts educators and students from 30 universities.

’Today’s neo-Nazis use art to attract followers’

In his speech, Singer drew a line from the Nazi propaganda of the last century to similar efforts by today’s neo-Nazi movements. “Hitler’s heirs, the European neo-Nazis, still use art to attract followers,” Singer said. “Hungarian far rightists erect statues to honor the antisemitic politicians of World War II. Skinheads front all kinds of rock, rap and metal bands.”

Marks and Gilbert presented on the World ORT Music during the Holocaust Project, one of the premier web-based educational resources on the Holocaust era. Singer had overseen the project as head of World ORT, a WJC affiliate. The music project contains information about and recordings of songs and compositions composed in the ghettos and camps of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the recordings they played brought tears to the eyes of the audience.

Singer said that the arts could help human beings grasp the Holocaust’s crimes against humanity and the Jewish people and could enrich young people’s understanding of the Holocaust, which for them happened in a distant past. And he expressed the hope that the arts could educate the rising generation about the dangers of hatred and promote peaceful coexistence among peoples and nations.

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, the UN under-secretary-general for Communications and Public Information; Ambassador David Roet, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to UN, also gave remarks.

Robert Singer spoke at the United Nations in New York .


One Response to “Art kept Holocaust victims alive”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    I must mention here a well known ( by some !!) Jewish artist of the Holocaust, Bill Spira !! A distant relative of mine, one of my Grand Mothers was a Spira ex Moravia. Last year I met Bill Spira’s daughter and grand son at a family reunion in Vienna and saw some of his war/concentration camp drawings. His character was in a movie played by none other than a famous Jewish actor whose name escapes me now…… know the guy from Catch 22 , not Gould, the other one….

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