(Music credit: Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony)
Imagine it’s Nazi Germany, 1933. Jews are turned out from almost all professions, including the performing arts. A group of Jewish musicians write a proposal to Joseph Goebbels’s Office of Propaganda and Enlightenment, asking to set up a cultural organization that allows Jews to perform symphonies, operas, and dramas, for Jewish-only audiences. Goebbels, sensing an international propaganda coup, accepts. This really happened.
From 1933-1941, the Jewish Kulturbund (Jüdischer Kulturbund), consisting of thousands of members at its peak, performed in 42 theatres across Germany. When the Kulturbund closed, some members emigrated or went into hiding, most were sent to the camps. This is a little-known story of the power of music, resiliency of the human spirit, and will to survive.
The Jüdische Kulturbund Project will share the story of the Kulturbund in various platforms. We will hear the words of and music played by Kulturbund and see the performances that were a part of their repertoire in “Singer”, a dramatic feature film that takes us to Berlin and the Kulturbund theatre in the 1930s. Through the eyes of the actors and musicians who portray Kulturbund and contemporary artists in our multimedia play “Playing for Life: Art Under Tyranny”, the story of the Kulturbund will come alive and show relevance in our world that continues to struggle with oppression. The public programs present first-hand accounts, images, and music of Kulturbund artists. Our education program encourages empathy and understanding of the issues of artists living under oppression and how they respond through their art. These initiatives and others will continue the legacy of the Kulturbund and show how their story is relevant today.