(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 and current-day artists response to oppression in various platforms. In development are Artivists, Art Against Oppression, a traveling museum exhibition and immersive technology and virtual reality experience; the feature documentary film Bullets to Books, which tells the story of one man's mission to "change the minds of bullets to books: in an effort to bring peace to South Sudan and the world; Hannah's Dance, a drama and dance performance that tells the story of the last dance of the Kulturbund in August 1939; Singer, a dramatic feature film that takes us to Berlin and the Kulturbund theatre in the 1930s; The Opus, a play with music, a fictional story based in part on the life of Gideon Klein; and The Ring Project, a multimedia production inspired by Nathan the Wise's Ring Parable. Our 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.

 

More About the Project
Exploring Issues of Oppression
Education Program
Artivists — The Exhibition
Bullets to Books — The Feature Documentary Film
Hannah's Dance — The Performance
Remembering the Jews of Greece — The Music Performance
Singer — The Dramatic Feature Film
The Ring Project — The Multimedia Play
Public Program Events
Project Team

4 Comments

  1. Mary Jane Doerr
    November 12, 2016

    I am doing research on Viennese violinist Hugo Gottesmann. He was fired from his positions as Concertmaster and Conductor of the Vienna Symphony and conductor of the RAVAG because he was Jewish. He was finally able immigrate to the US and joined the Busch Quartet as a violist. I was wondering if the project has any information on him. Born Leopoldstadt in 1896 and died in Ft. Wayne Ind. 1970. Thank you. Mary Doerr

    Reply
    • Gail Prensky
      November 13, 2016

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we do not know of Hug Geottesmann. The Kulturbund is specific to Jewish artists living in Germany during the Nazi era.

      Reply
  2. jo f brown
    February 11, 2020

    Dear Gail-
    The widow of Adolph (Eddie) Friedlander, who was the administrator of the Kuturbund, Margot Friedlander, is well and living in Berlin for the past 11 or so years. I think I met you 20 or so years ago at 92Y in NYC or at least had a conversation with you about your work.

    Margot worked as a seamstress for the Kuturbund and knew Adoph ( several years her senior) but later on, they “reset” in Terazin where they were married at the end of the War.

    Best wishes,

    Jo Brown

    Reply
    • Gail Prensky
      February 12, 2020

      Hi Jo,

      I am happy to report that Margot’s story is in our Kulturbund collection. I filmed an interview with Margot years ago and was in touch with her after she moved to Berlin. I love telling people that among those we interviewed, one was Margot Friedlander, a seamstress who repurposed costumes for use in various Kulturbund productions.

      If you like, please take a look at a sample of her interview on our shared story page of Kulturbund interviews.

      https://www.judischekulturbund.com/the-artists/

      Good to hear from you.

      Gail

      Reply

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