The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Holocaust survivor makes symphony debut with Ma; plays duet of song written in Nazi camp

  • Print

BOSTON - A 90-year-old Holocaust survivor made his orchestral debut with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Tuesday to benefit a foundation dedicated to preserving the work of artists and musicians killed by the Nazis.

Ma and George Horner received floral bouquets and a standing ovation from the audience of about 1,000 people in Boston's Symphony Hall. They appeared to enjoy their evening, chatting briefly between numbers and walking off the stage hand-in-hand after taking a bow together.

Before the performance, Ma and Horner met and embraced ahead of a brief rehearsal. Ma thanked Horner for helping the Terezin Music Foundation, named for the town of Terezin, site of an unusual Jewish ghetto in what was then German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Even amid death, disease and hard labour, Nazi soldiers there allowed prisoners to stage performances.

They played music composed 70 years ago when Horner was incarcerated.

"It's an extraordinary link to the past," said concert organizer Mark Ludwig, who leads the foundation.

Horner played piano and accordion in the Terezin cabarets, including tunes written by fellow inmate Karel Svenk. On Tuesday, Horner played two of Svenk's works solo — a march and a lullaby — and then teamed up with Ma for a third piece called "How Come the Black Man Sits in the Back of the Bus?"

Svenk did not survive the genocide. But his musical legacy has, due in part to a chance meeting of Ludwig, a scholar of Terezin composers, and Horner, who never forgot the songs that were written and played in captivity.

Still, Ludwig found it hard to ask Horner to perform pieces laden with such difficult memories.

"To ask somebody who ... played this in the camps, that's asking a lot," said Ludwig.

Yet Horner, a retired doctor who lives near Philadelphia, readily agreed to what he described as a "noble" mission. It didn't hurt that he would be sharing the stage with Ma — even if he thought Ludwig was joking at first.

"I told him, 'Do you want me to swallow that one?'" Horner recalled with a laugh. "I couldn't believe it because it's a fantastic thing for me."

Ma said before the performance that he hoped it will inspire people to a better future.

"I grew up with the words, 'never again,'" said Ma, who was born 10 years after the end of World War II revealed the scope of the Holocaust. "It is kind of inconceivable that there are people who say the Holocaust didn't exist. George Horner is a living contradiction of what those people are saying."

He said Horner was able to survive "because he had music, because he had friends, because the power of music could fill in the empty spaces."

"To me George Horner is a huge hero, and is a huge inspiration," Ma said. "He is a witness to a window, and to a slice of history, that we never want to see again, and yet we keep seeing versions of that all over the world. I hope we are inspired by that and we keep that memory forever."

Horner was 21 when he was freed by Allied soldiers in 1945 after being imprisoned at Terezin, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. His parents and sister perished in the camps.

And though his back still bears the scars of a Nazi beating, he remains spry and seems much younger than his 90 years.

When Horner found out about the duet with Ma, Ludwig said, "He was so excited, to me he sounded like a teenager."

___

Associated Press writer Kathy Matheson contributed to this report from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuary Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google