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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife$
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Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774730

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774730.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 02 July 2022

From ‘Madagaskar’ to Sachsenhausen: Singing about ‘Race’ in a Nazi Camp

From ‘Madagaskar’ to Sachsenhausen: Singing about ‘Race’ in a Nazi Camp

(p.269) After Life From ‘Madagaskar’ to Sachsenhausen: Singing about ‘Race’ in a Nazi Camp
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

Bret Werb

Barbara Milewski

Liverpool University Press

This chapter studies the large and varied repertoire of songs created by Polish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Most common of these compositions are parodies of songs popular before the war. Drawing on well-known melodies and familiar styles such as the tango, waltz, or foxtrot, prisoners who listened to, created, and performed these songs could reclaim, if only for a moment, some part of their lost popular culture. Yet paradoxically, and as many survivors attest, these same songs, with their unsparing depictions of camp life, helped prisoners push aside thoughts of life before captivity and so preserve their mental balance during those difficult years. The chapter then looks at one parody song, ‘Heil, Sachsenhausen’, and also examines the song parodied, ‘Madagaskar’, itself a satirical consideration of the Jewish predicament in inter-war Poland. ‘Heil, Sachsenhausen’ served not only as a narrative of camp experience, but also as a darkly comic condemnation of Nazi ‘racial purity’ laws. Moreover, this parody song may have functioned as a zone of inquiry for the author's personal reflections on German-Polish and Polish-Jewish relations before and during the Second World War.

Keywords:   Polish prisoners, Nazi concentration camps, parody songs, Jewish popular culture, camp life, captivity, inter-war Poland, Nazi racial purity laws, German-Polish relations, Polish-Jewish relations

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