GIR Colloquium Series | Understanding post-War Jewish refugee migration through the First Holocaust Songbook

26 October, 2017
12:00pm - 1:30pm


In the concentration camps and ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews wrote songs to maintain a sense of dignity in the face of relentless dehumanisation, pass the time, and satirise the enemy. Mostly written in Yiddish, these songs often drew upon extant Jewish folk tunes but added new messages pertinent to the harsh times and conditions. Out of the Depths: The First Holocaust Songbook provides a translation and analysis of what is believed to be the first published collection of songs written by Jews of the concentration camps of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania during the Second World War and published shortly thereafter in June 1945 by survivors near a refugee camp in Bucharest, Romania.

This seminar paper analyses and performs several of the songs from this songbook. It also draws upon original archival research in Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel and interviews conducted with remaining song authors and their descendants in Israel to trace the post-World War Two emigration of Europe’s Holocaust survivors. This research demonstrates that contrary to historical depictions of post-war Jewish refugee flows that cast such migration as facilitated by robust and established international laws, such migration was often ad hoc, illegal, dangerous and where permitted, generally on discretionary grounds.


About the speakers:

Dr Anna Boucher is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Gender, Migration and the Global Race for Talent (2016, MUP) and Crossroads: Comparative Immigration Regimes in a World of Demographic Change (forthcoming, CUP). Her current projects are on migrant worker rights and a book project on the Holocaust and subsequent Jewish emigration.

Joseph Toltz is a Research Fellow at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Artistic Director for “Out of the Shadows: rediscovering Jewish music and theatre” and co-Investigator for “Performing the Jewish Archive”, funded by the British Arts & Humanities Research Council. He is working with material of the Austrian refugee composer Wilhelm Grosz and co-authoring a book on the first collection of Holocaust songs (Indiana). Recent publications appear in Southerly (2016), Music’s Immanent Future (Routledge, 2016) and Perspectives in Artistic Research in Music (Lexington, 2017).

Location: New Law Annex Seminar Room 107, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown