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This article was written by Barbara Milewski, Associate Professor of Music at Swarthmore College, and published online on the website of the OREL Foundation.
Milewski’s article deals with the life and music of Józef Kropiński, a Polish composer born in Berlin on December 28, 1913. After moving to Poland with his family, he was arrested by the Nazis for the activities he carried out against the occupation and deported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps as a political prisoner. During his detention, he was able to create and play hundreds of original compositions, some of which he carried with him when he was liberated in 1945. Life in the camps left a mark on him and unfortunetly, after the war, Kropiński was not anymore able to compose.
The author's principal concern here is to demonstrate the extent of Polish resistance in the face of Nazi oppression, especially in Warsaw and other cities of occupied Poland. During the war the chaos and terror that were an everyday part of Polish civilian life, it is indeed difficult to imagine who would risk the consequences of organizing something as seemingly frivolous as concerts of Polish music. Yet as impressive as this effort on behalf of Polish culture may have been, Poles in fact were composing new music and organizing concerts in dramatically more improbable circumstances than the article's author, in Warsaw, could have known about. In the Nazi concentration camps, the same need to preserve their cultural identity motivated Polish prisoners to engage in some of the most remarkable music-making of the World War II period.