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Auschwitz music winner

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-05-08



A BBC 2 programme that looked at the music at Auschwitz has won a Bafta award for Best special factual.

Holocaust - a music memorial film from Auschwitz was broadcast in January 2005 as part of the 60th anniversary to mark the liberation of the Nazi death camp. The 90 minute programme, which previously had won an International Emmy, revealed the way in which music was used throughout the camp both how inmates performed for each other as well as for the Nazis.

The programme also showed three survivors from the orchestra and revealed their stories as well as having music performed by musicians around the world including Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov.

According to Ben Weston, producer of the programme, it was a challenge to make it and get everything to come together. Weston also reflected on the fact that the programme featured an opera from a composer who died in the gas chambers before seeing it ever performed.

"Perhaps the day that brought it all home was when we filmed the end of The Emperor of Atlantis, an opera written in the Terezín concentration camp by Viktor Ullmann and which is itself a thinly veiled allegory of the Holocaust," said Weston of the making of the programme. "The opera was never performed in his lifetime and Ullmann was later transported to Auschwitz and sent to the gas chambers in October 1944.  We filmed the end of his opera, a chorale extolling the respect mankind should have for the dignity of normal death, in Auschwitz almost 60 years to the day that he died.  After each take, I found myself asking: what would Ullmann make of what we are doing here today?  I drew some small comfort from the music that we were doing the right thing."