Edited By Wojciech Klimczyk and Agata Świerzowska
The Functions of Music within the Nazi System of Genocide in Occupied Poland
Introduction. The Social, Psychological, Ethical, Historical Aspects of Music within the Nazi System of Detention and Extermination
Some of the fundamental questions raised when one attempts to define the roles of music within a genocidal context, can partly be answered by investigating the functions fulfilled by music in the multifarious Nazi system of genocide implemented from September 1939 on the territory of occupied Poland. Music was used and exploited by the Nazis in various ways in these formerly Polish territories, divided into three parts: the so-called “General Governement” (Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete), the Reich-annexed territories and the USSR-annexed territories.1 It is however the omnipresence of music and the complexity of roles it played at the scene of mass-murder and maltreatment such as Nazi prisons, ghettos, concentration and death camps, which poses the most challenging questions for the researcher – just as for any human being, who can barely fathom the possibility of relation between a scene of mass killing and music – notably if we adhere to the notion of music conceived primarily as art-form with its own intrinsic or historically attributed ethical qualities.
Although in most accounts from these scenes of detention, torture and genocide, the topic of music might seem a marginal one, often not surfacing at all, hidden under the more salient description of suffering and extermination, the high importance placed on music both by prisoners and by the Nazi authorities, has drawn the attention of scholars, particularly during the...
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