Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music and Postwar German Culture. Tina Frühauf and Lily Hirsch, eds. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780199367481.

Reviewed by Karen Uslin


In 1945, upon seeing the ruins of his childhood home in Białystok, Polish Jewish author and artist Israel Beker held a piece of the family’s salt cellar in his hand and exclaimed: “If this salt cellar is in my hand, it proves that they existed once—because it seemed to me that they never existed—no father, no mother, no brothers or sisters—no home—no neighborhood—all disappeared—and if so—then possibly I don’t exist at all.” (p. 121) But Becker and his family did exist, and the Jewish cultural brokers and artists of Germany also continued to exist after World War II. In Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music, and Postwar German Culture (OUP 2014), editors Tina Frühauf and Lily E. Hirsch bring together a collection of essays that address music’s role in cultural, political, and social change in post-World War II Germany, while also considering the questions of what the terms “Jewish” and “German” entail in the contexts of both musical culture and transnationalism. The authors address the legacy of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in the cultural arts of a people who have been displaced and must move forward after unspeakable trauma.

While providing a broad overview of topics concerning Jewish music in Germany in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the book’s critical focus primarily addresses how that event has shaped the narrative of Jewish music in the latter half of the 20th century. However, the Holocaust is not the sole focus of this book. In many ways, this book is centered on the idea of “represence.” As Philip Bohlman defines the term, represence is the idea that Jewish music has returned to Germany and once again made its presence known (p. 5). As such, the essays converge on how displacement, loss, culture, and legacy affect musical life and musical reception. As Bohlman points out, Jewish music is alive and well in Germany, and this book provides an excellent resource for those seeking deeper knowledge of Jewish music’s effect on current German culture.

The volume is divided into four sections and includes an introduction by Tina Frühauf and Lily E. Hirsch, as well as an afterword by Philip Bohlman. In many ways, it is possible to read each of the four sections of this volume as its own individual book. The rich information provided by each individual author contributes to the strength of each section; however, it also contributes to a lack of cohesion between the sections. Each of these essays offers a fascinating and valuable examination of an aspect of Jewish music—and musical life in general—in post-war Germany. Each essay warrants further examination, and many academic areas can benefit from the foundations laid by this book.

Section I, “Perceptions of Represence,” contains essays about the postwar reception of Jewish musical culture. Tina Frühauf discusses how German musicologists wrote about Jewish music before and after the war. She notes that they rarely mentioned Jewish musicians prior to the war, and she addresses the role of the Holocaust in the development of post-war musicology. Joel E. Rubin examines the revival of klezmer music in Germany—a musical form deemed “Jewish music” that has connected Jewish and non-Jewish populations in Germany. The final essay in this section, by Amy Lynn Wlodarski, discusses how the label “redemptive narrative” is viewed among survivors of the Terezin concentration camp.

Section II, “Dislocated Presence,” examines the cultural activities of displaced persons and the theme of displacement in music, theater, and film. Brett Werb writes about the cultural life of Displaced Person (DP) camps in Occupied Germany and how various aspects of displacement, including physical and psychological aspects, affected musical activities in the camps. In the following essay, Sophie Fetthauer discusses the development of the Yiddish Katset-Theater in Bergen-Belsen, which was turned into a DP camp after the war. Concluding the section, Joshua S. Walden’s essay focuses on the 1949 film Long is the Road (Lang ist der Weg). The film’s composer, Lothar Brühne, worked as a film composer under the Third Reich. While addressing how the contrasting experiences of those involved with the film affected the film itself, Walden also discusses Brühne’s use of music to express the emotions of those displaced.

Section III, “Politics of Memory,” focuses on mixed media and musical performance in postwar Germany. Barbara Milewski analyzes the vocal performances of Alexander Kulisiewicz in the 1960s and 70s, highlighting his unique approach to memorializing both Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. David Shneer examines the topic of Yiddish music in East Germany, specifically looking at singer Lin Jaldati and her husband, composer and musician Eberhard Rebling. The final essay of this section, written by Joy Calico, uses the 1958 East German Radio Symphony Orchestra performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor in Warsaw as a case study to examine the intersection of politics and musical performance.

Section IV, “Modes of Commemoration,” focuses on how aspects of the Holocaust are memorialized in music. Florian Scheding discusses how composer György Ligeti’s Jewish background influenced the representation of the Holocaust in his music. Sabine Feisst examines musical works by German composers George Katzer, Aribert Reimann and Boris Hegenbart. The final essay of the section, by Lily E. Hirsch, discusses how the Jewish Kulturbund organization of Berlin was memorialized in Germany, a task made difficult by the destruction of the Jewish Kulturbund’s physical meeting places.

As Dislocated Memories proves, while Jewish musical culture was certainly decimated by the Holocaust, it did not simply disappear. The editors provide a well-rounded and open approach to addressing this claim, a contribution that will undoubtedly serve as an important stepping-stone for future research on postwar Jewish composers in Europe. While the book covers a variety of themes and issues from interdisciplinary perspectives, it also raises important questions about other pressing topics not included in the study. For instance, a comparative account of the Jewish musical activities of German Jewish composers in Germany as well as in diaspora outside of Germany would make an important critical contribution. Further research into comparative studies of practices of musical commemoration involving Jewish issues in the former East and West Germanys would be apt as well. Moreover, although this book focuses mostly on the Eastern European Jewish music traditions in Germany after the war, an examination of Sephardic music traditions would be a worthwhile expansion stemming from issues addressed in this book.

Winner of the 2015 Ruth Solie Award and the 2015 Excellence in Edited Volumes Award for the Jewish Studies and Music Group of the American Musicological Society, this book takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Holocaust’s effects on German musical life, which allows for academic discourse on a broader scale. Those interested in cultural history, musicology, memory studies, Jewish studies, and German history can all benefit from reading this volume.

Karen Uslin, Rowan University