A Survivor From Warsaw
Music and the Holocaust
Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw (1947) should not be understood as a historical account of the Warsaw ghetto; it contains inaccurate information about the Warsaw ghetto (the most infamous being the mention of gas chambers, even though none existed in the ghetto) and, as David Schiller argues, Schoenberg seems to have “conflated two phases of the history of the Warsaw ghetto” – the liquidation of 1942 and the revolt of 1943 – in order to dramatise the narrator’s tale. Schoenberg also fashioned his libretto from textual sources that referenced Jewish persecution that occurred outside of the Warsaw ghetto, including ‘Never Say That You Are Walking the Final Road’, a partisan song from the Vilna ghetto. As Schoenberg admitted, historical veracity was not his intent in ‘Survivor’, which he valued more for its imaginative and memorial potentialities: 'What [does] the text of ‘Survivor’ mean to me? It means […] a warning to all Jews, never to forget what has been done to us. […] We should never forget this, even if such things have not been done in the manner in which I describe in the ‘Survivor’. This does not matter. The main thing is, that I saw it in my imagination.'
Wlodarski, Amy. "A Survivor From Warsaw." Music and the Holocaust. World ORT. http://holocaustmusic.ort.org/memory/memorials/a-survivor-from-wars/