This site uses cookies to provide a better experience. Continuing navigation accept the use of cookies by us OK

The Lost Music of the Holocaust



The Lost Music of the Holocaust

On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018, the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute, in collaboration with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and Last Musik, invite you to an evening dedicated to the “Lost Music of the Holocaust”.

Francesco Lotoro will perform some of the songs brought back to life from years of oblivion. For almost 30 years, Italian pianist and composer Francesco Lotoro has been on the quest for music, melodies and songs written in the concentration camps before and during World War II. Since 1991, he traveled the world and collected over 4,000 pieces - recorded on 24 CDs - between original scores and copies of compositions, of which some scribbled on scraps of paper and even newsprint.

Dr. Bret Werb, Director of the Music Collection at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, will unfold the stories behind those pieces, revealing how music can be regarded as holocaust documentation and how for those prisoners composing was a way to remain human beings and leave a testament in a place where there was nothing human left.

Dr. Kenneth Stow, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the University of Haifa, will present a short video on Last Musik, a project to save, transcribe, archive and allow people to discover music written in Second World War concentration camps. 

Embassy of Italy 
3000 Whitehaven Street NW 
Washington, DC 20008 




Francesco Lotoro

The son of a tailor in Barletta, Puglia, from a very young age Mr. Lotoro had a passion: the piano.

Having completed studying at the conservatory, Francesco was admitted to the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. There he plunged into music and studied the great composers of Central Europe. Until one day he noticed that the biographies of many of them came to an abrupt end in the autumn of 1944.

In Prague, in 1990, for the first time and quite by chance, Francesco came across a score composed in a Lager. He was 27 and it left such an impression on him that he dedicated his life to recover scores composed during World War II in concentration and Prisoner-of-war camps.

The first composition he found was a piece by Gideon Klein.

Francesco remembers how his heart missed a beat when the sister of the pianist handed over to him the first manuscript in a record store. That exact moment was when Francesco’s mission started.

He started reading everything he could find about the Czech pianist, who was born in 1919, deported to Terezín in 1941, transferred to Auschwitz in 1944, and died in the coalmines of Fürstengrube. “His body was never found. Salvaging his music is the only way of bringing him back to life” Francesco says emotionally.

“Whatever the price, I will continue to search for these treasures of music history, to give a voice to those who decided to compose music to remain human beings in a place where there was nothing human left. Playing this music, which was lost and forgotten for 70 years, is like bringing the Library of Alexandria back to life. It’s my reason for life.”

His small apartment in Barletta has become the greatest archive of Concentrationary music in the world.


Bret Werb

Bret Werb, Ph.D., has served as the Music and Sound Collection Curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC since 1993, building and organizing an archive and reference service used by researchers worldwide.

He has programmed the museum’s long-running chamber music series, curated its online exhibition Music of the Holocaust, and produced and annotated four CDs of ghetto, camp and resistance songs: Mordecai Gebirtig: Krakow Ghetto Notebook; Rise Up and Fight: Songs of Jewish Partisans; Hidden History: Songs of the Kovno Ghetto; and Aleksander Kulisiewicz: Ballads and Broadsides. 

A contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies and other scholarly books and periodicals, Werb has lectured widely and collaborated on numerous theater, film, recording, and concert projects.

Kenneth Stow

Kenneth Stow received the Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1971. He is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the University of Haifa and has held visiting professorships at Yale, Michigan, Smith College, and the Pontifical Gregorian University, among others. Thirty years ago, he founded the international journal Jewish History, which he edited through 2012.He has published essays in The American Historical Review, Speculum, and Renaissnce Quarterly and lectured and participated in congresses in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, and Buenos Aires. His books include Levi’s Vindication: The 1007 Anonymous as it Really Is (HUC-Pittsburgh, 2017); Anna and Tranquillo: Catholic Anxiety and Jewish Protest in the Age of Revolution (Yale, 2016); Jewish Life in Early Modern Rome: Challenge, Conversion, and Private Life Ashgate (Variorum, 2007); Jewish Dogs, An Image and Its Interpreters: Continuity in the Jewish-Catholic Encounter (Stanford, 2006); Theater of Acculturation: The Roman Ghetto in the Sixteenth Century (University of Washington, 2001); Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe (Harvard,1994).



Date: Monday, January 29, 2018

Time: From 6:00 pm To 7:30 pm

Organized by : IIC Washington

In collaboration with : US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC

Entrance : Free - Reservation May Be Required


Embassy of Italy