Compassionate yet detached, ironic yet pitilessly honest, Szymon Laks, the kapellmeister of the Auschwitz orchestra, presents a disturbing description of a phenomenon seldom mentioned in the literature of the Holocaust: the presence of music among the crematoria. His story is a testament to the human spirit and to music itself, the beauty of which Laks and others honored even as the lives of so many were destroyed.
Szymon Laks was born in Warsaw in 1901 and studied mathematics, musical composition, and conducting before leave Poland in 1925. He entered the Polish Conservatory in Paris in 1926 and became active among the many young Polish composers living there at the time. He was deported in 1941 and sent to Auschwitz in 1942, where he adapted the three Warsaw polonaises reproduced in this volume. He died in Paris in 1983. Chester A. Kisiel is the translator of Jerzy Szacki's Liberalism after Communism.