Archive: The Violin as a Shield

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A Portrait of the Polish Composer Simon Laks

Works by Simon Laks

New text by Doron Rabinovici commissioned by the Imago Dei Festival

49543 – That was the number the Polish composer Simon Laks received when he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 1942. 49543, tattooed on his left forearm. In the first weeks at the concentration camp he had to perform heavy labour. When the block leaders needed a fourth Polish speaking man to play bridge with, Laks casually dropped the remark that he is actually a violinist and composer. Whereupon he was transferred to the camp orchestra.

The story of Simon Laks (1901–1983) is one of survival through music. The violin became his shield. Laks writes about this in his book Mélodies d'Auschwitz (Music in Auschwitz), read by Cornelius Obonya. For many years, the music of Simon Laks, as multifaceted as it is appealing, existed in the shadows. As a Jew, Pole, and French citizen, he eluded classification in music history. Slowly, he is finally being rediscovered. For the first time in Austria, his three remaining string quartets will be performed by the Polish Messages Quartet at the Imago Dei Festival.

Author Doron Rabinovici has intensively explored the person and musician Laks as well as the social conditions underlying his artistic work. On behalf of the Imago Dei Festival, a new literary work has been created, which the writer himself will read in the framework of the festival.

In cooperation with the Polish Institute Vienna.

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