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Maestros of the Camps

For more than 30 years, one man has single-handedly taken on a unique challenge: tracking down, archiving and performing all the pieces of music written and composed in the prison camps between 1933 and 1953, from the opening of the first Nazi internment camps to the closing of the last Western Allied POW camps.  Jews, Gypsies, political prisoners, Dominican priests, French officers imprisoned by the Germans, soldiers of the Wehrmacht  or Italian armed forces captured by the Allies, and Americans and British troops captured by the Japanese all found in music a consolation for their incarceration.

Director Alexandre Valenti follows concert pianist and composer Francisco Lotoro from flea markets in Central Europe to camp archives, attics of composers' descendents and storage areas in museums.  Valenti will travel with Lotoro to Israel to meet with Holocaust survivors, to the Vatican, which has archives of compositions by Catholic priests held in captivity, to the UK and US in search of prisoners of the jungle prisons of Thailand, Japan and Manchuria, to Dachau and Theresienstadt, to name two of the many Eastern European  locations. 

The imprisoned composers left music of all styles and genres: songs and masses, cabarets, jazz, sonatas and tangos.  Lotoro has unearthed more than 5,000 scores of holy, secular, symphonic, choral, blues and folk music.  Most of the works have never been heard.  Some musicians composed clandestinely, some composed for their jailers, and some had their work destroyed, but their music survived in the minds of fellow prisoners who remembered the tunes and had those tunes transcribed later.

Maestros of the Camps will, according to director Valenti, provide "a journey through time to overcome oblivion, preserve the memory of these men and women of all nationalities and confessions, who turned music into resistance." 

If you would like to explore films with similar themes, please click on Judaism.