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Ronin Films

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Year: 2000

Classification: Exempt - Ronin Recommends: PG

Runtime: 105 min

Produced In: France

Directed By: Michel Daeron

Produced By: Michel Daeron

Language: French, German, Dutch, Czech, Hebrew, Polish and English languages (with English subtitles)

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Vimeo on demand

Members of a Jewish women's orchestra at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp recall how their musical abilities allowed them to survive as prisoners of the Nazis.

The Auschwitz Orchestra had over 40 members, all Jewish women, all escaping death in the gas chambers because of their musical ability. All were deeply traumatised, and five decades later recall their experiences.

The leader of the orchestra was Alma Rosé, the niece of the composer Gustav Mahler, and the daughter of a celebrated violinist, Arnold Rosé, who dedicated herself to rescuing female musicians from certain death and protecting them inside the Auschwitz camp.

The orchestra played daily at roll call, played marches, entertained the SS, and played when trains arrived delivering prisoners for the gas chambers, to help maintain calm in the camp. Their music resulted in their own survival - they had a job and an identity in the camp - but they experienced severe deprivations and suffering, and witnessed appalling atrocities.

Surviving members of the orchestra recall their experiences, and some re-visit Auschwitz to confront their past. The story of the orchestra and the heroism of Alma Rosé (who died aged 38 before the end of the war), emerges gradually from fragments of their memories.

Michel Daëron's film is oral history at its best: simple, patient and respectful. This is no conventional TV-style history documentary: there are few archival images, no reconstructions, no narrator. The women themselves are the true subjects of the film - living today with their common past a constant presence in their lives.

  • Prix du Jeune Public à Visions du Réel, Nyons 1999
  • Prix des Yeux d'or, Rueil Malmaison 1999
  • Prix du Meilleur Film Documentaire, Maremma, Italie 1999
  • 2ème Prix Alsace-Europe 2000
  • Médaille de bronze à HBO, Colombus International Film Festival 2000
  • Nominee for the European Film Awards, Berlin 99 - 7 d'or, Paris 1999