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Rachel Deblinger, Author

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Kurt Maier

Kurt Maier was born in Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia on February 17, 1911 and lived there as a well-known pianist until 1938 when Germany was awarded the Sudetenland. Maier escaped to Prague where he lived with his mother until December 1941, when they were deported to Theresienstadt, where they lived for over two years.

According to documents from the International Tracing Service, Maier was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944 and placed in the camp band. There, he was forced to play music while prisoners were led to the gas chambers. After two months, in December 1944, Maier was deported to Ohrdruf, a slave labor camp where he worked on a V-2 launching site until he was again assigned to play music - this time for a camp Commandant, Herr Stibitz. In February 1945, Maier was deported again, this time to Sachsenhausen and only a few weeks later, he was sent on a Death March to Buchenwald, where he was liberated on April 11, 1945.

Versions of this story were elaborated and performed in the accounts on display here. First, Maier performed on the radio broadcast, Out of the Wilderness, which aired on WNYC on April 6, 1947. The broadcast was sponsored by the United Service for New Americans, a Jewish organization that sponsored refugees in America and supported new immigrants once they had arrived. Maier's story was then told in print to reporter Daniel Lang and published in the September 13, 1947 New Yorker as "Displaced." In the following year, Lang's article was dramatized for a radio performance, also titled Displaced, sponsored by the Citizen's Committee on Displaced Persons.

After the war, Maier continued to play the piano, first for the American soldiers after liberation and then in America after immigrating in July 1946. Maier played Jazz at night clubs around New York and recording a number of albums.
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A fascinating story

Thank you for providing this information. I am a record collector in Australia, and I picked up a copy of one of Kurt Maier's EPs, knowing nothing about him. An astonishing story of survival, and also of music.

Posted on 24 April 2016, 7:01 pm by Richard Evans  |  Permalink

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